Category Archives: Harry Bennett

21-cover-artist-to-know

21 Old-School Cover Artists All Romance Readers Should Know

21-cover-artist-to-know

21 of the Best Historical Romance Cover Illustrators

I adore romances from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, partly due to the beautiful cover art. Over the years, I’ve amassed thousands of dazzling images. It’s a fun hobby trying to discover the artists who created them.

This compilation began as an attempt to list the ten artists every lover of old-school romances and clinch covers should know. Ten became fifteen, then twenty. Finally, I settled on 21 illustrators to identify.

This catalog of names consists of some of the best romance cover artists of all time.

That doesn’t mean these are the only artists to know, as this list is limited to historical romances written in the last third of the 20th century.

These 21 entries provide a starting point for the novice learner.

1. Robert McGinnis

Robert McGinnis illustrated Gothic books before he turned to mainstream romance.

His first bodice ripper was Avon‘s reissue of Kathleen E. WoodiwissThe Flame and the Flower. McGinnis then designed the cover for her sophomore outing, The Wolf and the Dove. His suggestive clinches for Johanna Lindsey, Patricia Hagan, and Laura Parker gained him acclaim and notoriety.

McGinnis worked almost exclusively in tempera paints.

His mature, angular style was an instant draw for romance. McGinnis created the first naked man covers, which delighted genre fans.

But it was the McGinnis woman who was a being of legend. McGinnis depicted the feminine form in a most alluring fashion.

“The McGinnis Woman possesses a whirling narrative force all her own, a perfumed cyclone of sexuality, savvy, mystery, and danger. She also sells books—lots and lots of books.”

(Source: Vanity Fair)

2. H. Tom Hall

H. Tom Hall’s artwork for romance book covers is legendary. His technique is instantly recognizable: refined and sensual.

The strokes are broad yet precise. Hall’s scenes contain a dark, smoky essence. The heroines’ long locks flow wildly, while the heroes’ faces are shadowed and inscrutable.

Hall had a sensitive, respectful touch when portraying people of different races and ethnicities. Thus his illustrations were prominent on paperbacks set all over the world.

3. Harry Bennett

Harry Bennett‘s dazzling style of swirls and whorls of flowing hair may be especially familiar to fans of Pocket Books‘ early historical romances. He created memorable covers for Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Jude Deveraux.

While his work inspired many other artists, Harry Bennetts covers have been confused with those of H. Tom Hall. While their depictions might appear similar, a keen eye needs only to look at the faces of the male models to spot the difference.

Of his artwork, Bennett’s son Tom, also a painter, said:

“My father had a great facility with mediums, and he experimented and adapted to new trends with different techniques. His favorite medium above all, in both his painting and illustration, was oil.

He also worked extensively in egg tempera, inks, and various combinations of tempera and oil. In the 1950s and early ’60s he worked a great deal in water-based media like gouache.

Later, he would occasionally work in acrylic. But late in his career, it was almost exclusively oil with a black oil medium.”

TOM BENNETT, KILLER COVERS OF THE WEEK

4. Elaine Duillo

Elaine Duillo was the undisputed “Queen of Romance Covers.” She started in pulp fiction before moving on to Gothics and romance.

Duillo was not ashamed to be sexy and outrageous with her art. She embraced camp to the hilt. Her reverence for beauty and perfection made her creative style a wonder to behold.

Duillo’s technique was marked by hyper-realism, unparalleled attention to detail, and a vast palette of colors.

Elaine would paint light hues onto a black canvas. This achieved stunning results for elements such as platinum-blonde or red-gold flowing waves of hair or sumptuous, satin gowns that looked like one could touch them.

Duillo worked in acrylics and oils. She placed her signature, “Elaine,” as close to the bodies as possible.

Her daughter Melissa Duillo-Gallo also produced romance covers, in a manner similar to Elaine’s.

5. Pino Daeni

Pino Daeni’s brushstrokes, the curves of his feminine subjects, and their facial expressions make his covers uniquely recognizable.

Daeni was always willing to experiment with different methods and poses. He was one of the early artists to employ the wraparound cover design and the pose and clinch style.

Pino worked in oils and preferred to stand while painting.

Pino’s innovative technique precedes him. He mixed impressionism and realism to create his own intoxicating style.

“I used to paint in the academic way. Then I changed. I could no longer stay with just one school. Everything was interesting to me. I was curious about various schools of thought.”

Pino, (2006)

6. Elaine Gignilliat

Elaine Gignilliat designed covers for hundreds of romances. Her artwork demonstrated exquisite attention to detail, especially with the textures of fabrics and hair. Her use of bright colors against dark backdrops made for remarkable images.

Like most other cover artists of her day, Gignilliat worked in oils.

Also, like many other of her contemporaries, Gignilliat designed covers for epic historical blockbusters and shorter category romances.

After making the initial sketches for a cover, she would start her paintings by drawing everything in oil with a small brush.

Next, she established the color values, where the darkest, middle tones, and lightest areas would be. Then she would add the general colors in a light oil wash.

Afterward, the real painting began as Gignilliat developed the faces and hands, giving them more color and form. This eventually resulted in a beautiful picture which was then made into a book cover.

7. Max Ginsburg

Max Ginsburg‘s fine art is considered to be contemporary realism. He excels at depicting emotional scenes,

Ginsburg’s book covers are more romantic than sensual. The edges of his subjects blur into the background,

While Ginsburg could display the human body in an alluring way, his covers were rarely gratuitous.

He has a compassionate eye that highlights the humanity of his subjects. Like H. Tom Hall, Ginsburg has a talent for empathetically painting people of diverse heritages.

Ginsburg’s style influenced many artists of Avon covers in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

8. Morgan Kane

No one could capture the ornate, intricate patterns of fabrics as Morgan Kane could.

Whether presenting a lacy gown, a multi-textured cape, or a mosaic of hues on a blanket, Kane can make one can feel the material just as well as one sees it.

In contrast, he depicted human forms in a much softer manner. The difference between the grounded beauty of his subjects against ornate backgrounds, textiles, or flowers makes for a visual treat.

9. Robert A. Maguire

Robert A. Maguire was another of the many illustrators who created lurid pulp covers. While his pulp art was highly sexualized, his romance covers are more sedate.

An emotional connection is the focus, not sex. The faces of Maguire’s females are delicate, with thickly-lashed eyes and rosebud lips.

Maguire played light and dark tones against each other in an enchanting manner. His method is not surreal nor hyperreal. Instead, it is idealized unrealism, approaching the imagined perfection of a cartoon.

Like Elaine Duillo, Maguire often placed his signature–“R. A. Maguire”–as close to the bodies as possible, in the shade lighter than the background.

10. Roger Kastel

Famous for his movie posters, Roger Kastel‘s romance style shares similarities with that of Maguire & most significantly, Max Ginsburg.

Kastel favored a romantic, blurred technique instead of a precise, angular reality.

Kastel’s brushstrokes fused colors together, creating a hazy aura around the couples.

11. Walter & Marie Popp

Walter and Marie Popp designed Regency, Gothic, and bodice ripper covers. Each genre had its own method to it.

The Gothics were shrouded in darkness and mist.

Regencies were marked with a sweet, crisp quality.

For the historical romance covers, the Popps embraced sexy with their curvaceous heroines and muscular heroes.

The female faces look similar, as Walter often used his wife Marie, a model, as his muse. Their expressions are a variation of hers, from their full lips to their round eyes.

12. Victor Gadino

The great Victor Gadino‘s technique is masterful. His attention to fine detail is exquisite.

Note the musculature of the hero’s abdominal and pectorals, the lace on the hem of the heroine’s skirts, the silk pattern of pillows, and the heavy-lidded eyes in the hero’s lusty expression.

His use of jewel-tone colors results in covers that sparkle like precious gems.

More than any other artist since Elaine Duillo, Gadino’s art is typified by a carnal sensuality. His approach is hyperrealistic, with figures as close to perfection as the human eye can conceive.

13. Sharon Spiak

Sharon Spiak’s mentor, the Italian master artist, Pino Daeni, was a massive inspiration to her when she was his apprentice.

She painted in oils, creating an atmosphere of enchantment always backed by passion. Spiak’s paintings for romance novels capture sensuality, beauty, and fantasy by captivating the viewer in the intimacy of the moment.

Her approach differs from cover to cover. There is always a delicacy to the females’ features and a lovely interplay of pastels against darker tones.

14. John Ennis

John Ennis utilizes a “Disney Princess” method of painting, as his human images are beautiful but unrealistic. His covers have a fanciful, almost cartoon-like, fairy-tale quality. His work is based more on fantasy than romanticism.

Ennis played around with shades of light and contrasting hues, resulting in striking covers that made him a natural fit for Zebra.

If one notes the texture of the heroines’ hair, one can see individual strands and curls against blocks of solid color.

Like Franco Accornero, John Ennis was an early innovator of digital artwork.

15. Franco Accornero

Franco Accornero, also known as “Franco,” pioneered computerized art design. Due to his fascination with the capabilities of technology, Franco always pushed boundaries.

Before he transitioned to digital artwork in the 1990s, Franco worked primarily in oils.

As an independent freelance artist, he was responsible for all cover design elements, from setting up the scene to models, costumes, and props. He arranged various poses with different lighting arrangements.

His fine director’s eye created a dramatic and flattering balance of light and shadow.

Franco would use a wind machine in the photo sessions to get that flowing hair look.

16. Renato Aime

Renato Aime worked primarily in oils in addition to other mediums. He frequently designed covers for Dorchester and Kensington, two publishing houses that hired artists with an eye for the outlandish.

Aime captured the curvaceous female forms in contrast against the more rigid muscles of the males in a most pleasing way.

While Aime’s technique is recognizable as his own, it does bear some resemblance to his fellow Italian illustrators. One can see similarities to the covers of Pino Daeni and Franceso Accornero. Note the blending of colors and the identifiable strokes.

17. Melissa Duillo-Gallo

Melissa Duillo-Gallo, daughter of artists John and Elaine Duillo, was influenced by both her parents, her mother’s romance covers in particular.

Elaine’s work is titillating and highly elaborate. Melissa’s art tends to the sweeter side with more playful emotions. Duillo-Gallo applied flamboyantly bright colors, exemplifying the feel of the 1980s and 1980s.

After she married, Melissa signed her covers as Gallo, not Duillo. Unlike her mother, she usually placed her signature away from the bodies.

Melissa also used less eyeshadow than her mother did, which is saying something!

18. Gregg Gulbronson

Gregg Gulbronson utilized a distinctive approach, making his covers both breathtaking and easy to recognize. Romance, sexuality, fantasy, and reality all meld together in Gulbronson’s art.

Gulbronson used spraying/airbrushing techniques, which made for a striking and individualized look.

Enveloped in a romantic haze, the couples in clinches are surrounded by a dreamy ambiance. The figures seem to glow as the light plays against their hair, skin, and clothes.

19. Ray Kursar

Ray Kursar was yet another artist with a noticeable style. His paintings look more like drawings. Kursar worked with multiple mediums to create his illustrations, such as pastels and watercolors.

He employed various elements to make his covers stand out: emphasis on bright colors, flowers, animals, and fabrics.

Hair is constantly flowing in the wind, while the locks of waves and curls are well-defined.

20. James Griffin

James Griffin‘s covers from the 1980s and 1990s are quite distinct from his 21st-century ones, even though both periods are stunning.

The late-era clinches are made digitally and approach hyperrealism.

Griffin’s illustrations of the “classic” era are more dramatic, with windswept hair and passionate embraces. The couples are shown leaning back or lying down, rarely standing straight up.

His graceful aesthetic resulted in book covers that emotionally resonated with the romance reader.

21. Charles Geer

Charles Geer might be known to readers of children’s books published from the 1960s to the 1980s–two of which he wrote himself.

Geer’s style is so distinct. There is much going on in his images, whether sketches or paintings.

His attention to the tiniest of subjects amazes the eye. He used uniform brush strokes to create spectacular backgrounds, intricate curls in the hair, or elaborate textures in clothing. The bright pigments twinkle like stars against their darker settings.

Geer’s scenes appear dream-like but are far more memorable.

Final Thoughts on Cover Artists

Sweet Savage Flame believes it’s essential to keep the memory of these skilled cover illustrators and their works alive.

Hopefully, by familiarizing yourself with these artists’ techniques, you’ll quickly identify their covers on sight. No more having to confirm with a signature!

Your Opinion

Do you think this a fair compilation of some best romance cover artists? Who are your favorite old-school illustrators?

Is there an artist you think we should have placed on this list but missing? What are your thoughts on painted versus digital cover art?

Please drop us a comment, and let’s talk romance!

Witch

Covers of the Week #29

Theme: Gothic Covers for Halloween

Behold the Halloween season! The beauty of autumn is transforming into a period of decay. The leaves on the trees have changed color–if they remain at all–on the dark, skeletal tree branches. A damp coldness lingers in the air. What is that strange light flickering in an attic window? Who–or what–is making those slow, creaking noises that emanate from an empty room?

Whether a haunted plantation in the humid American South, an ominous-looking old house in the North East, a decrepit manor in Cornwall, or a crumbling chateau in the mountains of Europe, Gothic romances are placed in contradictorily romantic yet scary settings.

Gothic romances hold an important place in the annals of the romance genre, with dark, brooding heroes, strong-willed heroines, and eerie covers illustrated by master artists.

The Covers

For the week of Monday, October 25, 2021, culminating on Halloween Day, Sunday, October 31, 2021, let’s delight–and take fright–in these creepy Gothic romance covers!

skylark

Covers of the Week #24

Theme: Hot Air Ballons

Hot air ballooning is said to be a delightful experience. The winds guide you high above the earth as you drift through the fluffy, white clouds… It seems like an exhilarating time. Unfortunately, a paralyzing fear of heights makes me feel otherwise. My husband once surprised me with plans for a romantic ride and I refused to go. He ended up taking our daughter!

People were baffled at my reticence. Although I aim for courage, there are things I cannot face.

Need someone to kill a poisonous bug? I’m there with my wide-heeled shoe. Could I face a horde of bio-engineered, flesh-eating Zombies? Not a problem, I can shoot and wield a machete. How about cleaning litter boxes for 5 kitties? Bring it on, I’m a crazy cat lady. But fly thousands of feet into the atmosphere in a rickety basket with only ropes to cling to and giant flames above me jetting into a huge balloon? Never.

Still, they’re beautiful things to behold. From afar, what a magical sight to witness those colorful inverted teardrops float through the air! From a safe distance on land, sipping a glass of Pinot Noir, of course.

The Covers

For the week of September 20 to Monday, September 26, 2021, let’s appreciate these clinch poses on romance covers featuring hot air balloons!

frost and flame drusilla campbell

Historical Romance Review: The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell

historical romance review
The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Harry Bennett
Published by: Gallen Books, Pocket Books
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 360
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell

Spoiler Alert ⚠

The Book

Drusilla Campbell‘s The Frost and the Flame is one of those naughty bodice rippers where the heroine is separated for a long period of time from her true love, the dull, twatwaffle of a hero, and instead spends more time sexing it up with the lusty, evil villain.

For the record, this is just the kind of bodice ripper I like: one that does not take itself seriously and knows how to throw crazy tropes at you, so you’ll keep the pages turning, even if the story is not really romantic.

The Crazy Plot and Characters

I loved the Russian setting of The Frost and the Flame. The heroine’s growth as a character was fun to watch. Alas, the hero, Alexei, is exciting as dry toast. It’s the villain who is the star here: charismatic, evil, and blond!

Eighteen-year-old Katiana Donova is a convent-bred naif. While traveling across the cold depths of Russia, she and her companions are attacked.

The dashing blond Prince Oleg saves her. The Prince seems so sweet and kind at first, but he soon proves to be a lustful rogue. Nothing will stop him from possessing Tanya.

Prince Oleg is seriously obsessed with Tanya, but he’s not in love. He’s not capable of true feeling. Don’t dare think the villain in The Frost and the Flame has a heart

Even the demonic, baby-killing Robert Bellesme of Anita Mills’s Lady Of Fire was more of a romantic softy than Oleg. Oleg loves to abuse and use his Tanya, but he does not care about her. He degrades her in awful sorts of ways, so make no mistake about finding redemption in him!

Plus, the dude is going crazy. It’s hinted that Oleg has a brain tumor or something because his headaches make him act more insane.

Even as Oleg will do whatever it takes to make Tanya his, he also has a cruel and jealous wife who will stop at nothing to see Tanya pay. Poor Tanya suffers so much through this book. It’s one catastrophe after another.

But wait, there’s more! There’s a twisted secret–

No, no, I won’t say. I spoil enough romances; I won’t spoil another. Although I’d hardly call this bodice-ripper a true romance.

As for the hero? Well, Tanya spends much of it separated from her boring Alexei. He vows to have his Tanya and pines for her, however, ends up having affairs of his own. Not much of a hero, but Tanya loved him, so I tried not to dislike him. There’s not much to like or dislike about Alexei. He’s just there.

The Unconventional Ending to an Unconventional “Romance”

At the conclusion of The Frost and the Flame, Tanya is reunited with her beloved Alexei. Sadly, Tanya has been so hurt by Oleg’s torments that marriage is not on her agenda right away. She loves Alexei, yes, although wants to have a deeper relationship with him before taking it further.

Final Analysis of The Frost and the Flame

So this is a unique romance, The Frost and the Flame, has a Happy For Now ending, not necessarily a Happily Ever After.

Am I ok with that? Bodice rippers occupy a strange corner in Romancelandia, where they can do just about anything. As long as it’s an optimistic ending and the book was fun, I don’t mind. This one was.

Oleg, the psycho villain, was the star of the show. I enjoyed watching his mental and spiritual decline while Tanya grows from an innocent girl to a mature woman. This may not be everyone’s idea of an entertaining romance; however, I consider myself a satisfied reader. I’m holding on to this one!

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.4

Synopsis

Convent-bred and seductively beautiful, eighteen-year-old Katiana Donova was journeying across Russia when suddenly a band of murderous serfs attacked her traveling party. Soon she was rescued from her frozen hiding place by none other than the dashing Prince Oleg Romanov — only to become the object of his insatiable lust.

Helpless to defend herself against this cruel aristocrat, Katiana had no choice by to become his frigid, taunting mistress — despite the vindictive jealousy of Oleg’s wife, Princess Elizabeth.

But Katia longed only for Alexei, the gentle handsome nobleman whose very soul seemed to burn with a quiet passion — for his people and — could she hope? — for her.

Ravished and betrayed, Katia would eventually escape Oleg’s clutches to a country half a world away. But would she ever be reunited with the man who could melt her frozen passion with the glorious flame of his love?

The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell

The Frost and the Flame is available for borrowing for free at the Internet Archive

whitney my love

Covers of the Week #10

For the week of June 14, 2021, to June 20, we’re looking back over our favorite Harry Bennett covers for Tapestry and Gallen imprints and Pocket Books.

emmies love

Historical Romance Review: Emmie’s Love by Janette Seymour

Emmie’s Love, Janette Seymour, Pocket Books, 1980, Harry Bennett cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Janette Seymours Emmie’s Love is Purity’s Passion, redux. Just as in Purity’s Passion and Purity’s Ecstasy, the heroine is separated from her true love and must “find” her way back to him. “Find” here is a euphemism for another four-letter word that starts with “f.”

The Plot

The same terms and motifs are used in Emmie’s Love, as were in Seymour’s other raunchy books. There is a violent opening involving a near-rape that has nothing to do with the protagonists and also an alluded castration. We see frequent mentions of “handy-dandy”😉 and dampened sheer muslin gowns. There’s another blond stud who performs for an audience. And the heroine has a one-night stand with a doomed soldier.

Of course, there is a blue-eyed, scar-faced hero who is rarely seen.

Finally, there is a heroine with no personality, save for being a busty, lusty wench.

The Romance?

Emmie Dashwood–granddaughter to an aged Marquess who pats her rump in a most loving fashion–lives in a moldy, decaying manor with her large, mooching family. After grandpa’s death, Emmie is sold into marriage to an old man who lives another continent away. On her trip across the ocean, she falls in love with Captain Nathan Grant, the very married ship’s captain.

But love does not come easily to our dear Emmie. Many travails lie ahead. There is a family sex romp in an orangery. There are church sermons brimming with hellfire and damnation, plus a satanic sex orgy in the said church led by a goat-headed stud. Lots of violence galore: a beheaded dog, followed by a shocking use for the dismembered head. We have a blackmailing, Peeping Tom. A robust Irish maid gives Emmie an erotic massage. And there’s much, much more.

Except for a doomed French hunter and his sad tale, there’s not much depth. One salacious encounter is followed by another–not that I’m complaining.

The hero, Nathan, is really not a factor in this book. He’s a prize that Emmie earns at the end for completing her bodice ripper adventures. There’s no epic love story here.

Final Analysis of Emmie’s Love

While I was entertained by this Michael Butterworth (Janette Seymour’s real name) bodice ripper, I do have a few gripes. The book blurb gets some minor plot points wrong. Typos such as “$a1shouted” are annoying. And my pet peeve is the wrong hair color on the cover. Harry Bennett’s artwork shows the hero as blond. Alas, in the book, he’s black-haired, with a white streak running through it.

The heroine is a bit of a twit. No, not the other word, this is no pornographic book, after all! If you are searching for explicitness and gratuity, look elsewhere (and tell me about it when you find it)! Everything is alluded to, with water metaphors galore: waves crashing, crests swelling, waters breaking, dams bursting. It is a saucy tale, replete with ribaldry.

And yes, bodices were ripped.

Titillating though it is, Emmie’s Love is not quite a bodice ripper masterpiece. Still, it’s a satisfying journey, even if the final destination holds little interest.

3.5 Star

highland velvet 2

Historical Romance Review: Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux

historical romance review
Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Harry Bennett
Book Series: Montgomery Velvet #2; Montgomery/Taggert Family Saga #3
Published by: Pocket Books
Genres: Highland Romance, Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Jude Deveraux‘s Highland Velvet, the second entry in her Velvet series about four Montgomery brothers set in the early 16th century, is one of my favorite romances.

Highland Velvet, Jude Deveraux, Arrow, 1984

The Plot

Forced into marriage to the English nobleman Stephen Montgomery, Scotswoman Brenna Mac Arran, the leader of her clan, vows to make his life miserable.

Deveraux’s heroes in the Velvet Series had their bad moments, particularly Gavin, and to a lesser extent, Miles and Raine. In Highland Velvet, Stephen Montgomery was made from the stuff of girlish dreams.

“You’ll regret that! Someday you’ll know that one drop of my blood is more precious than any angry feelings you carry!”

Stephen was kind and loving to his sister-in-law, Judith, always taking her side whenever Gavin preferred his evil mistress. He stayed by her bedside during her painful miscarriage and supported her throughout.

When Stephen saw Bronwyn for the first time, he fell instantly in love with her. He worked his butt off to get the approval of the men in Bronwyn’s clan and had to fight that creepy Roger Chatworth for her hand in marriage, even though they were already betrothed.

Heck, he even changed his last name so that her Mac Arran family name wouldn’t die out. And he was no wussy male, but a deadly soldier willing to work hard and rethink his value system when faced with contradictions.

If anything, Bronwyn was the “bad” one: she stabbed him on their wedding night; she was the one who betrayed Stephen again and again. He deserved a much better heroine.

“Together,” he whispered. “For once, let’s do something together.”

Final Analysis of Highland Velvet

After over thirty-plus years, Jude Deveraux’s Highland Velvet‘s Stephen Montgomery remains one of my most beloved heroes in romance. He was a real nice guy, the kind of man any woman would be happy to have in real life.

I wonder why the terms nice guy and beta male get conflated so often. A man can still be an “alpha,” a leader to his people, but that doesn’t mean he has to be an over-bearing, woman-hating douchebag.

Bronwyn was awful, but her woe-is-me attitude wasn’t enough to overshadow Stephen, who was such a great character that he made this book. Other pluses were the wicked antics of Roger Chatworth and the doomed love story of his brother Brian with the Montgomery’s sole sister.

I really loved this one. Highland Velvet is a keeper. Of only I had the British Arrow edition of this book!

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
4.5
Writing
5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.9

Synopsis

Bronwyn MacArran was a proud Scot. Stephen Montgomery was one of the hated English.

He came to Scotland as a conqueror, saw her beauty and was vanquished. But still she would abhor him.

She owned a temper hot enough to forge the armors of battle or inflame a valiant soldier’s passion. Yet still she would resist him.

She became his reason to live, his reason to love. And still she would deny him.

But while clan fought clan, while brother took up sword against brother, and the highlands ran with blood — their destiny was made… and this mighty warrior pledged himself to his woman’s pride, her honor and her name — and made of their love a torch to burn through the ages

HIGHLAND VELVET by JUDE DEVERAUX
purity's ecstasy harry bennett

Historical Romance Review: Purity’s Ecstasy by Janette Seymour

SYNOPSIS:

A novel of stolen embraces beneath blazing skies of war, of desire that sweeps across turbulent seas from England to Algiers, of a beautiful woman enslaved by lawless pirate corsairs…a woman bound by no law but endless love.

PURITY’S ECSTASY by JANETTE SEYMOUR

SPOILER ALERT

Youth and beauty were her sole assets on Earth.

PURITY’S ECSTASY

The Book

Like many other late 1970s to early 1980’s bodice rippers, John Michael Butterworth’s (aka Janette Seymour) second entry into his Purity trilogy, Purity’s Ecstasy, is fun. It’s a tawdry, rollicking ride filled with just about every ‘ripper trope and then some.

The Setup

In the previous book Purity’s Passion, Purity survived the French Revolution, and then she was made the ward of the enigmatic and barely-there Mark Landless, with whom she fell madly in love. However, she overcame numerous obstacles before getting her man (namely other men).

The same is–more or less–the case with this sequel.

Here Mark is presumed dead after being captured by pirates. Purity knows in her heart Mark is still alive, and she will do whatever whomever she has to do to find him.

The Plot

Alas, Purity has to search for employment after her cruel in-laws kick her out to the street. In her own words, her “youth and beauty were her sole assets on Earth,” so what’s a girl to do? Put those assets to work!

And… oh… my… God…

Not even halfway through this romp, there were more trashy elements here than the previous five ‘rippers I’d read combined. There was lots of kidnapping, lots of rape-and/or-forced seduction, a female pirate, regular pirates, eunuchs, male virgins, lesbian orgies, multi-racial gang-bangs, whippings, bigamy, and amnesia…

Yet, it was so tastefully done—nary a peep of manhoods, members, or dewy petals here. There were plenty of water-based euphemisms to disguise the naughtiness. Still, it had plenty of titillation.

Purity is thrown into the ravishing clutches of the evil pirate/slave-trader called El Diablo, The Devil. He hides a shocking true identity. For he is the same minister she knew back home in England. Her local friend, Reverend Mauleverer, is the evil pirate/slave-trader, El Diablo.

Debauched by an older boy at Eton, ordained as a man of the cloth at Oxford, the mild-seeming minister reveals to Purity that it was he who kidnapped her husband. He who led the Corsair fleet in the Mediterranean. It was he who took Purity into slavery. And he who ravished her.

And Purity had no clue who he was? This girl is seriously lacking in IQ and EQ.

But as bad as it gets, no naughty escapades and no thrilling, charismatic villains will ever prevent Purity from being with her dull, bland, zero-personality-having soulmate!

Final Analysis on Purity’s Ecstasy

Purity’s Ecstasy was, for the most part, an entertaining romp. Although a romance, it was not!

I don’t know if I will read book #3 (Purity’s Shame) in the series. I assume more of the same will occur. Namely, that Purity and her beloved are separated by mysterious forces. She will have to use her gold-plated “poon” as currency to get back to zero-personality-having, dull-gray Mark.

Just like she always does.

3.5 Stars

while passion sleeps bennett

Historical Romance Review: While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee

historical romance review
While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Harry Bennett
Book Series: Reluctant Brides #3, Louisiana #8
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 486
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooksAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee made me feel really old. It wasn’t the plot or the characters; it was the actual book itself.

This just-under-500-pages epic is printed in a tiny font on yellowed paper (my edition is 38 years old). Reading it strained my eyes something awful. I’ve been nearsighted all my life, but now things up close are getting blurry. I’ll be going to the eye doctor this week for a new Rx because I need bifocals. *Sigh.* Damn you, the passage of time!

The Hero

Speaking of the passage of time, While Passion Sleeps features a macho hero who would be booed out of Romancelandia if he were to appear in a romance novel today. Rafael Santana, who’s one tough Texan (1/4 American, 1/4 Comanche, and 1/2 Spanish), was kidnapped by the Comanches as a child. He lived with them for years before being rescued by his Spanish relatives.

He is a savage man, torn between two worlds, as he never fully adjusted to polite society. A forced marriage to a cold-hearted woman and several fleeting sexual affairs have jaded Rafael’s perspective about females.

Women were such deceptive little bitches, [Rafael] thought viciously as he kicked his horse into a gallop. They had faces like angels and bodies to drive men wild, and yet they lie, cheated, and would merrily rip a man’s heart from his body for the sheer joy of watching him writhe.

Besides being a founding member of “The He-Man Women’s Hater Club,” he’s capable of and has committed extreme violence:

“I was 12 the first time I went on a raid & yes, I did enjoy it,” Rafael interrupted coolly. “I was 13 when I stole my first horse and scalped my first white man and a year later, I raped my first woman and took my first captive. By the time I was 17, I was raiding w/ the warriors for over five years; I owned fifty horses, had my own buffalo skin teepee, three slaves of my own & several scalps taken by my hand decorated my lance.”

(I can hear the clacking sound of myriad strings of pearls being clutched by the “How dare you!” crowd.)

The Heroine

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean is the heroine Beth. A beautiful violet-eyed, platinum-haired Englishwoman (Are there really women who naturally look like that in real life? I’ve yet to see one.), Beth is forced to marry a profligate gambler who drinks too much. Her noble father has no use for her now that he has a new wife and son.

Nathan Ridgeway is handsome and not that bad of a guy despite his errant ways. The problem is Nathan has “teh ghey” and try and try as he might, he just can’t get a chubby for his sweet 16-year-old bride. Only hot, young men will do it for him and Beth ain’t that.

Dismayed at first by the inability to consummate their marriage, he and Beth fall into a contented, platonic arrangement, where Beth capably mages the household affairs. At the same time, Nathan not-so-discreetly enjoys the company of his paramours. A whiff of potential scandal hits the air, so the pair hightail it off to the United States to make a new life for themselves.

They move to Louisiana, then later to Mississippi, where eventually Beth, the super-perfect woman, manages a huge plantation that turns a tidy profit, while Nathan again not-so-discreetly enjoys the company of his paramours.

while passion sleep ebook

The Plot

Part One

Let’s rewind a bit to their time in Louisiana. There at a ball, Beth’s shimmering violet eyes met the passionate smoky-gray gaze of Rafael Santana. The attraction was instantaneous, leading Rafael to make a crude proposition. Of course, Beth wanted nothing to do with the married Rafael, being an honorable married woman herself, even if her marriage was not quite a “marriage.”

Rafael’s wife was jealous of the pair and arranged for Rafael’s cousin to rape a drugged Beth, then have Rafael come upon the scene. Moments before the cousin could do the deed, an enraged Rafael enters the room, catching what he believes are two lovers in flagrante delicto.

Furious that another man had his way with Beth yet enchanted by her naked body, Rafael becomes maddened with lust. Under the influence of intoxicants, Beth’s only sensation is desire.

She begs Rafael to take her, which he eagerly does. Thinking he’s having sloppy seconds and in a state of anger, somehow Rafael fails to notice that Beth’s a virgin, even though her hymen is still intact. (I always question when this sort of thing happens in romances: how can a man who’s been around the entire neighborhood not notice the major resistance a hymen makes upon entry? These heroes just plow through like it’s made of wet tissue paper.)

Part Two

After their one night of passion, Beth flees in shame. She and Rafael don’t see each other until four years later when Beth decides to travel through Texas to visit an old friend. But, when they meet again, their lust can’t be controlled, and they go at it again. And again. And again!

Rafael’s wife is now dead, and he thinks Beth is a shameless adulteress, beguiling innocent men with her beauty. I’ve never read Gypsy Lady, but for those of you who have, it’s interesting to note that Sebastian, the son of that book’s protagonists, is featured in While Passion Sleeps as Rafael’s cousin. He, too, is mad about the lovely Beth.

Sebastian is the only one who knows the true nature of Beth’s marriage, having witnessed Nathan in bed in the arms of another man. He vows to save Beth from her phony marriage and make her his bride.

Sebastian’s illusions are shattered in a powerful scene after he catches Beth and Rafael in an embrace. Rafael and Sebastian, who are good friends, almost come to blows until Rafael claims Beth is his mistress. Sebastian leaves the field to his cousin; his heart is broken.

Never having felt such deep emotion for a woman before, Rafael is conflicted. Not only is his cousin in love with Beth, but she also had a husband to contend with. Ultimately, he decides to make Beth his and his alone. No matter what, passion will find a way.

An Aside: Language Lesson

I did have an issue with the bad Spanish in While Passion Sleeps.

Rafael’s wife is named Consuela; it should be Consuelo.

Also, Rafael refers to Beth as “mi cara,” which means “my face.” Instead, it should be “querida” as “cara” is Italian for “my beloved.” I’ve seen that mistake so often in older romances when the hero speaks Spanish, especially in Harlequins. Fortunately, Rafael doesn’t call her that too often, preferring to call Beth his “English.”

Please permit me to go over this for a moment. Any romance reader worth their salt should know how to say this to a woman in multiple languages. There are many ways to say “my beloved,” “my dear,” or “my love” in various languages, but here in random order, are the ones I know off the top of my head:

  • Cariad – Welsh
  • Querida – Spanish & Portuguese
  • Cara – Italian
  • Chère – French
  • Habibti (or Habibi) – Arabic
  • Stór – Irish
  • Liebling – German
  • Agápi – Greek
  • Elsket – Norweigian

Okay, the language lesson is over.

My Opinion

Except for my eyes squinting in vain to read the words, While Passion Sleeps was an enjoyable ride. It is a bodice ripper that spans continents and years and has lots of steamy love scenes and plenty of violence. That’s enough for me to like it.

There are times when this book lags, especially during the first half when Beth and Rafael don’t spend much time with each other. For some reason, Busbee went into extreme detail over the most unimportant things, like Beth and her husband traveling from New Orleans to Texas or about Comanche & Texas history. The editing could have been tighter.

Beth and Rafael had crazy, intense chemistry. You feel the heat coming off the pages whenever they are together. The love scenes, while a bit lavender, were sexy as hell. But… that’s all they have.

They don’t really converse, don’t go through shared experiences (except for towards the end), heck they don’t even argue that much. They have sex every chance they get when they’re alone. I would have preferred more time spent together bonding emotionally than physically.

A Mustache Aside

Also, for some reason, I imagined Rafael with a mustache. Busbee makes no mention of one. Yet after reading this scene:

“Let me,” he muttered, roughly. “You are as beautiful there as anywhere, and I want the taste of you on my mouth, the scent of you in my nostrils. Let me!”

I couldn’t picture him without a flavor-saver on his face! Usually, mustaches are a turn-off. However, imagining Rafael as Mexican actor Mauricio Islas, one of the few men who can pull it off, made it all good.

while passion sleeps
Mauricio Islas as Rafael… yummy!

Until I pictured another face. With the show The Mandalorian in the news lately, for some reason, Mauricio’s image kept morphing into actor Pedro Pascal. Nothing against Pedro. He just looks exactly like my cousin Felix! Nice-looking enough, but he’s not my idea of a brutal lover and killer whose cold, pale eyes barely hide the passions which simmer beneath the surface.

while passion sleeps
Pedro Pascal (aka my cousin Felix) as Rafael… Nope!

That’s just my baggage. I’ve got to stop imagining actors as heroes. When the cover (sadly) fell off While Passion Sleeps, I had no guy to look at and did some head casting.

Final Analysis of While Passion Sleeps

This is the third Shirlee Busbee I’ve read and definitely the best of the bunch. While Passion Sleeps has a hero you either love or hate. I loved him in all his pigheaded, dark alpha-ness.

Beth grows as a character. She transforms from a naïve, biddable housewife stuck in a loveless union to a fiery spitfire who endures trauma and hardship.

If Busbee had tightened the manuscript a bit more by reducing the filler and adding more emotionally intimate scenes between Beth and Rafael, this would have been amazing. As it is, it’s still a very gripping read, even if, at times, I did skim a page or two.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4

Synopsis:

THE LADY: Beth Ridgeway was a violet-eyed platinum beauty — the kind of woman who made men burn with desire. Yet her husband Nathan didn’t want her…

THE ROGUE: Rafael Santana, the darkly handsome and arrogant son of a wealthy Texas family, had been kidnapped by the Comanches and raised as a warrior. Even now, all his gentleman’s breeding couldn’t conceal the savage strength beneath his aristocratic bearing.

THE FURY: Beth thought he was cruel and insensitive, a man who used women only for his selfish pleasure and then tossed them away. Rafael thought she was a common wench — flirtatious and unfaithful — who took pride in breaking men’s hearts.

THE FIRE: Yet something had happened when their eyes first met at a dazzling New Orleans ball. Something their hearts could not deny, something neither the years nor the violent misunderstandings could diminish. Because for the first time, both Beth and Rafael were awakening to the magnificent passions of love.

WHILE PASSION SLEEPS by SHIRLEE BUSBEE
purity's passion

Historical Romance Review: Purity’s Passion by Janette Seymour

Synopsis:

Purity
She was Purity, a maddeningly beautiful woman who wanted to save herself for the one man she had always loved-the man who rescued her from the horror of the French Revolution, who found her a place in England’s highest aristocracy and who refused, because of a painful secret in his past, to open his heart to her longings.

Passion
And she was Passion, a woman who drove men wild with desire, who submitted to cruel tormentors, a blackmailer’s demands, a hypnotist’s powers and an innocent young man about to die. But she, while giving her body, steadfastly refused to give her heart.

Ecstasy
Scorched by burning dreams!

PURITY’S PASSION by JANETTE SEYMOUR
Purity’s Passion, Janette Seymour, Pocket Books, 1977, Harry Bennett cover art

MILD SPOILERS 😉

She would come to him a complete woman…

PURITY’S PASSION

The Book

The tale of Purity Jarsy, Purity’s Passion, (Part 1 of 3) by Janette Seymour begins with the horrors of the French Revolution and ends in France after Napoleon’s final defeat. In between, we witness the epic tale of Purity. She is a woman so beautiful that many men desire her; they would ravish her, control her, and kill for her…

In other words, it’s your basic, page-turning bodice ripper. And it’s a good one.

The Plot

Janette Seymour was a deft storyteller, quickly pulling me in with Purity witnessing a beautiful encounter of a couple making love. Later she sees the macabre slaughters of the Revolution. Purity is left orphaned and shaken in the aftermath.

Mark “You may kiss me–here” Landless is the object of Purity’s devotion. Much older than she, he is her appointed guardian, but he also shares a hidden bond with his ward.

Mark is a placeholder, we never see through his perspective. He is a scar-faced, blue-eyed soldier who duels for Purity’s honor, hurts her cruelly, and then finally marries her. Her relationship with Mark is one of the weaker parts of the book, but since there are two sequels their romance will undoubtedly develop further.

(Edited: How wrong I was! There’s no character development to be found anywhere!)

Purity has many men before being with her true love, and each experience shapes her uniquely. There is a touching one-night romance Purity shares with a soldier doomed to die at sea and a sweet love affair with a wounded Gypsy boxer.

And many more.

If the hero was more interesting, this might have detracted from the story, but since he wasn’t, I just enjoyed the ride and didn’t worry about the romance. As Purity says to herself: “She would come to Mark a complete woman.”

Other high points include a tawdry girl-school game with a dumb stud, a dominatrix-villainess who wears transparent gowns, and an aging duchess who makes constant fart references.

Final Analysis of Purity’s Passion

The story’s pacing is a bit uneven–because most of the juicy parts are packed into the first third. But the author is skilled enough to make most of it enjoyable. Even if the ending is a bit flat.

Purity’s Passion is a romance only because at the end of the book the female protagonist is united with the man she loves. Otherwise, it’s a soapy, door-stopper historical epic, typical of the ’70s and ’80s.

Readers, mostly women, from all walks of life used to openly enjoy these pulpy paperbacks with kaleidoscopic covers. They were taken to fantastical worlds where the heroines’ beauty got men so carried away with mad lust that they’d have her… at any cost (dun, dun, dun!)!

Now, not unlike tobacco cigarettes (which I never smoked), bodice rippers are banished to the darkest corners, reviled in public for the unwholesome filth they contain. Like a smoker relegated to puffing away in a cold alley, bodice ripper readers are banished to Romancelandia Siberia.

And that’s really a shame–because these books are a lot of fun!

4 Stars