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top-ten-bookish-people romance genre

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish People I’d Like to Meet

For this Top Ten Tuesday post, Jacqueline Diaz lists ten bookish people she’d like to meet. Almost all her choices are relevant to the books in the romance genre.

top-ten bookish people romance genre

It’s Top Ten Tuesday, where we post a list of 10 of our best/favorite/most important bookish-related items, depending on the week’s theme. Thank you to That Artsy Reader Girl for providing us with this feature and creative ideas.

“Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.”

top ten tuesday

10 Bookish People (Alive, Dead, or Fictional) I Would Like Meet

This Top Ten Tuesday theme is: “pick a previous topic that you missed or would like to re-do/update.” I missed posting on March 7 (and I almost missed posting today!). The topic that week was “10 Bookish People I’d Like To Meet,” which is my list for Tuesday March 21.

The subject was rather broad, and I chose people from different segments of the book industry, living, deceased, or fictional.

Because there are so many choices, this was a tough one.The bloggers section was particularly hard; there are so many people I would adore meeting in real life, but I was limited to just one person per category!

1. All-Around Bookish Renaissance Woman: Kathryn Le Veque

bookish people romance genre Kathryn Le Veque
Kathryn Le Veque

If I had to name one bookish person who inspires me, it would be Kathryn Le Veque. Her achievements are amazing–intimidating, even. LeVeque is an inspirational success story proving an author’s dreams can come true.

A USA Today bestselling author, an Amazon All-Star author, and a #1 bestsellier of medieval historical romance and contemporary romance, she has blazed a trail for others to follow.

Le Veque is a tour-de force leader in the industry. She pens unique novels, mostly medievals, and is the founder of several publishing houses, including Dragonblade Publishing.

bookish people romance genre the wolfe kathryn le veque

When Le Veque started out the big publishers rejected her manuscripts. They said her chosen genre not being considered “marketable enough.” Defiant and determined, Kathryn had vision and saw it through.

She uploaded her first novel for purchase on Amazon’s Kindle platform in May 2012. A year later, she was able to quit her day job to focus on her writing full-time. All thanks to the phenomenal success of her e-books.

She writes remarkable stories about knights, kings, and queens. History plays a starring role in her books, not merely a backdrop. Her stories are unique, emotional and deeply touching. Through her many novels and hard work Le Veque has earned the admiration of her peers and fans.

Publishers shut her out of mainstream because she didn’t adhere to the current trends. Kathryn proved them to be fools, self-publishing the books she wanted to to write–and read. She found a large and devoted audience eager to read her stories. On top of that, she built an indie publishing empire to help others succeed.

Who wouldn’t want to talk to a renaissance woman like Kathryn Le Veque?

2. Author (Deceased): Jackie Collins

bookish people romance genre jackie collins

Have you ever wished you could talk to a great writer whois no longer living? For me, that would be Jackie Collins. She was the brilliant, bold, and wildly successful author of over 30 novels that shocked and entertained readers worldwide.

Her career spanned from 1968 with The World Is Full of Married Men to her final work, The Santangelos in 2015. Her bestsellers detailed the glamorous and sordid lives of celebrities.

As actress Joan Collins’ younger sister, Jackie had access to the inner workings of the showbiz industry. She smashed through the conventions of polite society with her books. Collins penned raunchy romantic thrillers. Filled with crimes, sex, drugs, and rock & roll, they went beyond what other writers of her era would touch.

bookish people romance genre jackie collins

With over 500 million books sold, Collins was one of the most influential and fun icons of American literary history. Some of her acclaimed works include Chances, Lucky and Hollywood Wives.

Chatting with her would be a dream come true. What stories she could tell!

bookish people romance genre lucky jackie collins

3. Author (Living): Rebecca Brandewyne

bookish people romance genre rebecca brandewyne
Rebeca Brandewyne
Source: Wichita State University, The Shocker

Rebecca Brandewyne is a romance author who has not written in years. I would be delighted to sit down and see what she has been up to

When I started reading romances in the early to mid-1990s, Rebecca Brandewyne, along with Jude Deveraux and Johanna Lindsey, was one of my favorite authors. Her books were grandiose and epic. They began with a prologue and ended with a happy epilogue, and included a poem and cast of characters at the beginning of the book.

As Brandwyne’s health issues were one of the reasons behind her leaving the writing field, I would ask her how she is faring now. It would be fascinating to learn what she has been up to all these years. I’d want to talk about her works, her writing style, and her current ideas on the genre.

Finally, I would inquire about the two series she never completed. How she would have ended her fantasy trilogy of the Chronicles of Tintagel, which began in Passion Moon Rising?

Most importantly, what was to be the conclusion for her unfinished Highclyffe Hall trilogy? What was to happen with the “twins” Ransom and Rhodes Chandler, who were born in Across a Starlit Sea? And what of their parents and grandparents?

I would love to know the answers to those questions!

4. Book Blogger/ Reviewer: Nenia Campbell

bookish people I want to meet Nenia Campbell
Nenia Campbell
Source: Goodreads

Nenia Campbell is a multi-talented lady whose name can go in at least four other bookish categories. I chose her for the book blogger I’d want to meet.

Campbell has written books such as Fearscape and Horrorscape, dark (un)romances that feature villainous heroes. She runs Readasaurus Reviews, a blog where she posts book reviews. She is one of the top reviewers on Goodreads where she runs the Unapologetic Romance Readers group.

What’s cool about Nenia is she reads everything. Nonfiction, general fiction, and the entire spectrum of the romance genre. She reads sweet teen romances, bodice rippers, the latest contemporaries, vintage Harlequins, and bizarre treats like Mating with the Mantis!

 “I don’t typically like what’s popular because I don’t like what’s predictable or easy; I like books that are raw and difficult and dark and challenge me and the way that I see the world, even if it means heartbreak and tears and playing hours of Animal Crossing to get myself back into the happy zone.”

From Nenia’s Review for Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

Plus, Nenia is very prolific on social media. She discussws all things bookish and posts images ofholding many beautiful books and of herself in lovely colorful wigs.

Nenia seems like such a passionate and creative reader and book lover that I could glean so much from a conversation with her. I also adore her sense of fashion, so I’m sure our talks would be an enlightening and hair-raising experience!

5. Character from a Book: Hercule Poirot

As far as fictional bookish people I’d love to meet, it would be the egg-headed protagonist from Agatha Christie’s long-running mystery series. The elegantly dressed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is a most fascinating character. He solved the mysteries of the Murder on The Orient Express, The ABC Murders and Death on the Nile, and many more.

Poirot is one of the most iconic crime-solvers in fiction, far more interesting to me than Sherlock Holmes. I’d like to pick his brain and learn some detective tips and tricks. And some fashion tips! Il est un homme très sophistiqué.

I would start the conversation by expressing admiration for Poirot’s skills and intellect and asking him to share the secrets of his success. His perspective on human psychology is pivotal to his investigations. How does he know what he knows? What techniques does he uses to solve murders?

I’d also ask him about the cases that were the most memorable or challenging for him. What is his opinion on the state of modern detective work? What advice he would give to aspiring detectives?

Then I’d dive into the details of his fashion sense, which is always so dapper. I’d love to hear his advice on how to look smart and stay stylish, as well as his thoughts on current trends in men’s clothing.

6. Cover Artist: Victor Gadino

victor gadino and apollo bookish people I want to meet
Victor Gadino and Apollo

If I could talk to any book cover artist, it would be Victor Gadino. He is one of the top romance novel cover artists of all time. Gadino has created hundreds of beautiful and sensual covers.

His amazing stepbacks make him one of Sweet Savage Flame’s favorite illustrators.

I would love to talk to him about his creative process and how he designs such beautiful and sensual covers.

Victor Gadino was born in New York in 1949. His big break in book illustration came in the late 1970s when he designed romantic-styled covers for gay fiction. Avon reissued Gordon Merrick’s backlist of books, for which Gadino did al the new artwork.

He was a designed covers for many years, but his rise to prominence in the genre came with Johanna Lindsey’s Prisoner of My Desire in 1991, making him a highly sought-after romance illustrator.

rafe gadino

He has also designed album covers for well-known performers, Broadway play posters, and collectibles for the Bradford Exchange and Franklin Mint. His work is in the homes of celebrities such as George Lucas and Clint Eastwood, as well as many famous New York City families.

A creator of sensual images, Victor Gadino is the artist I would be honored to meet. I’d be delighted to hear whatever he had to say and, if possible, to observe him at work on his paintings.

7. Cover Model: Fabio

If I could talk to any romance book cover model, it would be the great Fabio Lanzoni. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you the details about Fabio. After all, he’s the supermodel whose face and body have been launched millions of covers.

Plus, he’s also a romance writer himself (even if he had some help from ghostwriters.)

Being a successful cover model and the author, I’m sure he has a great deal of creative insight and inspiration to share.

Fabio’s unique perspective as a romance genre celebrity would provide a lot of fun stories and anecdotes.

The questions I’d ask Fabio would be simple: I’d ask him about his modeling experiences, his favorite covers, which artists he thinks painted him best.

Honestly, Fabio wouldn’t have to say much. At 60, he’s still fine. As I’m 45 now and not the 13-year-old girl who imagined him as the hero of numerous romances, it’s okay to appreciate that eye candy that is Fabio Lanzoni.

gideons fall ginsburg

I’m certain a chat with Fabio would spark the creative energy to follow my own dreams with renewed vigor.

And maybe he’d let me squeeze his biceps to get a feel those rock-hard muscles? Would that be wrong? Oh, well a girl can dream…

8. Bookstagrammer: Mary Lynne Nielsen

mary lynne nielsen bookish people
Mary Lynne Nielsen
Source: Romance Ruminations
  1. Bookstagrammer: Mary Lynne Nielsen

Mary Lynne Nielsen has been reading romance for 45 years and has a wealth of information about books and the business.

“I’ve been reading romance for a long time–over forty years. And over that time I’ve managed to produce a few pieces of writing of my own. Rather than having them scattered hither and yon, or not even available, I decided to create a centralized home for them. Hence, my ruminations on romance.

“I make no claims of expertise, wisdom, knowledge, or the like. But I do have, as so many readers do, a deep and abiding love of the often maligned genre of romance.”

-Mary Lynn Nielsen

A prolific bookstagrammer under the handle @emmelnie, she is one of many people whom I’d like to chat with in person. Social media is great for meeting lots of great folks. Unfortunately, because I am a slow typist with ADHD, I am unable to participate in lengthy debates.

Mary Lynne has written articles for blogs and magazines, posted educational videos about the genre, attended conventions, and spoken with/interviewed prominent figures in the industry, academics and fans alike.

Her website, Romance Ruminations is an excellent resource for readers.

I’d be delighted to meet at a coffee shop near a used book store and hear her thoughts on the evolution of the genre, her favorite books and authors, and her advice for aspiring writers and readers.

Basically, we would discuss everything there is possible about our romance and then go book shopping!

9. Publisher or Editor: Steven Zacharius, President & CEO at Kensington Publishing Corp

  1. Publisher or Editor: Steven Zacharius

As far as bookish people on the business side of the industry, I’d enjoy a sit-down with Steve Zacharius. He is the president and CEO of Kensington Books, the parent company of Zebra and Pinnacle. Kenisgton is a multi-million dollar family-run company founded in 1974 by Steve’s dad, Walter Zacharius.

With almost 30 years of experience in the company, Steve has led Kensington’s growth and expansion. I am curious to hear his thoughts on the industry and how he has kept Kensington relevant and successful for so long.

Steve is married with two kids and three grandkids. His son, Adam Zacharius, has also been working there since 2008.

Kensington is one of the last large, privately owned book publishers in the United States. It releases over 500 fiction and nonfiction titles each year.

I would ask him about the challenges that Kensington and the industry as a whole have faced, as well as his insights on the current state and future of the publishing industry.

I’d love to hear his thoughts about the potential death of the mass market paperback, as sales have dropped rapidly for that format in the past several years. E-books have usurped their position as the most convenient and cheapest way to read.

Although romance is genre that still thrives in MMP, trade and hardcover are rising in popularity, especially for the readers who love to display their books on shelves.

Might Kensington’s Zebra imprint also return its focus to dazzling cover art as it did when his father Walter was alive?

10. Podcaster: Andrea Martucci, of Shelf Love

There a several bookish people in podcasting I would appreciate having a chat with. To start , I’d talktot the staff of Shelf Love, particularly the woman-in-charge of it all: Andrea Martucci.

Shelf Love explores fictional stories of romantic love across media, time, and cultures. Their knowledge of romance novels and bodice rippers is vast, and I would enjoy discussing different genres of romance novels with them.

The podcast invites experts to share their knowledge and love for diverse genres and explore romantic love in romance novels, comic books, soap operas, romantic comedies, video games, oral stories, advertisements, and more.

Andrea has presented a paper at the Popular Culture Association and has released nearly 100 episodes since the podcast’s launch in 2019.

Andrea is familiar with so many facets of romance, not just in books, but throughout all pop culture. I’d be thrilled to converse with Andrea about anything and everything. I would ask her about her favorite romance books, her thoughts on different genres, and her insights on the role of love stories in popular culture. What are her favorite couples and love stories in other forms of entertainment?

I could pick her brain for hours. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I’m no zombie!

First episode of Shelf Love Podcast w/ Andrea Martucci

Your Opinion

What do you think of this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme of “bookish people I want to meet”? Do you like Jacqueline’s list? Would you like to meet any of her choices?

What bookish people would you like to meet?

As always, please drop a comment and let’s talk romance.

Happy Spring & Vernal Equinox Spring 2023

We’re celebrating the arrival of Spring and the Vernal Equinox for 2023. Spring is a time to celebrate romance. So we are celebrating with some jokes to tickle your punny bone.

Spring Vernal Equinox 2023

Let’s Celebrate Spring’s Arrival

Welcome to the first day of Spring 2023, marked by the Vernal Equinox! Spring is our second favoriteseason after Autumn, so we love to celebrate its official arrival. 

We’ll discuss the special reasons we love this season. Plus, we’ve got some really terrible jokes to keep you in good spirits this Spring Day!

Vernal Equinox 2023

The Vernal Equinox

This year, the Vernal Equinox occurs on March 20th, the moment when the Sun crosses the celestial equator, making day and night almost equal in length. The word “vernal” comes from the Latin word “vernalis,” which means “of the spring.”

The Vernal Equinox is an astronomical occurrence that signals the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s a time when the sun appears to rise earlier in the morning and set later in the evening. This signals the arrival of longer days and shorter nights. 

The equal distribution of sunlight to both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres places all things in balance. After the Vernal Equinox, the Northern Hemisphere will tilt more towards the sun, causing longer days and warmer temperatures.

Celebrate spring Vernal Equinox 2023
Photo by Trung Nguyen on

When the Flowers Bloom

And warm temperatures mean the weather will be nice and placid. 

Except for March when it’s still cold. So it can still snow!

And April, when it rains all month long! T.S. Eliot was right about April being the cruelest month. The world seems to vibrate with unpredictable energies. In my experience, April is truly th wild card month, where anything and everything can happen. 

Finally, in the last days of April, the world turns into a kaleidoscope of greens and pinks and yellows and white hues.

May is truly beautiful. The most glorious flowers are in bloom, and things really warm up as we move closer to summer. In some parts of the country–or the world–May is summer!

celebrate spring 2023
Photo by Polina Kovaleva on

Spring Into Romance

Still, the nights get may get chilly enough to cuddle next to the one you love.

The arrival of spring is associated with the rebirth and renewal of life. Trees and plants begin to bloom with new leaves and flowers. The birds return from their winter migration. It also means humans start to get friskier as the weather gets more pleasant. 

The Spring sun really does wonders for the libido!

This burst of new life–i.e., the horniness–is what makes this season one of hope and optimism. 

Spring Jokes Vernal Equinox 2023
Photo by Pixabay on

Some Bad Jokes for Spring 2023

Let’s welcome the first day ofSpring this 2023 by taking a moment to appreciate the beauty of nature and the hope of new beginnings.

And now, what you’ve been waiting for! Here are some horrible jokes about Spring and Spring related stuff.

What do you call a bunch of rabbits hopping backward?

A receding hare-line.

Why do bees have sticky hair in the Spring? 

Because they use honeycombs!

What did the tree say to the flower? 

“What’s bud-in’?

What did the tree say to the Spring? 

What a re-leaf!

Why did the tomato turn red? 

Because it saw the salad dressing!

Why was the math book sad in Spring? 

Because it had too many problems.

Why was the computer cold in Spring? 

Because it left its Windows open.

Why did the chicken cross the playground? 

To get to the other slide!

Why did the duck cross the road? 

To get to the pond on the other side!

What did the flower say to the bee that wanted to pollinate it?

“I be-leaf in you!”.

What do you call a snowman in the springtime?

A puddle!

What do you get when you cross a snowman and a shark? 


Why did the gardener plant a light bulb? 

He wanted to grow a power plant!

Why did the gardener break up with his girlfriend? 

Because he found out she was a hoe.

skye o'malley

Breaking News: Bertrice Small’s Skye O’Malley Is Coming to Apple TV+ as a New Series

Finally, a true bodice ripper historical series for us to enjoy! Great news! Bertrice Small’s epic erotic romance, Skye O’Malley, is coming soon to your TV!

Skye O'Malley bertrice small

Major News About Bertrice Small

Sweet Savage Flame has some exciting breaking news to report! It’s very unusual for an old-school romance blog like ours to divulge or discuss any current events. But today, we are! First Outlander, then Bridgerton, and now: The Late Queen of Erotic Romances magnum opus bodice ripper is coming to the screen! 

Bertrice Small’s story of Skye O’Malley and her six husbands—and numerous lovers—will be coming to your homes as a major TV series! 

Tom Small, son of Bertrice and her husband George, posted a video on Facebook on Sunday, March 19, stating the official news. After five years of trying to find someone he could trust to treat his mother’s intellectual property with respect, all parties involved have come to an agreement.

This news is not just a possibility; it’s a done deal. Small has already signed the papers of a contract to bring the incomparable heroine’s life story to a new audience.

Bodice Ripper Skye O’Malley Series To Air on Apple Plus+

Tom Small stated he signed the rights of the 12 books in the O’Malley family saga over to a trusted source. That source negotiated a deal with ApplePlus + to bring the tale of Skye O’Malley–and her lusty relatives and descendants–to home audiences.

Tom is thankful to all the fans who have been anxious to see this happen. He also thanks ApplePlus+ and (even, LOL) the folks at Penguin, the publishers who had held the rights to her books for years.

Bertrice would undoubtedly be proud and delighted with her son’s endeavors. His determination and diligent efforts to make one of her dearest wishes come true would make any mother proud.

Bertrice Small’s Legacy and the Skye O’Malley Series

bodice ripper bertrice small series tom small

Bertrice Small passed away on February 24, 2015. Her husband, George, predeceased her by three years. Tom Small was their only child. Since Bertrice’s death, her son has maintained a Facebook account devoted to keeping the memory of his mother and her books alive.

Bertrice Small, nee Williams, was born in New York City in 1937 and lived most of her life on Long Island, in the town of Southold. Since her first book, 1978’s The Kadin, Small consistently produced erotic romances starring impossibly beautiful heroines who experienced multiple romantic adventures.

Small was a pioneer not only in the romance genre but also in erotic romance. Her novels were far more sexual than the average book of the early days of the modern romance era. However, they were not anywhere near as explicit as modern erotic romances.

Her historical romance romps were heavy on purple prose. That was the style of the era, after all. Small knew how to master the language, and master it she did!

She wrote 61 books and sold millions worldwide.

Past Attempts to Produce Bodice Ripper Romance Movies Failed

Many years ago, Bertrice Small had been in talks with several people in the film and television industries to adapt her books to the screen. As these talks always came to nothing, Small was convinced there was no future for her books as shows or movies. 

“David Bowie was the secret producer and a young Catherine Zeta Jones was being bandied around to Skye, but that all fell through. And it kind of discouraged my mom. And when I’d bring it up in the future ‘Why don’t we try again? You should try again.’

“‘Nah Hollywood doesn’t want it that.’ I could tell she was dejected.”

Tom Small

Tom encouraged her to try again, but the process disillusioned Small. The industry didn’t want anything to do with her kind of novels, and she didn’t have the stomach to try again.

We’ve previously mentioned that in the early 1980s, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss had been in talks with several Hollywood producers to have Shanna—arguably her finest book—into a film. Shanna sold 3 million copies and spent almost a year on The NY Times bestseller list. 

Watch Tom Small’s Announcement: Bertrice Small’s Skye O’Malley Is Coming to Apple Plus+!

Ultimately, Woodiwiss was told that romantic epic films weren’t profitable enough to justify their existence. Audiences wanted to see historical sagas about wars and battles, not love stories.

If the most prominent romance writer of her day couldn’t convince Hollywood, how would others fare? It seemed as if the romance genre was to be shut out of the industry altogether.

That wasn’t necessarily the case, however, as television channels like CBS and Cinemax would adapt romances into movies or even miniseries throughout the years. Admittedly, these were typically small-scale and low-budget flicks that catered to a niche audience.

bodice ripper Skye Omalley series

The Modern Era of Television Series Loves Romance Novels

In the 21st century, the successes of the Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey movies proved that adaptations indeed could be profitable. As television supplanted cinema as the hot spot for viewing entertainment, networks and production companies came looking for romance novels to transform into series. 

Sweet Savage Flame is especially excited by the news. We are thrilled that romance novels are getting the love and recognition from the entertainment industry they have always deserved.

However, there has been a noticeable absence of bodice rippers. These books did much heavy lifting for the romance genre in its early days. Many outsiders have viewed our beloved ‘rippers with disdain. (And some insiders, too!)

It’s been a long time coming, but we’re glad to hear this news and pass it on to you. Finally, after years of being ignored, romance novels are getting their well-deserved mainstream appreciation! 

As for news on Small’s final and unpublished book, Serena, Tom Small is still in the works to have it released. When that happens, we will let you know.

free Reading log

Free Printable Reading Log and Planner for 2023

We’re offering a free printable reading planner/ log for your convenience to use in 2023 to keep track of your reading list.

Reading planner

New Season, New Turning of the Wheel of Time

It’s Spring, which in many religions and societies is also the new year. We’re a bit late for the New Year in January (or the Lunar New Year, for that matter), but it’s never too late for new resolutions.

We’re familiar with those goals. You could mightwant to get in good shape, spend more time with family, or go on a trip.

Whatever you do, it’s important to follow through on objectives and keep the momentum rolling.

Our resolution is trying to get more organized, And what better way to do that than with a reading/log planner? How about a free one?

Free 8-Page Reading Journal: Easy to Download and Print

We’ve made a free 8-page printable reading planner/ log. This may help you get organized–at least where reading is concerned. The first page is a cover, and the second is a 2023 calendar, so you need only to print them once. Then print worksheet pages 3 to 8 as many times as you need to have an entire journal you can use all year long.

The printables feature spaces for setting goals, logging your daily reading progress, and tracking books you’ve read.

What’s more, our reading planner and log are entirely free to download and print. In order to get it, all you have to do is click the download button to access the PDF. You can print the sheets as many times as you need, making it perfect for those who want to monitor their progress.

Whether you’re a voracious reader or trying to read more, our reading planner and the log is the perfect tool to help you achieve your reading goals. It’s easy to use, customizable to your preferences, and, best of all, completely free!

Click on the link below to download a free 8-page PDF reading planner kit. Print as many sheets as needed.

FREE 8-Page Reading Planner Kit

Happy Reading in 2023

This free printable planner lets you create your specialized reading journal. Use them for your reading lists and notes, and take notes on your progress.

So why not give it a try? Download our reading planner/reading log, and start tracking your reading progress to make 2023 a year full of new and exciting reading adventures.

We’ll be offering more printables and freebies in 2023. Happy reading!

a reader's dilemma

To DNF or Finish the Book? A Reader’s Dilemma

Not sure if you should abandon or finish your current read? We’ll give you tips on how to decide with this guide on the reader’s dilemma: DNF or finish the book.

a reader's dilemma

Reading Is Fun (But Sometimes It’s Not)

To finish a book or not to finish, that is the question. When you invest time reading a book, and it just doesn’t gel, do you keep marching toward the end, hoping it will get better? Or are you a definitive reader who decides if a book doesn’t spark your interest at 20%, it’s time to DNF?

For some readers, DNF–short for “did not finish”–is an issue that causes anxiety, like anxiety about a person sitting next to you on a train, even if plenty of other seats are available. These book lovers feel a duty to finish every one they start.

For others, it’s as natural as tossing a used tissue into a bin. There are dozens, hundreds–or even more–works on deck in their TBR list (“to-be-read”). So for them, it’s on to the next book.

What kind of reader are you? How do you evaluate when to DNF a book? Is a DNF novel worth reviewing? And if it is, do you give it a rating? Should that DNF count toward an annual total for those who keep track of the number of books they read each year?

It’s a topic worth discussing.

Finish the Book

Finish Reading

Every reader has their criteria for finishing a book, and there are moments that, for whatever reason, call for DNF-ing. But most of the time, we commit ourselves to finish what we started and hope that, somewhere in those countless pages of text, we’ll discover something valuable and enjoyable.

Say No to Always Finish (To Learn How to Always Finish)

cats and books

I was always a ride-until-I-die reader. I had a policy of completing every book I started–even if it took me years. Then something happened; I began to read less. Instead of being a much-anticipated treat, books felt like heavy weights upon my ankles as I marched through the sand.

Reading fiction is supposed to be an enjoyable hobby, a delightful escape from the drudgery of the real world’s problems–not an act of drudgery itself.

So I stopped reading altogether. That was worse than not reading.

How did I get my reading mojo back? I stopped following the latest trends and only read what I knew I would like: the genres, subgenres, and tropes that had always brought me joy. I re-read old favorites and didn’t let myself feel guilty for not constantly opening up to new experiences.

Say Yes To Finish (This Makes the Good Books So Much Better)

cats and books

The need to finish a read is understandable. I always felt if I paid for a book and brought it into my library, I had a duty to know its contents. Even more so, if one is writing reviews, continue until finished.

Who knows? It may surprise you with a pleasant twist.

But if not, you can give that soporific novel an honest review: 2 stars or 1.

And if your “read” list is marked with more tallies in the lower ratings, take comfort in being fair about most writing being crap. Sturgeon’s Law applies, always.

However, this does underscore that when a book is good to you, it’s beyond that: you love it! It’s one of your favorites.

Devotees of a particular author or series may choose to finish a book out of a sense of obligation. For readers in this position, the best option is to take a break and return to the book later to see if the interest still remains.

Do Not Finish Reading


When a book’s lost your interest, is it time to put the work down and call it a day?

This is a decision that all readers face at some point during their journey with a book. From the chronic reader’s point of view, it can be incredibly disheartening to give up on a book that you expected to like but now find yourself struggling to even get through the first chapter.

Maybe One Day, Maybe Never

cats and books

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this reader’s dilemma, but a few tips can help get you through it.

A good rule of thumb is to read at least the first 50 pages, and if it doesn’t grab your attention, put the book aside. Maybe you’ll finish it one day, or maybe it’s a DNF. But don’t torture yourself with a book you dislike.

Push Through Pain: Finish or Die

cats and books

If you’re reading for school or work (or blog), you will probably want to try to push through and see the book through to the end. In this case, you may want to take a few breaks while reading. Maybe listen to classical music or the sound of rain or white noise.

Try skimming or speed reading. This may be easier to do with hard copies when you can see a book from a larger perspective and flip through filler pages. Then again, other people can maneuver easier with an e-book, with larger fonts and scrolling. So if a book doesn’t excite you, but you have this incredible skill, skim, or speed read. You may not absorb every minute detail, but you get the gist of it, and that’s all you need.

Quitters Always Win: DNF the Book

cats and books

Don’t feel any self-imposed guilt about your decision to DNF a book. Remember that everyone’s experience of literature is unique. Even if you might have enjoyed the book if you had given it more time, it makes sense to move on when you’re not interested anymore. Life’s too short, and millions of other stories are waiting to be told.

Another thing to consider is the context in which you are reading. Is it for leisure and relaxation? Then it’s okay to DNF and move on to something that catches your attention more. So what if everyone else loves it? Do you want to be like the cool kids and do what the cool kids do?

Ultimately, the decision to DNF or finish a book should come down to a reader’s sincere feelings. Do you genuinely want to continue? Is it worth finishing? If the answers are “no,” then DNF the book. There’s no shame in that! Out in the world is an abundance of excellent reading material, and no one should ever feel obligated to finish a lousy read simply because it’s at hand.

Review, Rate, or Forget Unto Oblivion?

cats and books

When it comes to reviews and ratings, it depends.

Are you rating and reviewing on social media or just for your personal records? It is best to stick with a system that allows for some flexibility. Those who use a rating system may want to allow for a gray area between the halfway and full marks. Those who write reviews could emphasize the pros and cons they experienced without assigning a numerical rating.

I adored the first installment in Laurie McBain‘s Dominick family trilogy, Moonstruck Madness. The second entry was a chore to finish, but I did finish it. But the last book in the series was too boring for words to complete.

Dark Before the Rising Sun

I broke one of my reading rules for Dark Before the Rising Sun. Even though I DNFed it, I posted a review. I did not complete the entirety of the 500-paged snoozer. I read half and skimmed to the end. That was a fair compromise.

I don’t “hard” DNF too many books; most of my unfinished books I still consider partly read, waiting to be picked up another day. Now, if I read at least 50% through and am just done, I check out the ending. Then I can rate and review with a clean conscience.

Ultimately to Finish or DNF Is an Individual Choice

cats and books

The decision to finish or DNF must be based on the individual’s reading habits and needs. There is no single correct answer, and each decision should be respected. People read for different reasons, and depending on the book, some may take longer to finish than others.

No matter what, readers should remember the reading process should be an enjoyable, rewarding experience — and sometimes finishing a book isn’t always the best strategy. Happy reading!

Your Opinion

cats and books

Are you a stick-it-through-until-the-very-end type of reader? Or do you decide within the first chapter if the book is to your liking and put it away if it’s not?

Please, drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

top ten tuesday to be read list spring 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Our Spring 2023 To-Be-Read List

We’re listing ten books on our to-be-read list for Spring 2023 for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme.

top ten tuesday to be read list spring 2023

Top Ten Tuesday

It’s Top Ten Tuesday, where depending on the week’s theme, we post a list of 10 of our best/favorite/most important bookish-related items.

Thank you to That Artsy Reader Girl for providing us with this feature and for the creative ideas.

“Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.”

That Artsy Reader Girl

Ten Books on My Spring 2023 TBR List

This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “Spring 2023 Books to Read.”

We had to tweak this list a bit, as we always try to do things as far ahead as possible. So rather than this list consisting of books-to-be-read, they are books-to-be-reviewed. Introvert Reader has read almost all the books listed below, so look out for these ten reviews in the upcoming months.

1. Historical Bodice Ripper: The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss

flame and flower

Doomed to a life of unending toil, Heather Simmons fears for her innocence — until a shocking, desperate act forces her to flee… and to seek refuge in the arms of a virile and dangerous stranger.

A lusty adventurer married to the sea, Captain Brandon Birmingham courts scorn and peril when he abducts the beautiful fugitive from the tumultuous London dockside. But no power on Earth can compel him to relinquish his exquisite prize. For he is determined to make the sapphire-eyed lovely his woman… and to carry her off to far, uncharted realms of sensuous, passionate love.


2. Traditional Regency: Lord Carew’s Bride by Mary Balogh

lord carews bride

Samantha Newman is getting older, but though she is beautiful and courted by a large number of gentlemen, she is restless and unhappy. While she is staying in the country with her friends Jennifer and Gabriel, she takes a walk alone and wanders onto the property of the reclusive Marquess of Carew.

She meets him far from the house and mistakes him for a landscape designer. He is an ordinary-looking man and is half crippled. He is also friendly and unassuming, and Samantha soon relaxes into a warm friendship with him.

It is only much later, back in London, when she is again threatened by the man who broke her heart years ago during her come-out Season, that Samantha discovers who her friend really is. And this time she is tempted to settle for the contentment of friendship in order to escape the pain of love.

Lord Carew’s Bride by Mary Balogh

3. Harlequin Historical: Sun Woman by Lindsay McKenna

sun woman mckenna


Desperate to save the last of her family, Kuchana had become a scout for the

army. To the young Apache, the return of her people to the reservation seemed the only way to ensure their continued survival. Her chosen path was not an easy one, but the promise of a future with Gib McCoy gave her the will to complete her journey.

Lieutenant Gib McCoy had known his share of women, but the pampered eastern ladies of his past paled next to Kuchana’s ethereal beauty. Her courage drew him to her like a moth to the flame. He could not protect her from the jealousy and prejudice that surrounded them, but he knew he would not rest until she was in his arms forever.


4. Silhouette Desire: Wrong Address Right Place by Lass Small

Wrong Address, Right Place tadiello


Linda Parsons was excited about her first business trip–and a shambles of a bed-and-breakfast place wasn’t going to dampen her spirit. Especially since ruggedly sexy innkeeper Mitch Roads seemed determined to make her stay enjoyable. There was certainly nothing wrong with this perfect specimen of a man, and his all-too-personal kisses soon drove all professional matters out of Linda’s mind.

Mitch knew Linda had come to the wrong address, but she was too beautiful to turn away. He’d play host and win her heart. But Mitch quickly learned that Linda despised liars. If she found out about his charade, would she check out–for good? Or could he convince her to make a lifetime reservation?

Wrong Address Right Place by Lass Small

5. Harlequin Temptation: Two Can Play by Emma Jane Spenser

Two-Can-Play emma jane spenser

They were playing a dangerous game

Private Investigator Natalie Tracy specialized in finding what was lost–missing kids, family heirlooms–so a treasure hunt piqued her curiosity. She’d been hired to unravel the clues hidden in the pages of The Quest. Her first step was to track down the elusive author, Alexander Garrick. That’s when she learned a new set of rules….

Rule #1: Despite her attraction to Alex, she couldn’t trust him.

Rule #2: She only had three weeks to solve the riddle, but her future happiness depended on it.

Rule #3: In a game where winner takes all, the stakes became her life!

Two Can Play by Emma Jane Spenser

6. Silhouette Intimate Moments: Paintbox Morning by Kathleen Eagle

Spring 2023 TBR list


Miguel Hidalgo had been left for dead by the minions of De Colores’s evil dictator, but he was very much alive—and determined to exact revenge and return his country to freedom. But even a man of Miguel’s determination and talents couldn’t accomplish that alone. He needed Veronica Harper.

Ronnie had flown into De Colores on a mission of mercy only to find herself hijacked at gunpoint, forced to fly the handsomest man she’d ever seen to safety. Soon guns were no longer necessary because once Ronnie heard Miguel’s story, she was eager to help him rescue his island home and even more eager to spend the future by his side.

Paintbox Morning by Kathleen Eagle

7. Harlequin Presents: The Shining of Love by Emma Darcy


Dedicated to her husband and their work at a rural Australian outback clinic, Suzanne had rejected the temptation Leith Carew had offered.

But he’d taken away her inner peace, just as she’d taken his. And when their paths crossed again, the longing that coursed through Suzanne’s body could no longer be denied. Except this time, Leigh was not free…

The Shining of Love by Emma Darcy

8. Paranormal/Science Fiction/Futuristic Romance: Passion Moon Rising by Rebecca Brandewyne

passion moon rising duillo

Ileana – The cherished princess of a brave and noble land. Violet-eyed, silver-haired, she was graced with beauty, pride and passion … born with a great gift and a rare destiny.Cain – A warrior prince who denied the danger that could destroy him. He lived by his courage and his instincts, and from the moment he gazed on Ileana, he knew nothing would vanquish his desire.

In each other’s arms, they shared a rich and wondrous love that brought them to exquisite ecstasy. But in a fierce and fiery clash of wills, their union was torn by betrayal and mistrust. Now, as their kingdoms are plunged into the terror of war, they must take up the only weapon that can save their world … the power that blazes in the blackest of nights – the gleaming sword of love!

Passion Moon Rising by Rebecca Brandewyne

9. Western Historical Romance: Temptation’s Trail by Dana Ransom

temptations trail ennis

When Amanda Duncan headed West to find her missing brother, she knew she was a little out of her element. Her privileged upbringing in a fancy boarding school hadn’t prepared her for the perils of frontier Texas. So, she made a plan-all she had to do was hire a hero. But when legendary gunslinger Harmon Bass showed up, he wasn’t what she expected at all. True, he was gorgeous beyond belief, but he was also unarmed! What kind of hero didn’t carry a gun?

Rugged half-breed Harmon Bass needed a job that paid well and disguised his true mission. What ha got was an irritating and irresistible trail partner who could not ride, shoot or keep quiet! Yet with every move she made, he wanted her more! Maybe it was Amanda’s sheer pluck…or unexpected courage…or the way her beautiful brown eyes glowed with sensual fire. Here was a woman to tempt and torment him-the woman he’d been waiting for all of his life. Now, as he and the feisty eastern beauty crossed a wilderness dogged by crooked lawmen and avenging outlaws, Harm only prayed they lived long enough to calm the love that waited at the end of…TEMPTATION’S TRAIL

Temptation’s Trail by Dana Ransom

10. Harlequin Super Romance/ Full-Length Contemporary: The Hellion by LaVyrle Spencer


RACHEL. The image of elegance, social standing, and beauty, she had barely recovered from her husband’s death when the wildest, most passionate flame of her youth stepped into her life, once again…

TOMMY LEE. The all-time hellraiser of Russellville, Alabama, he had three marriages behind him and a string of fast cars and women. The townsfolk said he’d never change. But Rachel knew differently…

One they were high school sweethearts, too young and reckless to handle the consequences of their love. Now, twenty-four years later, Tommy Lee could still excite Rachel like no other man. Maybe this time, they could make it work. In spite of his wild reputation…the local gossip…or Rachel’s questioning heart.

The Hellion by LaVyrle Spencer

That’s Ten Weeks of Spring Reading

Overall, this Spring will be a season of romance and adventure as we dive into our top ten book picks. We can’t wait to review all these fantastic romance novels and share our opinions with you.

Thanks again to That Artsy Reader Girl for organizing Top Ten Tuesday and giving us fun ideas each week!

Your Opinion

What books are on your Spring TBR list? Or is it more like a pile than a list? What do you think of our to-be-read list for Spring 2023?

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

top ten classics

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Best Classic Romances of All Time

We’re listing our ten best classic romances for our first Top Ten Tuesday post.

ten best classic romances

Top Ten Tuesday: Genre Freebie Week

We’re dipping our toes into something new here—Top Ten Tuesdays—and if you like it, let us know, and we’ll keep this going as a regular or semi-regular segment.

“Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.”

Each week has a new bookish theme. We figured today was a perfect day to start as the theme for February 28 is “Genre Freebie.” For this week, we decided to choose the 10 Best Classic Romances. As far as we’re concerned, “classic” means at least a century old–when it comes to books, anyway.

Romance Novels Have Must Have Happy Endings, Even the Classics

Happy endings are essential for us to consider a love story a romance. Let’s look at some classic works of literature and see if they qualify.

  • Romeo and Juliet: No, they die by suicide!
  • Jane Eyre: Yes. Mr. Rochester is blind, but he and Jane get married.
  • Wuthering Heights: No, Cathy dies, and Heathcliff mourns her for decades before dying.
  • Anna Karenina: Oddly, this can go either way. Despite the title, Anna Karenina tells two parallel love stories, not just one. After Anna throws herself on the train tracks and dies, Vronsky goes off to war as a suicide measure. However, Levin and Kitty survive and thrive. They live HEA with their family in the countryside, and he finds God.
  • Dr. Zhivago: No. Yuri and Lara are separated and die apart from one another.
  • Nicholas Sparks: Get out of here!

Our List of 10 Best Classic Romances (With Happy Endings)

We’re looking back 100 years and more to pick ten classic romances that we consider some of the best love stories ever written! Because a romance is not a romance unless it has a happy ending!

This list of 10 classic romances is in chronological order, not order of preference.

Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

This legendary story is our favorite romantic fairy tale because the lovers actually have to fall in love. Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s Beauty and the Beast explores the love story between a beautiful young woman named Beauty and a frightening beast. The Beast, despite his fearsome appearance, possesses an unexpected inner beauty.

Through their time together, the two discover that although some may judge outward appearance, true beauty lies within.

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

The Taming of the Shrew is a battle of wills between the two sexes and a romance that will have you laughing. This comedy by William Shakespeare still resonates with audiences today. It follows the story of Katharina, a “shrewish” woman, and her eventual conquest by the loveable Petruchio. We see how two strong-willed people can find common ground and true love through great wit and clever dialogue.

With many memorable moments, there’s no other play that captures the joys and frustrations of romance quite like this one.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

top ten romance classice pride and prejudice

How could this Jane Austen classic not be on our top ten list? Pride and Prejudice follows the Bennets, a family living in early 19th-century England. Daughter Elizabeth must navigate many feelings: love, hate, pride, and prejudice.

The stubborn and sharp-tongued Elizabeth clashes with the elitist and uptight Mr. Darcy in this timeless romance. Along the way, readers see her story of self-discovery and growth as she and her family face complicated issues surrounding marriage, class, social status, money, and family obligations.

Jane Austen’s wit and humor make this an enjoyable reading experience.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

ten romance classics

Jane Austen’s timeless classic, Persuasion, is a stirring romance that follows the fortunes of Anne Elliot, a young woman whose family pressures her to reject her true love, Captain Wentworth. As both characters struggle with their time’s moral and social conventions, they are eventually drawn together in a tale of love overcoming adversity.

A romance with an enduring message about the power of true love and following one’s heart, Persuasion is in some ways better than Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

10 top classic romance noevls

Jane Eyre is not the first Gothic (Castle of Otranto is), but it is the first Gothic romance. Charlotte Bronte’s novel is a haunting masterpiece that should be included in any list of the best classic romances. The story follows Jane as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, confronting and overcoming the many obstacles in her path. Jane is a wonderful heroine, and Mr. Rochester is a bad man we love!

With its powerful themes of female independence and social norms, Bronte’s work is one of the greatest classic love stories ever written that deserves to be on this list.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

10 classic romance stories

Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South is a classic romance that is sure to make you sigh in delight! Margaret Hale moves from the south of England to the industrial North. There, she meets Mr. Thornton, a powerful mill owner who challenges all her preconceived ideas. As a clash of cultures and values ensue, Margaret and Thornton’s relationship grows in intensity until they are hopelessly in love with one another.

With its captivating characters, engaging plot, and realistic depiction of 19th-century England, this work of literature has earned its place as one of the best classic romances of all time.

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

10 best classic romances

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy makes our list because of the wonderful relationship between the independent heroine Bathsheba Everdene and the man she ends up with, her neighbor Gabriel Oak. This Victorian novel presents a heartwarming story with strong undertones of love, loss, and redemption. The plot follows Bathsheba Everdene as she navigates a web of relationships with Gabriel Oak, Sergeant Troy, and William Boldwood, who battle for her affection.

With its vivid descriptions of rural England, Far From the Madding Crowd is filled with unforgettable characters and timeless romance that will remain etched in readers’ hearts. It’s a rare Thomas Hardy book with a happy ending,

A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

10 classic romances a room with a view

E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View is an Edwardian-era romance. Beginning in Florence, Italy, in the early 1900s and follows Lucy Honeychurch as she visits the Italian city, where she learns to embrace life and love. She resists societal stiff-upper-lip expectations and instead seeks a life of empathy and passion with the free-spirited George Emerson. Through her blossoming relationship with the unconventional George and other characters, Lucy discovers a newfound freedom and courage to follow her heart against all odds.

The Sheik by Edith Maude Hull

the sheik

We will never stop shouting our praise for this wonderful desert romance. The Sheik by Edith Maude Hull is a classic romance novel first published in 1919. The story follows Lady Diana Mayo, an Englishwoman who is kidnapped in North Africa, where she encounters the mysterious Sheikh Ahmed Ben Hassan. With both of them determined to resist their feelings for one another, they fight against their growing love while struggling with cultural clashes.

Rich in exotic detail and filled with adventure and excitement, The Sheik is an absolute must-read for all fans of classic romance novels.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

10 best classic romances

Although banned in many nations upon publication and excoriated as pornographic filth, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is actually a beautiful romance classic. D.H. Lawrence’s novel is set in 1920s Britain and follows the bold and beautiful Lady Constance Chatterley. After her husband returns home from the war paralyzed, Connie forms a bond with their gamekeeper, Mr. Mellors. Then they embark on a passionate and forbidden affair.

The novel deals with class and sexual politics. Its stirring portrayal of true love amidst impossible odds, combined with erotic imagery, places it among our top classic romances.

(Okay, so, we broke our rule or this one. Lady Chatterly’s Lover is 95 years old. But in five years [hopefully, we’ll still be around!] if/ when someone comes upon this article, it will be accurate then.)

Your Opinion

These classic romantic stories all feature happy endings, which makes them essential reading for any romance fan. What do you think of our picks for the top ten classic romances? What are your choices?

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance!

Victor Gadino Artwork for Sale at Fine Art America

Artist Victor Gadino is offering prints and products featuring his amazing romance cover art for sale at Fine Art America.

victor gadino art

Visit Fine Art America to Purchase Victor Gadino’s Art

As Sweet Savage Flame, we’re not shy about our adoration for New York artist Victor Gadino. Now here’s a fantastic chance for romance cover art enthusiasts to buy a masterpiece created by one of our favorite cover artists. At Fine Art America, Gadino is offering his beautiful work for sale.

His romance cover designs may be found on a wide range of products for extremely reasonable prices. You can get a small print for less than $20! If you really want to go all out, you can get a fully framed, portrait-sized print to display prominently in your home.

Maybe you can even own an original Gadino painting!

More Than Just Paintings, Many Fun Products For Sale

Gadino recently started offering some of his iconic romance oil paintings as affordable posters, notebooks, face masks, t-shirts, totes, phone cases, and other fun items on Fine Art America.

One just has to click here: Buy Victor Gadino Art. Or go to the site and search for “Victor Gadino” to see the items. The quality of the products is excellent, as one would expect from a maestro of sensuality.

We’ve highlighted Gadino’s erotic artwork many times here on this site. You can look at our Victor Gadino page to see some of his work for romance book covers.

Not only are these pieces beautiful, but they’re also a great way to add a little diversity to your walls.

victor gadino
Victor Gadino

The original artwork has been featured on the book covers of some of the most beloved romance novels ever. Now they are available for fans of Victor’s work to purchase in an array of stunning prints, canvases, and products.

Browse Victor’s pieces to find the perfect addition to your home, office, or collection. These unique and high-quality products make an excellent gift for any romantic at heart.

To learn more about Victor’s works and availability, check out his website for more information! In addition to selling giclee prints of your favorite covers, you can acquire his non-romance-related art from his site.

Act Fast or Miss Out Owning a Fantastic Work of Romance History

Don’t miss out on Victor’s beautiful artwork. Visit Fine Art America today to explore Victor Gadino’s art and purchase your favorite pieces.

Victor Gadino‘s artwork is extraordinary in its unique blend of modern and classic styles. His works bring us an entirely new perspective on art and creativity. Fine Art America is proud to offer these magnificent pieces of art for sale, so don’t miss this opportunity to own a piece of history!

Romance art is hot right now, and these pieces will go fast. Best of luck!

We hope these stunning Gadino images add beauty and joy to your days!

black historical romance

Hidden Gems & Crown Jewels: The Rise of Black Historical Romances in the 1990s

The rise of Black romance novels–especially historicals– in the 1990s provided a platform for diverse representation in a genre that had long ignored this socio-demographic. 

black historical romance

The Advent of Black Romance Novels

Since the romance revolution of the early 1970s, these books have depicted heroes and heroines from varied nations and of almost every race, with a notable exception. The paucity of Black and/or African American protagonists motivated readers to create stories of their own, with characters of their own heritage.

One of the most significant developments in African American literature during the 1990s was the emergence of historical romance novels with Black protagonists and settings. The stories offered a much-needed look into the past.

These books highlighted the challenges people of African heritage faced and the accomplishments they achieved in American and Global history.

As the decade wore on, more and more writers began to include Black characters in their stories, creating stories that talked about issues relevant to these characters’ lives, experiences, and identities.

black couple in love

Some Early Black Romantic-Fiction Authors

The first romances with African-American protagonists date back to the 19th century. Jessie Redmon Fauset was an African American editor, poet, and novelist in the first half of the 20th century. A prominent member of the Harlem Renaissance, her book There is Confusion is considered one of the first Black romantic novels.

Frank Yerby wrote swashbuckling historical epics and Southern plantation romances about primarily White characters. But it was the 1968 novel, The Dahomean, a tragic tale of an African ruler betrayed and taken into slavery, that was his most personal and arguably best work. It was followed up with a sequel in 1979.

Black romances The Dahomean

Towards the End of the Century

The last decade of the twentieth century was a time of great change and progress for African American fiction. Terry MacMillan debuted her first book in 1989 and would have a long and successful career. She had two blockbusters, 1992’s Waiting to Exhale and 1996’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back, both made into hit films.

Omar Tyree’s Flyy Girl was a Young Adult sensation, spawning two sequels.

These books portrayed relationships featuring African American characters written by Black authors and allowed readers to explore different perspectives on love and relationships.

Many writers whose careers started during this era have had a lasting impact on the genre.

waiting to exhale

A Look Back at the Black Historical Romance Boom of the 1990s 

The historical romance novel has seen constant transformations in the stories it tells. The 1990s would introduce stories set in the past that told love stories from the point of view the industry had largely ignored. 

The first mainstream category romance with African American protagonists was Dell Candlelight’s Entwined Destinies by Rosalind Welles in 1980. Historical romances with Black main characters wouldn’t see mainstream release until over a decade later.

In 1989 Anita R. Bunkley self-published her first novel, a historical romance titled Emily, The Yellow Rose of Texas. The book is based on the legendary Emily D. West, the mulatto woman who was a Texian spy

Mildred E. Riley, a psychiatric nurse from New England, began writing after she retired from a 40-year career. In 1990, she published her first historical romance, Yamilla, which featured an African heroine in the American South. In 1992, she followed that up with the romance between a Native American heroine and a Black hero in Akayna, Sachem’s Daughter

black romance

Riley is known for her ability to create powerful, compelling love stories steeped in history. She would go on to write more historical romances with Arabesque several years later.

1994: Arabesque Romances Are Born

In 1994, Pinnacle Books–an imprint of Kensington Publishing–launched Arabesque romances. This was the first line of romance novels to focus on Black couples. Arabesque released both contemporary and historical books that explored African-American life and culture. 

black romance books

The credited mastermind behind Arabesque was Monica Harris, an editor at Kensington who worked under legendary founder Walter Zacarius. 

In July of ’94, Arabesque launched their first two romances, both full-length contemporaries: Sandra Kitt’s Serenade and then Francis Ray’s Forever Yours

It wasn’t until several months later, in February of 1995, that Arabesque released their first historical romance, Journey’s End, by Mildred E. Riley.

black historical romances

The line greatly impacted the publishing industry, inspiring other publishers to sign African-American authors and release similarly styled works. 

When Kensington shut down Pinnacle in 2000, they sold Arabesque off to BET-TV under Robert Johnson. Kensington would still publish the books, but BET controlled distribution, marketing, and promotion. Many Arabesque novels were adapted for television movies that would air on BET-TV.

Under their management, BET added the Sepia line for mainstream commercial fiction and New Spirit for inspirational books and nonfiction. 

In 2005 Harlequin Enterprises purchased all BET-TV Books titles and continues to publish many of them today.

Beverly Jenkins, “The Queen of the Black Historical Romance”

Today, Beverly Jenkins is a legendary name in the romance genre. In 1994 Avon Books signed her on for a contract. Her first novel, Night Song, came out in July–the same month Arabesque launched–to much critical acclaim. It was also the first actual Black clinch cover.

beverly jenkins

After several more successful novels, such as Topaz and Indigo, Jenkins became the first African American romance author to make bestseller lists in the late 1990s. From there, more women like Jenkins followed in her footsteps with their own historical romances, spawning an entire subgenre.

Beverly Jenkins writes of people from varying professions: sailors and soldiers, ranchers, doctors, abolitionists, and teachers. Jenkins’ books are known for their richly drawn characters and historical accuracy, and she has been praised for her representation of diverse characters and cultures.

“I stick to the actual history and include a bibliography at the end of each book for readers who may want to delve deeper into the subject matter. I always set my stories where Black people actually walked, worked, and lived.”


Twenty-nine years later, Beverly Jenkins is still writing romances. She has written over 50 books, including historical and contemporaries, plus young adult and inspirational books.

Out of the rising tide of romance novels written by Black writers, 1994 is known as the year when Black romance novels were born.

indigo beverly jenkins

The Pioneers of Black Historical Romance: How They Paved the Way

Other authors were writing historical romances in the 1990s that featured Black protagonists.

Shirley Hailstock wrote historical romances for Arabesque. Clara’s Promise, Hailstock’s first historical romance, won the Utah Romance Writers’ bestseller of the West Award. Her other novels made the bestseller lists and garnered awards, including the Romantic Times Award for Best Multicultural Romance.

Hailstock holds a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times Magazine, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York City Chapter of RWA, and an Emma Merritt Service Award from RWA. Her novel, Legacy, is listed as one of the 100 Greatest Romance Novels of the 20th Century.

Roberta Gayle is another famous author of African American historical romance novels. Her books for the Arabesque line included Sunshine and Shadows and Moonrise. Some other notable works include The Last Round-Up and Truly Yours. Gayle has a strong ability to bring history to life and create engaging, well-drawn characters.

Patricia Vaughn wrote for Pocket Books two wonderful romances featuring Black couples, 1996’s Murmur of Rain and 1998 Shadows on the Bayou. Her books featured captivating and well-rounded stories with deep, meaningful themes driven by tales of love, resilience, and strength.

Authors like Riley, Jenkins, Hailstock and the rest gave readers insight into a side of history that is not often discussed: the romances of people of African descent. These books have since set the tone for other writers to explore these topics from their unique perspectives by showing the beauty of multiculturalism. 

shadows on the bayou dominick finelle

Celebrating Black Historical Romance Today

As for contemporary African American historical romance writers, there are more today than were in the 1990s! Many of these authors are often on the bestseller lists and have garnered awards and acclaim.

Here are some names and books you may be interested in.

  • Vanessa Riley‘s multicultural Regency series, The Rogues and Remarkable Women trilogy features the novel’s Black heroines in a Regency setting. Her books include A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby; An Earl, the Girl, and the Toddler; and A Duke, the Spy, an Artist, and a Lie.
  • Alyssa Cole‘s diverse books include the historical romances An Extraordinary Union and An Unconditional Freedom.
  • Kianna Alexander‘s The Roses of Ridgeway historical series features African American heroines in the American West. These women find love with diverse heroes in Kissing the Captain, The Preacher’s Paramour, and Loving the Lawman.
  • Piper Huguley writes Inspirational Historial romances such as The Preacher’s PromiseA Virtuous Ruby, and Sweet Tea.
black romance

These are just a few talented African American historical romance writers working today. If you’re interested in this genre, there is an abundance of great books for you to enjoy!

Final Thoughts on Black Representation in Historical Romances

Throughout the twentieth century, there would be books telling love stories about Black characters. But it was in the 1990s that this Black romance really took off. The rise of these novels helped create a more inclusive landscape for romance.

As a predominantly African-American genre, depicting Black characters as protagonists and heroines in historical romance novels posed a unique challenge. Writers emphasized the details and personalities of their characters while also working to address the prejudices they faced in the past.

However, a remarkable aspect of these stories is how they helped normalize Black characters outside traumas related to slavery and oppression. Black historical romances offered an opportunity to celebrate the totality of the African-American experience in the past and love.

Your Opinion

Are you familiar with these authors and their works? If so, what are you are your favorite romances featuring Black protagonists? Who are your favorite Black romance authors?

Beverly Jenkins is undoubtedly up there for me, and I also love Patricia Vaughn’s books.

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance!

history of valentine's day

Valentine’s Day Is Here Again, So Let’s Have Some Fun

history of valentine's day

Valentine’s Day: A Tale of Love, Laughter, and Maybe a Little Bit of Madness

Ah, Valentine’s Day–a day dedicated to showering our loved ones with affection and appreciation. February 14th is when couples express their love for one another through acts of kindness, gifts, and special moments shared.

But have you ever wondered where this love-filled holiday came from? Well, buckle up, folks, because it’s time for a hilarious journey through the history of Valentine’s Day, which dates back to ancient times.

love on the seashore
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Origins of Valentine’s Day: When Love and Fertility Collided

In ancient Rome, there was a festival called Lupercalia, which was held in mid-February to celebrate the Roman God of fertility, Lupercus. The festival was a wild and crazy time for couples to exchange gifts.

In addition, young men drew women’s names from a box to be paired up for a few weeks. Yup, you read that right. This practice became known as a matchmaking tradition that was just one step away from the modern-day version of “The Bachelor.”

But wait, it gets even better! As the Roman Empire declined and Christianity spread throughout, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th as Saint Valentine’s Day in 496 AD.

Saint Valentine was a Catholic priest who lived in Rome during the third century. According to legend, he performed secret marriages during a time when the Roman Empire banned marriages.

Saint Valentine was later executed for his actions and became known as the patron saint of love and affection. Talk about going above and beyond for love!

Over time, the celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day became more popular and spread throughout Europe. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the tradition of exchanging love letters became popular and eventually gave rise to the practice of sending Valentine’s Day cards.

By the early 15th century, Valentine’s Day had become a recognized holiday and was celebrated in various ways throughout Europe.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day Worldwide: Love knows no boundaries

Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated all around the world, with each country putting its own unique twist on the holiday.

In the United States, it is a time for couples to express their love and affection through gifts such as chocolates, flowers, and jewelry. Couples may also spend the day together, enjoying a romantic meal or participating in special activities.

Single people celebrate it, too, in a variety of creative ways. Friends come together either and celebrate “Anti-Valentines Day” with horror movie marathons, at-home spa events, or solo dance-offs.

Japan and South Korea celebrate Valentine’s Day as a time for women to express their love. They show appreciation to the men in their lives through gifts and acts of kindness. It is also common for women to give gifts to their female friends to show their gratitude for their friendship.

In some countries, such as Italy, Valentine’s Day is a time for couples to renew their love and commitment to one another. It is traditional for couples to exchange gifts and exchange love letters. In many cities, there are special events and festivals that are held in honor of Saint Valentine.

No matter where you are in the world, Valentine’s Day is a time to show those special people in your life just how much they mean to you. And what better way to do that than with a bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates, and a love letter written in crayon?

funny valentine's day
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Love is a Many-Splendored Thing

Valentine’s Day has a rich history that dates back to ancient times. It’s been a wild and crazy ride, from the days of Roman fertility gods to its recognition as a holiday honoring Saint Valentine, to the sweet and sentimental day we currently know and love as a cherished tradition.

Whether you’re spending the day with your significant other or celebrating with friends and family, Valentine’s Day is a time to let your loved ones know just how much they mean to you.

And remember, love may be a many splendored thing, but laughter is the best medicine. So have a little fun and make this Valentine’s Day one for the books!

love and laughter
Photo by J carter on

Funny Love Quotes

“I love being married. It’s so great to find one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.” —Rita Rudner 

“If you love them in the morning with their eyes full of crust, if you love them at night with their hair full of rollers, chances are, you’re in love.” —Miles Davis

“Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.” —Phyllis Diller

“By all means, marry; If you get a good wife, you’ll be happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” —Socrates

“Valentine’s Day is when a lot of married men are reminded what a poor shot Cupid really is.” —Anonymous

“Love is a lot like a backache, it doesn’t show up on x-rays, but you know it’s there.” — George Burns

“The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.” —Blaise Pascal 

“Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.” – Joan Crawford

“Love is being stupid together.” —Paul Valery

“It wasn’t love at first sight. It took a full five minutes.” —Lucille Ball

“Love is a two-way street constantly under construction.” —Carroll Bryant

“Love is something sent from heaven to worry the hell out of you.” —Dolly Parton

“You know how people say, ‘You can’t live without love’? Well, oxygen is even more important.” — Dr. Gregory Houser

“If I love you, what business is it of yours?” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“I like to say there are certain things you can’t take back: One of them is ‘I love you,’ and one of them is bullets.” —Nathan Fillion

“Save a boyfriend for a rainy day—and another, in case it doesn’t rain.” —Mae West

“I love you no matter what you do, but do you have to do so much of it?” —Jean Illsley Clarke

“Love is like an hourglass, with the heart filling up as the brain empties.” —Jules Renard