Category Archives: Playboy Press

daughter of sand

Covers of the Week #79: Jordi Penalva

jordi penalva

Artist: Jordi Penalva

Jordi Bosch Peñalver was born in Barcelona, Catalunia, Spain in 1927. Peñalver signed his artwork as Jordi Penalva. He worked primarily as an illustrator of fantasy and military fictional well as comic book covers.

Penalva has an older brother, Antonio Bosch Peñalver, who was born in 1925 and created several comic strips in Spain.

Jordi Penalva studied at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes in Barcelona. In the late 1950s, he began work as a comic artist with several companies, eventually finding his way to DC. Along with other Spanish artists of his era, like Manuel Sanjulian, Esteban Maroto, and Enrich Torres, Penalva was popular for his sensual art style and comic work, including his Vampirella covers.

Penalva dabbled in romance cover art in the 1970s and early 1980s. In the late 1970’s he was frequently used by Playboy Press, illustrating full-cover color clinches. That style would be used as a template by many other publishers like Kensington and Dorchester to attract potential readers.

The Covers

For the week of Monday, November 21, 2022, to Sunday, November 27, 2022, our Covers of the Week focuses on the early romance covers by Jordi Penalva.

The Covers from Left to Right, Top to Bottom:

  • Midnight Fires, Andrea Layton, Playboy Press, 1979
  • Daughter of the Sand, Pamela South, Playboy Press, 1979
  • Tempt Not This Flesh, Barbara Riefe, Playboy Press, 1979
  • Tamarisk, Claire Lorrimer, Jove, 1978

Your Opinion

What do you think of Jordi Penalva’s style? Which of our picks do you like the best, if any?

Do you have suggestions or requests for future Covers of the Week themes you’d like to see on Sweet Savage Flame? Let us know, and we’ll do our best to create a gallery of stunning art!

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

tempt not this flesh

Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe

historical romance review
Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe
Rating: two-stars
Published: June 1, 1979
Illustrator: Jordi Penalva
Book Series: Lorna & Paul Trilogy #1
Published by: Playboy Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe

The Book

Barbara Riefe’s Tempt Not This Flesh was yet another inexplicable bestseller for the gender-bending author whose real name was Alan Riefe. It’s a 1970s bodice ripper Playboy Press published that has very little romance, includes some rape, and lacks any real excitement.

One wonders how desperate readers in the 1970s were for anything interesting to happen in their “romances.”

The Heroine

Lorna, the heroine of Tempt Not This Flesh, definitely deserved a better book than the one she was forced to partake in. Really, with quotes like this:

“Every day, almost every hour a new problem cropped up, piled upon the other like [kindling] piling around Joan of Arc at the stake. Still, whatever had happened, whatever was to come, this Yankee was no martyr; come what may, [Lorna] was not about to be a human sacrifice on the altar of this old man’s insatiable ambition. A pawn in his game, perhaps, but only until she could turn the play around and checkmate him.”

Or this one, which shows she is much too smart for this mild turkey of a bodice ripper:

She could never love him again, what woman with pride and self-esteem and memory could? It was like being brutally raped, only to have your assaulter satisfy his lust, then turn around and propose marriage. His logic, his love-supplanted-by-hate-which-in-turn-could-be-supplanted-once-again-by-love idea was false. Absurd as far as she was concerned.

so wicked the heart
So Wicked the Heart, Barbara Riefe, Playboy, 1980, Sanjulian cover art
(Book #2 in the Lorna & Paul trilogy)

The Plot

Poor Lorna only wanted to enjoy her honeymoon and make love to her husband.

That’s how the book starts, with Lorna Singleton-Stone, formerly of Hanover, New Hampshire, USA, and her husband Philip making love at an inn in Boston. But before the night is out, her husband is brutally murdered right before her eyes, and Lorna is kidnapped and set on a ship headed to a nightmare.

A nefarious Count holds Lorna held captive in the small kingdom of Savoy. He has plans for her, as a crazy king and wicked queen rule during turbulent times. Except for her hair color, Lorna looks. almost identical to Queen Caroline-Louisa. The Count forces Lorna to pose as her double. He has her head s shaved as smooth as a freshly-shat-out egg, thus cementing the frightening trauma that begins.

Many evildoers threaten Lorna with torture, terrorize her, and attempted assassination. She raped several times (really raped, no forced seductions here).

But her will is steel. She will not break. Lorna may be forced into this game of madness, but she plans to survive at all costs.

Along the way, she meets and falls for Paul, the Queen’s lover, who has a secret plan of survival himself. Twists and turns occur. Sadly, though, what started out as a promising adventure turned into a slow, painful slosh through muddy waters.

Final Analysis of Tempt Not This Flesh

You know the meme with the guy with the awesome sideburns, who rages on about “The rent being too damned high!”? In this book, “The paragraphs were too damned long!” It was full of info-dumps that bored me and caused me to skim.

A lot.

A whole lot, especially past the halfway point when all I wanted was to get it over with!

By the end, my eyes couldn’t handle those page-long paragraphs on yellowed paper. Or the words in a faded size-8 old-timey serif font. (What is the name of that font, anyway? It’s not Baskerville, right? I should know this!)

Yeesh, it turns out that trying to find a great read in these old Playboy Press books is akin to dumpster diving. You hope to find an untouched 5-star gourmet meal sealed up in one of those fancy take-out aluminum-foil swans. But…

It’s possible, for sure. However, it’s a messy slog to get there. And there’s a 100% chance you’ll end up with lots of stinky crap in your hands first; if ever you do find one.

P.S. If anyone knows the name of that font/typeface that many of these old books were written in, let me know. [Somehwere from the mid-1950s to the early-1980s era. I feel like an idiot not knowing something so basic. Thanks.

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
1.5
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2.4

Synopsis

Tempt Not This Flesh is a story of abduction and sexual enslavement, a story of passion unleashed and unbounded. And above all it is the story of a woman’s love, shattered like glass, then resurrected, rekindled by a dashing captain of dragoons. A love so powerful it is forged into a weapon that topples a dynasty. 

TEMPT NOT THIS FLESH by BARBARA RIEFE
the coach to hell

Historical Romance Review: The Coach to Hell by Rachel Cosgrove Payes

Synopsis:

DESPERATION AND DESIRE
Rescued from poverty to live in an opulent mansion filled with servants…loved by two adventurous and passionate men…Georgina’s new life was wantonly wonderful. But she was caught between her arrogant benefactor and his rakehell coachman brother — and their fierce obsession threatened to shatter everything. Each man claimed to be the rightful heir to a noble title. Each man thought Georgina knew the secret location of the missing proof. And though each man already possessed Georgina’s body — each demanded more…

COACH TO HELL by RACHEL COSGROVE PAYES

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Coach to Hell was a bit of disappointment for me after reading Rachel Cosgrove Payes’ Moment of Desire. While that book had a heroine who was placed in awful situations yet tried to make the best of them while always knowing her mind, this book’s heroine is a wishy-washy sort that just goes with the flow because that’s what toilet paper does.

The Plot

The Coach to Hell is a paranormal/Gothic/bodice ripper romance that features a beautiful, orphaned woman named Georgina. To avoid the lusty clutches of a local pervert, she is forced out of her home. Georgina has the gift of the special sight of psychometry. Like some psychic blood-hound, she has the ability to touch an item and immediately glean information about its history or find a hidden object if she touches items associated with it.

Georgie’s ESP is the Chekhov’s gun of this novel as it will be instrumental in the plot’s resolution, what little there is of it.

She heads to a far-away town to seek out a distant cousin in hopes that he will care for her, a relative in need. On the coach ride to her new environs, Georgina meets a dashing red-haired coachman whom she falls for. However, well-meaning fellow passengers warn her that he’s the love-them-and-leave-them type, with different women in every village. Georgie ignores their advice and engages in a secret love affair.

The hero, Charles Collins, supposedly has lots of sex appeal (didn’t see it) but no fortune, as he is the bastard son of a nobleman. He believes he is legitimate, however. Charles is working as a coachman to save money to hire a barrister. He tells Georgina that the relative she’s going to live with is his younger half-brother, Francis, his father’s legal heir.

He’s convinced there must be some shenanigans afoot. Charles, not his brother, is the true inheritor of the manor and title.

Charles and Georgie get down with each other, and he sweet talks her into promising to search for any information that will prove his claim. Georgie vows to do her best.

Her best is… Well, you’ll see.

So the Lord of a half-brother is also a charismatic hunk (I saw it here) and lives openly with his mistress, who’s naturally contemptuous of Georgina. If Georgie would say the word, he’d gladly throw his courtesan aside to have Georgina instead. But Georgie has her dashing coachman and wouldn’t dream of being unfaithful to her beloved.

No, I’m just joking. Remember, this is a 1970s Playboy Press bodice ripper!

One Hell of a Crazy Scene

Back in her hometown, when some creepy old dude wanted her for his mistress, Georgie’s upstanding morals wouldn’t allow for such dishonor. Now, things are different. Yes, she’s in love with a young, handsome dude, but she’s living with his equally hot and much richer brother…

Morals? Pffft. That’s for poor people who don’t live in fancy manors.

The best part of Coach to Hell is when Georgina has Charles in her room for a late-night tryst. Then his brother enters her chambers with the same intention, forcing Charles to hide in her wardrobe. Georgina can’t shoo Francis away by being smart enough to say she’s on her period, so while Charles conceals himself in the closet like some teenage boy hiding from an angry father, Georgie bangs Francis in her bed. And Francis is so good at it that Georgina forgets everything and moans away in ecstasy, giving our sad-sack hero something extra-special to listen to.

This book is a bodice-ripper, and Charles is our supposed “Alpha” male hero. So does he burst out into the room and kill them both in a blind rage? Nope. Charles stays there, sitting and sulking, while his hated enemy joyously screws the woman he loves, bringing her to orgasmic heights.

This scene was so WTF and made me wish that The Coach to Hell had fully embraced its campy nature and included more juicy bits like this!

After that, I admit I lost all respect for the hero. I certainly didn’t expect him to go all wifebeater on Georgina, but he at least could have punched the lights out of Francis. Unfortunately, I can’t root for a cucked hero, so I just read to get to the end of the story.


  photo cuckold horns.png 

Moving on, then.

Final Analysis of The Coach to Hell

Remember Georgina’s special kind of ESP? Well, it served the plot’s purpose. She’s able to find evidence that proves Charles’ legitimacy.

You didn’t actually think Charles wasn’t the real Lord, did you? Oh no, I gave away the ending! Look, if you’re reading these cheesy romances, you know they’re supposed to end “Happily Ever After,” no matter how discombobulated the path to “Ever After” is.

I do wish I had enjoyed this book more, but Georgina was just too stupid for words. I lost any admiration I’d had for Charles after he was ignominiously crowned with a set of horns. Instead, I rooted for his brother from another mother to get the girl.

In the end, this Rachel Cosgrove-Payes Gothic ‘ripper, The Coach to Hell, was a so-so read for me, memorable for all the wrong reasons.

2 1/2 Stars

moment of desire

Historical Book Review: Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrove Payes

historical romance review
Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrave Payes
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: Alan Reingold
Published by: Playboy Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Georgian Era Romance
Pages: 412
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Book Review: Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrove Payes

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrave Payes might be an aberration, both for her–I wasn’t fond of The Coach To Hell, the other Cosgrove Payes book I read–and the historical romance genre.

An Anti-Heroine?

This romp was published by Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Press. The company churned out bodice-ripping romances and schlocky sci-fi well into the ’70s and early ’80s, part of the second golden era of pulpy trash. And yes, this book is trashy.

Its heroine is so conniving, so cunning, and so single-minded in her pursuits of love and revenge that she made me love this book beyond all logical reason.

After a couple of decades of reading romance, I can’t say I’ve encountered too many heroines like Melusina Wilton, and that’s a damn shame.

The Set Up

Moment of Desire begins as 14-year-old Mellie Wilton, a buxom, blue-eyed blonde, tries to catch the eye of a much older nobleman at a violent bear-baiting.

She worries that her dress may not be low-cut enough to obtain his prurient interest. Unlike other heroines in Romancelandia, Mellie doesn’t bat an eyelid at the sight of animal cruelty. She indifferently laments the fact that she has no money to gamble. (Despite modern perspectives, that’s what bear baitings were for, after all!)

Mellie is youthfully self-centered and cares only for her pleasure.

She lives at the English court, as her mother is a lady-in-waiting to German King George’s wife.

Unfortunately for Mellie, her mother is a real lusty tramp, screwing around with married lords and pissing off their wives. Mellie’s mother shags the wrong woman’s husband, and not even the Queen will aid them.

So Mellie, her mother, and their loyal maid are thrown out into the streets.

The Tawdry Plot

Tragic events result in Mellie being forced to sell her body in a brothel. To her joy (and then horror), her first customer is her beloved crush, who, to her dismay, proves to be no hero.

For months Mellie plies her trade and learns how to entice a man beyond all reason. Meanwhile, Mellie dreams of one day finding her true hero: a man who will take her out of her life of whoredom, bring her to his mansion, drape her in fancy clothes and jewelry and love her faithfully.

And she does. But there is a catch…

Mellie is bought by her beloved john, not for himself, but to wed his openly gay son and be a broodmare for grandchildren. The young son despises Mellie and is accompanied everywhere by his handsome tutor, who’s not so keen on Mellie himself. Despite it all, Mellie sympathizes with her unwilling husband; she may be a tough bitch, but she’s not a heartless one.

What About the Hero?

This is a story of the young, sexy, voluptuous, blonde former hooker finding true love with her older sugar daddy. As a hero, Ritchie Jamison, Earl of Henning, isn’t as fun as Mellie, but he’s no jerk.

Despite a reputation for being a ladies’ man, he doesn’t sleep with anyone other than the heroine. He’s handsome, mature, and rich, although sort of dim and dull.

But because Mellie loves him and Mellie’s so great, I desperately wanted her to get her man!

Who Cares! The Heroine Is the Star of the Book

What is so terrific about Mellie?

Everything! She is who she is, complex yet straightforward. Those she loves are fiercely protected, but those who have wronged her better watch out!

She ends up in ridiculously harrowing situations and plots her way out of them, skillfully succeeding. Mellie is no swooning, foot-stomping, virginal heroine who waits for the hero to save the day.

She kills without flinching. She fights for her man, and the way Mellie plots revenge and crushes her adversaries in such a cruel and calculating manner, it’s such evil fun!

I don’t want to spoil the shock. I was astonished that a heroine could be so remorseless!

Final Analysis of Moment of Desire

Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrove Payes was full of amusing spectacles, like a glitzy old-time soap opera.

One quibble, though: the last few chapters are a bit anticlimactic as Mellie has disposed of all her enemies, and there is just one more hurdle to mount before she can find happiness. But if anyone deserves it, she does.

As in the words 1980’s English “pop tart” Samantha Fox: “Naughty girls need love too!”

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 4.6

Synopsis

Beautiful, spirited young Mellie Wilton thought the handsome Earl of Henning was going to rescue her from her degrading life in London and take her to his wealthy estate in Kent because he wanted her for his wife. When he tricked her into marrying his son so that he would have an heir to his fortune, Mellie became enraged. Tormented by a husband who could never love her, yet consumed with desire for the man who had deceived her, Mellie was filled with a burning need for fulfillment and revenge.

MOMENT OF DESIRE by RACHEL COSGROVE PAYES
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , ,

***

so wild a rapture

Historical Romance Review: So Wild a Rapture by Andrea Layton

historical romance review
So Wild a Rapture by Andrea Layton
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: Ron Lesser
Published by: Playboy Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 365
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: So Wild a Rapture by Andrea Layton

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Andrea Layton‘s So Wild a Rapture is a tawdry rape-romance about a beautiful lady’s misadventures during the French Revolution.

The Characters and the Setup

From the opening pages, we are introduced to the 16-year-old heroine, the noble Juliette de Condillac, and her “won twu wuv,” Francois du Quesnay. He’s a slightly older boy from a neighboring noble family.

They quickly consummate their love and, like high schoolers, vow to be “togetha 4 eva” after Francois finishes his university education.

The Plot

Livre Un

But life has other plans for Juliette and Francois in So Wild a Rapture. First in the name of Roger du Deffand and then in the name of the French Revolution.

Against her will, Juliette is betrothed to the deceptively foppish and much older Roger.

Francois marches back to school, giving her his ring. He tells Juliette the ring will protect her whenever needed.

Juliette dithers about her future. Maybe she will marry Roger, maybe she won’t. In the meantime, she is to be educated at a convent and consort socially with nobility to learn to be a proper bride for Roger.

What does she need to learn? Oh, what any Catholic girl should know. Religion and piety, skill in the housewife arts, being social, and… perhaps taking part in a bit of girl-on-girl love. Her husband-to-be, Roger, loves to watch (or even ). Juliette is, of course, shocked. And curious…

Her lessons are cut short when the horrors of the French Revolution begin to take over, intruding on their dark idyll.

Death, thievery, arson, destruction, and rape ravage the countryside.

Fortunately, Juliette is protected wherever she goes by Francois’ ring. When Juliette and Francois meet again she is shocked to learn he is a powerful leader in the Revolutionary movement. (What did that silly twit thing the ring was all about?)

Livre Deux

I don’t know how Francois reached such a high status because–to be blunt–he’s kind of a dickless wanker.

When men repeatedly attempt to rape Juliette, he pleads for mercy. Francois fights the men only as a last resort. Never would he dream of killing her would-be rapists, saying the men have had hard lives and can’t be blamed for their actions.

What a benevolent eunuch of a hero! And that’s being cruel to eunuchs.

And le coup-de-grace is Francois’ reaction when his family is killed and his home destroyed. He mourns the loss of lives and property as a natural and necessary part of the new movement.

Boo! Lame hero!

Maybe the villain is better? Un peu.

Livre Trois

Eventually, Juliette makes her way to her fiancé. Roger lets Juliette know in no uncertain terms that she’s damaged goods. So he no longer has any interest in marrying her. Although he will still make use of her comely charms.

First, Roger makes Juliette his own love slave! Then he pimps her over to a bored King Louis XVI, who is taking refuge in his palace as France crumbles around him in bloody chaos.

Roger forces Juliette to have an abortion, thus destroying any tender feelings Juliette had for her former betrothed. In the meantime, she waits for Francois to free her from her courtesan life before the guillotine takes her head.

Does Francois come in time?

Que pensez-vous?

Final Analysis of So Wild A Rapture

So Wild a Rapture wasn’t a bad ‘ripper. It wasn’t great either, despite the raunch factor. Juliette’s youthful resourcefulness makes her willing to do anything to survive, no matter how degrading, sordid or arousing. She also is vapid and silly, with plenty of scenes lip-chewing and foot-stomping.

I detested the male protagonist whose politics and morals I abhorred. The villain was villainous, yet he lacked that spicy je-ne c’est quoi that makes a villain sizzle.

Here’s another bodice ripper to file away under:

  1. The hero is dishwater dull and missing in action while…
  2. The heroine bangs it out with the lecherous villain, and…
  3. She gets some historical dong along the way.

But hey, I do give So Wild a Rupture — Rapture! — credit for keeping to the history and not being all wallpapery in that regard.

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
2.5
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis

ENTICED
from the innocent, virgin pastures of the French countryside to the sensuous intrigues and royal splendors of a king’s decadent court

ENTHRALLED
against her will by a passionate liaison with a wealthy baron whose ardent desires devoured her senses, sweeping her to the heights of ecstasy and the depths of degradation

ENRAPTURED
by the sweet, burning memory of the fiery young rebel whose tender caresses had scorched her soul forever–and made her desperate to be free, to belong to the one man who could truly possess her heart.

SO WILD A RAPTURE by ANDREA LAYTON
THIS RAVAGED HEART

Historical Romance Review: This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe

barbara riefe historical romance review
This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: Betty Maxey
Book Series: Dandridge Trilogy #1
Published by: Playboy Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Paranormal Romance, Time Travel Romance, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 414
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book – This Ravaged Heart

This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe–aka Alan Riefe–is a 1970’s Playboy Press bodice ripper. This weird work of fiction sold almost two million copies; no joke!

While it wasn’t a great book, it had enough bizarre twists to qualify for a grudgingly positive review.

This was one freaky-deeky read.

A Weird, Wild Trip

This Ravaged Heart opens up with Ross Dandridge aboard a ship that is headed from England to the USA. He has brought his bride, the English Rose, Lisa, to meet his wealthy shipbuilding family in Rhode Island.

They make love on the ship while sailors bet on when the pair will finally leave their room for some fresh air. And that’s it for romance.

That’s right. The hero and heroine have already met, fallen in love, and gotten married before the book starts, so what the hell else is there?

I tend to enjoy bodice rippers penned by male authors as they usually bring a lot of crazy fun into their works.

However…

Unlike Mr. Melissa Hepburne, who knew how to keep the pages turning with rompy, rapey/forced seduction stupidity…

Or Mr. Janette Seymour, who threw bodice-ripping tropes one after another, handled with surprising grace and sentiment…

Or Mr. Jennifer Wilde, with his penchant for verbose purple prose and clothes porn…

Barbara Riefe/ Alan Riefe is like a monkey banging away on a typewriter, putting letters onto paper in random chaos, attempting for anything remarkable to appear.

And sometimes it does, but there are a lot of dull parts to trudge through to get to them.

The Plot?

Ross has zero personality and is really quite stupid. Lisa has a good head on her shoulders, but the situations she’s in aren’t that engaging, despite how bat-guano-crazy they seem. Don’t expect any fun between Lisa and Ross; they’re separated for almost the entire book. Yup, this is a romance novel, just one without any romance.

The best thing about This Ravaged Heart is Lavinia. In her early 40’s, Lavinia is Ross’s aunt, who is engaged to her brother-in-law, Ross’s father. However, she hungers for her nephew, Ross–and shockingly, it’s revealed she is actually his mother!

Her twin sister was unable to conceive, so Lavinia switched places with her. She slept with her sister’s husband and gave birth to Ross in secret while the wife pretended to be pregnant.

And Lavinia’s a witch. Not just any old witch, but one in league with Satan’s minions, a witch who engages in sexual romps with other local witches, and has the devil’s demon, Ledion, lusting after her for hot demonic sex.

Her lack of remorse for her evil deeds and incestuous love, her unwillingness to surrender in the face of failure, and her tireless efforts to get what she wants, made Lavinia the star of the show.

Lavinia plots to get rid of Lisa and does so in a completely unexpected way. Lisa is retro-incarnated back to England in the 1660s into the body of a dying blonde. Lisa awakens to a confusing world that her post-Enlightenment, Industrial-Age mind has trouble accepting.

Then Lisa is raped various times by wicked men, makes some friends and loses them, is jailed for murder, and becomes a witch so that she can get back to her beloved (but absolutely boring) Ross.

Sounds exciting, right?

My Opinion

Well, it’s okay, but not great.

Plus, the last third of this book really draaaaagsss. Thank the Devil for Lavinia’s malicious, murderous and incestuous shenanigans. She knows how to get what she wants.

He had adored her, reveling in her body, in her movements, unable to control his passion. She laughed…a man half her age, in the prime of his youth and in one hour she had worn him down to the brink of exhaustion. It was fantastic, too beautifully barbarous to be believed. Her own flesh and blood, her own fetus grown to manhood had fallen in love with her!

It’s so freaking sick, but that’s Lavinia.

Warning to Book Collectors About the Paperbacks

Sidenote: These 40-year-old Playboy books were made of really crappy material.

My edition looked as if was in good condition but literally disintegrated in my hands: falling apart, piece by piece, the glue cracking in the spine, the cover chipping and tearing until it fell off completely.

Even my old Zebras have withstood the test of time and various re-reads with ease.

Fortunately, I had 3 extra copies of this “romance “(don’t ask me how or why!). This Ravaged Heart is notable for being one of the first romance novels to have a full-stretch cover clinch instead of a smaller image centered in the middle.

Either Barbara Riefe ‘ripper or Kathleen E. WoodiwissShanna was the first to have this style. Both novels were published in 1977. In my opinion, Betty Maxey‘s artwork isn’t as memorable as H. Tom Hall‘s illustration.

Final Analysis of This Ravaged Heart

So This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe is the first in a series of three novels. Which I have to read since I own them.

Although I’m not feeling compelled to do so anytime soon. Alan–that is, Barbara–may have gotten the WTF factor of bodice rippers right. But there are no romantic elements or engaging leads to draw me in.

This was supporting character Lavinia’s book to shine. The main characters blew.

Still, I had to give this an overall positive rating. If not for the romance, just for Lavinia’s wicked, son-loving heart, with her ridiculous Satan-worshipping, witchy antics, and of course, her cat, Mody, who was all kinds of awesome.

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3.5
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2.9

Synopsis:

Lisa Allworth Dandridge, a young English bride, came to America as mistress to a vast shipping fortune. Desperately in love, she and her dashing husband, Ross, never dreamed that they would soon be parted by malevolent forces beyond their control.

A powerful story of one woman’s tender love and another’s overwhelming jealousies. Their struggle for the same man sweeps across continents and across time – from the 19th century world of aristocratic splendor to plague-ridden London; from the heights of passion to the darkest pits of hell. It is a magnificent novel of star-crossed lovers caught in a web of horror.

THIS RAVAGED HEART by BARBARA RIEFE