Category: Category romance

Category Romance Review: Dillon After Dark by Leandra Logan

Dillon after dark
Dillon After Dark, Leandra Logan, Harlequin, 1991, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Tempation # 362

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A Voice in the Dark

Dillon After Dark, Harlequin Temptation #362, is a cute, fun romance by Leandra Logan. Dillon Danvers is a laid-back California DJ who airs a talk/ music show where he discusses many topics: surfing, books, music, clubs, and lots of other fun subjects to delight in. Dr. Kristina Jordan is a psychologist and single mother with no time for relaxation. Together these two opposites could make for an exciting couple. However, Kristina needs major convincing to be part of it.

Kristina’s teenaged daughter, Julianne, is absolutely ga-ga over Dillon. His sexy voice makes her adolescent hormones run wild. She’s a frequent caller to his show, making herself seem older than her tender years while complaining about her overbearing mother. Julianne enters a poetry contest for the show and wins the grand prize: a date with Dillon! Her mother thinks this is all silly nonsense And is appalled by her daughter’s behavior. She’s merely fourteen, while Dillon is twice her age!

Against her better judgment, Kristina agrees to let Julianne meet Dillon, but on the condition that she accompany them on their date.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Dillon After Dark by Leandra Logan”

What Category or Series Romance Do You Read?

red petaled flower

Research Into Category Romance

The history of series romances goes back roughly a century ago to 1909. Since the rise of paperback publishers, many romance lines have come and gone. Still standing is Mills & Boon and its parent company, Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. Bantam and Dell, no longer publish category romance, nor does Signet, Zebra, or Simon and Schuster. The latter formed Silhouette Books in 1980. However, Harlequin famously purchased that line, eventually folding it into its own.

Arrows From the Dark
Arrows From the Dark, Sophie Cole, Mills & Boon, 1909 (From Harper Collins Inside the Archives, courtesy of Reading University)

On our menu above, we have pages dedicated to romance authors, cover artists, and publishing houses. The history of publishing houses and imprints can be quite byzantine, as many companies were bought out by others, only to be resold again. In researching paperback romances of the past, I’ve come upon both an abundance and paucity of information, depending upon who or what I’m investigating. I want to do more in-depth research on each line, but often when I come upon fascinating tidbits of history, it leads to another line or publisher.

This is a rather tortuous way of saying I’m stuck.... Read more “What Category or Series Romance Do You Read?”

Category Romance Review: Time Enough For Love by Suzanne Brockmann

Time enough for love
Time enough for love
Time Enough for Love, Suzanne Brockmann, Loveswept, 1997, Ed Tadiello cover art

Loveswept #858

MILD SPOILERS 😉

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Time for Something Different?

Bantam’s Loveswept category romances might not have been as big-selling as Harlequins or Silhouettes. Still, their output of almost 1,000 books over 16 years gave rise to many popular and successful authors like Iris Johansen, Sandra Brown, Janet Evanovich, and Suzanne Brockmann. The line gave writers more freedom to stray from traditional series restrictions. 1997’s Time Enough For Love by Suzanne Brockmann is a different kind of love story for that era, as it entails time travel plus a love triangle. Between one woman and two versions of the same man!

Maggie Winthrop finds a naked man on her property screaming about the apocalypse. He swears he’s from the future. Like any sane woman, her first instinct is to call the police (but first, maybe a peek won’t hurt. The guy’s body is incredible!)

Does she know this man? The weirdo acts as if they’re good friends. He says he’s Chuck Della Croce. Maggie knows Charles Della Croce, doesn’t she? But this man is not Charles, even though he is.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Time Enough For Love by Suzanne Brockmann”

Category Romance Review: Cheap Thrills by Tiffany White

Cheap Thrills
Cheap Thrills, Tiffany White, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Temptation #318

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Story

At the beginning of Tiffany White’s category romance Cheap Thrills, the hero Crew Harper is working this side gig as a window-washer when he becomes an accidental peeping Tom. Transfixed, can only stare as sees a woman enter an office. She undresses, and he’s shocked at what’s revealed: yes, her gorgeous body, but with a delightful secret butterfly tattoo on her pert, peachy derriere. That’s right, I do read “The Daily Mail” on occasion!

After the woman changes her clothes and leaves, Crew sees a man come into her office and rifle through her desk. How outrageous! How dare this man invade a woman’s privacy?

I think it’s kind of funny how rapidly times have moved. Alexa, the heroine, has a small butterfly tattoo on her butt, and the hero acts as if it’s the naughtiest little secret a woman can keep. It’s amazing how quickly social norms change, as this was written in 1990.

Anyhow, Crew makes his way into Alexa’s life, to help her out, of course. He has to let her know that there’s a weirdo on the prowl for her.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Cheap Thrills by Tiffany White”

Category Romance Review: Whisper to the Stars by Hettie Grimstead

Whisper to the Stars
Whisper to the Stars, Hettie Grimstead, Harlequin, “Jh” cover artist

Harlequin Romance #1403

Spoiler-Free Review 🙂

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A star of a lower magnitude

Whisper to the Stars is a vintage-contemporary romance that revolves around a trope hard to find nowadays: unrequited love. It starts out strong, with the promise of a deeply moving emo story. And it delivers, up to a point. Then it falters. Somewhere in the middle, it loses sight of what a romance is supposed to do: to engage and enthrall the reader.

Recently I read and reviewed for Sweet Savage Flame Yesterday’s Love by Marsha Manning, pen name of the prolific Hettie Grimstead. I was so enchanted that I sought out other romances by the same author. Which led me to Whisper to the Stars. To say I had high expectations would be putting it mildly.

It was first published in 1963 by Mills & Boon. The version I read is, of course, the transatlantic Harlequin reprint. Published in 1970, with three later editions (that I know of). It got pretty good ratings on Goodreads, so I must assume it was a crowd-pleaser.

For me, at least it was a good try.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Whisper to the Stars by Hettie Grimstead”

Author Spotlight: Penny Jordan

Penny Jordan pic
Penny Jordan pic
“Penny Jordan” (real name Penny Jones-Halsall)

Penny Jordan was an immensely popular author for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin. She wrote romantic love stories that readers have enjoyed for 40 years. Penny Jordan was not her real identity but one of her many pseudonyms. Let’s take a look back at the career of this talented author.

Life Before Writing

Born on November 24, 1946, Penelope “Penny” Jones came into the world in a nursing home in Preston, Lancashire, England. Like many future writers, Penny had a vivid imagination as a child and was an active reader. Starting at age 10 or 11, her mother introduced Penny to the romantic serials in the Woman’s Weekly magazines. She became hooked on reading Mills & Boon and was a devoted fan. In those days, private lending libraries were the only source to obtain those books. Not until years later would the books go on sale in shops so Penny could have her keep of them.

She had met the love of her life, Steve Halsall, as a teenager, whom she married after her graduation. Steve was supportive of Penny’s burgeoning ambitions to write and purchased a typewriter for her to create romantic fiction.

Enter Caroline Courtney, Penny Jordan, and Anne Groves

Penny entered a competition run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA), which brought her to the attention of an agent, and in 1979 she published Duchess in Disguise, the first of her 25 Regency romances written under the name Caroline Courtney.... Read more “Author Spotlight: Penny Jordan”

Category Romance Review: Sirocco by Anne Mather

Sirocco
Sirocco, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 1983, Len Goldberg cover art

Harlequin Presents #683

Mild Spoilers 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

An Anne Mather Harlequin Presents is what I consider to be an “old reliable.” She wrote romances that are almost guaranteed to entertain me, or if not, then at least not bore. Although usually satisfactory, Mather rarely wrote books I would place on an all-time best list. Sometimes she does surprise me, so it makes reading her works an experience to look forward to. In this category romance, Sirocco, Anne Mather employs one of her commonly used tropes: a hero in pursuit of an already “attached” woman.

The Stalker vs. the User

One night, Rachel Fleming comes across a man whom she thinks requires help. The man is slumped in his car, just sleeping, but Rachel doesn’t know that. He turns out to be Alexis Roche, a blond half-Arab, half-French, sheik ruler of a tiny nation (Rachel doesn’t know that either until later).

Alexis is instantly intrigued by his would-be savior and begins to stalk her.

Seriously.

If it’s not him, he has his “people” trail her. Alexis finds out where Rachel lives, works, and that she’s currently engaged to a wealthy man, Roger what’s-his-name, a spoiled mama’s boy who uses the heroine for his own selfish desires.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Sirocco by Anne Mather”

Category Romance Review: Forbidden Fantasy by Tiffany White

Forbidden Fantasy
Forbidden Fantasy, Tiffany White, Harlequin, 1991, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Temptation #367

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Book Burned Forever in My Memory

I burnt the beans!

Whenever I hear of Forbidden Fantasy by Tiffany White, a category romance from the 1990s, that’s the first thought that pops into my head. Then I recall the sweet twist which the plot hinges upon. An Editor’s Choice pick for the Temptation line, Forbidden Fantasy was a book I enjoyed, sure enough, although I wouldn’t rank it as an all-time great, even if it is etched in my mind.

The Plot

Zoe is in Paris trying to put as much distance between herself and a bad relationship–namely, her marriage to her ex-husband. He was a cop who spent too much time at work and too little with her, both physically and emotionally. So she left him behind and fled to Europe on a voyage of self-discovery.

Now Zoe’s got French friends and loves to shop in the city. On one of her forays, she realizes a handsome American man is stalking her. What starts as a flirtatious game turns into a sensual love affair. Grey is everything her husband wasn’t: a good listener who shares his feelings with Zoe and is eager to spend time with her.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Forbidden Fantasy by Tiffany White”

Category Romance Review: This Hell Called Love by Jane Donnelly

This Hell Called Love
This Hell Called Love, Jane Donelly, Playmore Inc and Waldman Publishing, 1969, cover artist unknown

Baronet Books #4200-104

Spoiler-free review 🙂

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Power of Love

Though I try not to get too personal in my reviews, here I must note that my favorite romance trope is
“Such is the power of love.” Someone does something extraordinary for love. It might break the rules,
defy the law, or fly in the face of common sense. It typically means great effort, sacrifice, sorrow, and
angst. But a protagonist does it anyhow. His or her love is mightier than anything else.

This Hell Called Love is a remarkable example of this trope. It also deals with themes we don’t usually
find in category romances of any generation, mental illness, and substance abuse. Make no mistake, this
isn’t a light read. But if you can take a load of gritty realism, it’s a very moving one.

First, a bit of bibliographic info. The author, Jane Donnelly, was a prolific contributor to various Mills &
Boon/Harlequin series. According to her Wikipedia page and Goodreads bio, she had over sixty
romances published by these companies between 1965 and 2000.... Read more “Category Romance Review: This Hell Called Love by Jane Donnelly”

Where to Find Vintage Books: A Collector’s Dilemma

flesh and the devil hardcover

Where to Find Old School Romance Novels

So you found your dearly-departed grandma’s stash of vintage romance novels hidden in the attic and read them. Despite their flaws, the books gave you a thrill unlike no other. Now you want to read more old-school romance! Although, you’re not sure where to find them. They’re not sold at your local Barnes and Noble and they don’t rank on Amazon’s best-seller lists.

Fortunately, we here at SweetSavageFlame.com are book hoarders—er, collectors, and can help you with your search! We also looked to some friends for advice. Of great help to us were the Vintage Paperback Romance Novels group on Facebook, run by knowledgeable bibliophile @robimes from robimes.blogspot.com and @ArtoftheClinch from Twitter, who tweets out a couple of clinch covers from the 1980s and 1990s every day.

@ArtoftheClinch divides the areas where to search for paperbacks into two categories: “target-rich” Wild Sites, which she states are “Places where I can physically touch the books, and the vendor hasn’t priced them at maximum markup” and Non-Wild Sites, which are essentially online sites.... Read more “Where to Find Vintage Books: A Collector’s Dilemma”

Category Romance Review: To See a Stranger by Kate Cartwright

To see a Stranger
To see a Stranger
To See a Stranger, Kate Cartwright, Magnum Books, 1976, cover artist unknown

Magnum Books Blue Fire Romance #4200-86

Spoiler-free review 🙂

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Good novel, poor romance

In a way, Kate Cartwright’s To See a Stranger is a fine novel. It’s well-written. It ticks most of the boxes. But it still disappointed me. Why? Because IMHO if a story is labeled a romance, there should be plenty of romance in it. Here there’s hardly any. So I almost didn’t write a review for this blog. But my definition of romance fiction isn’t everyone’s, so here goes.

First, the publishing background, which is sketchy. The paperback I read was issued by Magnum Books, an imprint of Playmore, Inc., Publishers and Waldman Publishing Corp., both in New York. At least that’s what’s listed on the copyright page; some other titles in the series list Prestige Books as the publisher.

But there’s no publication date. Since this same page says the book is copyright 1976 by IPC Magazines, Ltd., To See a Stranger must have been originally published as part of the Woman’s Weekly Library series in the UK. My guess is the Magnum reprint was issued a year or two later.... Read more “Category Romance Review: To See a Stranger by Kate Cartwright”

Category Romance Review: Yesterday’s Love by Marsha Manning

Yesterday's Love
Yesterday's Love
Yesterday’s Love, Marsha Manning, Magnum Books, 1969, cover artist unknown

Magnum Books Easy Eye #4286

Spoiler-free review 🙂

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnum Books

Yesterday’s Love is a moving romance with a rather mysterious background. It’s part of the Magnum Books imprint of Prestige Books, Inc., a small New York paperback publisher active during the mid to late 1970s. The novel was originally published as a hardcover by Mills & Boon in 1969, under the title Yesterday’s Lover. But the copyright page of this edition doesn’t say when it was published. Nor can I find this info anywhere else.

The author, Marsha Manning, was a pen name of Hettie Grimstead. Or was Hettie Grimstead a pen name of Marsha Manning? If you know, drop me a line.

An Impossible Situation

Here’s the setup. Kerry Talbot, a London office worker for a large corporation, is in love with Philip Ingram, her boss. And he’s in love with her. The situation presents an obvious problem. But wait, there’s more. He’s married. An issue that troubles her far more than him.

What other people think of her doesn’t matter to Kerry, but what she thinks of herself does.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Yesterday’s Love by Marsha Manning”