Category: Discussion

A Brief Look at Category Romance

brief look

Category lines are one of the cornerstones of the romance novel industry. We’ll delve deeper into each line as we document the genre’s past at Sweet Savage Flame. We’ll also be adding more pages to the site. As always, you can access pages via the top MENU. Please follow us via e-mail to keep informed of our latest updates.

What Is Category Romance?

Category romance, also known as series romance, differs from long-form, single edition romances in several ways. Most notably is the length. Category romances run 55,000 – 70,000 words. They range from novelette-length of 150 pages to a short novel of 300 pages. As their name implies, they are sorted into category lines and defined by tropes.

A trope is a common device in stories that (presumably) appeals to readers. They can be a type of plot, kind of character, theme, or setting writers employ because of familiarity. Some examples are Highland Scots, second chance at love, playboy billionaires, or arranged marriages.

All genre fiction use tropes in some way. Time travel, artificial intelligence, chosen one Messiahs, and space travel are a few one would find in Science Fiction. Tropes are not clichés. Clichés are ideas that are so overused they become trite.... Read more “A Brief Look at Category Romance”

Dorchester Publishing

dorchester

The Romance History of Dorchester

The history of Dorchester Publishing began before the company ever started. Leisure Books started its operations in 1957. At first, it was a mass-market paperback publisher specializing in horror and thrillers. In the company’s early years, it also published fantasy, science fiction, Westerns, and the Wildlife Treasury card series. When the historical bodice ripper revolution of the 1970s hit, Leisure entered the field as a notable publisher of romance novels.

Dorchester Publishing itself was founded in 1971. For a long time, Dorchester was the oldest independent mass-market publisher in the United States. Back in its early days, Dorchester was the original publisher of the Hard Case Crime line of pulp mysteries. They were successful publishers of mystery and horror.

In 1982, Dorchester Publishing purchased Leisure Books as an imprint, shifting the company’s focus away from fantasy and science fiction towards horror and romance. Leisure Books, like Kensington’s Zebra romances, Playboy Press, and Pinnacle books would eschew tight editing and quality control for salacious covers and plots. Authors like Karen Robards, Robin Lee Hatcher, Connie Mason would find their starts with Leisure.

Island Flame, Karen Robards, Dorchester, 1981, cover artist unknown

Romance Imprints: Leisure, Love Spell, BMI

Dorchester added the Love Spell imprint in 1993 which focused on the hot trend of paranormal romances, including time travel and vampires.... Read more “Dorchester Publishing”

Sweet Savage Flame on YouTube and Anchor Podcast Streaming

Update #8.5

I’ve realized I neglected to add some of Sweet Savage Flame‘s latest information on our recent Updates #8. Talk about a major oversight.

As Homer Simpson would say, “D’oh!” Oh well, at least I’m not in charge of safety at a nuclear power plant.

We are slowly converting articles to podcasts and YouTube videos. Unfortunately, I have found that it’s not as easy as simply speaking into a microphone and pressing record. I have to learn to modulate my voice better, stop mumbling at the ends of words, and quit inhaling through my mouth! And there’s no way I’m putting my big head on a screen (let alone allow people to see my messy computer room/ book room/ storage room/ den/ cat room), so I have to learn to get skilled in video making.

Sweet Savage Flame has an Anchor Podcast, which can be heard on Spotify, Google Podcasts, and other platforms (not Apple yet; I have to set that up).

Here’s a review that we’ve posted here about Johanna Lindsey‘s Defy Not the Heart as a Spotify podcast:

SPOTIFY PODCAST – SWEET SAVAGE FLAME REVIEWS JOHANNA LINDSEY’S DEFY NOT THE HEART

We also have a Sweet Savage Flame YouTube channel to hear and see us (sort of).... Read more “Sweet Savage Flame on YouTube and Anchor Podcast Streaming”

6 Horrifying Villanous Heroes in Harlequin Presents

6 Harlequin Presents Villains

Since Halloween is just around the corner it’s time to take a look at the scary side of romance. No, not Gothics, although I promise we’ll get to more eventually.

The Harlequin Presents line was notorious for the cruelty some male protagonists could inflict upon their heroines. Some of these books are surprisingly well-written. Yet the horrific truth is that these heroes were villains.

Villainous heroes were popular forty years ago and they still are to this day. Why would anyone ever want to read romances where heroes are the bad guys? Why not? So long as we understand we’re reading fiction, at times it’s hypnotizing to take a peek at the darkness that lurks beneath the human surface. To witness what sadistic torments twisted love can create. And then thankfully close the pages on that misbegotten romantic nightmare.

At Sweet Savage Flame, we’re equally about the Sweet… and the Savage.

Trick o’ Treat.

Storm Centre, Charlotte Lamb
Mansion For My Love, Robyn Donald
The Guarded Heart, Robyn Donald
Shattered Dreams, Sally Wentworth
Indiscretion, Anne Mather
The Marriage War, Charlotte Lamb

The Male Authors of Vintage Romance

man and woman holding each others hand wrapped with string lights
Photo by Anastasiya Lobanovskaya on Pexels.com

Romance Is For Everyone

In the past, Sweet Savage Flame has focused on authors who used pseudonyms. We’ve posited reasons why romance writers would use pen names. One possibility given was the book was written by a man. As romance is often considered a woman’s topic, it’s understandable that male authors would favor an opposite-gendered moniker when publishing.

The realm of fictional violence has been historically masculine. Romance, on the other hand, has been consigned to the feminine sphere. Upon closer inspection, the matter is not so black-and-white. While females account for 82 to 85% of the romance genre readership, that still means many men enjoy love stories with happy endings.

Consider that romance is a billion-dollar industry, with a 30% market share of paperbacks alone. Romance lags (barely) behind only the suspense/thriller genre in total sales for adult fiction. In the United States, about 25 million romance books are sold annually. Despite being a primarily women’s domain, that means there are quite a few male romance readers. What about the writers?

Men Who Wrote Romance Novels

Men were part of the 1970’s romance revolution, and to this day, they remain part of it as writers and readers.... Read more “The Male Authors of Vintage Romance”

Updates #8

red leaf trees near the road
red leaf trees near the road
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thank You For All Your Support

It’s been a full six months that Sweet Savage Flame has been up and running. We started in early Spring, and now it’s Autumn, my favorite season! We’ve grown from a tiny website to a semi-respectable niche romance blog that has amassed over 18,000 views in that time. Thank you to our readers for being with us, for commenting, and for spreading the word about us!

Thank you to our beautiful bloggers, Mary Anne Landers, and Blue Falcon, for without their help, I would be tearing my hair out, doing this alone. Their reviews, posts, and thoughtful discussions have been a considerable part of this site’s growth.

And I also thank our friends on Facebook and Twitter who share this site with others and just love talking romance!

While we’re still a small blog, we’re showing up on Google searches and ranking on lists.

On Feedspot‘s Top 100 Romance Book Blogs and Websites To Follow in 2021 list, we’re ranked at #25!

Feedspot is a blog aggregator. According to their site, you can read your favorite blogs, podcasts, news websites, Youtube channels, and RSS feeds from one place on Feedspot.... Read more “Updates #8”

Author Spotlight Charlotte Lamb

charlotte lamb pic

My Charlotte Lamb Experience

Sheila Holland née Coates, known to most readers of romance as Harlequin/ Mills & Boon author Charlotte Lamb is one of my favorite writers, period. Although she created seemingly simple category romances, her books were much more than that. She wrote like few others in her field could: fully inhabiting her characters’ minds and giving them larger-than-life personalities.

Her heroes could be fiercely chauvinistic and cruel with deep-seated psychological issues; others kind, understanding guys who still were emotionally intense. Lamb’s heroines ran the gamut from sheltered teenaged virgins, competent working women struggling to make it in their fields, and sophisticated, mature ladies who’d been around the block once or twice.

Lamb’s Harlequin Presents Seduction has been seared into my memory as one of the earliest romances I read. It was so chock-full of insanity and fantastic writing; I couldn’t get enough. I’ve reviewed it before, so I won’t go into details. If you hate it, read another Charlotte Lamb. She might have revisited similar tropes and characters, but she never wrote the same book twice!

seduction

More than anything, what made Lamb’s writing stand out from most other authors in her genre was her insightfulness and superb characterization.... Read more “Author Spotlight Charlotte Lamb”

Link: The History of the Clinch Covers

night song

At Dr. Maria DeBlassie’s blog Enchantment Learning she hosted a presentation by our Twitter pal Daily Clinch @Artof the Clinch. We recommend watching this informative video on the history of romance novel clinch covers. They touch upon the genre’s past as well as discussing pivotal cover artists, models, authors, and more.

It’s a little over an hour long, so make some time, settle back and enjoy listening to this enlightening video!

The History of the Clinch Cover With Art of the Clinch

I’ll be adding this to our LINKS PAGE to make it more accessible in the future!

6 Sweet And Sexy Heroes from Old School Historical Romances

We’ve compiled a list of six sweet and sexy heroes from some amazing historical romances. These remarkable men will have you swooning with their devoted adoration for their women.

The Heroes

Stephen MontgomeryHighland Velvet by Jude Deveraux

highland velvet

We reviewed Jude Deveraux’ Highland Velvet a few months ago at Sweet Savage Flame. In this early Tudor-era romance, Stephen Montgomery is given Bronwyn MacArran’s hand in marriage. It’s his reward for his valiant deeds for King Henry VII. Instead of finding a willing bride, Bronwyn is bitter about the forced arrangement with a hated Englishman. She cares only for her Scottish clan and her lands. Stephen will do everything in his power to prove to Bronwyn that’s he’s the right man for her and her people. Stephen is kind, patient, and humorous in contrast to his sour wife. His sacrifices for her might make you sigh, either in delight or frustration because he does do much for Bronwyn! Stephen is a wonderful hero who will melt your heart.

Burke DrummondNight Fire by Catherine Coulter

Night Fire by Catherine Coulter stars one of her few truly nice guy heroes. Arielle and Burke Drummond met years ago when she was 15.... Read more “6 Sweet And Sexy Heroes from Old School Historical Romances”

Link: The Art of Robert E. McGinnis by Robert McGinnis and Art Scott

Review by Introvert Reader

The Art of Robert McGinnis, Robert McGinnis & Art Scott, Titan Books, 2014

For lovers of throwback historical and gothic romances, vintage pulpy reads and spy thrillers, or old movies and magazines, the name Robert McGinnis might be familiar. But if it isn’t, then his works of art surely are.

The Art of Robert E. McGinnis by Robert McGinnis and Art Scott — Introvert Reader

A Master Artist

For lovers of throwback historical and gothic romances, vintage pulpy reads and spy thrillers, or old movies and magazines, the name Robert McGinnis might be familiar. But if it isn’t, then his works of art indeed are. I consider McGinnis, along with H. Tom Hall and Elaine Duillo, the holy triumvirate of old-school pulp-gothic-romance cover illustrators, although who is the best can be debated.

The Art of Robert McGinnis is a glorious book depicting hundreds of beautiful McGinnis images. Born in 1926, McGinnis has spent over 70 years creating book covers for almost every genre, magazine illustrations, portraits, movie posters, such as the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” featuring Audrey Hepburn. He has worked almost exclusively in tempera paints.

Breakfast At Tiffany’s Movie Poster

After the paperback was introduced into the US by Pocket Books in 1939, the business model was for tasteful illustrations, and chic graphic design, almost like mini hardcovers.... Read more “Link: The Art of Robert E. McGinnis by Robert McGinnis and Art Scott”

The Accidental Romance? Books From Other Genres Can Be Romances, Too!

floral ceramic cup and saucer above open book
floral ceramic cup and saucer above open book
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Romance, A Genre Bound By Limitations?

What defines a romance novel? The RWA or Romance Writer’s of America has stated the definition of romance is a love story that concludes on an optimistic note for the protagonists. Either a “Happily Ever After” or “Happy For Now” ending will suffice.

Some authors and readers balk at this description, saying it constricts the full scope of emotions and experiences.

However, all genre fiction has guidelines. Imagine a mystery where the audience never finds out whodunnit. Yes, there are thrillers where the bad guy gets away with the crime. Regardlesss, the reader knows who is behind it by the conclusion, even if the authorities do not. Science fiction that posits no speculation, no technological changes, or creates nothing different from our world isn’t science fiction.

Detractors of romance do so in part because the genre demands a happy, upbeat ending. Some literary critics turn up their noses at the idea. “How puerile to believe in true love or love that requires a lifetime of commitment and fidelity!” Readers counter they are familiar with love in all its variations. They merely seek out HEAs in fiction, perhaps as a form of escapism from the harsh realities of life.... Read more “The Accidental Romance? Books From Other Genres Can Be Romances, Too!”

A Closer Look At Sharon Spiak

the hawk and the dove
Sharon Spiak at work

Spiak, The Book Cover Illustrator

Illustrator and fine-art painter Sharon Spiak has made a name for herself in the romance industry for producing various gorgeous covers for many bestselling authors. She also had the privilege to paint Fabio almost as much as the Duillo ladies did.

Hailing from the state of New York, Spiak studied fine arts at SUNY-New Paltz. She continued her studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, where she trained under prolific romance master Pino Daeni. In the 1980s and 1990s, Spiak would design hundreds of book covers, working with the top models and publishers.

Although Pino mentored her, Spiak was not his imitator. Her style is both uniquely her own and yet hard to pin down. The heroes and heroines Spiak paints have gorgeous hair flowing in waves or curls. While she adds extensive detail to backgrounds, the use of color in the foreground results in eye-catching covers. Like many artists, Spiak would have her models photographed in poses before sketching several possible covers. Spiak painted in various mediums, playing with hues and light to make her images pop out.

Spiak, The Book Covers

Among some of the earlier covers, Sharon Spiak produced were these two for Pocket Books’ Tapestry imprint.... Read more “A Closer Look At Sharon Spiak”

15 Old School Historical Romances That Revolutionized the Genre

old school

These 15 Historical Romances published before 2000 either caused radical changes in the romance novel industry or they are so pivotal and unforgettable, they are must-reads. Please note, we at Sweet Savage Flame may not have read all books ourselves, but recognize their importance to the genre. Our aim is to review all books on this list if we haven’t already.

The List

... Read more “15 Old School Historical Romances That Revolutionized the Genre”

Free Vintage or Old School Romance Books on Amazon #2

mansfield park

There are so many books listed on Amazon for free to read, that we had to post some more freebies!

Amazon Prime

If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can borrow up to 10 books for free at a time. The lending library is limited to just 1,000 books, so check often to see what is available as the status of e-books changes. Currently, these romance novels published from the 1970s to 2000 are free to borrow (original cover edition followed by Amazon image/link):

Classic Romance

MANSFIELD PARK by JANE AUSTEN

Contemporary Romance

FOR ALL THEIR LIVES by FERN MICHAELS

SERENDIPITY by FERN MICHAELS

Gothic Romance

THE INDIA FAN by VICTORIA HOLT

THE SECRET WOMAN by VICTORIA HOLT

the secret woman

THE SHIVERING SANDS by VICTORIA HOLT

THE TIME OF THE HUNTER’S MOON by VICTORIA HOLT

Historical Romance

OUTLAW HEARTS by ROSANNE BITTNER

RAPTURE’S GOLD by ROSANNE BITTNER

WHISPER TO ME OF LOVE by SHIRLEE BUSBEE

DEVIL’S DESIRE by LAURIE MCBAIN

DEVIL'S DESIRE

MOONSTRUCK MADNESS by LAURIE MCBAIN

Moonstruck madness

LIONS AND LACE by MEAGHAN MCKINNEY

WILD ANGEL by MIRIAM MINGER

DEARLY BELOVED by MARY JO PUTNEY

SAVAGE ECSTASY by JANELLE TAYLOR

Savage Ecstasy

Kindle Unlimited

If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, no doubt you already take advantage of the many books you can read for a fixed monthly fee.... Read more “Free Vintage or Old School Romance Books on Amazon #2”

Popular Romance Tropes

aerial view of city buildings near body of water

Let’s talk about tropes.

In the romance genre, we often see some types of plots or character types repeated. These similarities resonate for myriad reasons. Some tropes are common in vintage or old-school romance, but not so much in modern romances. Then there are tropes that never go out of style.

What’s the appeal of a trope? Readers appreciate experiencing familiar tales in different settings or with various kinds of characters. A trope can be retold over time and appear fresh in the hands of an individual author.

At Sweet Savage Flame, we’re dedicating a page to these common themes. Visit the MENU under BOOK REVIEWS and click on ADVANCED BOOK SEARCH. You’ll find a new way to search for book reviews via plots, settings, hero & heroine. We’ll be updating the list with each review.

A few examples of tropes you can search for:

Amnesia

The main character losing his or her memory can lead to a great romance. A few romances that we’ve reviewed featuring this plot are Crescendo, Highland Fire, and Sweet Fire:

Second Chance at Love

Sometimes a romance is better the second time around with the same person.

Friends to Lovers

It’s always refreshing when a relationship starts out on a solid foundation of friendship.... Read more “Popular Romance Tropes”

Link-O-Rama #3: Return of the Links

person typing on computer keyboard
person typing on computer keyboard
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Romance Book Blogs and Websites

These links to some of the best romance novel-loving sites and blogs should keep you busy. These sites are fun to look over to discuss romance or choose what book to read next:

If you’re looking for even more romance-book-related sites, these two blog feeds have lists of their most popular romance blogs. I like Feedly just fine, but if you look at #21 of Feedspot, you may see a familiar site 😉 :

Do you love beautiful romance covers? Do you enjoy taking pictures? Well, you can combine the two loves and show off your book collection. Use these hashtags to look for and post about romance novels on Instagram:

  • #bookstagram
  • #bookish
  • #romancestagram

New to romance or just out of the loop (don’t worry, I am too!)? If you’ve ever wondered what the terms HEA, HFN, or H/h mean, these guides to the lexicon of romance novels should keep you informed:

... Read more “Link-O-Rama #3: Return of the Links”

5 Great Vintage Romance Heroines and 5 Great Romances

5 Great Vintage Romance Heroines and 5 Great Romances List

Great Romance Heroines and Their Stories In Depth

My Name is Clary Brown

The heroine, a failed actress, is dumped by her “protector” and must return to her hometown in disgrace. Plus, she’s part Roma, so her mixed heritage has always made her an outsider. Mysterious disappearances and murders start to occur, and there are a couple of people who are suspects. The way Clary stands up for herself is thoroughly in keeping with her time period (the 1700s). A great vintage romance heroine, for sure.

Promise of Summer

Topaze, the heroine, is a poor thief on the streets of 18th century France, trying to support her large family. A calculating anti-hero propositions her to pose as a long-lost heiress so he can retain his family fortune. She’s young, cheerful, and despite what she’s involved in very innocent, with a dark past that comes to the forefront. She’s quite powerless in the grand scheme of things. She carries herself with dignity, showing an inner strength greater than the aristocrats she finds herself mingling among.

Silver Linings

“Low Down” Louise works in a mining community with men. She’s not a beauty but simple, hard-working, and positive. Low Down Louise vows to care for a child when a baby is born to a dying mother.... Read more “5 Great Vintage Romance Heroines and 5 Great Romances”

Free Vintage or Old School Romance Books on Amazon #1

CAPTIVE INNOCENCE

Amazon Prime

If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can borrow up to 10 books for free at a time. The lending library is limited to just 1,000 books, so check often to see what is available as the status of e-books changes. Currently, these romance novels published from the 1970s to 2000 are free to borrow (original cover edition followed by Amazon image/link):

CAPTIVE INNOCENCE by FERN MICHAELS

CAPTIVE INNOCENCE

HEART OF STONE by DIANA PALMER (retitled LONG, TALL TEXANS: BOONE)

THE MACKINNON’S BRIDE by TANYA ANNE CROSBY

THE PRIDE OF LIONS by MARSHA CANHAM

Kindle Unlimited

If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, no doubt you already take advantage of the many books you can read for a fixed monthly fee. These old school romances are available to read on KU (original cover edition followed by Amazon image/link):

EMBRACE AND CONQUER by JENNIFER BLAKE

FIERCE EDEN by JENNIFER BLAKE

MIDNIGHT WALTZ by JENNIFER BLAKE

ROYAL PASSION by JENNIFER BLAKE

ROYAL SEDUCTION by JENNIFER BLAKE

SPANISH SERENADE by JENNIFER BLAKE

THE STORM AND THE SPLENDOR by JENNIFER BLAKE

SWEET PIRACY by JENNIFER BLAKE (aka PATRICIA MAXWELL)

LAVENDER LIES by CONSTANCE O’BANYON

PASSION’S WICKED TORMENT by MELISSA HEPBURNE

passion's wicked torment

Romance Authors With Pseudonyms

yellow flower
yellow flower
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet…

ROMEO AND JULIET, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Pen Name, Nom de Plume, Alias, and Author Pseudonyms

Author and raconteur Mark Twain was born Samuel “Longhorn” Clemens. The legendary George Eliot was not a man but a woman named Mary Ann Evans. Even the famous J.K. Rowling shortened her given name of Joanne Kathleen to publish. The use of pen names is an aspect that exists in all fields of writing.

In the romance genre, an author might use an alias for various reasons. Perhaps their real name lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Because some romance writers produce fiction in multiple genres, different names are used. There are male novelists who want to appeal to the majority female audience. Or the authors could be married couples or duos who need catchy noms-de-plume.

Below is a brief list of writers and their pen names. Since hundreds of authors use aliases, this is a short compilation. Therefore we included only those we have reviewed, highlighted, or soon will review and/or explore in-depth. With each romance author pseudonym, we provide an example book title or link to a book review.... Read more “Romance Authors With Pseudonyms”