Category: Historical Romance

Historical Romance Review: Sarina by Francine Rivers

Sarina by Francine Rivers
Sarina, Francine Rivers, Jove, 1983, Morgan Kane cover art

MILD SPOILERS AND CONTENT ALERT ⚠

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Some Things We Don’t Talk About In Public

Sarina is a bodice ripper-lite written by Francine Rivers, the best-known and most successful author of Christian-centered or “inspirational” romances. This was written before Rivers became “born again,” however, she was still nominally Christian. Rivers has tried to distance herself from her first 11 books, dismissing them as: “BC (before Christ) books. They are all out of print now, are never to be reprinted, and are not recommended.” She purchased the rights to all those and will never allow them to be republished as she feels they don’t represent her faith today.

As a free speech proponent, I think it’s unfortunate that Rivers has deemed these books verboten. Furthermore, I disagree that their sexually explicit content dishonors Christianity.

WARNING! I Talk Religion Here, Sort Of

A Non-Church Goer Goes to Church

I worked for a small company many years ago where the boss’s wife (BW) took a friendly liking to me. She was Evangelical and I was a lapsed Catholic (My mother worked for this company too & BW was close to her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Sarina by Francine Rivers”

Covers of the Week #28

prince of wolves

It’s the spooky month of October, and Halloween is just around the corner. As a kid, Halloween was my favorite holiday. Besides getting tons of free candy and dressing up in fantastic costumes, there was nothing better about that day than getting to watch horror movie marathons.

The romance genre has had its share of “spooky” stories. Paranormal romance became huge in the 1990s. Books would feature ghosts, witches, vampires, werewolves, time travel, and all kinds of magic. At Sweet Savage Flame, we’re getting into the Halloween spirit. For the week of Monday, October 18, 2021, to Sunday 24, let’s enjoy these paranormal romance covers featuring werewolves, psychics, vampires, and witches.

Historical Romance Review: Passions Wild and Free by Janelle Taylor

passion wild and free
Passions Wild and Free, Janelle Taylor, Zebra, 1988, Elaine Duillo cover art

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

This review is of Passions Wild and Free, book #2 in the “Western Wind” series by Janelle Taylor.

The Plot

The book begins in Wadesville, Texas, undisclosed time but after the Civil War. Randee Hollis, the heroine of the book, has plans to go after the Epson Gang, a ruthless band of killers who killed her aunt and uncle, Sara Elizabeth and Lee Carson, when the gang attacked their ranch. (Randee was the only survivor of the attack). She decides to hire a man to help her track down and kill the gang members. Randee finds resistance to her plans from Brody Wade, the sheriff of Wadesville-named after his family-who is in love with her and wishes to marry her.

Randee runs into–literally–Marsh Logan, the hero of the book, and hires him to work with her, believing that he is a notorious gunfighter named the Durango Kid. He’s not, but he is good with a gun and has his own reasons for wanting to find and kill the Epson Gang.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Passions Wild and Free by Janelle Taylor”

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”

Historical Romance Review: Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey

Secret Fire
Secret Fire
Secret Fire, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1987, Elaine Duillo cover art

MILD SPOILERS 😉

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Secret Fire was, I think, the second Johanna Lindsey romance I read which cemented her works among my favorites. Published in 1987, this book was written during Lindsey’s peak years of output.

The cover is another Elaine Duillo gem, this time featuring white, cream, and brown hues, appropriate for the wintery Russian setting. There’s also a blond male cover model whom I’ve been searching for for years. Forget Fabio and his long-haired colleagues; it’s this guy I have often imagined as the hero of many love stores I’ve read. He’s a perfect model for the ultra-gorgeous hero of Secret Fire, Dimitri.

The Plot

Dimitri is a half-Russian, half-English Prince who is in England to visit family and smooth over a scandal his sister has gotten into by engaging in an affair with a married man. The uber-sexual Dimitri doesn’t mind his sisters’ affairs, only that she’s so flagrant about them. So he decides to bring her back to Russia on his ship and perhaps find a dutiful spouse for her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey”

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”

Historical Romance Review: The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter

the lord of hawkfell island
The Lord of Hawkfell Island, Catherine Coulter, Jove, 1993

WARNING: CONTENT AND MILD SPOILER ALERT ⚠

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

The Plot

Catherine Coulter takes her propensity to create unlikeable heroes and dials it all the way up to “11” in her supposed romance, The Lord of Hawkfell Island.

Mirana is a young, unmarried woman who lives with her brother in a fortress in Ireland. When he’s away, their home is attacked by Viking raiders seeking vengeance against him, as the Viking leader Rorik blames him for the death of his wife and child. Usually, a hero grieving over his lost love is grounds for me to dislike a historical romance, but thanks to Rurik, I had plenty of other reasons to despise this “love story.”

I shouldn’t even call this a love story because–let’s get this right out the gate–Rorik never says a single word of love to Mirana. And it’s not because he’s so filled with sorrow over his loss. He’s just an unfeeling, cruel, petty, boorish boar. I detested him so much I created a Goodreads shelf labeled “jerky pig hall of fame” for him and his porcine brethren.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter”

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”

Historical Romance Review: First Love, Wild Love by Janelle Taylor

first love wild love janelle taylor
First Love, Wild Love, Janelle Taylor, Zebra, 1984, cover artist TBD

MILD SPOILERS 😉

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

The Set-Up

This review is of First Love, Wild Love by Janelle Taylor.

First Love, Wild Love, a Zebra Lovegram romance, begins in Texas, where Calinda Braxton, the heroine, has come from England to investigate the disappearance of her father, Elliott “Brax” Braxton. Her arrival in Texas is not welcoming, as the stagecoach she’s on is robbed. The stagecoach guard is killed, and the other passengers blame her because she fought back. Disconsolate and penniless, Calinda is taken in by the madam of a house of ill repute and given a room. What happens here sets the tone for the rest of the book.

The Plot

Calinda is given laudanum by the madam (not for nefarious purposes, but to help her sleep). Into the room comes the owner, Lynx Cardone, the hero of the book. Thinking that Calinda either was sent to his room or heard about him and decided to come on her own, Lynx has dubious consent sex with Calinda. She agrees to have sex with him, but she’s under the influence of the drug.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: First Love, Wild Love by Janelle Taylor”

Category Romance Review: Never a Bride by JoAnn Ross

never a bride joann ross
Never a Bride, JoAnn Ross, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Temptation #537

MILD SPOILERS 😉

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

This review is for Never a Bride, book #4 in the “Bachelor Arms” series published in May 1995 by Harlequin Temptation and written by JoAnn Ross

Series Overview

In the first 3 books in the series, Kate Hoffmann wrote about three male friends who find love. In the following 3 books in the series, written by JoAnn Ross, three female friends come together for one of the ladies’ weddings.

It’s Always a Mystery

The book begins on December 31, 1933. A party is taking place at the home of William Randolph Hearst. The night will end in tragedy, however, as femme fatale actress Alexandra Romanov is killed. Her husband, screenwriter Patrick Reardon, is arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for her murder. 

Hey Angel

Fast forward 62 years to 1995 Los Angeles. We meet Caitlin Carrigan, 25, the heroine of the book, and an L.A. police officer. We also meet Sloan Wyndham, 31, the hero of the book and a Hollywood screenwriter. Caitlin and Sloan’s first meeting is memorable, and not in a good way.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Never a Bride by JoAnn Ross”

Historical Romance Review: Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey

tender is the storm
tender is the storm
Tender is the Storm, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1985, Robert McGinnis cover art

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Did You Hear the One About the Naked Guy?

So… Johanna Lindsey’s Tender Is the Storm.

If you’re familiar with your romance history, then you must know of this book, even if you haven’t read it. The cover is the infamous one designed by Robert McGinnis with the naked hero standing tall as the heroine kneels before him, her ample breasts pressed firmly against his–er…dongle.

Tender is the Storm was released in 1985; Lindsey’s 10th consecutive bestseller. McGinnis’ artwork and Lindsey’s novels made for a powerhouse combination. The first two covers were pleasing enough, but starting with 1980’s Fires of Winter, McGinnis would upend the romance industry altogether. Before that, most clinch covers would show the heroine’s heaving bosoms while the hero remained fully clothed. Fires of Winter portrayed a fully naked hero, his legs bent and splayed open with the heroine lying between his thighs.

McGinnis was like many of his contemporary artists, an admirer of the female form. Much of his work featured nude or scantily clad women–of all skin and hair colors–with tightly muscled yet voluptuous figures.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey”

Historical Romance Review: Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills

hearts of fire gregg
Hearts of Fire, Anita Mills, Onyx, 1989 Gregg Gulbronson cover art

CONTENT & SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

A Fitting Sequel to a Masterpiece Romance

Hearts of Fire is a more satisfying sequel to the first installment of Anita Mills‘ medieval romance series, Lady of Fire, than its second outing, Fire and Steel was. Fire and Steel saw Catherine de Brione, the beloved daughter of Lady of Fire‘s Roger and Eleonor, find love with Guy of Rivaux. Guy was the pure-hearted bastard son of the demonic Robert of Bellesme. Bellesme was the unforgettable charismatic villain of the first two books who had an obsessive but somehow noble love for Eleonor. Bellesme stole the show in those novels, so magnetic was his character.

In Hearts of Fire, the male protagonist is Richard of Rivaux, grandson of Robert Bellesme and his beloved Eleonor. Richard is a fascinating and complicated hero. He has his grandfather’s darkness but is not consumed totally by evil. He kills for his woman, yet he’s a tender lover. In another book Richard could have been a villain. In this story he’s the hero and a wonderful one at that.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills”

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”

Historical Romance Review: An Offer of Marriage by Jo Ann Ferguson Review

An Offer of Marriage
An Offer of Marriage, Jo Ann Ferguson, Zebra, 1999, cover artist unknown, John Desaalvo cover model

WARNING: RANT ALERT ⚠

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Goodbye Old Era, Hello New

Books like Jo Ann Ferguson’s An Offer of Marriage suffer from being published during a time of change. When Kensington’s Zebra historical romances died, they didn’t go quickly (actually, Zebras are still around, but they’re not the same as they used to be in the 1980s and 1990s). Before their Heartfire and Lovegram lines ended in the late 1990s, the iconic, colorful covers became dull mockeries of the past, with no lush illustrations, just cheaply photo-shopped images of flowers or castles. In many cases, the covers were nothing more than the title and author’s name.

Zebra dumped most of their best authors (some briefly moved on to Dorchester, which had their own problems) and churned out new lines like Zebra Ballad, Splendor, and Precious Gem Historicals, all of which folded quickly. An Offer of Marriage is a romance from his era.

The Plot?

Young Brenwyn Gunnarsson’s family is slaughtered and he vows revenge. He poses as a lowly freeman to deceive the English and aid the Viking invasion.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: An Offer of Marriage by Jo Ann Ferguson Review”

Category Romance Review: The Strong, Silent Type by Kate Hoffmann

The Strong, Silent Type, Kate Hoffmann, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD (Canille?)

Harlequin Temptation #529

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This review is of The Strong, Silent Type,  book #2 in the Bachelor Arms series and the 2nd of 3 books in the series written by Kate Hoffmann.

Wild One

The book begins with Josh Banks, the hero of the book and a tax accountant (yes, you read that correctly), meeting with one of his clients, actress Olivia Wilde (NOT the current actress using the stage name, this Olivia Wilde is a 75-year-old octogenarian actress). Olivia asks Josh for a favor; to keep her granddaughter, Taryn, out of Los Angeles for a few weeks (Olivia is up for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and feels that Taryn–a tabloid darling–might scupper her chances for the award with her behavior). 

When Josh meets Taryn, the heroine, he offers her money to leave L.A. She refuses. She’ll only agree to behave if Josh does something for her, which he is not willing to do at first. (He does agree, eventually, to pose for her).

Take Me as I Am

As the book goes on, Taryn gets into some mishaps which Josh has to extricate her from.... Read more “Category Romance Review: The Strong, Silent Type by Kate Hoffmann”

Historical Romance Review: Shameless Ecstasy by Thea Devine

shamles ecstasy
Shameless Ecstasy, Thea Devine, Zebra, 1989, Cover Artist TBD

MILD SPOILERS

1 Star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

This review is of Shameless Ecstasy, a standalone from May 1989 by Thea Devine.

The Plot

The book takes place on Swany Island, Georgia. One of the residents there is Sarianna Broydon, the heroine of the book. Sarianna lives with her father, Rex, her stepmother Vesta, and Vesta’s daughter, Jeralee. The relationship between Rex and Sarianna is not a good one for many reasons. Stepping into this family drama is Cade Rensell, the hero of the book. Cade was born in Georgia, left, and has now returned, with some scores to settle.

As part of Cade’s revenge plan, he and Sarianna become lovers, who are caught by Vesta and Rex in a compromising position. Despite Rex’s objections, he agrees to let Sarianna and Cade marry.

Sarianna and Cade marry, despite Jeralee’s attempts to impede the process. Sarianna and Cade relocate to Savannah and begin their married life together. They are happy on one level, but there are many difficulties beneath the surface, and two above it: Vesta and Jeralee,

Soon, after Sarianna suffers a miscarriage and other issues, she and Cade separate.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Shameless Ecstasy by Thea Devine”

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

Historical Romance Review: Highland Fire by Ruth Langan

highland fire
Highland Fire, Ruth Langan, Harlequin, 1991, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Historical #91

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Highland Sisters

Highland Fire is the third of Ruth Langan’s MacAlpin clan Highland series originally published as Harlequin Historicals. The first novel was Highland Barbarian about sister Meredith finding love. Next was Highland Heather, the tale of middle sister Brenna and her English lord. Highland Fire tells the story of the youngest MacAlpin sister, Megan, and her romance with an Irish renegade, Kieran O’Mara.

Now that Megan’s two older sisters are off and married, the title of clan leader falls upon her dainty soldiers. Despite her delicate appearance, Megan is not a woman who shies from violence. She can wield a sword with the best of them.

Despite its title, this romance is not really set in the Scottish Highlands but the green land of Ireland. Megan finds herself away from her home in a treacherous situation. Fortunately, Kieran O’Mara, a fierce Irish warrior, is there to save her life. Megan and Kieran form a strong relationship that turns into love. Unfortunately, a blow to the head has given Megan amnesia. If she doesn’t know who she is, how can she really love?... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Highland Fire by Ruth Langan”