Category: Historical Romance

Historical Romance Review: The Silver Link by Patricia Potter

The Silver Link, Patricia Potter, Harlequin, 1990, Pino cover art

Harlequin Historical #63

From the back of the book:

“New Mexico 1846…Why would her heart not listen to reason?…Antonia Ramirez knew that the tall, blond American was not to be trusted. Hadn’t it been American soldiers who had killed her mother and left her father a cripple? Yet Tristan Hampton had awakened something deep inside her that would not be denied…Since the moment he’d first laid eyes on Antonia, Tris Hampton had been lost. He was haunted by her dark beauty. She made him feel he’d finally found the completeness he’d spent a lifetime searching for. But her father clearly hated him, and someone wanted to see him dead. Of Antonia’s love, he was certain. The question of her loyalty was still to be answered.”

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In Patricia Potter’s The Silver Link, Antonia and Tristan are from two different worlds. Nevertheless, their forbidden love unites them in a link that can never be severed.

Tristan Hampton is a Virginian military man on a mission to ensure Albuquerque’s stable transition from Mexican rule to American governance. Antonia Ramirez is from a noble, land-owning Spanish family whose New Mexican roots go back generations.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Silver Link by Patricia Potter”

Updates #4

Hello, everyone! T.S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month, and it’s certainly been a tumultuous one. I’m thankful it’s almost over, and that May will soon be upon us in all its flowery glory.

It’s hard to believe this vintage romance blog is only a month old, as it’s taken up so much of my time trying to put it together. Besides researching authors, publishing houses, and cover artists, I’ve been reviewing books and tweaking the site to make it more user-friendly with plenty of links and additions to the menu.

Used Book Store

You may have noticed there’s now a STORE attached to this blog site. I’ve decided some Spring cleaning is on the agenda, so I’m reducing my library by selling used books. I have many, many books to sell, but there are few, if any, doubles, so it’s first-come, first-serve if you find something you’d like to purchase from my vintage-and-not-so-vintage collection.

The conditions of the books range from excellent to acceptable for reading, and they are priced to sell. Shipping and handling is a default flat rate of $4 for Media Mail anywhere in the US. If you wish for a faster delivery method, please amend your order to First Class, which is a $6 flat rate, or to Priority Mail, which is a $9 flat rate.... Read more “Updates #4”

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Chains by Catherine Creel

Passion’s Chains, Catherine Creel, Zebra, 1991, Pino cover art

From the back of the book:

“HE HAD BETRAYED HER
Lady Eden Parrish stared in shock at the bare-chested, blue-eyed rogue who stood so proudly on the Bridgetown auction block– he was none other than her husband, the despicable Roark St. Clair! Eden had been sent to Barbados in disgrace after her brief, scandalous marriage to the unscrupulous American spy…after the way he’d betrayed her, she ought to let his contract of indenture be sold to the highest bidder. But memories of how it felt to be embraced by those strong arms and held tight against that well-muscled chest flooded her mind and body, and soon Eden was offering a fortune for the right to claim him as her
own!

SHE STILL LOVED HIM
Roark had come to Barbados for only one reason–to reclaim his runaway bride. Of course, getting captured by the British and sold into slavery hadn’t been part of the plan, but t situation was working out nicely, things considered. He would find a to escape and take the luscious along, with or without her consent. The little minx might be his mistress now, but he’d soon be her master.
... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Chains by Catherine Creel”

The Washington Post Reports: How the Romance Genre Found Its Happily Ever After

The Flame and the Flower, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Avon, 1972, Robert McGinnis cover art

How Has the Romance Genre Changed Over the Years?

On April 15, 2021, The Washington Post journalist Angela Haupt spoke with a dozen major players in the romance novel industry to write this engaging article about the evolution of the romance genre:

How the Romance Genre Found Its Happily Ever After

From the roots in bodice rippers like Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ Flame and the Flower to the softer, sweeter writings of LaVyrle Spencer, to Harlequin’s dominance in publishing, to Fabio-mania, to the industry today, the article highlights the major points of the romance genre’s history. The two constants in this ever-changing field are the requirement for a happy, satisfactory ending for the protagonists and the ubiquitous nature of people who read and write romance. I think Beverly Jenkins did an excellent job summing it all up:

“There’s so many different women writing romance. You’ve got marine scientists, you’ve got biologists, you’ve got physicists. You’ve got waitresses. You’ve got stay-at-home moms. So, you know, everybody writes romance, and everybody reads romance, and all of that together generates billions of dollars a year. We’re the people that keep the lights on in publishing.”... Read more “The Washington Post Reports: How the Romance Genre Found Its Happily Ever After”

Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James

Captive Angel
Captive Angel, Deana James, Zebra, 1988, Pino cover art

The frightened, pampered child-woman who had been deserted by her husband ten months ago was gone forever. In her place stood a self-confident, independent creature who would not hesitate to dare the devil.

CAPTIVE ANGEL

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

*** Spoiler alert ***

An Unusual Romance

How do I begin to review this amazing, conflicting journey through a woman’s incredible 19th-century life? I have to tell it all, so this review is pure spoilers.

By all rights Captive Angel is the kind of romance I should have tossed into a blazing fire and gleefully cheered, “Burn, book, burn! Bad, bad book!”

Perhaps it helped that I knew exactly what I was getting into before I started. Plus, having read a few of Deana James’s books, I knew it couldn’t be that horrible. The cover even had a quote from Johanna Lindsey, stating: “Delightfully different, emotionally involving, and impossible to put down,” which is 100% true.

Captive Angel surpassed my expectations with probably one of the greatest romance heroines ever, paired with one of the most piggish, most oblivious, POS heroes I’ve ever come across in an old-school historical other than Regan Van Der Rhys from Fern Michaels’ Captive Series.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James”

Historical Romance Review: Runaway Bride by Rosalyn Alsobrook

Runaway Bride, Rosalyn Alsobrook, Zebra, 1987, John Ennis cover art

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

While I enjoyed many of the old Zebra Lovegram and Heartfire lines, what I disliked about some of them is that when they were bad, they were awful, either boring or just freaking bizarre.

Rosalyn Alsobrook’s Runaway Bride was about Katherine, a pregnant woman who left her drunk, abusive husband. She’s on her own in the wilderness, when the hero, Jason comes upon her naked in a water pond. Jason, a rancher, takes her in and helps her heal. Katherine eventually finds love with this new man, who is a fundamentally decent guy, and was even willing to be a father to her child.

Katherine’s abusive husband finds her and begs for forgiveness. I didn’t care how sorry he was. In my eyes, the husband could never redeem himself. He beat her so awfully while she was pregnant that was black and blue and forced to flee in fear for her life and her child’s safety.

The book was written to keep you guessing up until the end who she would choose. The heroine genuinely thought that besides beating the hell out her, her husband was a good man.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Runaway Bride by Rosalyn Alsobrook”

Historical Romance Review: Terms of Surrender by Mollie Ashton

Terms of Surrender, Mollie Ashton, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Historical #46

From the back of the book:

Lover…or Deceiver?
Julie Farroux had escaped the guillotine by marrying a withered old man who desired her only for her inheritance. Their loveless union had left her believing her heart was as shriveled as his, until she found the warmth of desire in the arms of a handsome stranger. In the glittering city that was Napoleon’s Paris, deception and greed were a way of life. Sebastian Ramlin had made a devil’s bargain with Julie’s husband … to seduce Julie — and give her husband an heir. But he never planned to fall in love with her. Could he find the courage to reveal his treachery … and risk losing the woman he loved? 

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mollie Ashton’s Terms of Surrender was my first Harlequin Historical, and it got me hooked on the series for a long time! It’s a wonderful gem of a book. Don’t believe me? Just read the seal of approval by historical fiction/romance legend Roberta Gellis on the cover.

The book takes place in the post-French Revolution/Napoleonic Era, one of my favorite time periods.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Terms of Surrender by Mollie Ashton”

Historical Romance Review: Texas Princess by Veronica Blake

texas princess
Texas Princess, Veronica Blake, Zebra, 1992, Robert Sabin cover art

1 1/2 Stars

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Princess of Which State?

As usual, the folks at Zebra were just slapping generic titles onto these books! Only a tiny portion of Veronica Blake’s Texas Princess takes place in Texas. The hero and heroine travel across the western US, and they only get to the Lonestar State at the tail end of the book.

My main recollection of this tepid romance is while reading, I kept wondering: “When do they get to Texas? The book’s almost over. What about Texas?” Not a good sign. The editors could have gone with something like Gypsy Princess (although perhaps in today’s environment, that would be seen as insensitive), Emerald Princess, or Forbidden Passions. I checked & no other romance novels had those titles.

As for the book itself?

Sad to say that Texas Princess was a forgettable Heartfire. Tasmin, the eponymous Texas princess who is not actually royalty from America’s 28th state, is betrothed to the leader of her Roma tribe. He’s a kind and handsome man. However, she falls for a gadjo cowboy drifter, Blayde (I think that was his name) instead.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Texas Princess by Veronica Blake”

Historical Romance Review: Texas Tempest by Deana James

Texas Tempest, Deana James, Zebra, 1986, Pino cover art

His own sexuality he recognized as propinquity, tenderness, caring, the beauty, and gentleness of a woman’s body. The infliction of pain, even pseudo-pain, excited him not at all.

TEXAS TEMPEST

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Zebra’s Texas Tempest features yet another great, steel-willed Deana James heroine. James has written many resilient heroines before, such as in the seafaring antebellum romance, Captive Angel, and the medieval romance, Lovespell.

The Heroine

The prologue begins with Eugenia Leahy getting beaten by her no-good drunkard of a husband, Cormac. When he goes after her daughter, that’s when mama bear springs into action, grabs a firearm, and shoots him, paralyzing the abuser for life!

We then flash forward 10-15 years later, and Eugenia is running her ranch and doing a great job at it! Tough, cold, and stern, Eugenia is known as “The Diamondback,” as deadly as her namesake. But she is still a woman in a world dominated by men, so she needs some muscle to enforce her rules. Enter the mysterious MacPherson, a gunslinger who saves Eugenia’s life and is just the man for the job.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Texas Tempest by Deana James”

Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

Stranger in My Arms, Louisa Rawlings , Harlequin, 1991, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Historical #90

She gazed into eyes that held love and joy and laughter. The laughter that had always been in him—only needing her to bring it out. ‘Oh, my dearest,’ she answered, her heart swelling with wonder and gratitude for the beautiful man who bent above her. ‘You’re Love.’

STRANGER IN MY ARMS

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My Absolute Favorite Historical Romance

There are many older romances I like out of pure nostalgia. When I re-read them, I know they’re not perfect, yet I enjoy them nevertheless. Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings first caught my attention over thirty years ago, and I love it more today than I did back then. It even earned the treasured seal of approval from Kathe Robin, the legendary book reviewer and editor of the now, sadly, defunct Romantic Times.

Although it’s a bit on the short side, this is the best romance novel, historical or otherwise, that I’ve ever read. I have re-read this book easily a dozen times in thirty years and am always stirred by its intensity.

A Harlequin Historical published in 1991, this book is 300 pages of tiny type-face, and there’s no room for it to lag.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings”

Historical Romance Review: Winter’s Heat by Denise Domning

Winter’s Heat, Denise Domning, Topaz, 1993, John Ennis cover art

“It may be that you will find my manner too straightforward for your tastes, but, my lord, it is just that – my manner. Would that I die before I give up that part of me.”

WINTER’S HEAT
2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A medieval romance that takes medieval life seriously is usually one I enjoy, but Denise Domning’s Winter’s Heat fell a bit flat for me.

Rowena is forced into marriage with Lord Rannulf of Graistan. After a quick consummation, Rannulf leaves Rowena at his castle to deal with his surly servants, evil sister-in-law, Maeve, and his young son.

After more than 30% into the book, I realized that the hero was nowhere to be found, and I was ok with that. I enjoyed reading about Rowena’s attempts to turn Rannulf’s pigsty into a livable home.

Unfortunately once Rannulf re-enters the picture, the book doesn’t get better. Rannulf mistrusts his capable wife and only believes Maeve’s ridiculous lies. This book reminded me of the worst of the worst of Johanna Lindsey’s romances, with the hero and heroine bickering for no real reason, refusing to engage in basic communication, and making lots of love even though they hate each other.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Winter’s Heat by Denise Domning”

Historical Romance Review: To Touch the Sun by Barbara Leigh

To Touch the Sun, Barbara Leigh, Harlequin, 1991, Judy York cover art

Harlequin Historical #98

From the back of the book:

Beloved Captive…To be a knight, chivalrous in deed and courageous in battle, was all that Drue had ever wished for. Dubbed Sir Drue, she had sworn to serve her king and seek revenge against her enemy, Connaught. She had vowed to slay the treacherous knight, yet one look into the depths of his fire-blue eyes and she knew she could never kill him… Though she had captured him fairly on the field of battle, it was Drue who was completely in his power, and she shuddered to think what the proud Connaught would do when he discovered that the ‘lad’ who had defeated him was nothing more than a woman.

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

To Touch the Sun is an older Harlequin Historical by Barbara Leigh. This is the unique tale about a woman in Medieval England who is raised alongside her brother as a boy and eventually becomes a knight. Not just any knight, but one of the most virtuous, valiant, and admired knights in the kingdom.

The Plot

Druanna takes on the persona of Dru to such a great extent that even her brother almost forgets her true identity.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: To Touch the Sun by Barbara Leigh”

Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe

Tempt Not This Flesh, Barbara Riefe, Playboy Press, 1979, Jordi Penalva cover art

She could never love him again, what woman with pride and self-esteem and memory could?

TEMPT NOT THIS FLESH

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Heroine

Lorna, the heroine of Barbara Riefe’s Tempt Not This Flesh definitely deserved a better book than the one she was forced to partake in. Really, with quotes likes 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.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe”

Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Rebel by Iris Bancroft

Rapture's rebel
Rapture’s Rebel, Iris Bancoft, Pinnacle, 1980, cover artist unknown

From the back of the book:

Torn between her desires for a Russian colonel and a dashing lieutenant in the Swedish army, Kirsten is swept by savage destiny into the raging lusts of a revolution… Against the tumultuous background of the Northern War of 1710 is woven the enthralling saga of a tempestuous woman forced to choose between her impassioned loyalty and the ecstasy of forbidden love.

1 1/2 stars

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

I HATE being let down by books that seem to have promise, but end with a lifeless whimper. Bodice rippers set in Russia are my siren song! This should have rocked!

Rapture’s Rebel by Iris Bancroft is the first non-Viking historical romance set in Scandinavia that I’ve read.

The Plot

Russian soldiers have taken over a town in Sweden and Kirsten hides in a hot sauna for protection. Stupid Kirsten lets a little kitty in there with her and he dies, the poor thing! Well, maybe not so poor. Kitty’s pain is over, but mine was still to come as I had this turkey of a book to finish.

The heroine’s a twa– er twit, and there’s a rapacious older Russian (basically Rod Steiger in Dr.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Rebel by Iris Bancroft”

Historical Romance Review: Stolen Spring by Louisa Rawlings

Stolen Spring, Louisa Rawlings, Popular Library, 1988, cover artist unknown

From the back of the book:

“Mademoiselle Marie-Rouge’s bewitching gray eyes widened with shock. King Louis’ minister had made his offer very clear: Rouge must become a spy or else her beloved father would be thrown in debtor’s prison. She chose to flee into a storm-swept night away from the golden court at Versailles and the intrigues that threatened her life…In a miller’s cottage she found a stranger–a brazen, daring man who claimed to be a simple peasant. His arms sheltered her, his kisses intoxicated her more than royal wine, and his desire showed her a paradise no riches could buy. Would he forgive the girl who took his sweet love tonight–only to run from his heart tomorrow?”

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Lousia Rawlings, the writer of such greats as Stranger in My Arms and its sequel, Wicked Stranger, was a masterful author. It’s unfortunate she no longer writes wonderful historical romances in the truest sense of those words.

(Edit: she’s republished her novels as e-books, so now there is no excuse for anyone not to read her!)

The Plot

France and Versailles under the reign of Louis XIV was a decadent, lavish era, and Louisa Rawlings captures it perfectly in Stolen Spring.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Stolen Spring by Louisa Rawlings”

Historical Romance Review: Heather by Cordia Byers

Heather, Cordia Byers, Fawcett, 1979, cover artist unknown

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Why, oh why did I not listen to the words of wisdom just DNF this lifeless excuse for a bodice ripper?

But no, like the idiot I am, I kept reading on, expecting something interesting to occur. First one thing happens, and then this happens, and then this other thing happens, but none of it has any zing or excitement about it. In Heather by Cordelia Byers, stuff occurs while characters are like marionettes being pulled by strings to the next scene. Absolute sacrilege for a bodice ripper, because these are the kind of books that are supposed to be so chock-full of craziness that they madly affect the senses, either by offending or delighting or titillating.

I was a little offended, I suppose; not because there was anything to upset my “delicate sensibilities,” but because this book was so freaking boring.

Beautiful Heather Cromwell is brought up as a foundling by a wealthy Marquis. She’s treated as a part servant/part distant relative, and even though it’s not a rough life, it’s not a great one, either. Heather grows up loving the Marquis’s son, David but knows that her love is hopeless.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Heather by Cordia Byers”

Historical Romance Review Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright

Silver Storm, Cynthia Wright, Ballantine, 1979, cover artist unknown

It had been so long. He pulled her gown open and her breasts spilled out like ripe, round melons…

SILVER STORM

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I started reading Cynthia Wright’s Silver Storm, then put it down; it was sweet, but sometimes too sweet and I have enough cavities. Then halfway through it changes in tone. Our previously gentleman hero does a 180 and turns into a lecherous jerk. It was great and I wanted more!

The Plot

The first half involves a sensuous French privateer Andre Raveneau escorting orphaned Devon Lindsay to her fiancé in Virginia at the end of the American Revolution. The girl is obviously not in love with her missing man but devoted to him out of a weird sense of commitment. All the while, this tall, gorgeous, gray-eyed Frenchman plays nice, and Devon stomps her foot and plays hard to get. Andre was such a gentleman; I wondered where this was going.

But oh, he has a plan–a cunning plan–to trap his strawberry-haired prey, and when he finally gets what he wants, he plans just as cruelly to be rid of her, eagerly awaiting his next new lay.... Read more “Historical Romance Review Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright”

A Closer Look At Pocket Books

whitney my love

I hope our readers view SweetSavageFlame as more than just a blog. We’re not academics, but we try to document the romance genre’s history since the last quarter of the 20th century. Even though this site is just a couple of weeks old, Sweet Savage Flame is building a substantial catalog of old-school romance books. We analyze and sort by reviews, authors, publishers, imprints, and/or cover artists. In addition, we look at the history behind the individuals and the companies that helped form the romance novel industry.

Every few weeks, we’ll highlight institutions or people archived on our pages. So let’s begin at the beginning with the originators of the paperback movement, Pocket Books.

Pocket Books: America’s First Mass Market Paperbacks

Started in 1939, Pocket Books was the first mass-market paperback distributor in the United States. They initially just reprinted classic works. Over time, Pocket Books developed their own stable of writers.

Through the years they would produce thousands of books that were accessible to readers. The revitalization of the romance genre started with Avon‘s 1972’s The Flame and the Flower. 1974 would see the one-two punch release of The Wolf and the Dove and Sweet Savage Love.... Read more “A Closer Look At Pocket Books”