Category: Romance

Historical Romance Review: This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe

THIS RAVAGED HEART
This Ravaged Heart, Playboy Press 1977, Betty Maxey cover art

SPOILER ALERT

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Her own flesh and blood, her own fetus grown to manhood had fallen in love with her!

THIS RAVAGED HEART

A Weird, Wild Trip

This was one freaky-deaky read.

Barbara (Alan) Riefe’s This Ravaged Heart is a 1970’s Playboy Press bodice ripper and while it wasn’t a great book, it had enough bizarre twists to qualify for a grudgingly positive review.

The book opens with Ross Dandridge aboard a ship headed from Europe to the US. 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 they’ll 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. Unlike Mr. Melissa Hepburne who knew how to keep the pages turning with rompy, rapey/forced seduction stupidity; or Mr.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe”

Historical Romance Review: The Black Lyon by Jude Deveraux

the black lyon
The Black Lyon, Avon, 1980, George Ziel cover art

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Black Lyon

The Black Lyon was my first Jude Deveraux read. I loved the first half, but the second half faltered a bit as a devious woman’s scheming separates the two protagonists.

Lady Lyonene is young, free-spirited, and really quite charming, while Ranulf de Warbrooke is a powerful and gruff knight. They meet and Lyonene instantly falls for the much older Ranulf. Lyonene has no idea what she’s getting herself into when she agrees to marry him so impetuously. A cruel monster of a man soon replaces the gentle man he seemed to be when they first met.

I loved how Lyonene makes her home on Ranulf’s fortress island, Malvoisin (it means “bad neighbor”), charming his retinue of black-haired knights while Ranulf is his grumpy self. He and Lyonene struggle to make their marriage work due to Ranulf’s turbulent nature. However, when the two are separated due to Amicia, a jealous evil Frankish woman who tries to comes between them, the story takes a bit of a downturn.

We do get to find out how the Montgomery family started, as Ranulf & Lyonene’s son is named Montgomery.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Black Lyon by Jude Deveraux”

Neo-Bodice Rippers

romeo and juliet
romeo and juliet
Romeo & Juliet

The “True” Bodice Ripper Defined

We’ve discussed bodice-rippers before at Sweet Savage Flame. While many people still use the phrase bodice ripper as a catch-all term for historical romance or for the romance genre in general, the true definition is much more narrow. A bodice ripper is a specific type of historical romance that existed starting in 1972 and more or less came to a halt somewhere in the mid to late 1990s.

Julia Quinn does not write bodice rippers. Courtney Milan certainly does not. Neither does Tessa Dare, although she cheekily has bodices ripped in a few of her books. Almost every mainstream historical author writing today writes “modern” historical romance, a completely different animal.

Fifty Shades of Gray is closer in essence to what a bodice-ripper is. However, having a domineering “alpha” hero, a virginal heroine, and titillating sex scenes alone does not constitute a bodice ripper. Add a historical setting to those factors and you have an old-school historical romance. The power play dynamic between the two sexes is a paramount theme, yet that is not the only quality inherent in a ‘ripper. There are many tropes or plot points that they can include and bodice rippers can vary greatly.... Read more “Neo-Bodice Rippers”

Historical Romance Review: The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers

the wildest heart
the wildest heart
The Wildest Heart, Rosemary Rogers, Avon, 1974, cover artist Tom Hall

We gave each other, with our bodies, the commitment that neither of us dared put into words. We mated. There is no other word for it. We were equal—man and woman; neither asking what we could not give…

THE WILDEST HEART

SPOILER ALERT

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

In Rosemary RogersThe Wildest Heart, Lady Rowena Dangerfield is a beautiful woman who men value for her beauty, wealth, or both. She was a heroine who intrigued me right from the start. Rowena was indifferent to men; despite their passion for her, she could not love anyone except outlaw Lucas Cord. For Lucas, Rowena was willing to renounce her inheritance or even die with him in the perilous mountains. Despite his conflicted past, Lucas was the only man to love Rowena for herself alone.

The Negative Aspects

Although I read romance mainly for the love story, I enjoy experiencing the heroine’s travails. I can enjoy a great romance novel about a heroine’s struggles through life, and the hero can be relegated to the background while the heroine grows and matures. In a way, The Wildest Heart is one of those books.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers”

Updates #2

Hello, again! Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying life to the fullest. To anyone actually looking at this site and interested in what there is to look and talk about, we have some more updates.

POLL: FAVORITE OLD-SCHOOL AUTHOR

Vote for your favorite old-school historical romance author!

AUTHOR PAGES:

COVERS:

COVERS OF THE WEEK

COVER ARTISTS

BOOK REVIEWS

At least 15 more have been added, Just go to the MENU to search the BOOK REVIEW page by rating or in alphabetical order by title. You can also access reviews by clicking on LATEST POSTS.

LINKS

I will be adding more information and pictures to current pages as well as uploading new ones. Please subscribe to SweetSavageFlame.com to keep updated on any changes or new blog posts. If you have any recommendations or requests for reviews, please comment or email me at jacquelinediazromance@gmail.com

Happy reading!

Historical Romance Review: While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee

While Passion Sleeps, Shirlee Busbee, Avon, 1983, cover artist Harry Bennett

[Women] had faces like angels and bodies to drive men wild, and yet they lied, cheated, and would merrily rip a man’s heart from his body for the sheer joy of watching him writhe.

WHILE PASSION SLEEPS

SPOILER ALERT

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee made me feel really old. It wasn’t the plot or the characters; it was the actual book itself. This just-under-500-pages of an epic is printed in a tiny font on yellowed paper (my edition is 38 years old). Reading it strained my eyes something awful. I’ve been nearsighted all my life, but now things up close are getting blurry. I’ll be going to the eye doctor this week for a new Rx because I need bifocals. *Sigh.* Damn you, the passage of time!

The Hero

Speaking of the passage of time, While Passion Sleeps features a macho hero who would be booed out of Romance-landia if he were to appear in a romance novel today. Rafael Santana, who’s one tough Texan (1/4 American, 1/4 Comanche, and 1/2 Spanish), was kidnapped by the Comanches as a child.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee”

Historical Romance Review: Purity’s Passion by Janette Seymour

Purity’s Passion, Janette Seymour, Pocket Books, 1977, Harry Bennett cover art

She would come to him a complete woman…

PURITY’s PASSION

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The tale of Purity Jarsy, Purity’s Passion, (Part 1 of 3) begins with the horrors of the French Revolution and ends in France after Napoleon’s final defeat. In between we witness the epic tale of Purity, a woman so beautiful many men desire her, they would ravish her, control her, and kill for her… In other words, it’s your basic, page-turning bodice ripper. And it’s a good one.

Janette Seymour was a deft storyteller, quickly pulling me in with Purity witnessing a beautiful encounter of a couple making love and later she sees the macabre slaughters of the Revolution. Purity is left orphaned and shaken in the aftermath.

Mark “You may kiss me–here” Landless is the object of Purity’s devotion. Much older than she, he is her appointed guardian, but he also shares a hidden bond with his ward. Mark is a placeholder, we never see through his perspective. He is a scar-faced, blue-eyed soldier who duels for Purity’s honor, hurts her cruelly, and the finally marries her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Purity’s Passion by Janette Seymour”

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton

Passion’s Paradise, Sonya T. Pelton, Zebra, 1981, cover artist unknown

Lying together upon the crest, their two profiles met, silhouetted as one against the clouds’ pink lattice. Here the sun shone softly, and the thrushes and cardinals and mockingbirds cooed love songs sang of twilight nigh, and the nascent magnolia flowers bloomed fragrantly…

PASSION’SS PARADISE

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Passion’s Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton is a wonderfully terrible book. The cover warns you; it’s dark and dreary, done in deep blues and white, with the wrong hair color for the hero and a ship about to sink in the ocean that shouts: “Disaster looms ahead!”

I got this book in one of those e-bay lots, it was a freebie that the seller was perhaps too embarrassed to mention and only too glad to get rid of, with no back cover (no worries, I printed out the book-blurb and taped it to the back) and garnished with red stamps from Arlene’s Book House & Paperback Exchange in Sweetwater, Texas. Now it lay in my Yankee hands, ready to thrill me with its awfulness.

Captain Ty, or Tyrone, is a pirate, a slaver, a whoremonger, a politician–but I repeat myself.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton”

Historical Romance Review: Born to Love by Valerie Sherwood

Born to Love, Valerie Sherwood, Warner Books, 1984, Elaine Duillo cover art

It takes a generation to make a it, one to lose it, one to talk about it, and one to make it again.

BORN TO LOVE

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*** Spoiler alert***

Valerie Sherwood, Cat Fancier & Romance Novelist

Romance novelist Valerie Sherwood would always lovingly dedicate her books to the special cats in her life; in Born to Love it was Mopsy and Chow. She was slightly cat crazy.

So in honor of Ms. Sherwood, and from one crazy cat lady to another, I would like to dedicate my review of Born to Love to one of my cats.

To Bear, that sweet, gentle soul, a little black-furred, black-nosed, green-eyed wonder. Bear, you came into my life at 19, when your mother, a feral queen, bore her kittens in the warehouse of the office that I worked. I took you home at four-weeks-old and because you had not been weaned, I had to feed you milk and mush. Every night before I’d fall asleep, you’d suck at my earlobe as you would have at your mother’s teat. Even when you grew, you still held on to this adorable kittenish trait.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Born to Love by Valerie Sherwood”

Historical Romance Review: The Jacaranda Tree by Rebecca Brandewyne

Step-back cover exterior & interior The Jacaranda Tree, Rebecca Brandewyne, Warner Books, 1995, Elaine Duillo cover artist

From the back of the book:

A sense of foreboding had gripped Arabella Darracott when she left England to join her guardian in Australia. Years before, a gypsy fortune-teller had told her of a purple blossomed tree, a far-off shore, and a devil of a man who awaited her there. Now, as she neared her destination, shipwreck and fate threw her into the arms of a rescuer, “Demon” Lucien Sinclair, the notorious ex-convict who had become rich in the gold fields of New South Wales. Lucien – wild and wickedly handsome – was the fallen archangel of her dreams. But the crime in his past was linked to a dangerous secret. And the passion awakened under the Jacaranda tree could cost Arabella her future, even her life…or give her Lucien forever to cherish, forever to love.

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Jacaranda Tree was the last historical romance Rebecca Brandewyne published with Warner Books. After that, she wrote a few contemporaries, some paranormals, and a few gothic mysteries for Harlequin, before disappearing from the writing field entirely.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Jacaranda Tree by Rebecca Brandewyne”

Historical Romance Review: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

Gentle Rogue
Gentle Rogue
Gentle Rogue, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1990, Elaine Duillo cover artist, Fabio cover model

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Johanna Lindsey Mania

I first read this book eons ago, when Johanna Lindsey was the greatest writer on earth. At 12 years old, what did I know? I recall anxiously walking to Woolworth’s daily in November 1990, freaking out for her latest release. Boy, did I annoy the clerks by repeatedly asking when it was coming in!

The day I saw the clerk stocking the shelves, I grabbed the first book from the top of the box, not caring that it had a tiny slit in the cover. I was a bit disheartened, because for a DuilloFabioLindsey cover, save for Georgina’s lovely rose-trimmed gown, to me, it was ugly. With its drab green tones and bird-bats flying in front of a huge moon, I was less than impressed. When I saw the cover for Lindsey’s next book, Once a Princess, I was disappointed in the artwork. No more Fabio (although he’d make a comeback for a few more Lindseys). Plus, Once a Princess had a step-back cover with flowery font on the front.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey”

Historical Romance Review: Stormfire by Christine Monson

Storm fire
Stormfire Pino
Stormfire, Christine Monson, Avon, 1984, cover artist Pino

His spirit, like the lonely, windswept sea, was ever-restless, ever-changing, sometimes howling down to savage the unyielding land, then caressing it with a lulling embrace, inevitably wearing away its resistance.

STORMFIRE

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Most Controversial Bodice Ripper Ever?

So, after a couple of decades of reading romance, I finally got around to Stormfire by the late Christine Monson. Whew! They do not write them like this anymore. The ultimate in bodice-ripping, Stormfire, is a tale of two mentally unstable people and their violent, intense love. And it’s great!

The main attraction of Stormfire is its writing. If it were a poorly written book, no one would still be talking about it 30-plus years after it was published. The chapters each have titles such as “Silken Irons,” “Into Eden,” or “The Nadir.” When the heroine meets the hero, her first thoughts are of Milton’s poetry: 

“His form had not yet lost

All his original brightness, nor appeared

Less than Archangel ruined…” 

PARADISE LOST, JOHN MILTON

The prose is evocative and compelling, but not purple. We agonize over Catherine’s enslavement.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Stormfire by Christine Monson”

Historical Romance Review: Love, Cherish Me by Rebecca Brandewyne

Love Cherish Me, Rebecca Brandewyne, Warner Books, 1983, cover artist Elaine Duillo
From the back of the book:

Storm was her name and her destiny… Born on a night when lightning flashed and thunder rolled, the raven-haired beauty was sixteen before the promise of her name became the path of her life… Born to wealth, the belle of five counties wagered away to a middle-aged rancher by her wastrel uncle. On her way to Texas to marry Gabriel North, she was captured by outlaws — and wagered away again by her captor to a blue-eyed bounty hunter, a dark-skinned gunslinger called El Lobo, the wolf. A man who could kill in cold blood, then take her with fire and tenderness when she whispered to him.

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I read Love, Cherish Me many years ago as teenager so it’s a long-time favorite.

You have to read this book as a lover of the genre because Rebecca Brandewyne is here at her bodice-rippiest.

What I loved about Rebecca Brandewyne’s old romances was that she would always pose dressed as the heroine in her picture on the back of the book.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Love, Cherish Me by Rebecca Brandewyne”

Discussing Bodice Rippers and Historical Romance #1

altthumbnail

Of Bodices Ripped

“Bodice ripper” can be used as a pejorative term by those not too familiar with the romance genre or those readers & authors of romance who try to distance themselves from those older “problematic” books. In defense of the bodice ripper–the true bodice ripper, not just historical romance–it was that genre that heralded the new era of romance, creating something never seen before. 

Up until Avon released The Flame and the Flower, romances were limited to books like Barbara Cartland’s vast stable of saccharine stories, Georgette Heyer’s light regencies, mild Mills and boons/Harlequins, medical romances, Gothics, and historical romantic fiction. If a female reader wanted a little bit more raciness, there was the grandmother of the bodice ripper, Edith Hull’s The Sheik and its sequels, lurid pulp-fiction books released by prolific paperback distributors, or authors like Harold Robbins, Jacqueline Susann, and Jackie Collins who had come on the scene in the 1960s.  

Mainstream romance and raciness just didn’t mix. They were always sweet, ending in kisses of fade to black love scenes.  

Then in 1972 came the now-reviled bodice ripper, which at the time was a vaunted expression of women’s liberation. Thanks to Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers, and the women (and men) who followed in their footsteps, romances took on a larger scope, as heroines went through the fires of hell and back to get her love, and yes, the books could be violent, including issues like forced seduction or even rape.... Read more “Discussing Bodice Rippers and Historical Romance #1”

Historical Romance Review: Devil’s Desire by Laurie McBain

Devil’s Desire, Laurie McBain, Avon, 1975, Tom Hall cover art

“I would not regret putting a hole in your arrogant chest, only it would be deflected when it hit that piece of rock you call a heart.

DEVIL’S DESIRE

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The Plot

For me, Devil’s Desire was an ok Regency romance written by Laurie McBain. The bland heroine Elysia, is on the run from bland, evil enemies. It’s alright, but nothing special. From the writing, you can tell it’s a “first book.”

The back blurb says Devil’s Desire is: “[A] rousing, unforgettable saga that sweeps across the valleys and peaks of human destiny, the stormy alliance of beautiful young and plumbs the depths of raw human emotion — lust, jealousy and hate… Out of the turbulence of their clashing wills comes one of the greatest love stories ever written, as their twin passions mingle at last, in a rippling tide of liquid fire!” 

How I wish.

The read was rather ordinary and predictable, however it was not terrible. Lots of clichés, including the rakish hero, Lord Alex Trevegne (who’s really not that much of a rake), an evil ex-mistress, and a Cinderella heroine, Lady Elysia Demarice, with emerald-green eyes and red-gold hair, who’s the most beautiful lady in all of England, and pure as the driven snow.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Devil’s Desire by Laurie McBain”

Historical Romance Review: The Masquers, aka Splendid Torment, by Natasha Peters

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Natasha Peters’ Splendid Torment–originally published as The Masquers–takes us to late 18th-century Venice, to the world of Fosca Loredan, a titian-haired young noblewoman trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older nobleman. It’s an unusual romance, in the style of Bertrice Small sans purple-prose: part bodice ripper, part historical fiction, replete with swashbuckling and political intrigue.

The Plot

Two heroes are vying for Fosca’s attention: Raffaelo, an atheist, revolutionary, bastard Jew and Alessandro, a middle-aged, philandering, anti-Semite politician. But this love triangle is actually a quadrangle with a fourth player: Lia, a woman who will do anything with anyone to save her true love.

Besides this adulterous entanglement, some of the book’s highlights include a Dynasty-style catfight; a Sapphic May-December love affair; an omniscient dowager who hasn’t left her bed in 20 years; a singing eunuch and a cross-dressing, dancing dwarf.

Final Analysis of The Masquers (aka Splendid Torment)

This is the third Natasha Peters romance I’ve read, the others being Dangerous Obsession and Savage Surrender.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Masquers, aka Splendid Torment, by Natasha Peters”

Historical Romance Review: Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters

Dangerous Obsession, Natasha Peters, Ace Books,1978, Don Stivers cover art

“You will travel far to find love, only to find that love has traveled with you.

DANGEROUS OBSESSION

***Spoiler AlerT***

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Dangerous Obsession is the sequel to Natasha Peters’ first book, Savage Surrender, although the relation between the books is not revealed until midway through this 630 page epic.

Like so many great bodice rippers of epic scope, Dangerous Obsession takes us through various years and continents. It spans 12 years in the life of Rhawnie, the blonde daughter of a gypsy and a Russian noblewoman. Rhawnie is not a simpering, treacly-sweet girl or spunky, foot-stamping heroine. She lies for the hell of it: to strangers, to the people she loves, she lies to herself, she even lies on her (near) deathbed! She is an unrepentant thief. Early on Rhawnie is caught stealing from an innkeeper and Seth, the hero, is forced to remove the purloined items hidden under her petticoats: a bottle of vodka, a wheel of cheese, a large loaf of bread, several sausages, a large knife and a whole chicken! When caught red handed she denies ever touching the stuff and accuses the innkeeper of framing her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters”

Historical Romance Review: The Taming by Jude Deveraux

The Taming, Pocket Books,1989, cover artist unkown
From the back of the book:

England’s most valiant knights paid court to wealthy Liana Neville, but only the infamous warrior Rogan Peregrine made no secret of his powerful desires. His very caress melted Liana into liquid fire, and she vowed to capture this magnificent, wild man. Boldly the delicate beauty gave him her hand — and Britain’s richest dower. Yet he was bound to a bitter feud: for love betrayed, brothers killed, and ancestral land usurped. In Rogan’s war-ravaged castle, Liana would lay her tender seige…to redeem his embattled spirit and win his untamed heart!

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

As a teen, I loved Jude Deveraux’s romances and devoured them like candy. I loved the spicy dynamic between her heroes and heroines. However, the one hero I HATED more than any was Rogan in The Taming (even more than Gavin in The Velvet Promise)! This book was the opposite of Highland Velvet, where the hero works his butt off to make his wife happy. Here, the wife works her fingers to the bone to help her lazy husband and his annoying siblings.

Rogan was such a lazy jerk with mistresses aplenty.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Taming by Jude Deveraux”

Historical Romance Review: Escape Not My Love by Elaine Coffman

The girl would be more than a job to him. He had known it the moment he’d looked at her face. Was that why her eyes were so wide and round? Because she knew it too? It was ordained and irrevocable. Sometime. Somewhere. Somehow. He would take her to his bed.

ESCAPE NOT MY LOVE

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My First Historical Romance

As I’ve mentioned before, Elaine Coffman’s Escape Not My Love was not my first venture into the world of romance, but it was my first historical romance novel. And for that, I am grateful.

Superficially, ENML drew me in from the outset. It had a stunning step-back cover, designed with a pattern of a woman’s purple and white-flowered gown, and it opened to reveal the colorful protagonists clinched in a passionate embrace. (Thank God for that step-back! I first read this as I sat in church, waiting for my turn to enter the confessional and talk to the priest. He didn’t know what kind of trashy book I was reading, and I wasn’t about to volunteer that tidbit.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Escape Not My Love by Elaine Coffman”

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