Category: Romance

What Reading Romance Novels Can Teach Us

lessons to learn from romance

8 Life Lessons to Learn From Romance Novels

Romance novels tell stories that range from mundane to zany to melodramatic to tearjerkers and beyond. Regardless of the plots, one of the reasons the genre resonates with readers is its everlasting element of hope. Every romance novel must end on a positive, optimistic note (cliffhanger serials notwithstanding). Love is eternal, and no fiction does this theme more justice than romance. But romance novels are more than love stories. There are numerous life lessons we can learn from reading these beautiful books.

Love Yourself

It’s a well-worn phrase, but it will be hard for others to care for you if you don’t care about yourself. If you abuse your body, you will attract abusers. Every person has intrinsic value due to their existence. Few of us are physically, mentally, psychologically, or morally perfect. What we have is the gift of being human. Humans are capable of love on a level unknown anywhere on earth. Focusing on the worst of humanity breeds self-loathing.

In the Harlequin Romance Rumor Has It by Celia Scott, Lucinda, a downtrodden young woman, learns to look at herself differently after a rumor of her having an affair with a foreign hunk goes viral.... Read more “What Reading Romance Novels Can Teach Us”

Category Romance Review: Stranger in the Night by Charlotte Lamb

stranger in the night
Stranger in the Night, Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1980, William Biddle cover art

HARLEQUIN PRESENTS #417

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

The Plot

Charlotte Lamb’Stranger in the Night deals with a sensitive topic she’s approached several times: rape. No, it does not employ the controversial trope of “dubious consent” found in many Harlequins from the 1970s and 1980s. This is a healing love story about a traumatic assault that upended a woman’s life and almost destroyed her ability to find a romantic relationship.

On the surface, the set-up of Stranger in the Night might share some commonalities with Emma Darcy’s Don’t Ask Me Now, which had an actual love triangle plot. Here, the heroine Clare is living a good life as a successful actress. She has a male friend Macey, a writer and producer whom she keeps at bay, however much he adores her.

Macey is also a nice guy, one of the most gentle and understanding heroes in an old-school Harlequin Presents. Not a “beta” male, mind you, but a decent man whose aura commands respect. He’s supportive, assertive–not domineering–, and quite sexy to boot.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Stranger in the Night by Charlotte Lamb”

Historical Romance Review: Kiss of the Night Wind by Janelle Taylor

kiss of the night wind
Kiss of the Night Wind, Janelle Taylor, Zebra, 1989

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

This review is of Kiss of the Night Wind, #3 in the “Western Wind” series by Janelle Taylor published by Zebra.

The Plot

The book opens with the heroine of the book, Carrie Sue Stover, trying to outrun her past (Carrie Sue’s brother, Darby, is the leader of an outlaw gang, which she also ran with). Tired of looking over her shoulder and worrying about being arrested, jailed, or worse, Carrie Sue decides to take on the persona of Carolyn Sarah Starns, a schoolteacher on her way to Tucson, Arizona. (The real Carolyn was killed in an accident caused by the Stover gang attacking the stagecoach she was on). As Carrie Sue makes her way to Arizona, the stagecoach she’s on is attacked. Saving her is T.J. Rogue, the hero of the book, who is also going to Arizona. His reasons, however, are different than Carrie Sue’s.

Carrie Sue arrives in Tucson and soon finds herself having to fend off Martin Ferris, a wealthy, lecherous businessman who believes the new schoolmarm owes him more than gratitude.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Kiss of the Night Wind by Janelle Taylor”

Covers of the Week #29

Witch

Behold the Halloween season! The beauty of autumn is transforming into a period of decay. The leaves on the trees have changed color–if they remain at all–on the dark, skeletal tree branches. A damp coldness lingers in the air. What is that strange light flickering in an attic window? Who–or what–is making those slow, creaking noises that emanate from an empty room?

Whether a haunted plantation in the humid American South, an ominous-looking old house in the North East, a decrepit manor in Cornwall, or a crumbling chateau in the mountains of Europe, Gothic romances are placed in contradictorily romantic yet scary settings. Gothic romances hold an important place in the annals of the romance genre, with dark brooding heroes, strong-willed heroines, and gorgeous covers illustrated by the master artists. For the week of Monday, October 25, 2021, culminating on Halloween Day, Sunday, October 31, 2021, let’s delight and take fright in these creepy Gothic romance covers!

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 stay 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. It 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”

Category Romance Review: Seduced and Betrayed by Candace Schuler

seduced and betrayed
Seduced and Betrayed, Candace Schuler, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Temptation #553

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 🙂

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

Series Overview

This review is of Seduced and Betrayed, #8 in the `Bachelor Arms” series, and book #2 of 3 in the series written by Candace Schuler. (Harlequin Temptation, September 1995).

Plot

The book begins in 1970. A woman finds her boyfriend, naked, in bed with another woman, who is also naked. Their relationship isn’t the only thing that ends that night. 

Fast forward 25 years. Ezekiel “Zeke” Blackstone, 47, the book’s hero, is heading to a planning meeting for his daughter Cameron’s upcoming wedding. He is a famous actor turned producer/director and a major player in Hollywood. Zeke is nervous, however, because this meeting will bring him face-to-face with Ariel Cameron, 43, the heroine of the book, Cameron’s mother, and Zeke’s ex-wife. (They were the couple who broke up in the first paragraph!). Ariel, a successful actress turned model, has been estranged from Zeke for 25 years.

As Zeke takes an apartment–ironically the same one he lived in before at the “Bachelor Arms”–we learn how he and Ariel met, became lovers, married, and the circumstances that led to their divorce.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Seduced and Betrayed by Candace Schuler”

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.

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”

Category Romance Review: A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom

a love to last forever
A Love to Last Forever, Linda Randall Wisdom, Dell, 1986, Diana Voyaloju cover art

Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme #126

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Class of 1966

A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom is a fine romance between two former high school classmates, Stacy McAllister and Clarence “Mike” Harper. It’s 1986, and a 20-year class reunion brings the protagonists together. While Stacy was a popular cheerleader and prom queen who dated the captain/ quarterback of the football team, Mike had been a chubby, pimple-faced nerd who students like Stacy’s boyfriend had picked on.

Characters

Stacy’s life is not running as smoothly as it had years before. She’d once had a promising future with a scholarship to North Western University but gave it up to marry her boyfriend a week after graduation. While that marriage resulted in a daughter, it ended in divorce when Stacy had enough of her husband’s abuse. A second marriage also ended in divorce after she got pregnant with a son.

Now Stacy works in the same small town she grew up in, working as a secretary to a sleazy life insurance salesman and drives an old jalopy of a station wagon.... Read more “Category Romance Review: A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom”

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

Category Romance Review: Tabitha in Moonlight by Betty Neels

tabitha in the moonlight
Tabitha in the Moonlight, Betty Neels, Harlequin, 1972, Bern Smith cover art

Harlequin Romance #1905

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Heroine & the Hero

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Tabitha in Moonlight is a Harlequin Romance about an efficient, capable nurse (aren’t they always in these books?) in an elderly men’s ward. She falls for the new temporary surgeon, the Dutch-born, Dr. Marius van Beek. Betty Neels wields the typical doctor-nurse romance into a Cinderella story, with Tabitha starring as the poor, down-trodden stepdaughter who gets no love from her wicked step-mother and step-sister.

Dr. van Beek plays the prince’s role, but fortunately, this Prince is far more astute than his fairy tale predecessor, not requiring a glass slipper to identify his true lady love.

When first we meet Tabitha, she is presiding over her ward, checking on patients in a pleasant, personal manner, going as far as taking care of one old gentleman’s cat. She’s no beauty, as Neels describes her, but with her lovely figure, wide smile, and fabulous hair that she keeps primly knotted up, the reader knows Tabitha is actually a swan in hiding.

The Plot

Tabitha lives in a little flat near work.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Tabitha in Moonlight by Betty Neels”

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”

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”

Category Romance Review: The Pirate and His Lady by Margaret St. George

the pirate and his lady
The Pirate and His Lady, Margaret St. George, Harlequin, 1992, Cover Artist TBD

Harlequin American Romance #462

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 🙂

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

The Book

Margaret St. George’s The Pirate and His Lady isn’t a historical romance, but a time-traveling adventure published through Harlequin’s American Romance line.

Plot

Elizabeth Rawley is a bookish young woman obsessed with all things pirate, especially the legend of captain Richard Colter and his ship, the Black Cutter which, along with its treasure, had been sunk off the Florida coast after being engaged in a battle over 200 years ago.

While attending a “Pirate’s Ball” she witnesses a strange sight: two ancient-looking ships blasting away at one another in the waters of the sea. When she goes to the shore, she finds a washed-up body. But the man isn’t dead; he’s very much alive and dressed in puffy white Seinfeld shirt and other pirate regalia. Was he a guest of the party dressed in costume? Who could this man be?

Why, it was Richard Colter, the captain of the Black Cutter. How could this be?

Elizabeth takes Richard back to her home.... Read more “Category Romance Review: The Pirate and His Lady by Margaret St. George”

Category Romance Review: Lovers and Strangers (aka Hollywood Nights) by Candace Schuler

lovers and strangers
Lovers and Strangers, Candace Schuler, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Temptation #549

MILD SPOILERS 😉

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

This review is of Lovers and Strangers, book #7 in the “Bachelor Arms” series by Candace Schuler. It’s a Harlequin Temptation from August 1995.

Series Overview

Like JoAnn Ross’ contributions to the “Bachelor Arms”  series, Ms. Schuler’s three books contain a mystery within a mystery. There is an overarching mystery that runs through all 11 books in the series. There is the mystery that is contained in Ms. Schuler’s books (Reviewer note: The versions of the three books I am reviewing are the ebook versions of the original books published from August-October 1995. It appears Ms. Schuler regained the rights to her work from Harlequin and republished the books in 2012/13 under a new series name: Hollywood Nights. Perhaps owing to that, supporting character names and the name of the building have been changed from the print version. However, the titles and the core Harlequin Temptation stories remain intact.)

Plot

The book begins in Los Angeles, 1970. Two brothers, Eric Shannon, 24, and his younger brother Jack, 18, are arguing over plans for a screenplay they’re collaborating on.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Lovers and Strangers (aka Hollywood Nights) by Candace Schuler”

Covers of the Week #26

bandit's brazen kiss

We had a lot of fun a couple of months back doing Covers of the Week #12, where we posted images of when romance covers by talented artists go hilariously bad. So we’re doing it again!

As always, if you’d like to see more cover art, head over to our COVERS section, where you can view pages for individual COVER ARTISTS or take a gander at past Covers of the Week. If you want even more information about romance book covers, check out our COVER LINKS PAGE.

For the week of Monday, October 4 to Sunday, October 10, 2021 (which happens to be my birthday week), enjoy these silly or awful-looking covers that make us smile.

#1 Pino Daeni was a master artist. He was also prolific, producing 3,000 romance covers in a span of 20 years. Sometimes he had to work quickly. So it’s understandable that some of his works might fall short of his best. Bandit’s Brazen Kiss is actually a pretty cover until you realize this isn’t a paranormal romance, and the hero isn’t a centaur. We know he has to have legs to ride a horse, but where are they? Is he just a torso with arms and a head?... Read more “Covers of the Week #26”

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