Category: Romance

Author Spotlight Charlotte Lamb

charlotte lamb pic

My Charlotte Lamb Experience

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

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

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

seduction

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

Link: The History of the Clinch Covers

night song

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

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

The History of the Clinch Cover With Art of the Clinch

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

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”

Covers of the Week #25

swan bride otsuka

Artist Ken Otsuka

Some romance cover artists work for only a brief time period in the field yet leave a lasting impact. Japanese-born-American artist Ken Otsuka painted sweet book covers in the 1990s for publishing houses such as Kensington’s Zebra and Bantam’s Fanfare lines. For over 40 years Otsuka has worked in commercial and then fine arts. His seascapes are so realistic, you can swear you hear the ocean while gazing upon them.

Whether he created romantic moonscapes, fantasy-romance clinch covers, or whimsical stepbacks featuring a swan-lake or snowy background, his artwork appeals to the romantic senses.

For the week of Monday, September 27, 2021, to Sunday, October 3, let’s take delight in the beauty of Ken Otsuka’s romance covers!

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”

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

Review by Introvert Reader

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

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

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

A Master Artist

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

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

Breakfast At Tiffany’s Movie Poster

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

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

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

Romance, A Genre Bound By Limitations?

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

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

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

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

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”

Contemporary Romance Review: Sometimes a Stranger by Angela Alexie

Sometimes A Stranger, Angela Alexie, Pocket Books/ Richard Gallen, 1981, cover artist TBD

Gallen Contemporary Romance #43801-8

Spoiler Free Review 😊

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Mary Anne Landers

A Category Romance on Steroids

Like big, dramatic contemporary romances set in glamorous, exciting milieus? With dynamic characters and lots of plot? Then I recommend Sometimes a Stranger by Angela Alexie.

It was originally published in 1981 as part of the Richard Gallen imprint from Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. The edition I read came from Paradise Press, a reprint house, in 1990. Can’t say I care much for the cover graphics of my copy. But the text itself—wow!

It does something unusual for a contemporary romance of any generation. Typically stories in this genre take place in “the eternal present.” There are no dates as in historical romances. It’s assumed that what’s going on can happen when the work is first published and any time thereafter.

Trouble is, the present ISN’T eternal. Things change. I imagine some readers (not including me) get put off when vintage-contemporary romances employ the fashions, pop culture, technology, and social attitudes of their times.... Read more “Contemporary Romance Review: Sometimes a Stranger by Angela Alexie”

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”

A Closer Look At Sharon Spiak

the hawk and the dove
Sharon Spiak at work

Spiak, The Book Cover Illustrator

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

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

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

Spiak, The Book Covers

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

Category Romance Review: Whisper to the Waves by Helen Beaumont

whisper to the waves
Whisper to the Waves, Helen Beaumont, Sapphire, 1982, Cover Artist TBD

Sapphire Romance

Spoiler Free Review 😊

Rating: 4 out of 5.

4 Stars

Reviewed by Mary Anne Landers

Welcome aboard!

Whisper to the Waves is a good contemporary romance that with a little tweaking could’ve been an excellent one. It was published by RCA Marketing in 1982 in its Sapphire Romance series. These were American reprints of British originals; this one was first published by Hamlyn Paperbacks in 1981. 

All I know about the author is that “Helen Beaumont” might be a pseudonym. She wrote romances under at least three other names. And there’s more than one author with this name.

Whoever she was, she displays here a keen sense of just what makes a story romantic. And emotional; this one is full of drama. All centered on a heroine I can readily admire and identify with, a woman of deep feelings and a truly romantic disposition. Her story is a moving and memorable read. I would’ve given it five stars if not for–well, more about that later.

Are shipboard romances real?

Sadie Wyman works as a nurse aboard the ocean liner Konkordia, under the ship’s physician Dr.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Whisper to the Waves by Helen Beaumont”

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”

Category Romance Review: Tonight and Forever by Brenda Jackson

Tonight and Forever, Brenda Jackson, Pinnacle, 1995, Cover Artist TBD

Arabesque Romance

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Brenda Jackson’s Tonight and Forever is her first published book and the first in her long-running series of the Madaris family. It’s a Pinnacle Arabesque romance from 1995, which are category romances but are not numbered, at least not to my knowledge.

Plot And Characters

Lorren Jacobs has left behind her past in California to return to her roots in Texas. After a bad marriage led to a bitter divorce, all she wants is to be with the people she loves and focus on her career of writing children’s books. At a party, the successful doctor Justin Madaris catches sight of her and is instantly smitten. Lorren is a beautiful woman, and receiving male attention is natural, but she wants none of that. Especially not from handsome men like Justin Madaris.

While Lorren had an unhappy marriage to a horrible man, Justin is a widower of ten years. His marriage was happy, but sadly, his wife is dead. Justin, however, is still in the realm of the living and is willing to live and love.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Tonight and Forever by Brenda Jackson”

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”

Covers of the Week #23

fire blossom

Who Loves Elaine Duillo? I Do!

By Mary Anne Landers

Our blog mistress Jacqueline Diaz invited me to submit an article with my four favorite covers from vintage romances. Well, I don’t have just four favorites. Of ANYTHING! But she’s letting me post four favorites by the leading illustrators of our genre and period. Each in one blog post.

For my first such post, I want to honor the late, great Elaine Duillo (1928 to 2021). She left us on July 30 of this year and had been retired for some time. But her wonderful illustrations live on.

I picked four covers of hers that haven’t already been posted elsewhere on this blog. With a bit of background and my comments. If you can fill in any info I missed, please add it in the comments. And I welcome your own reactions.

1) Stepback cover for Fireblossom by Cynthia Wright, Ballantine, 1992. An old-fashioned quilt. A log cabin. The prairies of the Midwest. The hardscrabble life on the American frontier in the nineteenth century. These are images and concepts I don’t usually associate with sex. But Elaine Duillo made everything hot!

2) Warrior’s Woman by Johanna Lindsey, science fiction romance, Avon, 1990.... Read more “Covers of the Week #23”

Category Romance Review: Driving Force by Sally Wentworth

Driving Force, Sally Wentworth, Harlequin, 1988, Cover Artist TBD

Harlequin Presents #1197

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Driving Force, a Sally Wentworth Harlequin Presents, offers few surprises but is a satisfactory read regardless.

Characters

West Marriot– our hero, not a 3-star hotel but a famous race car driver–was terribly injured in a race several months ago. Madeleine French, a nurse and physiotherapist, had been married to West for four years. Maddy couldn’t withstand the anxiety of being married to a man with such a dangerous career, so she gave him an ultimatum, married life or fast cars. When he refused to quit, she left him. Several months later, West was in an accident that immobilized him.

Maddy receives a call from West’s mother, requesting to catch up. In fact, Laura, West’s mother, declares to Laura West isn’t recovering at all and may never walk again. She begs Maddy to come to help her ex-husband, and although Maddy initially refuses, in time, she realizes she still loves her ex and can’t abandon him. Maddy knows it won’t be easy for West to accept her, as their divorce was acrimonious, with West, a man a proud man, begging Maddy to stay.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Driving Force by Sally Wentworth”

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”

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