What were the most notable or popular events from 1998? This Flashback Friday, we go back 25 years in the past to reminisce about pop culture, news, and romance books.
- What Was Happening in Romance and Everything Else 25 Years Ago?
- Sports 1998
- Science and Technology, 1998
- News and Politics 1998
- Music, Film, and Television 1998
- Popular Books
- My Experience As a Romance Reader
- Hot Trends in Romance Novels
- Memorable Romance Novels from 1998
- RWA RITA Award Winners 1998
- Romantic Times Magazine Winners
- Final Thoughts on the Year That Was 1998
What Was Happening in Romance and Everything Else 25 Years Ago?
It’s Flashback Friday, where we look back at the most significant events in the recent past. As the unofficial home for old-school romance novels, being retro is what we’re all about! What was momentous or earth-shattering in the media and culture 20, 25, 30, or even 50 years ago?
Let’s stroll down memory lane while I share some notable events from that year, from personal milestones to cultural and entertainment issues to global news.
As for romance novels, what were the significant highlights from January 1, 1998, to December 31, 1998?
Take a trip with us as we rewind all the way to 1998. It’s hard to fathom that it was 25 years ago!
Hopefully, this journey to the past will be a blast.
My Decade of Sports Addiction Concludes With a Bang
NY Yankee baseball is the lone sports element I vaguely identify with today. But in the early to mid-1990s, I started every morning with a hearty breakfast of ESPN’s flagship program, SportsCenter.
As a New Yorker and Long Islander, I was thrilled throughout the decade to watch the Knicks, Rangers, and Yankees play competitively almost every season.
By the dawn of Y2K, things had changed. 1998 was the last year I recall being passionate about sports.
In 1997, I was lucky to see the (perennial losers) NY Jets play against the (pre-Tom Brady) New England Patriots during the regular season at the NJ Meadowlands—and win! As a long-suffering Jets fan (which is redundant), I was delighted to see them go 12-4 in the 1998 regular season and make it to the AFC Championship game in 1999.
Sure, they lost, but at least it was to the eventual Champions, the Denver Broncos. They won for the second consecutive year, beating the Green Bay Packers 31-24 in Super Bowl XXXII.
The 1998 NBA Finals marked the Chicago Bull’s sixth basketball championship in eight years after they beat the Utah Jazz 4 games to 2. This victory was the second three-peat led by Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson, marking the end of the Bulls’ dynasty.
As a Knicks fan, watching the Bulls’ utter dominance in the Eastern Conference was heartbreaking, which kept my Knicks out of the championships many times.
(Note: I would be delighted to see them reach the Finals next year in 1999, but I was crushed to see them lose to the Spurs of San Antonio. Those high-scoring Texas basketballers were brutal on Madison Square Garden’s “Team D-Fence.”
NBA Lockout: The 1998–1999 NBA season was delayed due to a lockout, which lasted from July 1, 1998, until January 1999.
As for béisbol, that was a hell of a year. Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs and Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals caused a sensation during the great home-run chase to break Babe Ruth’s record of 61 dingers in a season. Although McGwire came out on top with an astonishing 70 homers, both sluggers outhit Ruth. Sosa’s bat slammed 66 balls into the bleachers.
To top that off, my beloved New York Yankees won the World Series, sweeping the San Diego Padres 4-0. The Yankees had a phenomenally dominant season, winning 114 games and losing only 48. Future Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter were team standouts.
While I never saw them live during any of their playoff games, it didn’t matter. Being a Yankee fan between 1996 and 2001 was a blast. The 1998 Yankees were so overpowering that they rank alongside the 1927 Yankees and the 1975 Cincinnati Reds as the most successful teams in baseball history.
In 1998, I got hooked on watching an old childhood favorite: ‘rasslin’—or la lucha libre, as my Papi called it. The Rock and Triple H fought it out all year, with The Rock usually winning his matches.
Stone Cold Steve Austin frequently took on the brutal trio of The Undertaker, his “brother” Kane, and Mick Foley as Cactus Jack (aka Mankind, aka God) each month. And somehow, Stone Cold almost always managed to beat them all.
So it was an incredible moment to behold when my fellow Long Islander and eternal underdog, Mick Foley (Mankind), “won” the Championship belt.
The WWF (now the WWE) was as entertaining to watch as a cheesy telenovela, but with slightly more slapping. Since my little brother and sister always watched Monday Night RAW, it was an excellent way to spend time together.
The 1998 Winter Olympics were held in Nagano, Japan. The games featured new events such as snowboarding and women’s ice hockey.
The FIFA World Cup was held in France, and the host nation won.
The Detroit Red Wings won the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, besting the Washington Capitals four games to one.
Science and Technology, 1998
In 1998, the digital revolution was well underway, although it had not yet reached its full potential. The internet was gaining prominence, with dial-up connections and basic websites becoming increasingly common.
E-commerce was in its infancy, and online communication primarily consisted of email and rudimentary chat rooms.
This digital transformation set the stage for the future of technology and laid the foundation for the digital age we live in today.
1998 was a significant year for scientific breakthroughs. In medicine, researchers have made substantial progress in genetics and genomics. The Human Genome Project, an international research initiative aimed at mapping the entire human genome, was well underway.
In 1998, genetics and genomics made major strides with the sequencing of the roundworm genome. This breakthrough led to further research into understanding the human genome and genetic disorders, bringing hope for personalized medicine and more precise therapies.
Space exploration took a significant leap forward in 1998 with the launch of the International Space Station in November. This ambitious project brought multiple nations’ scientific and technological expertise, fostering international collaboration and cooperation.
The ISS became a symbol of humanity’s quest for knowledge and exploration beyond Earth, serving as a platform for conducting experiments in various scientific fields and laying the groundwork for future space missions.
News and Politics 1998
Politics and world events took center stage in 1998. The impeachment of President Bill Clinton by the House of Representatives sent shockwaves through the United States and the world.
The allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from the Monica Lewinsky scandal captivated the public and led to a highly divisive political climate that exists much worse today!
Eventually, President Clinton was acquitted by the Senate, but the impeachment proceedings burned a lot of idealists.
I remember watching the news of the scandal unfolding and feeling disgusted at every party involved. One side was filled with disgusting liars, and so was the other! The process firmly cemented me as a non-party adherent and contrarian.
1998 also witnessed significant conflicts and crises around the world. The Kosovo War, a bloody armed conflict between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Liberation Army, dominated headlines.
The war, characterized by ethnic tensions and human rights violations, resulted in a NATO intervention to halt the violence. This military intervention and subsequent negotiations eventually led to the establishment of the United Nations-administered province of Kosovo.
Music, Film, and Television 1998
In 1998, the film industry relied heavily on movie theaters and physical home video rentals. Hollywood Video and Blockbuster were the titans of VHS rentals, with the new DVD format skyrocketing in popularity.
That year saw the release of many influential movies and albums that were massive hits.
James Cameron’s Titanic was released during the Christmas season of 1997. It was still a big hit in 1998. As the year’s highest-grossing film, it earned over $2 billion worldwide. Titanic won 11 Oscars at the 70th Academy Awards in 1998, including Best Picture and Best Director for James “King of the World” Cameron.
The film industry witnessed the release of groundbreaking movies such as Saving Private Ryan, directed by Steven Spielberg, which redefined the war genre with its realistic portrayal of World War II. The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey, explored reality, identity, and surveillance themes. The hysterical comedy There’s Something About Mary, with Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz, introduced an innovative alternative to hair gel.
Armageddon had Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck flying into space to nuke a comet headed to destroy Earth. Although it was a popular popcorn flick, I have never been able to watch it in one sitting on television.
Every Thursday night on NBC, home audiences were hooked on the sitcom Friends. I was more of a Frasier and Seinfeld fan. Sadly, I found the latter’s 1998 finale to be incredibly disappointing.
Dawson’s Creek & Buffy the Vampire the Slayer were new hits for the new broadcast channel, the WB. Other popular TV shows from 1998 include Friends, ER, The X-Files, and Ally McBeal.
Seinfeld, widely considered one of the most influential sitcoms of all time, aired its final episode in May to a less-than-impressed record audience who expected a more exciting ending.
In 1998, the music industry was dominated by CDs, cassette tapes, and analog radio. The idea of streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music was inconceivable. MP3 had only been invented at the end of 1997.
Then, in March, The MPMan F10, the first portable MP3 player, was launched. However, this was to minimal success.
I was growing stodgier and found modern music less appealing than ever. 1998 was the first year I lost interest in music, a considerable change from 1995, 1996, and 1997 when I’d attended dozens of concerts in the city.
There were some excellent mainstream stuff, but the pinnacle of 20th-century music had come and gone. The big hits by Janet Jackson, Destiny’s Child, Will Smith, and “boy bands” like The Backstreet Boys and N’Sync were just background noise to me.
Although my little sister did make me appreciate 98 Degrees. She had a mad crush on Nick Lachey!
She would also dance to the Spice Girls. Once in a while, I would join her, boogying with my baby girl in my arms.
Female pop stars like Jewel, LeeAnn Rimes, and Lisa Loeb produced catchy tunes in the late 90s. Madonna’s Ray of Light was enjoyable but not as great as her earlier work. Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, and Whitney Houston, the original VH-1 Divas, still released great songs, but pop and rock were declining.
My kid brother and I agreed Tool was God-tier. Despite a few good rocking singles like Dagula by White Zombie and Kid Rock’s Bawitdaba, I had no fondness for nu-metal such as Korn or Limp Bizkit, although Rammstein was cool. Metallica reached a low point by aping that crappy sound. Worse, they all cut their hair!
Among the artists I enjoyed were Third Eye Blind, Jennifer Paige, Lauryn Hill, Paula Cole, and Savage Garden.
The top Billboard Hot 100 song of the year was Too Close by Next. Other top songs include My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion, The Boy Is Mine by Brandy and Monica, and I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith.
These books were highly acclaimed and received positive reviews from critics and readers alike.
- The Street Lawyer by John Grisham
- The Partner by John Grisham
- The Testament by John Grisham
- Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
- Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
- Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
- The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
My Experience As a Romance Reader
1998 marked a significant chapter in my journey as a young mother and avid romance reader. It was a time of immense challenges, uncertainty, growth, and resilience.
As a 20-year-old girl-turned-woman, I navigated the challenges of early motherhood. After a month in the NICU, my preemie daughter was finally able to come home. However, she would require extra oxygen for the next few months to allow her lungs to develop further.
While caring for my daughter, I sought solace in the familiar pages of romance books. I rediscovered the works of my fellow Suffolk County resident, writer Bertrice Small.
During this period, I also found a few “new-to-me” romance authors whose works captivated me, such as Suzanne Robinson, Penelope Williamson, and Lisa Kleypas. Their riveting storytelling resonated with me during those challenging times. I also remained an avid reader of category romances and enjoyed indulging in light-hearted, entertaining reads.
However, in 1998, I also experienced a shift in my reading preferences, especially with romance books.
Authors like Julie Garwood, Jude Deveraux, and Johanna Lindsey were more successful than ever, releasing their romances in hardcover a year before paperback. Unfortunately, I found myself losing interest in the works of old favorites. Lindsey, Deveraux, and Rebecca Brandewyne were no longer on my automatic buy list.
This change reflected my evolving tastes and the need for different narratives that spoke to my current experiences.
Hot Trends in Romance Novels
Change is a constant in life, and literary genres are no different. As times change, readerships change, and the stories follow suit. In the romance genre, what had been popular among women was getting married later in life due to more education and navigating busy careers while maintaining friendships, relationships, and the challenges of everyday life.
What had been popular 25 years prior in 1973 was no longer appealing to mainstream readers in 1998.
The romance novel industry in 1998 was a time of growth and change. The genre had already established itself as a significant force in the publishing world. Still, it became even more popular as new authors emerged and established authors continued to produce bestsellers.
As the readership of romance novels changed, The romance genre evolved to cater to different readers’ preferences.
Paranormal Romance (PNR)
By 1998, paranormal romance books, or PNR, were huge. This subgenre blended romance with elements of fantasy, science fiction, and the supernatural.
In the mid-1980s, romance novels flirted with these elements. By the 1990s, vampires, shifters, demons, angels, demigods, werewolves, ghosts, and witches could all be protagonists, offering readers a blend of fantasy, passion, and suspense.
Author Christine Feehan gained recognition for her Dark series, which started with the book Dark Prince, featuring vampires and other supernatural creatures.
In 1998 author Dara Joy concluded her Interstellar Matrix of Destiny trilogy with Mine to Take.
Other authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon and Kresley Cole soon came to prominence, enthralling readers with their paranormal love stories.
The Contemporary Romance Genre
One of the biggest trends in romance novels in 1998 was the rise of the contemporary romance subgenre. Romance fans had always been drawn to contemporary reads, but now mainstream “normies” sought these books out as they became more acceptable (i.e., no smutty covers to embarrass the poor dears.)
Readers were looking for stories that reflected modern life and relationships and contemporary romances delivered on that front. These stories often featured working women and men and tackled divorce, single parenthood, and career ambition.
Authors who had written category romances for years were now big names in contemporary, be the books romantic suspense, women’s fiction, chick-lit, or regular romance. Successful authors included Linda Duncan, Tami Hoag, Iris Johansen, Fern Michaels, and Debbie Macomber for their engaging and relatable modern-minded romances.
Nora Roberts continued to dominate the genre with her bestselling novels, including The Reef, River’s End, and True Betrayals, which captivated readers with their compelling characters and emotional journeys.
1998 saw the emergence of multicultural romance. Readers were hungry for stories celebrating diversity and showcasing the experiences of people from different backgrounds and cultures. This led to an increase in romance novels featuring protagonists of color and stories set in different countries and cultures.
Historical romances whisked us away to different eras, while contemporary romances tackled modern-day complexities.
Lisa Kleypas was now a big deal in the historical romance genre, as authors who had been successful in the 1980s branched into new genres, like Judith McNaught. Others, like Johanna Lindsey, signed big contracts with major publishers but released fewer books over time.
Historical romances, in general, seemed to shrink in scope. Books in 1998 averaged around 400 pages, about 50-100 shorter than full-length historicals from a decade earlier.
Scottish Highland romances replaced popular Native American romances. Instead of historicals scanning all periods in different countries, books were more limited to Georgian, Victorian, and Regency-Era England.
However, Western romances, like those by Catherine Anderson, and Medieval romances, by authors such as Lynn Kurland, were still popular. These novels continued to captivate readers with their sweeping tales of love and adventure.
In addition to these trends, there was also a growing interest in erotica. Authors such as Emmas Holly, Bertrice Small, and Susan Johnson were pushing the boundaries of the genre. They wrote steamy and explicit love scenes, and readers responded positively to these new offerings.
The Lady’s Tudor by Robin Schone caused a massive ripple through the genre with its explicit depiction of sexual intimacy. This led to the creation of the erotic romance subgenre, which quickly gained popularity and became a significant segment of the romance novel industry in the years to come.
Its cover design by artist John Ennis was also transformative. The digital image of the heroine’s torso would become a staple of romance covers for the next decade into the new millennium.
Romance Cover Art
However, alongside these personal and industry changes, the publishing landscape was transforming.
While I had been accustomed to the traditional painted covers that adorned the books, the late 1990s saw a shift towards different cover styles. The rise of chick-lit novels and the growing popularity of digital artwork influenced the cover designs, which aimed to attract a wider audience.
While this brought in a new wave of readers, it also meant that talented artists, such as Robert A. Maguire, Elaine Duillo, Pino Daeni, and Max Ginsburg, were retiring or facing limited opportunities, leaving a void in the industry.
Some artists like John Ennis, Franco Accornero, Victor Gadino, Gregge Gulbronson, and Doreen Minuto transitioned quickly into the new style. Young artists like Chris Cocozza, Aleta Rafton-Jenks, Jon Paul Ferrara, and Alan Ayers becoming the new generation of top cover illustrators.
Digital Media and Romance
The rise of the internet changed how fans interacted with their favorite authors and the romance industry in general. With Yahoo and Angelfire, many websites created by fans sprang up, allowing readers to post reviews and disseminate information to a broad audience.
In 1998, websites like All About Romance (back then called Laurie Likes Books) provided readers with comprehensive reviews, recommendations, and lists of the best romance novels of the year.
The rise of digital media and the internet began disrupting the traditional publishing model, and publishers struggled to adapt to these changes.
Even as publishers invested more money in advertising and publicity campaigns, authors were now expected to participate actively. This meant writers had to become more savvy about self-promotion, building their platforms, and engaging with readers through social media and other channels.
Memorable Romance Novels from 1998
In 1998, there were many popular romance novels, several of which became bestsellers.
Some of the most successful romance authors of that year include these books:
- Julia Quinn – The Duke and I
- Jude Deveraux – True Love; The Summerhouse and High Tide
- Julie Garwood – Heartbreaker and Ransom
- Nora Roberts – Once Upon a Rose; The Reef; and Hidden Riches
- Johanna Lindsey – Say You Love Me
- Jayne Ann Krentz – Flash and Deep Waters
- Linda Howard – Son of the Morning and Now You See Her
Some romance authors who published their debut novels in 1998 include:
- Susan Donovan – Knock Me Off My Feet
- Karen Hawkins – The Abduction of Julia
- Rachel Gibson – See Jane Score
- Lori Foster – Jude’s Law
Notable Harlequin and Silhouette romance releases in 1998:
- Father Factor, (The) by Lucy Gordon
- Texan’s Bride, (The) by Diana Palmer
- Wedding Promise, (The) by Carolyn Davidson
- The Passionate Touch by Elizabeth Lowell
- Wild at Heart by Patricia Gaffney
- Cowboy Blues by Anne McAllister
RWA RITA Award Winners 1998
In addition to the bestselling authors, several books in 1998 received recognition and awards from prominent romance organizations.
The Romance Writers of America (RWA), a prominent organization in the romance industry, awarded the prestigious RITA Award for outstanding books in various categories.
Here are the winners of the RITA Awards “Bests” in 1998:
- Short Historical: Homespun Bride by Jillian Hart
- Long Historical: Lord of the Privateers by Stephanie Laurens
- Regency Romance: The Grand Passion by Kat Martin
- Contemporary Single Title: Ransom by Julie Garwood
- Contemporary Series Romance: A Child’s Christmas by Kathryn Shay
- Romantic Suspense: Eyes of Fire by Heather Graham Pozzessere
- Paranormal Romance: Heart Search by Robin D. Owens
- Inspirational Romance: The Tender Texan by Jodi Thomas
- Traditional Romance: Wild Irish Rose by Patricia Hagan
- First Book: The Oak Leaves by Maureen Lang
- Long Historical Romance: Shanna’s Princes by Lori Copeland
- Short Historical Romance: A Christmas Waltz by Jane Goodger
- Best Contemporary Romance: The Return of Jonah Gray by Heather Graham Pozzessere
- Romantic Suspense: Raven’s Prey by Jayne Ann Krentz
- Romance: Shadowlander by Theresa Scott
- Regency Romance: The Wagered Widow by Patricia Veryan
- Young Adult Romance: The China Garden by Liz Berry
- Traditional Romance: The English Rose by Madeline Baker
- Inspirational Romance: The Shepherd’s Voice by Robin Lee Hatcher
- Novel with Strong Romantic Elements: Life Without Water by Nancy Peacock
Romantic Times Magazine Winners
Romantic Times Magazine, a popular publication dedicated to romance novels, also recognized outstanding works through its annual Reviewers’ Choice Awards.
The 1998 winners of each category of romance books are listed below.
KISS (‘KNIGHT IN SHINING SILVER’) HERO: Two Brothers: The Gunslinger and The Lawman by Linda Lael Miller
ROMANCE OF THE YEAR: The Bride Finder by Susan Carroll
HISTORICAL NOVEL: Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati
HISTORICAL ROMANCE IN A SERIES: Devil’s Bride, Stephanie Laurens
FIRST HISTORICAL ROMANCE: The Pirate Prince, Gaelen Foley
FIRST REGENCY ROMANCE: Lord Monteith’s Gift, Nancy Butler
REGENCY HISTORICAL ROMANCE: Forbidden Magic, Jo Beverley
REGENCY ROMANCE: Best Laid Schemes, Emma Jensen
BRITISH ISLES HISTORICAL ROMANCE: The Last Hellion, Loretta Chase
AMERICAN HISTORICAL ROMANCE: Rachel’s Passage, Paula Reid
MEDIEVAL ROMANCE: Another Chance to Dream, Lynn Kurland
WESTERN HISTORICAL ROMANCE: Never Love a Cowboy by Jill Gregory
HISTORICAL ROMANTIC ADVENTURE: Written in the Stars, Katherine O’Neal
ROMANTIC MYSTERY HISTORICAL: Priceless, Mandalyn Kaye
HISTORICAL LOVE & LAUGHTER: Hellion, Gloria Dale Skinner
INNOVATIVE HISTORICAL ROMANCE: That Scandalous Evening, Christina Dodd
Best Contemporary Romance
FANTASY: Essence of My Desire, Jill Jones
ROMANCE: Baby, I’m Yours, Susan Andersen
GENERAL NOVEL: A Woman’s Heart, JoAnn Ross
MINI-SERIES ROMANCE: Overruled by Love, M.J. Rodgers
ROMANTIC SUSPENSE: French Quarter, Stella Cameron
SUSPENSE NOVEL: The Perfect Husband, Lisa Gardner
MULTICULTURAL ROMANCE: One Special Moment, Brenda Jackson
INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE: The Silver Sword, Angela Elwell Hunt
Category or Series Romance
SERIES ROMANCE BOOK OF THE YEAR: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear // Hawken’s Heart, Suzanne Brockmann
FIRST SERIES ROMANCE: The Bodyguard’s Bride, Jean Brashear
LOVESWEPT: Amazing Grace, Eve Gaddy
AMERICAN ROMANCE: Gift-Wrapped Dad, Muriel Jensen
INTRIGUE: Nowhere Man, Rebecca York
LOVE & LAUGHTER: How the West Was Wed, Jule McBride
PRESENTS: The Reluctant Fiancee, Jacqueline Baird
ROMANCE: Wanted: Perfect Wife, Barbara McMahon
SUPERROMANCE: Cop of the Year, Kathryn Shay
TEMPTATION: Hunk of the Month, JoAnn Ross
DESIRE: His Seductive Revenge by Susan Crosby
SPECIAL EDITION: A Hero for Sophie Jones by Christine Rimmer
INTIMATE MOMENTS: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (later retitled Hawken’s Heart) by Suzanne Brockmann
ROMANCE: With This Child… by Sally Carleen
YOURS TRULY: A Husband for Christmas by Jo Ann Algermissen
LOVE INSPIRED: Logan’s Child, Lenora Worth
Final Thoughts on the Year That Was 1998
Ultimately, 1998 marked a pivotal year for the romance publishing industry, with the genre evolving in exciting ways.
The romance novels of 1998 encompassed diverse subgenres that catered to the preferences of different readers. Lines like Arabesque specifically catered to African-American readers. Meanwhile, paranormal and erotic romances enticed those seeking a departure from conventional love stories. Contemporary romances delved into the intricacies of modern relationships and frequently addressed societal matters.
The path since 1998 has been filled with its own challenges and triumphs. The world has evolved in unimaginable ways, with technology transforming how we live, work, and connect.
Hopefully, this flashback to 1998 will take you into a happy period in romance book history.
If you would like Sweet Savage Flame to review any of the books listed above, please let us know in the comments.
As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.