Flashback: The Biggest or Noteworthy Romance Novels 30 Years Ago (1991)

flashback 1991

Let’s Look Back At Romance’s Past

At Sweet Savage Flame we love to look back to the past. After all, old-school romances are what we review! Now that we’re nearing the year’s end, there’s even more reason to look back at what came before us.

Let’s rewind all the way to…1991.

Back In Time 30 Years Ago

What was I doing back then? I was 14 on January 1, 1991. It was my confirmation year. In the Autumn of ’91, I started high school.

On tv I watched my soaps, Loving, All My Children, One Life to Live, then General Hospital in the daytime. Sitcoms to watch at night included Roseanne, Coach, The Golden Girls, and The Simpsons. On Nickelodeon, I watched Ren and Stimpy, Rugrats (I had little siblings), and the Canadian teen soap opera, Fifteen.

As far as music went, grunge was in full swing. As an avid metalhead I therefore avoided mainstream rock. Hits by bands like Color Me Badd, C+C Music Factory, TKA, and Mariah Carey had me dancing to the radio.

For romance reading, I subscribed to Harlequin Temptations, Harlequin Historicals, and Zebra Lovegrams. I read Lady Chatterley’s Lover and loved it. I also got my first kiss. It was nothing special, and I wouldn’t have a boyfriend until I was 16.

Romance Novels From 1991

What were the most popular romances from thirty years ago? We came to this list after looking at Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher’s Weekly, and NY Times Best Seller lists. Hopefully, these will take you back to a happy time period in romance history.

Some of these books we’ve reviewed, but many we haven’t.

Want Sweet Savage Flame to review any of these books? Let us know in the comments.

Category Romance

For The Love of Lilah, Nora Roberts, Silhouette, 1991, John Solie cover art
  • Night Shift by Nora Roberts, Silhouete Intimate Moments #365, January 1991
  • Luring A Lady by Nora Roberts, Silhouette
  • Courting Catherine by Nora Roberts, Silhouette Romance #801, June 1991
  • For the Love of Lilah by Nora Roberts, Silhouette Special Edition #685, August 1991
  • Sleeping Partners by Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin
  • A Forbidden Loving by Penny Jordan, Harlequin
  • A Fiery Baptism by Lynne Graham, Harlequin
  • Tempestuous Reuninon by Lynne Graham, Harlequin
  • Angel Creek by Linda Howard, Silhouette

Contemporary Single Issue Romance

  • Paradise by Judith McNaught, Atria (Released on hardcover, this was revolutionary in romance, where most romance authors printed directly to massmarket paperback first.)
  • Texas! Chase by Sandra Brown, Fanfare/ Bantam, (The romance of a widower and an old friend who was involved in his wife’s death. $4.99)
  • Texas! Sage by Sandra Brown, Fanfare/ Bantam
  • Silver Linings by Jayne Ann Krentz, Pocket Books

Historical Romance

  • And One Wore Blue by Heather Graham, Dell
  • Behind Closed Doors by Betina Krahn, Avon
  • The Gift by Julie Garwood, Pocket Books
  • Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey, Avon
  • Prisoner of My Desire by Johanna Lindsey, Avon
  • The Prize by Julie Garwood, Pocket (In 1066, a Saxon woman marries a Norman warrior. $5.50) 
  • Scandal by Amanda Quick, Bantam
  • Season of the Sun by Catherine Coulter
  • Uncommon Vows by Mary Jo Putney
  • Rainbow’s End by Rebecca Brandewyne, Warner
  • The Conquest by Jude Deveraux, Pocket
  • Love & Triumph by Patricia Hagan, Avon
  • The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale, Avon
  • Through a Dark Mist by Marsha Canham, Dell
  • Promise Me Forever by Janelle Taylor, Zebra
  • The Duchess by Jude Deveraux, Pocket
  • Lady Gallant by Suzanne Robinson, Bantam

Paranormal Romance (Time Travel, Science Fiction, Etc.,)

  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon Dell (Outlander was recognized by the Romance Writers of America as 1991’s “Best Romance of the Year.”  $4.99)
  • A Time For Love by Contstance O’Day-Flannery, Zebra
  • Beyond the Starlit Frost by Rebecca Brandewyne, Pocket Books
  • A Moment in Time by Bertrice Small, Ballantine
  • Once In a Lifetime by Constance O’Day-Flannery, Zebra

Inspirational Romance

  • Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Romantic Fiction

  • Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley, (I remember purchasing Life magazine because they had a huge layout on the when this book was announced. When it was released I couldn’t afford hardbacks, so I had to wait until the paperback edition came out. Then I watched the TV miniseries. Sean Bean was the lone highlight there. At least the sequel to Gone With the Wind had a happy ending.)

1991 RITA Winners (For Books Published In 1990)

The Sandalwood Princess, Loretta Chase, Avon, 1991 cover artist unknown

Best First Book: Black Horse Island by Dee Holmes
Long Contemporary Series Romance: Patrick Gallagher’s Widow by Cheryl Reavis
Regency Romance: The Sandalwood Princess by Loretta Chase
Romantic Suspense: Night Spice by Karen Keast
Series Historical Romance: A Wild Yearning by Penelope Williamson
Short Contemporary Series Romance: Step into My Parlor by Jan Hudson
Single Title Historical Romance: Where Love Dwells by Elizabeth Stuart
Traditional Romance: Song of the Lorelei by Lucy Gordon
Best Romance of 1990: The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale

Books We Have Reviewed From 1991

This entry was posted in Discussion, Romance, year 1991 and tagged on by .

About Jacqueline Diaz

Old-School, retro, and vintage romance reads are my jam, baby! The good, the bad, the cheesy, and the sleazy! I have no shame about it; I love ’em! An auto-didact, amateur historian, and reader of romance novels since 1990, I hope to offer a unique perspective on the genre. As a blogger, you may know me by several names; here, I’m Jacqueline Diaz. I’m also the aspiring author of two works-in-progress, historical romances, The Savage Noble and What She Says with Her Eyes, which hopefully will be released in 2023.

7 thoughts on “Flashback: The Biggest or Noteworthy Romance Novels 30 Years Ago (1991)

    1. jacquelinediaz

      Thank you, Iris! It took a couple of hours to get a list together, but wasn’t so hard as I fortuitously had access to NY Times articles and my reading journal from 1991! I hold on to EVERYTHING book-related. Now if I try to go back to 1981…that will be difficult as I turned 4 that year so, I don’t remember much about pop culture except Romper Room!

      Yes, that cover is gorgeous and it’s one of those mysteries I hope to solve, especially as it’s a favorite.

      Hope you’re doing well!

      1. Mary Anne Landers

        Thanks, Jacqueline. Wow, what a memory! I remember some of the things I was doing in 1991. But not what I was reading. I’ve never kept a reading journal. But I still have issues of “Romantic Times” from this period, so I must’ve been reading romances.

        Two of these books in your article are pretty well-known, even outside the rom fic field. As for those that aren’t, and that you haven’t already reviewed, I’d enjoy your reviews of any of them. Whether or not the book itself is up my alley!

        1. Jacqueline Diaz

          Hello, Mary Anne!

          It’s nice to see you, as always. 🙂

          Memory is a weird thing. If I can associate an event with a book, a television show, film, a song, smells, or even food, I can recall it quite vividly. Otherwise–unless it was a special occasion–without a sensory record in my mind, time blends together. I have ADD (or what they now call Inattentive ADHD), so my short term recollection is scattered. I’ve been using (to some success) a physical planner and lessons from cognitive behavorial therapy to remedy that. But reading books has always helped best.

          Those RT magazines you have are a wonderful source of history! I tossed out my late 2000s-early 2010 issues in a rare bout of spring cleaning and regret it. Romantic Times, Laurie Likes Books/the old All About Romance site, and The Romance Reader are gone from the web, and they would have made this Flashback Article a cinch to create. The interent is so ephemeral; as knowledge gets congregated into one space, it’s easier for it to be wiped out. I saw that when IMDB deleted their forums. So much knowledge about the history of movies and tv, gone forever.

          Except for the RT winners and a couple of Nora Roberts books, I’ve read most all romances on this list, so I’ll try to get to them. 1991 was a geat year for reading and there are lots authors that are yet to be reviewed!

          Happy reading!


  1. Miss Bates

    Wow! Didn’t realize some of my formative romances came out in ’91: Paradise is my ultimate comfort read. Redeeming Love was intense and unforgettable; the Garwoods, terrific; Kinsale’s Shadow and Star, though I’m not a Kinsale fan, is her best, IMHO. I can’t stand Outlander, but it sure is super-influential, though not a romance.

    1. jacquelinediaz

      Hello Miss Bates!

      It wasn’t until writing this article that it dawned on me how monumental 1991 was, both personally and book-wise. So many authors were hitting their stride in the early nineties, shaking off the “bodice ripper” cliches to create engaging love stories.

      I definitely agree Outlander is more historical fiction with romantic elements rather than romance. Although as a standalone, the first book could work as a romance if you go no further, since it ends on a happy note. That’s where I stopped. Claire killing a wolf with her bare hands was too much for me and I don’t get the big deal about Jamie. As you said, it’s super influential though.



      1. Miss Bates

        I hear and agree! I listened to Outlander on audio, twas as far as I wanted to go and happy to think of the series ending right there, on that “happy note”. Cheers to you!


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