Sweet Savage love

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers

historical romance review
Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1974
Illustrator: Unknown, H. Tom Hall
Book Series: Ginny & Steve #1, Morgan & Challenger Saga #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 636
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers


Sweet Savage Love, The (Other) Mother of Romance

Where to begin with this review? Sweet Savage Love by the great Rosemary Rogers is–along with Kathleen E. WoodiwissThe Flame and the Flower–the blockbuster historical that launched a new genre: the modern romance novel.

Published by Avon in 1974, this 700+ page doorstopper was a monumental game-changer in an era of social transformation. Sweet Savage Love showed readers that “good” women could have passionate sex with a hero outside of marriage and also have passionate sex with men other than the hero.

Of course, the hero was laying pipe across the United States and Mexico, the primary setting for Sweet Savage Love.

This is a true bodice ripper, featuring rape, forced seduction, abduction, cheating, adultery, multiple sex partners, a dominant, magnetic hero, and a heroine who stomps her feet in anger while her eyes flash in defiance.

Sweet Savage Love, Alternative Cover version, Avon, Tom Hall cover art

The Hero & The Heroine

Our heroine Virginia “Ginny” Brandon, is the half-French, half-American convent-raised daughter of a US Senator. She has fiery copper hair and flashing, slanted green eyes.

Ginny loves to dance like a gypsy, kicking her legs up in the air, her skirts swirling around her. You will hear this repeated constantly throughout the book.

Steve Morgan is this romance’s–ahem–hero. He is a darkly-tanned former Union soldier with deep blue eyes and black hair.

Rogers modeled him after Clint Eastwood, among others. I also got a Gregory Peck vibe from “Duel In the Sun” about Steve.

Imagine the most macho, virile man you possibly can. Picture ovulating women throwing themselves at his feet while low-T males shrink in self-awareness as that super-male confidently swaggers by.

That imaginary ideal isn’t fit to be a pimple sprouting hair on Steve Morgan’s muscular chest.

Steve is a soldier, a spy, a cowboy, and a Comanche ally. He’s a wealthy ranchero of mixed American and Spanish-Mexican descent. He is muy hombre, as we shall see.

Sweet Savage Love, Alternate Version, Troubador

The Epic Plot

Steve the Stud Meets Ginny the Dancing Gypsy

The lovely Virginia Brandon returns to the United States from France, where she had been raised in a convent. Her widowed father has remarried a gorgeous woman young woman. Much, much younger.

Ginny’s stepmother, Sonya, is quite familiar with Steve “The Stud” Morgan. They shared a passionate night together, where Steve practically raped her. Of course, Sonya enjoyed his illicit forced seduction. There are few women who haven’t fallen prey to Steve’s animal magnetism.

A scandal ensues from Sonya and Steve’s dalliance and Steve finds himself potentially facing the death penalty. He agrees to act as a spy in exchange for his life. It’s suspected that Senator Brandon is up to traitorous acts.

Senator Brandon has interests in Mexico, particularly with the controlling government of Emperor Maximillian. Steve–who is against the French–is charged with accompanying the Brandons across the country. He plans to draw them into a trap with the help of some Bandidos. The plot takes off from here.

Steve kidnaps Ginny, and though she fights him like a hellion, she–like all women with a pulse–falls for his ultra studliness. Circumstances find Ginny and Steve caught in a compromising situation and they are forced to marry.

But do you think marriage will stop Esteban Alvarado (Steve’s Spanish name) from being el tigere that he is? No way. He’s kissing broads in front of his new wife and banging other women on the side.

sweet savage love bodice ripper
Sweet Savage Love, Alternate Version, Troubador

Two Strong-Willed, Beautiful Idiots

The best part of the story is when Ginny and Steve are trekking through the Western wilderness. But Rogers doesn’t like her characters being happy. She throws everything imaginable at them.

The action takes us to Mexico, where Ginny and Steve are separated multiple times. There are lies, deceptions, and double-crosses. Mexican soldiers violate Ginny. A deranged doctor tortures Steve…and then some!

Ginny believes Steve is dead, so she becomes the willing mistress of a young señor.

When she finds out Steve is alive, she goes in search of him. Steve believes Ginny betrayed him, so he despises her, even as he lusts after her ravishing body. Lack of communication and big misunderstandings rule the day.

Oh, will these crazy kids just get over themselves and stay together forever?

My Opinion

Hablo Espanole?

One thing I recall about Sweet Savage Love is that much of the Spanish written was almost gibberish. This was a common occurrence in a lot of 1970s and 1980s romances, be they Harlequin Presents or bodice rippers. Rosemary Rogers’ good friend Shirlee Busbee had that same issue in her book While Passion Sleeps.

Spanish is, I think, the third most common language on Earth. It should have been easy for a former secretary like Rogers to get an English-to-Spanish dictionary and copy down a few words.

Ah, well, that’s a minor gripe.

rosemary rogers bodice ripper

Fast and Furious

The book is divided into sections and begins with a long prologue. It’s a hefty brick of a novel with words in tiny font. Thankfully, Rogers’ prose isn’t as purple and verbose as Woodiwiss’, so the pace is fast.

Still, Rogers has a penchant for repeating descriptions. Mentions of Ginny’s coppery hair and slanted green eyes and Steve’s lean, muscular figure seemed to be on every page. It got tedious.

Once the book got rolling, Sweet Savage Love was a gripping read. Rogers threw so much trauma at her characters; sometimes, I didn’t want to look!

This novel is not for the squeamish, sensitive reader. I first read this at 13, which I think was too young to truly appreciate the grand scope of this tawdry bodice ripper. Sweet Savage Love scared me. I couldn’t conceive heroes and heroines could act the way Ginny and Steve did.

It wasn’t until well into my twenties that I could handle that kind of behavior because my perspectives on romance novels had expanded to be open to new experiences.

sweet savage love rosemary rogers
Sweet Savage Love, Harlequin, 2014

Final Analysis of Sweet Savage Love

Sweet Savage Love is a seminal piece of fiction, a lusty saga all lovers of old-school romance should read.

I wouldn’t rank it the most incredible bodice ripper ever, however. Christine Monson’s Stormfire, Teresa Denys’ The Flesh and the Devil and The Silver Devil, and Anita Mills’ Lady of Fire are better written and engaging.

In my opinion, Rogers’ Wicked Loving Lies is her best book, with more sensitive characterization and deeper themes. It was just more fun than Sweet Savage Love.

The protagonists were wishy-washy and emotional, despite being adults. (At least Steve was a full-grown adult. I think Ginny was 16 or 17 in the beginning.) Steve was a slut. Ginny was a Mary Sue, too beautiful and desirable.

The immature duo couldn’t decide if they wanted to be together or not. The only thing these two could agree on was that they liked banging.

Even so, I enjoyed this overall. Ginny and Steve were larger-than-life people in a story that was larger-than-life.

Sweet Savage Love is an experience you won’t want to miss. It’s a thrilling co-progenitor of the modern romance genre.

I’d rate this bodice ripper between 4 and 4.5 stars. Although it’s not without flaws, I’d say it does merit a high mark.

4.24 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.2


A tale of human emotion that lays bare the heights and depths of love, passion and desire in old and new worlds…as we follow Virginia Brandon, beautiful, impudent and innocent, from the glittering ballrooms of Paris to the sensuality of life in New Orleans to the splendor of intrigue-filled Mexico.

A tale of unending passion, never to be forgotten…the story of Virginia’s love for Steven Morgan, a love so powerful that she will risk anything for him…even her life.

surrender to love

Historical Romance Review: Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers

historical romance review
Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Unknown
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Victorian Era Romance
Pages: 612
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers


The Book

Rosemary Rogers, the “Grande Dame of Bodice Rippers,” wrote a few exceptional epic romances. Alas, Surrender to Love wasn’t one of them. It’s my least liked of her books I’ve read so far.

The Heroine

Surrender to Love begins in the hot, sultry nation of Ceylon, where the British heroine Alexa lives. Alexa is so spunky. She hates convention. Why-oh-why do rules have to be so strict for women, and why couldn’t she have been born a man?

Look, I like feminist heroines in my bodice rippers. A meek, wishy-washy heroine in one is no fun, but Alexa… It just never ended with her. Everything was political. That attitude is very draining.

But the worst aspect about her is reading her inner monologues. They’re jam-packed with randomly italicized words, sometimes just a couple per page, sometimes dozens. It made me crazy.

Alexa is one of those wild heroines who courts danger and is susceptible to intense mood swings. I got the suspicion it was the author’s menopausal mania slipping in. (I’m feeling it myself these days.)

I got a strong sense of Alexa’s mental instability with her long internal rants. Or when she’s scratching the hero Nicholas’s face off. Or sobbing hysterically in front of him. Basically, every scene underscores her fluctuating moods.

The writing was erratic. For example, POV changes without warning, just within one paragraph.

And did I mention those italics?

The Plot

Alexa wants to be independent in a society constricted by stultifying rules. She meets Nicholas Dameron, who’s as wild as she is.

Their relationship is a tug-and-pull game that goes on for too long. There’s no consummation until page 337 of this 612-page brick, which ticked me off.

The tempo in Surrender to Love is more sluggish than the other Rogers books I’ve encountered, even the profoundly introspective The Wildest Heart. The pacing plods on.

It turned around after Part Two, but it was rough when a book doesn’t have not much happening for the first 200 pages. Alexa gets involved in a few scandals and then marries an older husband who brings her to the “Temple of Venus” to catch a naughty peep show or two.

She is soon widowed and goes to England to take society by storm.

Eventually, I saw where Rogers was going with the plot; it’s a tale of a woman who defies the stifling conventions of the Victorian Era through her overt sexuality.

I wondered if Rogers was ever a fan of Mexican telenovelas. The hidden family secrets, brutish hero, and spunky heroine reminded me of Alondra, which was about a “beautiful, rebellious girl, with very independent and progressive views for that time” (i.e., she has sex with other men besides the hero) who looks and acts just like Alexa.

rosemary rogers bodice rippers
The cast of the Mexican telenovela Alondra.

Random Observations on Surrender to Love

All the Viscounts of this-and-that running around got confusing. But at least they weren’t Dukes!

Nicholas Dameron was too nebulous, too enigmatic for a hero, which is unusual for me to criticize. Despite learning the history of his first wife, I didn’t understand him at all.

As always, Rogers drew upon themes of women’s liberation. This time it came on a bit thick.

Yes, Alexa, we get it. Being a woman in the 19th century was smothering and oppressive. However, she was part of the wealthy upper class, plus beautiful & widowed. Alexa had privileges that the average woman of her time did not share.

Alexa’s rash impetuosity was a major flaw. She never thought about her actions first. She was capricious and blamed her troubles on outside forces.

Nobody forced her to move to London and deal with the repressive London ton, but she had to have her “revenge” on Nicholas for ruining her in Ceylon.

Sure, Alexa, it was revenge you were after.

The world was that woman’s oyster, but she had a hankering for geoduck:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
That’s a shellfish. What did you think it was?

The first two hundred pages could have been condensed to half that amount. The ending was weird (although not the “trial” and a whipping scene, which was awesome). One moment Alexa is engaged to Charles, her consummation with him is glossed over, and then she ends up married to Nicholas.

Happy ending, I guess?

Final Analysis of Surrender to Love

Surrender to Love wasn’t Rosemary Roger’s best romance. She’s written far better.

Strong characterization, a staple of her works, is missing here. The heroine was a manic mess. Nicholas, the hero, was too distant and mysterious to be appreciated.

The villains weren’t exciting. Although I liked Alexa’s evil grandma, she was the Diet Coke of evil: just one calorie, not evil enough. Same opinion of the Marquess. But as long as I kept imagining Mexican actress Beatriz Sheridan as the evil Dowager Marchioness, I had a good time with that particular villainess.

Beatriz Sheridan

I would have given Surrender to Love a less than favorable rating but settled on three stars because the pluses slightly outweighed the negatives.

But, oh, those annoying italics made it difficult. 

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 2.9


Under the midnight moon of Ceylon, on the night of her debutante ball at the Governor’s palace, Alexa Howard met her cousin, Nicholas Dameron. And in the sardonic curl of his hard, sensuous lips, in the commanding arrogance of his eyes, Alexa beheld the fierce, implacable passion that would render her helpless to the trembling slavery of desire…

Every kind of love a woman can be made to feel…
Within the golden softness of Alexa’s alluring gentility flowed the insatiable fires of an innocent woman’s awakening to lvoe — and the fury of a betrayed woman’s lust for revenge. Through the nightworlds of Naples, Rome, Paris and London, she was pursued by the man who heartlessly wanted her beauty. But her soul was possessed by the man whose touch was unbearable ecstasy, whose cruelty was ravishing torment, whose tenderness was passion’s fulfillment. Nicholas Dameron had taken her virtue and mocked her pride. But his love was the offering of every pleasure a woman has ever dared to dream of…

Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers
wicked loving lies rosemary rogers

Historical Romance Review: Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers

historical romance review
Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1976
Illustrator: Robert McGinnis
Book Series: Challenger #1/ Morgan-Challenger #3
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 663
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers


The Book

Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers is her fourth and–in my opinion–her best book. This is peak bodice ripper fun; it’s salacious, entertaining, and attempts (and succeeds) at profundity.

I’ll probably rewrite a more in-depth analysis of this historical romance at another time. For now, here are my reading notes assembled into a semblance of a review.

His lips touched the back of her neck and moved along her stubborn shoulder. One hand stroked her breasts, and the other moved unerringly between her thighs; he found the most sensitive part of her and moved against her and in her until her half-formed protests turned into soft, stifled moans.


The Story

Readers, do these plot points sound fun to you?

  • Traveling to almost every continent in the world
  • Affairs with noblemen, warriors, and even Napoleon!
  • Being a criminal on the run
  • Highwaymen, high seas action, and harems
  • Buttsecks
  • Getting branded with your husband’s initials after he bangs you in front of your new lover… And then said lover gets so aroused, he bangs you afterward!

If you have a high threshold for triggering issues like:

  • Overbearing alphas,
  • Forced seduction
  • Forced marriage of convenience
  • Adultery
  • Rape
  • Slavery
  • Racism
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Divorce
  • Abandonment
  • A mother having her only child taken away from her

Plus, enjoy a hefty dose of second-wave feminism from a heroine who goes to hell and back several times over…

If any of this sounds like your idea of a thrilling read–because it certainly is–then Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers might be a book you’d want to pick up.

wicked-loving-lies-rosemary rogers2014
Wicked Loving Lies,
Rosemary Rogers, Mira, 2014 re-issue

My Opinion

As far as I’m concerned, this is Rosemary Rogers at her prime.

Some parts of Wicked Loving Lies were scorching hot, like Chapter 17. Other parts were heartbreaking. Many parts were shocking.

There’s only one thing this book NEVER is: boring!

That’s what I loved about these the best of these older romances, there was always so much stuff going on you never had time to overanalyze and nitpick, you just kept moving.

Rosemary Rogers knew how to write a page-turner.

The Proto-Feminist Heroine

“Oh damn men and their superior ways. From now on I’ll stand on my own two feet and fight for what I want–anyway I have to, with my body and my wits… Why not? It’s a man’s world, what other choice do you leave a woman who possesses a mind?


Those words are from Marisa, the heroine of this amazing, action-packed bodice ripper by the Original Great, the legendary Rosemary Rogers.

Marisa is a heroine you want to smack or shake or hug or give a big old high five.

She’s amazing as she never gave up, even though life kept coming at her with no remorse. Except for when she thought her beloved Dominic was dead.

And even then, Marisa was not going out without taking someone else with her.

Final Analysis of Wicked Loving Lies

Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers is an excellent experience for bodice ripper enthusiasts but not for the faint of heart.

This book will shock you. I loved it!

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.8


Born of scandal and denied his birthright, Dominic Challenger took to the sea, charting his own future. A true rogue, Dominic answers to no one, trusting only himself. Until Marisa.

Born of wealth and privilege, Marisa is a prisoner to her father’s expectations. When the sanctuary she has found behind the walls of a convent is threatened by the news that her father has arranged for her to marry, Marisa flees…right into the arms of a pirate.

From the safety of a sheltered convent to a sultan’s harem, from the opulence of Napoleon’s court to the wilds of the new frontier, Marisa and Dominic brave all that they encounter in this thrilling age: intrigue, captivity and danger. And above all, an enduring passion that ignites into an infinite love.

the wildest heart rogers

Historical Romance Review: The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers

historical romance review
The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1974
Illustrator: H. Tom Hall
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 608
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers


The Book

In Rosemary RogersThe Wildest Heart, Lady Rowena Dangerfield is a beautiful woman who men value for her beauty, wealth, or both.

Rowena was a heroine who intrigued me right from the start. She 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 mainly read romance for the love story, I enjoy experiencing the heroine’s travails. I appreciate seeing a heroine’s struggles through life, as the hero is relegated to the background while the she thrives and matures. In a way, The Wildest Heart is one of those books.

Normally this would be enough for me. But Rogers is too passionate a writer to keep the hero as the mere prize the heroine wins at the end for completing her journey.

On top of that, the book ran too long.

Wicked Loving Lies was longer, yet every page of that novel was packed with action. I couldn’t wait to see what WTFery occurred next. Here the 1st-person-POV hinders the pace here because, naturally, there will be more introspection. The action is lean, the mental musings are long.

When He Loves Two Women

Other than a hero who weeps over his dead wife or lover, the only trope I hate more is a Mama’s boy. Lucas is no Mama’s boy, but he is obsessed and in love with the woman he as a boy thought was his mother. That sticky situation puts him in a weird gray category until the end.

The bewitching Elena is much older than Lucas but doesn’t look it. (Wouldn’t it be nice for once if the sexy older woman actually looked like a sexy older woman rather than preternaturally young?)

Lucas had been a lonely boy raised by the Apache. Later, he wasn taken in by his Mexican father, who had no love for him.

Elena manipulated young Lucas and gave him love when he had never known any before. She taught him to hate Todd Shannon, part-owner of the SD Ranch.

This was all heard second hand by Rowena. If I had seen it through Lucas’ eyes or read about it in his head, I’d have appreciated his story more and thus feel more satisfied overall.

rosemary rogers the wildest heart

I Needed More Perspectives

If The Wildest Heart hadn’t been written primarily in a 1st-person diary format, I would have loved it for the epic range of emotion and intrigue. It would have been a thrill ride on a par with Rogers’ other great bodice rippers, Sweet Savage Love & the previously mentioned Wicked Loving Lies.

Rowen was the overwhelming focus. As much as I understood and admired her, I needed other perspectives.

It would have been fine if the action was interspersed with Rowena’s diary entries. There should have been other characters’ viewpoints.

That only the prologue and epilogue were written in 3rd-person was a huge mistake. With a novel of such a grand scope, more than just Rowena’s thoughts were needed.

Other Gripes

One thing I’m certain about is that Rebecca Brandewyne read this novel, for I can see the influences of The Wildest Heart in Brandewyne’s magnum opus, Love Cherish Me.

It’s all here:

  • The grand scope of a western epic.
  • The fast-shooting cowboy of Spanish descent who raised among the Indians and speaks with a pronounced Western drawl.
  • A black-haired heroine on her way west to an unknown future.
  • A powerful, older rancher who demands the heroine’s hand in marriage.
  • The rancher’s younger relative who loves the heroine and fools her into thinking he’s a good guy.

Wait, there’s more!:

  • The murder trial.
  • The scandalous couple united against the world at the end.
  • And the epilogue as they head into town with their children, while the townspeople wag their tongues about their past shocking antics.

I adored Love Cherish Me. It’s one of my top 10 or 15 bodice rippers, along with the other Rosemary Rogers romances. The Wildest Heart doesn’t reach that level of adoration.

Why not? For being such a smart woman, Rowena certainly made stupid decisions.

She ignored her dead father’s urgent request to read his diaries as she simply didn’t feel like doing so. Sloth is certainly my favorite sin, but she could have skipped to the end of those diaries and taken a gander at what the brouhaha was about.

Then her dumb mistake of trusting the obviously telegraphed villain!

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…

Now, the Positive Aspects

When it came to Elena versus Rowena, those scenes were awesome. I wanted more Rowena-Elena showdowns.

Two alpha women fighting not just for a man but for power over all. I love a great villainess; she makes the heroine stronger.

As said, I appreciated Rowena’s cold personality, which was her coping mechanism to deal with a crazed life. She was certainly passionate where Lucas was concerned.

It was a pleasant surprise that there was no annoying gypsy dancing on Rowena’s part. A heroine dancing like a gypsy in a Rogers novel is akin to a woman from the British Isles being captured and placed in a harem for a Bertrice Small plot. It’s what they do.

The book’s climax was thrilling as in the last chapters, Lucas and Rowena head into the mountains to flee from her wicked husband and fight off armed soldiers.

The passionate relationship between Lucas and Rowena. This was more passion felt by Rowena than by Lucas. Although I prefer a slightly enigmatic hero, it’s nice to know his feeling for the heroine, too.

Finally, was the wonderful epilogue where we did see Lucas’s thoughts. How much more fabulous would it have been if we’d known more of them? If not thoughts, then to witness his actions firsthand without Rowena hearing of them secondhand.

Final Analysis of The Wildest Heart

The ending did make up for the first third of The Wildest Heart, where Lucas was nowhere to be found. I adored this passage near the finale:

They looked into each other’s faces; searching, renewing, re-evaluating. It was as if, without words, Rowena was saying: “I love you, and I have chosen you. There is room in our lives for other people too, now that we are sure of each other.

The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers was a gripping read, with compelling characters. But it doesn’t rank among the best bodice rippers ever.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 3.6


No man can own Rowena Dangerfield–a sensuous, strong-willed lady with a fiery, unchained spirit–though many desire her. She had come to claim her birthright, following her destiny to the sprawling New Mexican frontier…and to the only man who can tame her restless heart.

A handsome half-Apache branded an outlaw–a rebel and renegade feared throughout the territories–Lucas Cord’s body and soul cry out for the beautiful, headstrong stranger who has burst into his world. And neither peril nor the treachery of desperate men will prevent him from taking what he wants…or restrain a rampaging passion as wild and hot as the Southwestern winds.