Tag Archives: abuse

guilty love charlotte lamb

Category Romance Review: Guilty Love by Charlotte Lamb

Synopsis:

Nowhere to run.

Linzi York loved her husband — but Barty had changed. His rage and growing despair since the accident had taken a brutal toll. Linzi was trapped in a nightmare. And Ritchie Calhoun knew it.

Linzi and Ritchie’s relationship had always remained on a cool professional level — but now facades were beginning to crumble. Needs and desires they were powerless to deny tormented them…and it was Linzi who was paying the highest price.

Then a horrible tragedy shattered their lives — and Ritchie’s courage proved his love in a way that few men ever could…

GUILTY LOVE by CHARLOTTE LAMB

SPOILER & SENSITIVE CONTENT ALERT ⚠

The Book

Charlotte Lamb‘s Harlequin Presents romance Guilty Love is crazy and full of over-the-top drama. I loved every wild moment of it. As always, YMMV, although this sort of book is right up my alley.

Lamb always tried to outdo herself in her writings. Whenever I picked up one of her books, I was never certain whether it would be a 5-star keeper or a weird slog through the heroine’s life. This one is a 5-star book. But a word of warning: it handles a dark subject that may cause readers some discomfort.

The Characters

Linzi York is a married woman who has worked for Ritchie Calhoun for about a year. Her marriage is not a happy one. She’s been with her husband Barty for four years and loves him deeply. She’s always wanted a big family. But Barty was in a devastating accident that affected his brain cognition. And performance in the bedroom. He has become a changed man, full of rage and anger. The prospects of having that big happy family seem impossible now.

Ritchie and Linzi have a great working relationship. Unsurprisingly, Ritchie carries a torch for his married secretary and can sense something’s not right with her marriage.

Barty started drinking to overcome his chronic depression. He views himself as half a man and has violent outbursts that he seemingly can’t control.

The Plot

Like in her book A Frozen Fire, a Charlotte Lamb heroine finds herself trapped in a marriage. In the previous book, the heroine was married to a cheating louse. Here, Linzi is married to an abusive spouse. Both Lamb heroines are intensely loyal to their partners for some unfathomable reason. They are the for better or worse types; even it makes them self-inflicted martyrs.

Barty’s affliction has made him homicidal. He beats Linzi constantly. He even tries to rape her but can’t perform.

Linzi has to spend more time working as Ritchie has a big project to finish. The late hours make Barty jealous. One night when Linzi gets home, Barty flies into a jealous rage and begins to beat her. Then events take a strange and horrific turn. Ritchie shows up. Barty is killed. What did Ritchie do?

The police arrest Ritchie for Barty’s murder. Ritchie goes to prison for several years.

Upon his release, Ritchie comes back into Linzi’s life, seeking revenge. Altered by years of incarceration, the formerly nice beta-male boss is now a cruel, remorseless being.

For her part, Linzi wants nothing to do with the man who killed her husband. Ritchie won’t be thwarted. Revenge turns into passion. Then a shocking revelation changes everything.

Final Analysis of Guilty Love

I won’t analyze this book with a realistic outlook; that’s too depressing.

With Harlequin Presents–especially certain authors like Charlotte Lamb–you’re bound to have a crazy, emotional time. Lamb would tackle controversial issues like rape and abuse with a psychoanalytical intensity that was riveting. (Usually.)

At 190 pages, Guilty Love is too short to delve properly into the very serious issues of abuse, trauma, and repression. It’s fair to make an argument that the violence displayed here was for gratuitous reasons.

In a lesser author’s hands, this would be a failure. When Lamb pulled out all the stops, she made a dark premise work. Rather than dwell on grim reality, Lamb ramped up the melodrama. It does create a heck of a page-turner.

Guilty Love is a twisted tale of revenge and dark revelations. Full of continuous action with a quick-moving plot, it’s hard to look away. It had me hooked from the first and never let go.

5 Stars

old school historicals thumbnail

15 Old School Historical Romances That Revolutionized the Genre

list of best 15 old school bodice ripper novels

15 “Best” Old-School Historical Romances

Best Bodice Rippers or Just Old School Romance?

Sweet Savage Flame has compiled a list of “the best romance novels/ bodice rippers,” demonstrating the genre’s evolution in the last third of the 20th century. These are 15 old-school historicals we consider to be must-reads for those who wish to understand the roots of the romance industry.

Detractors of these novels may disparage them as mere bodice rippers. To us, a “bodice ripper” romance is a term of endearment. We embrace it without shame. Moreover, we appreciate how pivotal that (unfairly maligned) subgenre was in the era’s early years.

There are books on this list that, indeed, are “hardcore” bodice rippers–i.e., romances where the hero forces himself on the heroine. Such was the nature of the early years of the old-school romance era. But as the list goes into the late 1980s and the 1990s, they have disappeared.

This List Has Only Some of the Best Romances; There Are Many More

Sweet Savage Flame’s position on such controversial matters is never to shrink away from the past. We look back head-on and try to investigate, analyze, reflect, and understand.

Most of our picks are seminal works that transformed the industry’s evolution. A few are so notable or unforgettable we feel they merit special appreciation.

Links to our opinions and ratings are provided in the descriptions, but five of the fifteen listed are yet to be reviewed by our staff. We have read all of these and consider them essential reads. We aim to review all books on this list in the upcoming year.

Please note this is not a complete compilation of essential works. This is just a small sample of relevant texts from the thousands of paperback romances published from 1972 to 2000.

The List of 15 Romances to Read, in Chronological Order

#1 The Flame and the Flower

best romance novel flame and flower

Kathleen E. Woodiwiss radically transformed the concept of the romance novel with The Flame and the Flower. Before its 1972 publication by Avon, romantic novels with happy endings never included “explicit” sex scenes between protagonists.

After the hero of The Flame and the Flower, Brandon Birmingham, mistakes the heroine, Heather, for a prostitute, he forces himself upon her. Too late, he discovers the girl is–was–a virgin.

Throughout this doorstopper of a book, Brandon violates Heather several more times before they mutually consent to make love. This is due to Brandon’s transformation into a kinder, more decent man, all to be worthy of Heather’s love.

Contemporary perspectives would consider Brandon’s behavior to be criminal. Nevertheless, fifty years ago, millions of readers were drawn to this love story, viewing the actions as part of the fantasy of “forced seduction.” This was ostensibly a plot device that allowed unmarried virgins to be sexually active without guilt.

The closed-door love scenes for “good girls” were now relics of the past. Although today we categorize The Flame and the Flower as old-school, it marked the start of the “modern era of romance.” The bodice ripper was born.

And the romance genre–and books overall–would never be the same.


#2 Sweet Savage Love

best bodice ripper  novel sweet savage love

Capitalizing on the success of The Flame and the FlowerRosemary Rogers first book ratcheted up the melodrama and sexiness to a new level of extreme. Rape, forced seduction, multiple partners, cheating, and violence were prevalent parts of the story.

Women couldn’t get enough of it, catapulting Rogers to fame and riches.

Sweet Savage Love sold millions and millions of copies, resulting in several sequels and spinoffs.

This revolutionary Western told the tale of Ginny Brandon and Steve Morgan. Here, Rogers’ depicted a heroine who could enjoy sex with men besides the hero.

Inevitably, it seemed this type of ultra-sexual romp would mark the course of historical romances for the foreseeable future.


#3 Moonstruck Madness

best old-school romance novel moonstruck madness

Moonstruck Madness was Laurie McBain‘s second outing. This novel cemented her status as an Avon “Queen of Romance.” (Although–supposedly–McBain co-authored her romance novels with her father.)

This swashbuckling old-school historical romance was a huge best-seller and the first in a popular trilogy about the Dominick Family.

The plot differed from Woodiwiss’ and Rogers’ works in that lovemaking was consensual. There was no bed-hopping, and the violence was not gratuitous.

Moonstruck Madness was a kinder, gentler offering with no bodice-ripping in sight.

Fans flocked to the more tender romantic style. It ultimately produced long-term success.


#4 The Silver Devil

best bodice ripper novel the silver devil

The Silver Devil’s Duke Domenico is possibly the most extreme anti-hero ever to appear in an old-school romance novel. 

Over 45 years after its publication, many readers frequently discuss this book still highly-talked about and consider it one of the best bodice rippers ever written. Teresa Denys’ first-person-POV romance with an Italian beauty is a gripping read from the very first lines.

The powerful and megalomaniacal Duke sees the heroine Felicia at her window, desires her, and soon purchases her from her brother. Domenico’s obsession over her reigns supreme; he goes into murderous rages at the slightest hint of jealousy.

The prose in The Silver Devil is magnificent. The scenes of violence and brutality are intense. The hero is…a complicated man. The novel ends with the typical HEA. Even so, it’s hard to see a happy ending lasting beyond the pages of this book.

If you’re fortunate enough to find the Ballantine edition with the H. Tom Hall cover, it could cost you up to several hundred dollars.


#5 Fires of Winter

fires of winter

Johanna Lindsey‘s third novel, Fires of Winter, was a Viking romance about a captive Welsh woman and her Nordic owner. Marauders raid Lady Brenna’s home, kill the men and enslave and ravish the women. They spare only Brenna from ravishment and violence as the Viking leader has plans for her. She is a valuable prize that he plans to gift as a slave to his youngest son.

Just over 300 pages long (half the length of Woodiwiss’ and Roger’s fat epics), Fires of Winter is a lean, action-packed lean, bodice ripper.

The theme here is all about the battle between the sexes. Although there is forced seduction/ rape, this romance has no cheating. That made quite a difference to many readers looking for monogamous love stories.

However, the couple does argue–a lot. This was a common trait of many of Lindsey’s earlier works.

Johanna Lindsey cemented her status as one of romance’s top best-selling authors with this bodice ripper. The Robert McGinnis romance novel cover design is legendary, featuring the first naked man on a romance cover.


#6 Skye O’Malley

skye o'malley

Skye O’Malley is “The Queen of Erotic Romance,” Bertrice Smallpiece de resistance–her magnum opus. She wrote over 50 novels, and this is her finest work.

In this Tudor-era romance, the beauteous Irish lass Skye O’Malley amasses numerous husbands, lovers, children, and enemies.

And many true loves.

This is the lustiest of bodice rippers. Skye experiences the most rollicking adventures any heroine in Romancelandia could only dream of.


#7 Savage Ecstasy

savage ecstasy

Janelle Taylor’s Savage Ecstasy wasn’t the first historical bodice ripper published by Zebra books. It wasn’t even the first best-seller out of Kensington’s flagship imprint. It was, however, the one that firmly marked the largest US independent publisher on the map as a major player. 

In the decade that followed, Zebra would be a dominant force to be reckoned with in the romance field.

Savage Ecstasy sold over a million copies, as did its sequel, Defiant Ecstasy. It spawned a long-running series that told the love stories of Gray Eagle and Alisha and their children and their spouses.

Savage Ecstasy was one of the first publications of the enormously popular Native American romance subgenre. Readers consumed these romantic novels in droves until well into the 2000s.


#8 Stormfire

old-school best romance novel stormfire

Christine Monson’s Stormfire is perhaps one of the genre’s last hardcore bodice-rippers. Stormfire made some romantic novels of the 1970s appear tame in contrast.

This tale of vengeance is extreme in its brutality. Set in Regency Era England, Ireland and Napoleonic France, it keeps hitting the reader with action and insanity.

From the moment the heroine is kidnapped and violated by the hero, we can see this is not a romance for the faint-hearted.

Like The Silver Devil, Stormfire transcended its seemingly sordid content through thoughtful, superb writing and intense characterization.

Like that other romance, this is considered one of the best bodice rippers ever. Plus, it, too, is hard to find and expensive if you do!


#9 Whitney, My Love