Tag: bookblog

A Brief Look at Category Romance

brief look

Category lines are one of the cornerstones of the romance novel industry. We’ll delve deeper into each line as we document the genre’s past at Sweet Savage Flame. We’ll also be adding more pages to the site. As always, you can access pages via the top MENU. Please follow us via e-mail to keep informed of our latest updates.

What Is Category Romance?

Category romance, also known as series romance, differs from long-form, single edition romances in several ways. Most notably is the length. Category romances run 55,000 – 70,000 words. They range from novelette-length of 150 pages to a short novel of 300 pages. As their name implies, they are sorted into category lines and defined by tropes.

A trope is a common device in stories that (presumably) appeals to readers. They can be a type of plot, kind of character, theme, or setting writers employ because of familiarity. Some examples are Highland Scots, second chance at love, playboy billionaires, or arranged marriages.

All genre fiction use tropes in some way. Time travel, artificial intelligence, chosen one Messiahs, and space travel are a few one would find in Science Fiction. Tropes are not clichés. Clichés are ideas that are so overused they become trite.... Read more “A Brief Look at Category Romance”

Category Romance Review: Seduced and Betrayed by Candace Schuler

seduced and betrayed
Seduced and Betrayed, Candace Schuler, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Temptation #553

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 🙂

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

Series Overview

This review is of Seduced and Betrayed, #8 in the `Bachelor Arms” series, and book #2 of 3 in the series written by Candace Schuler. (Harlequin Temptation, September 1995).

Plot

The book begins in 1970. A woman finds her boyfriend, naked, in bed with another woman, who is also naked. Their relationship isn’t the only thing that ends that night. 

Fast forward 25 years. Ezekiel “Zeke” Blackstone, 47, the book’s hero, is heading to a planning meeting for his daughter Cameron’s upcoming wedding. He is a famous actor turned producer/director and a major player in Hollywood. Zeke is nervous, however, because this meeting will bring him face-to-face with Ariel Cameron, 43, the heroine of the book, Cameron’s mother, and Zeke’s ex-wife. (They were the couple who broke up in the first paragraph!). Ariel, a successful actress turned model, has been estranged from Zeke for 25 years.

As Zeke takes an apartment–ironically the same one he lived in before at the “Bachelor Arms”–we learn how he and Ariel met, became lovers, married, and the circumstances that led to their divorce.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Seduced and Betrayed by Candace Schuler”

Dorchester Publishing

dorchester

The Romance History of Dorchester

The history of Dorchester Publishing began before the company ever started. Leisure Books started its operations in 1957. At first, it was a mass-market paperback publisher specializing in horror and thrillers. In the company’s early years, it also published fantasy, science fiction, Westerns, and the Wildlife Treasury card series. When the historical bodice ripper revolution of the 1970s hit, Leisure entered the field as a notable publisher of romance novels.

Dorchester Publishing itself was founded in 1971. For a long time, Dorchester was the oldest independent mass-market publisher in the United States. Back in its early days, Dorchester was the original publisher of the Hard Case Crime line of pulp mysteries. They were successful publishers of mystery and horror.

In 1982, Dorchester Publishing purchased Leisure Books as an imprint, shifting the company’s focus away from fantasy and science fiction towards horror and romance. Leisure Books, like Kensington’s Zebra romances, Playboy Press, and Pinnacle books would eschew tight editing and quality control for salacious covers and plots. Authors like Karen Robards, Robin Lee Hatcher, Connie Mason would find their starts with Leisure.

Island Flame, Karen Robards, Dorchester, 1981, cover artist unknown

Romance Imprints: Leisure, Love Spell, BMI

Dorchester added the Love Spell imprint in 1993 which focused on the hot trend of paranormal romances, including time travel and vampires.... Read more “Dorchester Publishing”

Sweet Savage Flame on YouTube and Anchor Podcast Streaming

Update #8.5

I’ve realized I neglected to add some of Sweet Savage Flame‘s latest information on our recent Updates #8. Talk about a major oversight.

As Homer Simpson would say, “D’oh!” Oh well, at least I’m not in charge of safety at a nuclear power plant.

We are slowly converting articles to podcasts and YouTube videos. Unfortunately, I have found that it’s not as easy as simply speaking into a microphone and pressing record. I have to learn to modulate my voice better, stop mumbling at the ends of words, and quit inhaling through my mouth! And there’s no way I’m putting my big head on a screen (let alone allow people to see my messy computer room/ book room/ storage room/ den/ cat room), so I have to learn to get skilled in video making.

Sweet Savage Flame has an Anchor Podcast, which can be heard on Spotify, Google Podcasts, and other platforms (not Apple yet; I have to set that up).

Here’s a review that we’ve posted here about Johanna Lindsey‘s Defy Not the Heart as a Spotify podcast:

SPOTIFY PODCAST – SWEET SAVAGE FLAME REVIEWS JOHANNA LINDSEY’S DEFY NOT THE HEART

We also have a Sweet Savage Flame YouTube channel to hear and see us (sort of).... Read more “Sweet Savage Flame on YouTube and Anchor Podcast Streaming”

6 Horrifying Villanous Heroes in Harlequin Presents

6 Harlequin Presents Villains

Since Halloween is just around the corner it’s time to take a look at the scary side of romance. No, not Gothics, although I promise we’ll get to more eventually.

The Harlequin Presents line was notorious for the cruelty some male protagonists could inflict upon their heroines. Some of these books are surprisingly well-written. Yet the horrific truth is that these heroes were villains.

Villainous heroes were popular forty years ago and they still are to this day. Why would anyone ever want to read romances where heroes are the bad guys? Why not? So long as we understand we’re reading fiction, at times it’s hypnotizing to take a peek at the darkness that lurks beneath the human surface. To witness what sadistic torments twisted love can create. And then thankfully close the pages on that misbegotten romantic nightmare.

At Sweet Savage Flame, we’re equally about the Sweet… and the Savage.

Trick o’ Treat.

Storm Centre, Charlotte Lamb
Mansion For My Love, Robyn Donald
The Guarded Heart, Robyn Donald
Shattered Dreams, Sally Wentworth
Indiscretion, Anne Mather
The Marriage War, Charlotte Lamb

Historical Romance Review: Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey

Secret Fire
Secret Fire
Secret Fire, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1987, Elaine Duillo cover art

MILD SPOILERS 😉

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Secret Fire was, I think, the second Johanna Lindsey romance I read which cemented her works among my favorites. Published in 1987, this book was written during Lindsey’s peak years of output.

The cover is another Elaine Duillo gem, this time featuring white, cream, and brown hues, appropriate for the wintery Russian setting. There’s also a blond male cover model whom I’ve been searching for for years. Forget Fabio and his long-haired colleagues; it’s this guy I have often imagined as the hero of many love stores I’ve read. He’s a perfect model for the ultra-gorgeous hero of Secret Fire, Dimitri.

The Plot

Dimitri is a half-Russian, half-English Prince who is in England to visit family and smooth over a scandal his sister has gotten into by engaging in an affair with a married man. The uber-sexual Dimitri doesn’t mind his sisters’ affairs, only that she’s so flagrant about them. So he decides to bring her back to Russia on his ship and perhaps find a dutiful spouse for her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey”

Updates #8

red leaf trees near the road
red leaf trees near the road
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thank You For All Your Support

It’s been a full six months that Sweet Savage Flame has been up and running. We started in early Spring, and now it’s Autumn, my favorite season! We’ve grown from a tiny website to a semi-respectable niche romance blog that has amassed over 18,000 views in that time. Thank you to our readers for being with us, for commenting, and for spreading the word about us!

Thank you to our beautiful bloggers, Mary Anne Landers, and Blue Falcon, for without their help, I would be tearing my hair out, doing this alone. Their reviews, posts, and thoughtful discussions have been a considerable part of this site’s growth.

And I also thank our friends on Facebook and Twitter who share this site with others and just love talking romance!

While we’re still a small blog, we’re showing up on Google searches and ranking on lists.

On Feedspot‘s Top 100 Romance Book Blogs and Websites To Follow in 2021 list, we’re ranked at #25!

Feedspot is a blog aggregator. According to their site, you can read your favorite blogs, podcasts, news websites, Youtube channels, and RSS feeds from one place on Feedspot.... Read more “Updates #8”

Category Romance Review: The Pirate and His Lady by Margaret St. George

the pirate and his lady
The Pirate and His Lady, Margaret St. George, Harlequin, 1992, Cover Artist TBD

Harlequin American Romance #462

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 🙂

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

The Book

Margaret St. George’s The Pirate and His Lady isn’t a historical romance, but a time-traveling adventure published through Harlequin’s American Romance line.

Plot

Elizabeth Rawley is a bookish young woman obsessed with all things pirate, especially the legend of captain Richard Colter and his ship, the Black Cutter which, along with its treasure, had been sunk off the Florida coast after being engaged in a battle over 200 years ago.

While attending a “Pirate’s Ball” she witnesses a strange sight: two ancient-looking ships blasting away at one another in the waters of the sea. When she goes to the shore, she finds a washed-up body. But the man isn’t dead; he’s very much alive and dressed in puffy white Seinfeld shirt and other pirate regalia. Was he a guest of the party dressed in costume? Who could this man be?

Why, it was Richard Colter, the captain of the Black Cutter. How could this be?

Elizabeth takes Richard back to her home.... Read more “Category Romance Review: The Pirate and His Lady by Margaret St. George”

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”

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!

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”

Covers of the Week #24

skylark

Hot air ballooning is said to be a delightful experience. The winds guiding you high above the earth as you drift through the fluffy, white clouds… It seems like an exhilarating time. Unfortunately, a paralyzing fear of heights makes me feel otherwise. My husband once surprised me with plans for a romantic ride and I refused to go. He ended up taking our daughter!

People were baffled at my reticence. Although I aim for courage, there are things I cannot face.

Need someone to kill a poisonous bug? I’m there with my wide-heeled shoe. Could I face a horde of bio-engineered, flesh-eating Zombies? Not a problem, I can shoot and wield a machete. How about cleaning litter boxes for 5 kitties? Bring it on, I’m a crazy cat lady. But fly thousands of feet into the atmosphere in a rickety basket with only ropes to cling to and giant flames above me jetting into a huge balloon? Never.

Still, they’re beautiful things to behold. From afar, what a magical sight to witness those colorful inverted teardrops float through the air! From a safe distance on land, sipping a glass of Pinot Noir, of course.

For the week of September 20 to Monday, September 26, 2021, let’s appreciate these clinch poses on romance covers featuring hot air balloons!... Read more “Covers of the Week #24”

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”

Covers of the Week #22

quiet comes the night

At Sweet Savage Flame, we’ve been overlooking category romance covers in favor of flashier historical romance artwork, and it’s time to remedy that. Series cover art is just as lovely. However, sometimes the artwork is not as prominent as it is for historicals. In addition, the big-name cover artists usually produced illustrations for historical romance or full-length contemporary books. Sometimes they did step their toes into the waters of series or category romance and we’re happy that they did!

For the week of Monday, September 6, 2021, to Sunday, September 12, we’re looking at gorgeous category romance covers painted by some of the greatest artists of romance novels. Below are a few category romances illustrated by the legendary Elaine Duillo, Robert Maguire, Elaine Gignilliat, and Pino. Enjoy!

Link-O-Rama #3: Return of the Links

person typing on computer keyboard
person typing on computer keyboard
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Romance Book Blogs and Websites

These links to some of the best romance novel-loving sites and blogs should keep you busy. These sites are fun to look over to discuss romance or choose what book to read next:

If you’re looking for even more romance-book-related sites, these two blog feeds have lists of their most popular romance blogs. I like Feedly just fine, but if you look at #21 of Feedspot, you may see a familiar site 😉 :

Do you love beautiful romance covers? Do you enjoy taking pictures? Well, you can combine the two loves and show off your book collection. Use these hashtags to look for and post about romance novels on Instagram:

  • #bookstagram
  • #bookish
  • #romancestagram

New to romance or just out of the loop (don’t worry, I am too!)? If you’ve ever wondered what the terms HEA, HFN, or H/h mean, these guides to the lexicon of romance novels should keep you informed:

... Read more “Link-O-Rama #3: Return of the Links”