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top-ten-bookish-people romance genre

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish People I’d Like to Meet

For this Top Ten Tuesday post, Jacqueline Diaz lists ten bookish people she’d like to meet. Almost all her choices are relevant to the books in the romance genre.

top-ten bookish people romance genre

It’s Top Ten Tuesday, where we post a list of 10 of our best/favorite/most important bookish-related items, depending on the week’s theme. Thank you to That Artsy Reader Girl for providing us with this feature and creative ideas.

“Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.”

top ten tuesday

10 Bookish People (Alive, Dead, or Fictional) I Would Like Meet

This Top Ten Tuesday theme is: “pick a previous topic that you missed or would like to re-do/update.” I missed posting on March 7 (and I almost missed posting today!). The topic that week was “10 Bookish People I’d Like To Meet,” which is my list for Tuesday March 21.

The subject was rather broad, and I chose people from different segments of the book industry, living, deceased, or fictional.

Because there are so many choices, this was a tough one.The bloggers section was particularly hard; there are so many people I would adore meeting in real life, but I was limited to just one person per category!

1. All-Around Bookish Renaissance Woman: Kathryn Le Veque

bookish people romance genre Kathryn Le Veque
Kathryn Le Veque

If I had to name one bookish person who inspires me, it would be Kathryn Le Veque. Her achievements are amazing–intimidating, even. LeVeque is an inspirational success story proving an author’s dreams can come true.

A USA Today bestselling author, an Amazon All-Star author, and a #1 bestsellier of medieval historical romance and contemporary romance, she has blazed a trail for others to follow.

Le Veque is a tour-de force leader in the industry. She pens unique novels, mostly medievals, and is the founder of several publishing houses, including Dragonblade Publishing.

bookish people romance genre the wolfe kathryn le veque

When Le Veque started out the big publishers rejected her manuscripts. They said her chosen genre not being considered “marketable enough.” Defiant and determined, Kathryn had vision and saw it through.

She uploaded her first novel for purchase on Amazon’s Kindle platform in May 2012. A year later, she was able to quit her day job to focus on her writing full-time. All thanks to the phenomenal success of her e-books.

She writes remarkable stories about knights, kings, and queens. History plays a starring role in her books, not merely a backdrop. Her stories are unique, emotional and deeply touching. Through her many novels and hard work Le Veque has earned the admiration of her peers and fans.

Publishers shut her out of mainstream because she didn’t adhere to the current trends. Kathryn proved them to be fools, self-publishing the books she wanted to to write–and read. She found a large and devoted audience eager to read her stories. On top of that, she built an indie publishing empire to help others succeed.

Who wouldn’t want to talk to a renaissance woman like Kathryn Le Veque?

2. Author (Deceased): Jackie Collins

bookish people romance genre jackie collins

Have you ever wished you could talk to a great writer whois no longer living? For me, that would be Jackie Collins. She was the brilliant, bold, and wildly successful author of over 30 novels that shocked and entertained readers worldwide.

Her career spanned from 1968 with The World Is Full of Married Men to her final work, The Santangelos in 2015. Her bestsellers detailed the glamorous and sordid lives of celebrities.

As actress Joan Collins’ younger sister, Jackie had access to the inner workings of the showbiz industry. She smashed through the conventions of polite society with her books. Collins penned raunchy romantic thrillers. Filled with crimes, sex, drugs, and rock & roll, they went beyond what other writers of her era would touch.

bookish people romance genre jackie collins

With over 500 million books sold, Collins was one of the most influential and fun icons of American literary history. Some of her acclaimed works include Chances, Lucky and Hollywood Wives.

Chatting with her would be a dream come true. What stories she could tell!

bookish people romance genre lucky jackie collins

3. Author (Living): Rebecca Brandewyne

bookish people romance genre rebecca brandewyne
Rebeca Brandewyne
Source: Wichita State University, The Shocker

Rebecca Brandewyne is a romance author who has not written in years. I would be delighted to sit down and see what she has been up to

When I started reading romances in the early to mid-1990s, Rebecca Brandewyne, along with Jude Deveraux and Johanna Lindsey, was one of my favorite authors. Her books were grandiose and epic. They began with a prologue and ended with a happy epilogue, and included a poem and cast of characters at the beginning of the book.

As Brandwyne’s health issues were one of the reasons behind her leaving the writing field, I would ask her how she is faring now. It would be fascinating to learn what she has been up to all these years. I’d want to talk about her works, her writing style, and her current ideas on the genre.

Finally, I would inquire about the two series she never completed. How she would have ended her fantasy trilogy of the Chronicles of Tintagel, which began in Passion Moon Rising?

Most importantly, what was to be the conclusion for her unfinished Highclyffe Hall trilogy? What was to happen with the “twins” Ransom and Rhodes Chandler, who were born in Across a Starlit Sea? And what of their parents and grandparents?

I would love to know the answers to those questions!

4. Book Blogger/ Reviewer: Nenia Campbell

bookish people I want to meet Nenia Campbell
Nenia Campbell
Source: Goodreads

Nenia Campbell is a multi-talented lady whose name can go in at least four other bookish categories. I chose her for the book blogger I’d want to meet.

Campbell has written books such as Fearscape and Horrorscape, dark (un)romances that feature villainous heroes. She runs Readasaurus Reviews, a blog where she posts book reviews. She is one of the top reviewers on Goodreads where she runs the Unapologetic Romance Readers group.

What’s cool about Nenia is she reads everything. Nonfiction, general fiction, and the entire spectrum of the romance genre. She reads sweet teen romances, bodice rippers, the latest contemporaries, vintage Harlequins, and bizarre treats like Mating with the Mantis!

 “I don’t typically like what’s popular because I don’t like what’s predictable or easy; I like books that are raw and difficult and dark and challenge me and the way that I see the world, even if it means heartbreak and tears and playing hours of Animal Crossing to get myself back into the happy zone.”

From Nenia’s Review for Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

Plus, Nenia is very prolific on social media. She discussws all things bookish and posts images ofholding many beautiful books and of herself in lovely colorful wigs.

Nenia seems like such a passionate and creative reader and book lover that I could glean so much from a conversation with her. I also adore her sense of fashion, so I’m sure our talks would be an enlightening and hair-raising experience!

5. Character from a Book: Hercule Poirot

As far as fictional bookish people I’d love to meet, it would be the egg-headed protagonist from Agatha Christie’s long-running mystery series. The elegantly dressed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is a most fascinating character. He solved the mysteries of the Murder on The Orient Express, The ABC Murders and Death on the Nile, and many more.

Poirot is one of the most iconic crime-solvers in fiction, far more interesting to me than Sherlock Holmes. I’d like to pick his brain and learn some detective tips and tricks. And some fashion tips! Il est un homme très sophistiqué.

I would start the conversation by expressing admiration for Poirot’s skills and intellect and asking him to share the secrets of his success. His perspective on human psychology is pivotal to his investigations. How does he know what he knows? What techniques does he uses to solve murders?

I’d also ask him about the cases that were the most memorable or challenging for him. What is his opinion on the state of modern detective work? What advice he would give to aspiring detectives?

Then I’d dive into the details of his fashion sense, which is always so dapper. I’d love to hear his advice on how to look smart and stay stylish, as well as his thoughts on current trends in men’s clothing.

6. Cover Artist: Victor Gadino

victor gadino and apollo bookish people I want to meet
Victor Gadino and Apollo

If I could talk to any book cover artist, it would be Victor Gadino. He is one of the top romance novel cover artists of all time. Gadino has created hundreds of beautiful and sensual covers.

His amazing stepbacks make him one of Sweet Savage Flame’s favorite illustrators.

I would love to talk to him about his creative process and how he designs such beautiful and sensual covers.

Victor Gadino was born in New York in 1949. His big break in book illustration came in the late 1970s when he designed romantic-styled covers for gay fiction. Avon reissued Gordon Merrick’s backlist of books, for which Gadino did al the new artwork.

He was a designed covers for many years, but his rise to prominence in the genre came with Johanna Lindsey’s Prisoner of My Desire in 1991, making him a highly sought-after romance illustrator.

rafe gadino

He has also designed album covers for well-known performers, Broadway play posters, and collectibles for the Bradford Exchange and Franklin Mint. His work is in the homes of celebrities such as George Lucas and Clint Eastwood, as well as many famous New York City families.

A creator of sensual images, Victor Gadino is the artist I would be honored to meet. I’d be delighted to hear whatever he had to say and, if possible, to observe him at work on his paintings.

7. Cover Model: Fabio

If I could talk to any romance book cover model, it would be the great Fabio Lanzoni. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you the details about Fabio. After all, he’s the supermodel whose face and body have been launched millions of covers.

Plus, he’s also a romance writer himself (even if he had some help from ghostwriters.)

Being a successful cover model and the author, I’m sure he has a great deal of creative insight and inspiration to share.

Fabio’s unique perspective as a romance genre celebrity would provide a lot of fun stories and anecdotes.

The questions I’d ask Fabio would be simple: I’d ask him about his modeling experiences, his favorite covers, which artists he thinks painted him best.

Honestly, Fabio wouldn’t have to say much. At 60, he’s still fine. As I’m 45 now and not the 13-year-old girl who imagined him as the hero of numerous romances, it’s okay to appreciate that eye candy that is Fabio Lanzoni.

gideons fall ginsburg

I’m certain a chat with Fabio would spark the creative energy to follow my own dreams with renewed vigor.

And maybe he’d let me squeeze his biceps to get a feel those rock-hard muscles? Would that be wrong? Oh, well a girl can dream…

8. Bookstagrammer: Mary Lynne Nielsen

mary lynne nielsen bookish people
Mary Lynne Nielsen
Source: Romance Ruminations
  1. Bookstagrammer: Mary Lynne Nielsen

Mary Lynne Nielsen has been reading romance for 45 years and has a wealth of information about books and the business.

“I’ve been reading romance for a long time–over forty years. And over that time I’ve managed to produce a few pieces of writing of my own. Rather than having them scattered hither and yon, or not even available, I decided to create a centralized home for them. Hence, my ruminations on romance.

“I make no claims of expertise, wisdom, knowledge, or the like. But I do have, as so many readers do, a deep and abiding love of the often maligned genre of romance.”

-Mary Lynn Nielsen

A prolific bookstagrammer under the handle @emmelnie, she is one of many people whom I’d like to chat with in person. Social media is great for meeting lots of great folks. Unfortunately, because I am a slow typist with ADHD, I am unable to participate in lengthy debates.

Mary Lynne has written articles for blogs and magazines, posted educational videos about the genre, attended conventions, and spoken with/interviewed prominent figures in the industry, academics and fans alike.

Her website, Romance Ruminations is an excellent resource for readers.

I’d be delighted to meet at a coffee shop near a used book store and hear her thoughts on the evolution of the genre, her favorite books and authors, and her advice for aspiring writers and readers.

Basically, we would discuss everything there is possible about our romance and then go book shopping!

9. Publisher or Editor: Steven Zacharius, President & CEO at Kensington Publishing Corp

  1. Publisher or Editor: Steven Zacharius

As far as bookish people on the business side of the industry, I’d enjoy a sit-down with Steve Zacharius. He is the president and CEO of Kensington Books, the parent company of Zebra and Pinnacle. Kenisgton is a multi-million dollar family-run company founded in 1974 by Steve’s dad, Walter Zacharius.

With almost 30 years of experience in the company, Steve has led Kensington’s growth and expansion. I am curious to hear his thoughts on the industry and how he has kept Kensington relevant and successful for so long.

Steve is married with two kids and three grandkids. His son, Adam Zacharius, has also been working there since 2008.

Kensington is one of the last large, privately owned book publishers in the United States. It releases over 500 fiction and nonfiction titles each year.

I would ask him about the challenges that Kensington and the industry as a whole have faced, as well as his insights on the current state and future of the publishing industry.

I’d love to hear his thoughts about the potential death of the mass market paperback, as sales have dropped rapidly for that format in the past several years. E-books have usurped their position as the most convenient and cheapest way to read.

Although romance is genre that still thrives in MMP, trade and hardcover are rising in popularity, especially for the readers who love to display their books on shelves.

Might Kensington’s Zebra imprint also return its focus to dazzling cover art as it did when his father Walter was alive?

10. Podcaster: Andrea Martucci, of Shelf Love

There a several bookish people in podcasting I would appreciate having a chat with. To start , I’d talktot the staff of Shelf Love, particularly the woman-in-charge of it all: Andrea Martucci.

Shelf Love explores fictional stories of romantic love across media, time, and cultures. Their knowledge of romance novels and bodice rippers is vast, and I would enjoy discussing different genres of romance novels with them.

The podcast invites experts to share their knowledge and love for diverse genres and explore romantic love in romance novels, comic books, soap operas, romantic comedies, video games, oral stories, advertisements, and more.

Andrea has presented a paper at the Popular Culture Association and has released nearly 100 episodes since the podcast’s launch in 2019.

Andrea is familiar with so many facets of romance, not just in books, but throughout all pop culture. I’d be thrilled to converse with Andrea about anything and everything. I would ask her about her favorite romance books, her thoughts on different genres, and her insights on the role of love stories in popular culture. What are her favorite couples and love stories in other forms of entertainment?

I could pick her brain for hours. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I’m no zombie!

First episode of Shelf Love Podcast w/ Andrea Martucci

Your Opinion

What do you think of this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme of “bookish people I want to meet”? Do you like Jacqueline’s list? Would you like to meet any of her choices?

What bookish people would you like to meet?

As always, please drop a comment and let’s talk romance.

skye o'malley

Breaking News: Bertrice Small’s Skye O’Malley Is Coming to Apple TV+ as a New Series

Finally, a true bodice ripper historical series for us to enjoy! Great news! Bertrice Small’s epic erotic romance, Skye O’Malley, is coming soon to your TV!

Skye O'Malley bertrice small

Major News About Bertrice Small

Sweet Savage Flame has some exciting breaking news to report! It’s very unusual for an old-school romance blog like ours to divulge or discuss any current events. But today, we are! First Outlander, then Bridgerton, and now: The Late Queen of Erotic Romances magnum opus bodice ripper is coming to the screen! 

Bertrice Small’s story of Skye O’Malley and her six husbands—and numerous lovers—will be coming to your homes as a major TV series! 

Tom Small, son of Bertrice and her husband George, posted a video on Facebook on Sunday, March 19, stating the official news. After five years of trying to find someone he could trust to treat his mother’s intellectual property with respect, all parties involved have come to an agreement.

This news is not just a possibility; it’s a done deal. Small has already signed the papers of a contract to bring the incomparable heroine’s life story to a new audience.

Bodice Ripper Skye O’Malley Series To Air on Apple Plus+

Tom Small stated he signed the rights of the 12 books in the O’Malley family saga over to a trusted source. That source negotiated a deal with ApplePlus + to bring the tale of Skye O’Malley–and her lusty relatives and descendants–to home audiences.

Tom is thankful to all the fans who have been anxious to see this happen. He also thanks ApplePlus+ and (even, LOL) the folks at Penguin, the publishers who had held the rights to her books for years.

Bertrice would undoubtedly be proud and delighted with her son’s endeavors. His determination and diligent efforts to make one of her dearest wishes come true would make any mother proud.

Bertrice Small’s Legacy and the Skye O’Malley Series

bodice ripper bertrice small series tom small

Bertrice Small passed away on February 24, 2015. Her husband, George, predeceased her by three years. Tom Small was their only child. Since Bertrice’s death, her son has maintained a Facebook account devoted to keeping the memory of his mother and her books alive.

Bertrice Small, nee Williams, was born in New York City in 1937 and lived most of her life on Long Island, in the town of Southold. Since her first book, 1978’s The Kadin, Small consistently produced erotic romances starring impossibly beautiful heroines who experienced multiple romantic adventures.

Small was a pioneer not only in the romance genre but also in erotic romance. Her novels were far more sexual than the average book of the early days of the modern romance era. However, they were not anywhere near as explicit as modern erotic romances.

Her historical romance romps were heavy on purple prose. That was the style of the era, after all. Small knew how to master the language, and master it she did!

She wrote 61 books and sold millions worldwide.

Past Attempts to Produce Bodice Ripper Romance Movies Failed

Many years ago, Bertrice Small had been in talks with several people in the film and television industries to adapt her books to the screen. As these talks always came to nothing, Small was convinced there was no future for her books as shows or movies. 

“David Bowie was the secret producer and a young Catherine Zeta Jones was being bandied around to Skye, but that all fell through. And it kind of discouraged my mom. And when I’d bring it up in the future ‘Why don’t we try again? You should try again.’

“‘Nah Hollywood doesn’t want it that.’ I could tell she was dejected.”

Tom Small

Tom encouraged her to try again, but the process disillusioned Small. The industry didn’t want anything to do with her kind of novels, and she didn’t have the stomach to try again.

We’ve previously mentioned that in the early 1980s, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss had been in talks with several Hollywood producers to have Shanna—arguably her finest book—into a film. Shanna sold 3 million copies and spent almost a year on The NY Times bestseller list. 

Watch Tom Small’s Announcement: Bertrice Small’s Skye O’Malley Is Coming to Apple Plus+!

Ultimately, Woodiwiss was told that romantic epic films weren’t profitable enough to justify their existence. Audiences wanted to see historical sagas about wars and battles, not love stories.

If the most prominent romance writer of her day couldn’t convince Hollywood, how would others fare? It seemed as if the romance genre was to be shut out of the industry altogether.

That wasn’t necessarily the case, however, as television channels like CBS and Cinemax would adapt romances into movies or even miniseries throughout the years. Admittedly, these were typically small-scale and low-budget flicks that catered to a niche audience.

bodice ripper Skye Omalley series

The Modern Era of Television Series Loves Romance Novels

In the 21st century, the successes of the Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey movies proved that adaptations indeed could be profitable. As television supplanted cinema as the hot spot for viewing entertainment, networks and production companies came looking for romance novels to transform into series. 

Sweet Savage Flame is especially excited by the news. We are thrilled that romance novels are getting the love and recognition from the entertainment industry they have always deserved.

However, there has been a noticeable absence of bodice rippers. These books did much heavy lifting for the romance genre in its early days. Many outsiders have viewed our beloved ‘rippers with disdain. (And some insiders, too!)

It’s been a long time coming, but we’re glad to hear this news and pass it on to you. Finally, after years of being ignored, romance novels are getting their well-deserved mainstream appreciation! 

As for news on Small’s final and unpublished book, Serena, Tom Small is still in the works to have it released. When that happens, we will let you know.

free Reading log

Free Printable Reading Log and Planner for 2023

We’re offering a free printable reading planner/ log for your convenience to use in 2023 to keep track of your reading list.

Reading planner

New Season, New Turning of the Wheel of Time

It’s Spring, which in many religions and societies is also the new year. We’re a bit late for the New Year in January (or the Lunar New Year, for that matter), but it’s never too late for new resolutions.

We’re familiar with those goals. You could mightwant to get in good shape, spend more time with family, or go on a trip.

Whatever you do, it’s important to follow through on objectives and keep the momentum rolling.

Our resolution is trying to get more organized, And what better way to do that than with a reading/log planner? How about a free one?

Free 8-Page Reading Journal: Easy to Download and Print

We’ve made a free 8-page printable reading planner/ log. This may help you get organized–at least where reading is concerned. The first page is a cover, and the second is a 2023 calendar, so you need only to print them once. Then print worksheet pages 3 to 8 as many times as you need to have an entire journal you can use all year long.

The printables feature spaces for setting goals, logging your daily reading progress, and tracking books you’ve read.

What’s more, our reading planner and log are entirely free to download and print. In order to get it, all you have to do is click the download button to access the PDF. You can print the sheets as many times as you need, making it perfect for those who want to monitor their progress.

Whether you’re a voracious reader or trying to read more, our reading planner and the log is the perfect tool to help you achieve your reading goals. It’s easy to use, customizable to your preferences, and, best of all, completely free!

Click on the link below to download a free 8-page PDF reading planner kit. Print as many sheets as needed.

FREE 8-Page Reading Planner Kit

Happy Reading in 2023

This free printable planner lets you create your specialized reading journal. Use them for your reading lists and notes, and take notes on your progress.

So why not give it a try? Download our reading planner/reading log, and start tracking your reading progress to make 2023 a year full of new and exciting reading adventures.

We’ll be offering more printables and freebies in 2023. Happy reading!

romance novel stats

Link: 40+ Romance Novel Sales Statistics [2023]

romance reader stats

Romance Novel Readers and Sales Stats

What is the average romance reader like? Just who, exactly, reads romance? What is the total number of romance novels sold each year? And what are the most popular best-selling “romance novels” of all time? All these questions have been answered, and now we have even more questions about the romance genre.

We’re posting this fascinating article from the Wordsrated website written by Dimitrije Curcic. It has over forty statistics on the current state of the genre. There’s a lot of food for thought here, and certain issues that we’ll address in upcoming articles.

Some things to note are that romance readers consume books voraciously, with over 78% completing at least one book a month (I’d say most romance fans read greater than just 12 books annually).

The vast majority read on their Kindles, e-readers, and phones, as opposed to “dead-tree” books.

Romance readers are getting overwhelmingly getting younger each decade. 65% of them have read the genre for fewer than twenty years. That certainly explains why old-school romance isn’t held in high regard by most genre aficionados. When blogs and book reviewers publish their lists of “The Best Romance Books…” invariably, most romances are recent, having been published no more than 15 years ago. Although a rare Lisa Kleypas, Julie Garwood, or Judith McNaught will pop up every now and then. Not to mention Pride and Prejudice!

40+ Romance Novel Sales Statistics [2023]

October 9, 2022 by Dimitrije Curcic

  • Romance novels generate over $1.44 billion in revenue, making romance the highest-earning genre of fiction.
  • Romance reached 19 million printed units sold over the last 12 months as of August 2022.
  • Sales of printed romance novels have increased by 36% compared to 2021.
  • Over 33% of books sold in mass-market paperback format were romance novels.
  • Romance was the fastest-growing genre of fiction over this period, contributing to 66% of adult fiction growth in 2022.
  • However, e-book romance novel sales declined by 16% over the same period.
  • Ebook sales account for 60% of total romance unit sales.
  • Since July 2020, the rolling 12-month growth of romance novel sales was never under 0, reaching a 2-year high of 4.7% in July 2022.
  • According to Penguin Random House, romance book sales had increased by more than 50% in 2021.
  • Total unit sales for romance novels reached 47 million in 2021, including print and digital formats.
  • This is a 24% increase compared to 2020, which recorded 37.9 million sold units.
  • During 2021, romance sales accounted for 18% of total adult fiction sales, making romance the second highest-selling fiction category.
  • Romance novel sales grew by 49% in 2021 compared to 2020 in the UK.

What are the best-selling romance novels of all time?

  • Fifty Shades of Gray (2011-2021) by E. L. James is the best-selling romance novel series of all time, reaching over 150 million copies sold.
  • Pride And Prejudice (1813) By Jane Austen came in second with over 120 million copies sold. This is also America’s favorite book, according to WordsRated’s survey of over 78,000 Americans.
PosTitle (Year)AuthorCopies sold
1Fifty Shades of Grey, Series (2011-2021)E. L. James150 million
2Pride and Prejudice (1813)Jane Austen120 million
3The Notebook (1996)Nicholas Sparks105 million
4Gone With The Wind (1936)Margaret Mitchell30 million
5Outlander (1991)Diana Gabaldon25 million
6Love Story (1970)Erich Segal20 million
7The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003)Audrey Niffenegger2.5 million
8Jane Eyre (1847)Charlotte Brontë2 million
9Romeo And Juliet (1564)William Shakespeare500,000
10Anna Karenina (1877)Leo Tolstoy300,000

Diversity in romance novels

  • Authors’ diversity in romance novels is very unbalanced:
    • 92.2% of romance novels published in 2021 were written by white authors.
    • 7.8% of romance novels published in 2021 were written by BIPOC authors.
  • Romance novel readership is also dominantly white:
    • 73% of romance readers are white/caucasian
    • 12% are African-American
    • 7% are Latino/Hispanic
    • 4% are Asian/Asian American

Who reads romance novels?

  • 82% of romance readers are women, and 18% are men.
  • 45% of romance readers have a college degree.
  • The average romance reader is 42 years old.
  • Romance readers are getting younger
    • 10 years ago, the main romance-reading group was women ages 35 to 54.
    • Today, the main romance-reading group is women ages 18 to 54.
    • 44% of readers purchasing a romance book are ages 18 to 44.
  • 70% of romance readers discover the genre between ages 11 and 18.
  • 35% of romance readers have been fans of the genre for more than 20 years.
  • 59% of romance readers are married or living with their partner.

Reading habits of romance novels readers

  • 29% of romance readers carry a romance novel with them most of the time.
  • Romance readers usually finish a novel within seven days.
  • 46.4% of romance readers read at least one novel per week.
  • 78.3% of romance readers read more than one novel per month.


romance novel sales statistics/
what the confusion

Romance Versus Romantic Fiction: What’s the Confusion All About?

romance vs. romantic fiction

Romance or Romantic Fiction?

In fiction, what genre is romance and what is romantic fiction? It’s not a simple question, as the answer draws confusion. Every month or so, controversy arises on Twitter, with some posters unable to comprehend the difference between the two terms. Besides, why must there be rules for romance?

Romance and romantic fiction are distinct categories. They each have their own set of rules the writer follows. Otherwise, readers may be fooled into thinking a book will tell a particular kind of story and then walk away disappointed–or angry–when their expectations are unmet.

So let’s identify what differentiates the two so you can choose between them accordingly!

When You Think of Romance, What Comes to Mind?

The word romance means a variety of things.

  • Romance can denote a literary form rooted in adventure or specific ideals, like chivalry.
  • It could indicate a quality of glamour, excitement, or mystery.
  • Many people would say romance is an emotional connection, a feeling of love and affection.
  • A romance is a tale about love.

When readers of fiction use this term, they refer to the specific romance genre. These books are based on romantic-erotic love. In addition, these stories abide by a couple of hard-and-fast rules.

If you’re a promising author of a love story that ends with the main characters separated, be sure to market your book as romantic fiction, or at least the first entry in a romance serial, as romance readers will not stand for unhappy endings!

close up photo of wooden scrabble tiles near heart
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Many People Don’t Know the Difference Between Romance and Romantic Fiction



Romance novels depict people falling in love. They can also be about old flames reunited after a separation. Erotic love is essential over merely platonic love.

These books require happy endings. Or, at least, the reader understands the lovers will be united together for the foreseeable future. There must be a sense of optimism at the conclusion of the story.

Romantic Fiction

Romantic Fiction

On the other hand, romantic fiction focuses on relationships–especially between two people–rather than solely the love aspect. There are different elements to the plot besides the romance.

While it can consist of aspects like kissing and sex scenes (graphic or not), romantic fiction doesn’t necessitate a joyful epilogue with babies on page 350–as some traditional romances do! In fact, no kind of ending is mandatory.

Examples of romantic fiction include Gone With the Wind; Romeo and Juliet; The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller; Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick; The Notebook–actually, almost all Nicholas Sparks books are mislabeled as romance. Even Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series veers from genre romance after the first entry.

But the Confusion Remains

Author John Green argues that: “Romantic fictions must be able to describe themselves under one word: ‘love.’ A story becomes romantic when its goal is to show how two characters fall in love with each other.” But that doesn’t make it a romance novel.

All romance novels are love stories. However, not all love stories are romances.

Photo by Joshua Miranda on Pexels.com

Rules For Romance

The Rules For a Great Romance Novel:

  • The romance must be front and center. An author can write a science fiction novel where a woman gets abducted by aliens and then falls in love with one of them. But this cannot be a subplot. It should be the main focus. (Just so you know, these books are scorching hot as of November 2022).
  • Characters must be well developed. Because this genre is so character-driven, it helps if they are fleshed out and relatable—even when they’re vampires or werewolves! Readers who identify with characters will likely stay engaged in the storyline longer.
  • The plot needs some shape and direction, even if it has little in the way of twists and turns. So keep things interesting. How do the lovers unite again after being separated for some time? Will one save another from danger? Conflict is essential. Without any obstacles–internal or external– between them, getting together would be kind of ordinary.
  • The absolute must-rule is a happily-ever-after ending. Or at least happy for now, as a teen romance might have.
question marks on paper crafts
Photo by Leeloo Thefirst on Pexels.com

Rules for Romantic Fiction

The Rules

In romance, the story must have a happy ending. It’s the genre’s most fundamental rule. Romantic fiction has more leeway.

  • In romantic fiction, one is more likely to find a bittersweet or unhappy ending—or even no ending at all!
  • Romantic fiction focuses more on interpersonal relationships and plot than on romance itself. These books can involve more action and thematic elements than a romance does.
  • Love-making scenes are not mandatory. For that matter, no physical intimacy needs to be depicted at all.
  • There is a wider variety among works with similar themes but different tones (e.g., comedy romances vs. serious ones).
Romance Vs. Romantic Fiction

The Result

Romantic fiction has received considerable critical acclaim. On the other hand, romance–that is, female-centric novels with happy endings–has always been viewed by critics as several rungs below literary fiction.

Sadly, this may be due in part to sexism. Men write more romantic fiction than straightforward romance. As for romance, female authors far outnumber men. That is likely because ~85% of the genre’s readership comprises women.

There were numerous best-selling male writers in the heyday of bodice rippers. They used pseudonyms like Jennifer Wilde and Janette Seymour to appeal to the majority feminine audience. While men are writing romances today, they still stick to female pennames.

Romance has been derided as mommy porn” or, at best, sentimental fluff. Like detective mysteries, science fiction, and action thrillers, romance can be classified as pulp fiction. But of all pulp, romance gets the least respect.

Until recently–the successes of Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, to be precise–Hollywood mostly shied away from adapting romance novels to film. Certainly the big screen.

Meanwhile, romantic fiction like Atonement or Silver Linings Playbook was made into popular Academy Award-nominated films.

The Books Are Romantic Fiction, Not Romance!

These books are romantic fiction, but due to certain factors, aren’t necessarily romances.

Who Doesn’t Like Happy Endings?

Against HEA

Some readers have disdain for romance for its adherence to happy endings. Many stress that love can fail to stand the test of time and still be meaningful. Or they assert that one doesn’t need marriage–or monogamy–to be fulfilled.

A story about an affair that lasts for a short while can be more dramatic and intriguing than a relationship with a fixed, predictable ending.

Moreover, literature must encompass angst to portray the totality of the human experience. Every life ends in death; some deaths are more painful than others. Fiction demanding the erasure of final suffering reduces the stories into fairy tales.

The requirement for positive, optimistic endings is viewed as childish, for the world does not guarantee such perfection. A HEA is unrealistic, immature, feminine, or American. Only in Hollywood movies do we see such idealized conclusions to stories.

But if happy endings exist on screen, surely there is room in genre fiction for them as well? After all, both art forms are make-believe.

romantic fiction
Photo by Vera Arsic on Pexels.com


There are many reasons why we seek out Hollywood-style happy endings.

It would be wonderful to find a beautiful and perfect partner to live with happily ever after. That’s not how things always work in real life—but why can’t we experience that in fiction?

An emotionally satisfying conclusion is an essential component of the romance genre because it allows readers to escape from our mundane world into one where everything works out.

For this type of “escapism” to work, there is usually some mental barrier between reality and fantasy. One way is through narrative framing devices (e.g., time period or setting). These provide a distance between the reader’s personal experience and actual story material. Hence, the popularity of historical and paranormal sub-genres or the abundant number of Dukes and billionaires.

There is a fantastic element to romance, but that should not be a negative mark against the genre.

happy ending
Photo by Arina Krasnikova on Pexels.com

Why Read Fiction?

Fiction is a way of life. We turn to fiction for many reasons: escapism, entertainment, healing broken hearts, and even clarity.

All types of fiction have expectations to meet.

Science Fiction must involve some form of technological transformation from the present day.

Every mystery novel has a crime that must be solved. In rare cases, the perpetrator may get away scot-free, but the truth should be revealed to the reader for the conclusion to be satisfactory.

Romance Vs. Romantic Fiction
Photo By Canva

Conclusion: Romance Vs. Romantic Fiction

So to sum it up: romance novels and romantic fiction are not the same concepts. They are both genres that readers can learn from.

Romantic fiction portrays an emotional story about a relationship that might happen in real life. It need not involve any sex scenes or other explicit content. Romance may play an ancillary part in a larger plot line. Romantic fiction can end unhappily or not, as the primary focus is the character’s growth or downfall.

The Romantic fiction genre deals with romantic relationships–with an emphasis on relationships.

The modern romance genre deals with romantic relationships–with an emphasis on an ideal resolution for the relationship (HEA being the highest of ideals).

Romances must end happily ever after or be happy for now with the possibility of more significant commitment in the future.

Both categories can elicit a variety of emotional responses in the reader. However, romantic fiction uses thematic elements to evoke a specific sentiment, while the idealism of romance inspires optimism.

Your Opinion

How do you stand on the division between romance novels and romantic fiction? Do you think it’s all arbitrary and wonder why these rules matter? Or are you a stickler for certain expectations when you read romance?

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance (in this case, romantic fiction, too)!

Bookish Talk: A to Z Survey

bookish talk : a to z survey

Credit: Perpetual Page Turner

This A- Z list of bookish preferences originated on Perpetual Page Turner’s book blog in 2013 and was reignited as a book tag in 2020. I haven’t been tagged, but I thought this was a fun list to complete.

My A to Z Bookish Picks:

A – Author you’ve read the most books from:

Miranda Lee (56 books)

B – Best Sequel Ever:

Lucky, the sequel to Chances by Jackie Collins

C – Currently Reading:

Too many books to mention, but Patricia Vaughan’s A Murmur of Rain stands out.

D – Drink of Choice While Reading:

Water, Sparkling Ice Flavored Water, or Grape Crystal Light

E E-reader or Physical Book?

My heart, soul, and senses say physical books! But my aging eyes say e-reader. That resizable font helps!

F – Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School:

Any blond-haired romance hero who would have bothered to ask. Heck, I’d have taken a cute brunet or redhead, too. Nobody asked!

G – Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:

A Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire Book 1 by G. R. R. Martin

H – Hidden Gem Book:

Frank Yerby’s The Girl From Storyville

I – Important Moment in your Reading Life:

In the 2nd grade, after a year of ESL classes and two years of speech therapy, I was put in the Enriched English group. My teacher praised my fluid reading skills, and I’ve been a proud book nerd ever since then.

J – Just Finished:

Once More With Feeling by Nora Roberts. Review coming soon!

K – Kinds of Books You Won’t Read:

  • Modern “critically acclaimed” Literary Fiction
  • Dinosaur or Dolphin Shifter Gang Bang Erotica
  • Technical Manuals

L – Longest Book You’ve Read:

Longest Fiction:

The Stand (The Uncut Author’s Edition) by Stephen King, 1472 pages!

(Note: Editors are helpful and work for big-name writers and publishers for a very good reason!)

Longest Romance:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, 850 pages

M – Major book hangover because of:

Sidney Sheldon’s Rage of Angels. Wow, what a book, fascinating and emotionally riveting.

N – Number of Bookcases You Own:

10, and they’re still not enough to hold all my books, plus my daughter’s and my husband’s. Most of my books are in boxes and bins, and some are missing behind furniture.

O – One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:

10 Little Monkies Jumping on the Bed

If you have children in your life, you know this book by heart. It’s not complicated. The same thing happens on every page.

P – Preferred Place To Read:

Lying in bed with plenty of comfy pillows.

Q – Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:

“Why me? Why would you want me?” she asked in bewildered frustration.

“You–you make everything else so unimportant… I’ve never had much direction in my life, nothing I wanted to devote myself to until you held my hand and sat with me when I prayed I would die. Just wanting to hear your voice made me fight to get through the hell of each day. I loved you before I even saw your face.”

Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom

R – Reading Regret:

Going long stretches (years) without reading new fiction books because of depression.

S – Series You Started And Need To Finish (all books are out in series):

Johanna Lindsey‘s Malory-Anderson Series

T – Three of your All-Time Favorite Books:

U – Unapologetic Fangirl For:

Crappy Zebra romances with glorious covers

V – Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:

Nothing new in the romance genre excites me much at this moment. Although that may change soon after I sort my TBR list.

W – Worst Bookish Habit:

Reading too many books at once and not finishing them all!

X – XMarks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

Clive Barker, Books of Blood, Volume I

Y – Your latest book purchase:

Belinda by Anne Rice (for the glorious Pino stepback cover)

Z – ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):

Thrawn: Ascendency Greater Good by Timothy Zahn

Your Opinion

How about you? What answers would you supply for any of the letters? Tell us about your bookish reads–romance or non-romance-related.

As always, please, drop a comment, and let’s talk romance (or other genres)!


Author Spotlight: Robert Vaughan


A Romance King (and Queen)

Robert Vaughan, An Author with Many Names

Robert Vaughan isn’t a household name as a romance writer. You might be surprised to learn that in the 20th century he sold tens of millions of books. However, as he used dozens of pseudonyms, many readers do not know who he is.

His pen names include Paula Fairman, K.C. McKenna, Paula Moore, Fancy DeWitt, Patricia Matthews, Jonathon Scofield, Lee Davis Willoughby, Kit Dalton, and Sara Luck.

Vaughan has written more than 300 to 400 books using 30 to 40 aliases.

He has penned various genres of fiction, including romance, action-adventure, military, and westerns.

Robert Vaughan Paula Fairman

Early Life and Military Career

Robert Vaughan was born in 1937 in Morley, Missouri, and raised in Sikeston, Missouri. His father served in the military. Robert followed in his father’s tracks in the late 1950s, entering Army Aviation. 

He served a distinguished career in the US Army as a soldier for 23 years. He had tours in Korea and Germany and three combat tours in Vietnam.

Vaughan would participate in the atmospheric nuclear bomb tests in 1957.

He engaged in the civil-rights deployment of James Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi. Vaughan was stationed to Homestead AFB as part of the potential invasion force during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, Vaughan received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, The Bronze Star, the Air Medal, and other medals.

During his military career, his creative talents came to the forefront. Vaughan wrote training manuals for the US Army and was the recipient of the Most Outstanding Military Writer six times. 

robert vaughan

A Journeyman Author Begins His Travels

Vaughan sold his first book when he was 19. It was a story of the US Army along the DMZ in Korea.

After Vaughan was discharged from the Army, he began his prolific writing career in earnest. He worked in almost every genre.

Sometimes he would publish under his real name, write under a pseudonym, or he would ghostwrite for other authors.

brandywine's war

Paula Fairman & Paula Moore

Under various pen names, including “Paula Moore” and “Paula Fairman,” Vaughan wrote romance novels that were extremely popular at the time they were written.

In 1977 Paula Fairman achieved massive sales with two bodice rippers, Forbidden Destiny and In Savage Splendor.

The books sold millions of copies for Pinnacle, who published many successful historical romances in the 1970s.

When Paul Fairman–the real Paula–passed away late that year, he left behind one unfinished manuscript. Robert Vaughan stepped in to continue writing as Paula Fairman.

He wrote a dozen more Paula Fairman bestsellers from 1978 to 1991.

southern ros solie

Some of those books would be republished in the 21st century under the name Fancy Dewitt.

As Paula Moore, Vaughan also authored historical, contemporary, and Gothic romances.

Patricia Matthews

Patricia Matthews was another best-selling Pinnacle author. The publisher even labeled her as “America’s First Lady of Historical Romance.” Matthews earned many awards, and her books sold millions of copies.

Patricia Matthews was–ostensibly–the working name of the husband and wife team, Patricia Klein Ernst Brisco Matthews & Clayton Matthews. Patricia also wrote under the pseudonyms of P.A. Brisco, Patty Brisco, Pat A. Brisco, Pat Brisco, Laura Wylie, and Denise Matthews with a friend.

Clayton passed away in 2004, and Patricia followed him in 2006.

However, Robert Vaughan is on record claiming to be the author of at least two of Matthews’ novels, Love’s Bold Journey (1980) and Love’s Sweet Agony (1980):

“I wrote [them] as Patricia Matthews, made number one on the list. In 1981, I sold 6 million books. In my lifetime, I have probably sold 40 million books, but nobody knows who I am.

love's bold journey

All the Work, But Little Credit

Vaughan has been candid about being the creator of two dozen bestselling romances from the 1970s into the 1990s, including the aforementioned Matthews novels.

“[T]wenty-three romance novels, writing as Paula Moore, Paula Fairman, and Patricia Matthews, total sales of over fifteen million copies. Two of these romance novels, Love’s Bold Journey and Love’s Sweet Agony, were number one on the NYT and PW bestseller lists.”  


As a journeyman ghostwriter, Vaughan never owned the rights to those names. As a result, he never received his due acclaim for his success.

Other Works of Fiction by Robert Vaughan

Among his notable non-romance books are: Survival: A Novel of The Donner Party; Brandywine’s War; The Valkyrie Mandate; The Power and the Pride; Gravedancer; When Honor Dies; and The Broken Covenant.

Vaughan was very proud of his work for the novelization of the television miniseries, Andersonville.

robert vaughan

He won the 1977 Porgie Award (Best Paperback Original) for The Power and the Pride.

powerand the pride vaughan

Sara Luck

He and his wife, Ruth, collaborate on their writing projects. Of course, they write romance!

“My wife Ruth and I are co-writing romance novels as Sara Luck. 

“She’s actually quite good at it, and I’m proud of her. And though the Sara Luck books don’t have my name, Ruth and I at least own the name.”


In the 2010s, Robert and Ruth co-wrote nine novels together.

sara luck

Life Today

Vaughan enjoys classical music and loves football, particularly college football. He also enjoys cooking and public speaking and will “accept invitations at the drop of a hat.”

He and his wife split their time living on the Alabama coast, residing in places all over the country, such as Oregon, Wyoming, and Chicago.

For many years Robert Vaughan taught the writing craft to many aspiring authors.

Although Vaughan has retired from the official speaking circuit, he is still active today.

Writing Legacy

A Pulitzer Prize nominee, Vaughan has won many prestigious writing awards. They include the Western Writers of America Spur Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Golden Triangle Writers Club, the Best Novel of the Vietnam War from Canadian University Symposium, and the Porgie Award from West Coast Books.

He was named the Best Military Writer of the Year by Army Aviation Digest for six consecutive years. Vaughan was an on-air Television personality in Portsmouth, VA, and Phoenix, AZ. In addition, he has been a national military consultant for FOX NEWS and CNN.

Robert Vaughan was inducted into the Writers’ Hall of Fame in 1998. His memoir, Random Thoughts of an Old Writer, was released in 2021 by Wolfpack Publishing.

Random Thoughts of an Old Writer

Robert Vaughan Covers

Your Opinion

Are you surprised to learn how prolific and successful a romance writer Robert Vaughan was? Have you read any Robert Vaughan romances?

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance!

A Closer Look At Dell Publishing

Dell, An American Publisher of Days Past

A Distant Memory of Dell Romances

Dell used to be a huge publisher of fiction and, in particular, romance. They hopped on the romance market when many other publishers ignored the genre.

I have mentioned many times before at Sweet Savage Flame how Elaine Coffman’s Escape Not, My Love was the first historical romance I read. Dell published the book in 1990, featuring a stunning stepback cover.

Dell had a long and successful history with romance. At one point, they were in direct competition with Harlequin. This was during what was called the “romance wars.” Ultimately, only one publisher was left standing. However, Dell’s decline would come long after the “romance wars” ended.

Dell and Their Beginnings

Dell Publishing was one of the earliest mainstream paperback publishers in the United States.

George Delacorte founded Dell Publishing in 1921 with money he received in a severance package after being dismissed from his job at a New York publishing firm. Delacorte looked down on the hoi polloi but at the same time to wanted to capitalize on the “semi-literate” classes. He saw there was an untapped market by producing cheaply made books of questionable quality that were designed to entertain, not enlighten.

This insight made him a very rich man. Later in life, Delacorte become a major philanthropist–the Delacorte Theater in Central Park is named for him–famous for financing monuments, statues and beautification projects. Lamentably, Delacorte was not a man of the people, deeming the poor as “dumb and lazy.” Nor did he give to hospitals, which he despised.

Dell a major publisher of pulp magazines and comic books, started publishing paperback books in 1943. Dell had a long, successful track record in newsstand sales. By 1946 it was a major player in the paperback book industry, second only to Pocket Books in sales. It did not have its first million-seller until the 1950s.

romance dell

Dell partnered with Western Publishing, headquartered in Racine, Wisconsin, for many of its publications, including the Dell paperbacks and comic books. Western had editorial offices in New York and Los Angeles. The latter handled the comics and books published under license with Disney and other studios.

Western’s Los Angeles office had published an earlier series of paperback mysteries under the Bantam imprint (unrelated to the firm founded in 1945), which were sold in vending machines. Western handled editorial and art for Dell paperbacks while Dell’s New York office was in charge of financing. distribution and promotion.

Dell Early Books

Besides magazines like Modern Screen and Modern Romance, Dell published comic books featuring comic-strip, Disney, and Looney Tunes characters. Puzzle magazines were among the company’s greatest successes. They also used the book imprints of Dial Press, Delacorte Books, Delacorte Press, Yearling Books, and Laurel Leaf Library.

Delacorte’s longtime assistant, Brooklyn-born Helen Meyer, noted for her toughness, was in charge of Bantam Books, a breakthrough in publishing for women. She later became CEO and President of Dell Publishing, the first woman to head a major publishing company.

Dell covers resembled the covers of pulp magazines. The back covers of some books had maps and casts of characters rather than the blurbs that were standard in publishing.

Dell and Romance

Early Romance Books and Magazines

Dell published many romances along with their pulp, westerns, and detective stories.

In the late 1960’s Dell jumped onto the hot “nurse” romance bandwagon.

Dell Gothic Romances

Dell published hundreds of Gothics. They picked the best artists to create eye-catching covers in a highly competitive field.

The fad grew so huge that Dell also published a magazine called Gothic Romance. That ran for a few years before the bodice ripper craze began.

Dell And Category Romance

Candlelight Romance

In the late 1960s, they created a line dedicated to romance.

These books were published from 1967 to 1982. Dell Candlelight Romances initially began as medical romances, then later included Gothic, historical, and contemporary.

This line should be noted for publishing Entwined Destinies by Rosalind Welles in 1980. It was the first category romance written by an African American author to feature Black protagonists.

entwined destinies

Candlelight Ecstasy Romance

Legendary African-American editor Vivian Stephens founded the Candlelight Ecstasy Romance in 1980. These books ran about the same length as Harlequin Romances or Presents, about 188-190 pages. They were a more sensual and erotically charged series than the standard Candlelight Romances. This line ran for about seven years.

dedicated man series romance

Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme

In 1983 Dell expanded their stable of romances further by launching the Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme category romances. These books were longer than the Candlelight Ecstasy Romances by 100 pages, allowing for more in-depth plotlines and deeper emotional content. Authors such as Heather Graham, Lori Copeland, Anne Stuart, and Cathie Linz wrote for the Ecstasy Supreme series.

The line was successful but only lasted until 1987. This was partly because Bantam’s parent company purchased Dell in 1986. Bantam already had a thriving category line in its Loveswept series. Thus, they ceased production of both Candlelight lines.

Dell would continue to produce romance novels, but only as single-edition, full-length works.

Man in Control
Man in Control, Alice Morgan, Dell, 1984, cover artist unknown

Other Dell Media


Dell was acquired by publishing giant Doubleday in 1976. Under Doubleday, Dell flourished by publishing paperback romances and other fiction. From 1986 to 1988, there would be a series of consolidations that would affect Dell’s future. Portions of Doubleday merged with Bantam & Dell to become the Bantam-Doubleday-Dell Publishing Group.

Danielle Steele and Elizabeth Adler would write many blockbusters with this group. Many bestselling romances would be published during this period. Authors su

ch as Virginia Henley, Karen Robards, Rexanne Becnel, Diana Gabaldon, Karen Marie Moning, Kat Martin, Marsha Canham, and Brenda Joyce were just a few of the very prolific and talented authors who wrote for Dell.

Dell hired among the best artists such as Elaine Gignilliat, Elaine Duillo, Victor Gadino, Robert Sabin, Sharon Spiak, Melissa Duillo-Gallo, and others to produce glorious artwork for their covers.

The vikings woman
the vikings woman spiak stepback

Then an even larger merger occurred in the late 1990s which would truly shake things up for Dell.

Dell Puzzles

Dell Puzzle Magazines commenced production in 1931. The first issue of Dell Pocket Crossword Puzzles was launched in 1941.

In the past, I used to be a prodigious crossword player. I also loved logic, math & word puzzles, although not word search games or Sudoku. Occasionally when I see a Dell magazine on the store racks, I buy them, but am shocked at how high the prices are!

In 1973, William and Penny Kanter had purchased a struggling crossword-magazine business which they would relaunch as the popular Penny Press magazines. They would be Dell’s competitor in the puzzle magazine business for the next twenty years.

dell puzzles

The End of Dell

Enter Bertelsmann

The end of Dell as an independent publisher came after a long string of mergers and sales. Dell’s parent company, Doubleday, was acquired by Bertelsmann, a private German conglomerate in 1986. Bertelsmann already owned Bantam books, 100% of the company since 1980. As mentioned earlier, they merged Bantam, Doubleday & Dell into one massive US subsidiary with individual imprints.

Over a decade later, Bertelsmann completed its acquisition of mega-publisher Random House. Random House was an old player in the paperback industry, dating back to 1923.

The Bantam-Doubleday-Dell super company under Bertelsmann ran parallel to Random House for a few years. Ten years afterward in 2008, there was another in-house reshuffling and house-cleaning due to the changes in the publishing industry.

Random House would take control of the Doubleday-Bantam-Dell group. Essentially that publishing division became an assortment of imprints.

Dell Lives On…Sort Of

Remember those crossword puzzle books and magazines? Well, Random House sold off Dell Magazines. That remnant of Dell still exists today as a publisher of science fiction, mystery, and horoscope magazines.

In 1996, Dell Magazines and Penny Press joined forces to create Penny-Dell Publications. Their Crossword, Logic, & Sudoku puzzle books–among others–continue to remain popular in the United States and Canada.

Penguin-Random House and the Big Six Five Publishers

Back in 1973, Random House Publishers had purchased Ballantine Books. 2010 would see Random House consolidate Ballantine and the Bantam-Dell imprints into the Ballantine-Bantam-Dell group.

Random House then merged with Penguin to form Penguin-Random House in 2013. This resulted in an ever bigger, multinational conglomerate corporation with many divisions, publishers, imprints, and lines. Dell would be a casualty of this union.

While Ballantine & Bantam still exist, releasing fiction and non-fiction, Dell no longer is a book publishing entity. However, since Dell’s demise, the name Delacorte Press lives on as a Random House Children’s imprint. 

Dell Romance Covers


model fabio

Romance Cover Model: Fabio Lanzoni

model featured on many romance novel covers fabio

Fabio Lanzoni: A Controversial Romance Icon

When one thinks of old-school romance books, often the first name associated with them is the male model Fabio and “cheesy covers.”

The granite-jawed male model was featured on many romance novel covers in the 198s and 1990s. “Back in the day,” Fabio Lanzoni posed for hundreds of romances–to the delight of many readers.

Fabio was often painted by artists such as Sharon Spiak, Melissa-Duillo Gallo, and her mother, Elaine Duillo. She discovered Fabio, leading to his fame skyrocketing after he appeared on her covers for Johanna Lindsey.

Like bodice rippers of yesteryear, model Fabio Lanzoni has been unfairly maligned and mocked by many modern romance readers. There’s a sentiment of contempt displayed at the old clinch covers, with some even declaring that they, along with Fabio, represented a low point in the genre.

the conqueror duillo
The Conqueror, Brenda Joyce, Dell, Elaine Duillo cover art.

As a fan of Fabio and old-school romance, I cannot emphasize how wrong I think these detractors are.

The painted covers of vintage romances were created by talented artists who used beautiful men and women as models. The covers were works of art, despite–or perhaps because of–their gratuitous sexual nature.

Fabio, More Than Meets the Eye

Lovers of romance should embrace that period in history. They fail to understand that model Fabio Lanzoni was supposed to be over-the-top and outlandish. He was advertising an exaggerated fantasy that we all knew was a bit ridiculous.

fabio lanzoni model on many romance covers
Fabio is in the shower

In trying to defend their beloved books, some fans take them too seriously. The romance novel industry has always been outrageous and irreverent by its nature, which is part of the fun.

We romance readers in the 1990s were far savvier than our contemporaries give us credit for. We were in on the joke. It was about all of us enjoying the show. Fabio always laughed along with us, embracing his beefcake status.

fabio lanzoni model featured on many romance novel covers
Master of the Heart, Terri Valentine, Zebra, Franco cover art

The Beginning

Early Life

Fabio Lanzoni was born in Milan, Italy, on March 15, 1961. His father was Sauro Lanzoni, a mechanical engineer and owner of a conveyor-belt company. Flora Carnicelli Lanzoni, his mother, was a former beauty queen. He was raised in a loving family with siblings. As a child, Fabio was even an altar boy.

Fabio grew into a handsome young man. His large, muscular figure made him natural for the camera.

fabio Lanzoni
Fabio looking fab

His career began at age 14 when he was discovered by a photographer who asked him to model for Italian Vogue magazine.

Following a stint in the army, Lanzoni came to the United States to further develop his career. He moved to New York City to become a fashion and catalog model and signed with the Ford Agency.

Fabio Lanzoni cover model GQ
Fabio Lanzoni, GQ Magazi

Early Career

During the early part of his modeling career, Fabio obtained many jobs in print ads, magazines, and books. He also posed on video game covers.

model on many romance novel covers

Fabio made his first appearance on the cover of a romance novel in 1987. He posed on the back of the Bertrice Small bodice ripper, Enchantress Mine, as the ironically and unfortunately misnamed villain, Eric Longsword.

Legendary artist Elaine Duillo discovered Fabio through photos. She thought there was something unique about him that would make him a natural fit for her colorful work.

fabio meodel on many romance novel covers
Enchantress Mine, Bertrice Small, Elaine Duillo cover artists
fabio model enchantress mine back
Enchantress Mine, Bertrice Small, Signet, 1987, Elaine Duillo cover art (BACK COVER)

When Duillo designed her first cover for Johanna Lindsey, she used Fabio as the hero. This was the 1987 Viking romance Hearts Aflame. It was a smash hit, reaching number 3 on the N.Y. Times bestseller list.

Duillo would continue to paint Lindsey’s covers for the next decade until she retired in the early 2000s. She used Fabio as her primary male model for Lindsey’s books.

fabio johanna lindsey cover
Hearts Aflame, Johanna Lindsey, 1987, Elaine Duillo cover art

The Covers: Part I

Some Fabio covers:

A Romance Sensation

Fabio was not Duillo’s official muse as a model. Even so, no other artist captured Fabio’s look better than she did. However, Elain and Fabio only worked together on fewer than twenty books. Duillo painted other models— female and male– much more than that, including Chad Deal. (40+ vs. 19).

Other artists, such as Elaine’s daughter, Melissa Duillo-Gallo, Sharon Spiak, Max Ginsburg, John Ennis, and Pino, also painted his form. Fabio’s face is so unique that he looks different from cover to cover, depending on the artist.

Mystic Rebel VI, Ryder Syvertsen, Pinnacle, cover artist TBD

Fabio posed solo for a couple of Laura Kinsale’s books. The first and most notable was The Prince of Midnight. This romance was a roaring success. This was not just because of the fine quality of Kinsale’s writing.

prince of midnight
The Prince of Midnight, Laura Kinsale, Avon, Steve Assel

Editors found that Fabio’s image boosted book sales. All the major publishers were eager to use him. Avon, Bantam, Dell, Dorchester, Harlequin, Warner Books, Kensington (Zebra), and others had him pose as their leading men.

Model Lianna Loggins was undoubtedly one of the female models who appeared on most romance novel covers with Fabio: at least a hundred.

romance novel covers female models
Dark Whispers, Marylyle Rogers, Avon, 1992, Elaine Duillo

Pop Culture Status

By the early 1990s, Fabio was fully entrenched as a romance genre staple. The now-defunct Romantic Times had him as their centerfold in 1992. Fabio appeared at numerous conventions, to the delight of his many fans.

Fabio’s fame grew more prominent in the cultural zeitgeist after being made the official face of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! He starred in a series of campy commercials that were enormously successful. 

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Ad

Later, he was a spokesman for the American Cancer Society. This was personal to him, as he lost a sister to the deadly disease.

Eventually, Fabio made his way to screen and television, such as in the daytime soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful and in movies like Dude, Where’s My Car?

bold and the beautiful
Fabio & Darlene Conelly on The Bold and the Beautiful

Fabio, the Romance Author & Modelling Legacy

As time went on, Fabio even wrote a few novels himself. He published several books that–naturally–featured him on the cover. Fabio came up with an overall plot and gave dictation for dialogue.

Journey-woman Eugenia Riley ghostwrote most of his books for Avon. He also wrote three more books in collaboration with Wendy Corsi Staub that Pinnacle Books published.

model featured on many romanc novel covers
Rogue, Fabio, Avon, Elaine Duillo cover art.

As a model, Fabio was featured on many romance covers, posing for 466 novels (or more).

Fabio officially retired in the late 1990s, except to pose for the books “he” wrote.

Nevertheless, some of his photos from previous assignments were recycled into new covers. Elaine Duillo used the sketches from the shoot for Rebecca Brandewyne’s Swan Road stepback to transform them into a new stepback cover for Johanna Lindsey’s Joining.

swan road duillo
Swan Road, Rebecca Brandewyne, Warner, 1994, Elaine Duillo cover art

Joining, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1999, Elaine Duillo cover art

Fabio Today

Fabio became a U.S. citizen in 2016.

He still maintains a grueling workout regimen to keep his body in tip-top shape. Fabio also purportedly sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber, which he says “Helps reverse the aging process.”

Now in 2021, Fabio is still as handsome as ever at the age of 61.

To this day, he remains a bachelor. However, the word is out he’s finally looking for a lady to settle down with. So there is still hope for that special someone!

Fabio lanzoni
Fabio today

Final Thoughts on Fabio

Fabio was not the first, and likely, he won’t be the last superstar cover model. During Fabio’s reign as “King of the Romance Covers,” other sunning men like John DeSalvo and Steve Sandalis achieved acclaim.

After his retirement, Rob Ashton, Cherif Fortin, and Joe Anselmo rose to stardom. All of them had long hair like Fabio–although they were brunets. (So is Fabio, naturally. He dyed his hair blond.)

A few male cover models who came after gained huge success, like Jason Baca, who appeared on almost 500 covers. You can read about him here: The Male Model Who Has Appeared on More Romance Novel Covers Than Fabio.

But though he may have his imitators, there was one and only one Fabio.

fabio in loin cloth
Fabio in a loin cloth

I always considered Fabio easy on the eyes. He certainly was pleasing to look upon. Even so, I never pictured him as my ideal hero.

Regardless, I treasured his charm, his ultra-macho yet sensitive aura, and his ability for self-deprecation. Fabio embraced who he was: a romance icon.

Plus, above all, he loved his fans. In turn, Fabio’s fans adored him for who he was!

Fabio haters, please go and enjoy your favorite hunky models in peace. We Fabio lovers will be here to have a good time smiling over his hundreds of beautiful covers.

The Covers: Part II


world book day

World Book Day 2022

world book day 2022

Celebrate World Book Day 2022 by Reading Books (and Reading About Books)

It’s World Book Day today April 23, 2002! What is World Book Day? It’s a day commemorating the importance of the published word. Storytelling is such a vital aspect of human existence. Through stories, we share our hopes, our dreams, our past, and our present lives.

Books can touch us with personal narratives, uniting people from all walks of life, from the worst experiences to the best.

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They can also take us away to other realms we humans haven’t lived in. We can escape the mundane of the day-to-day to visit adventures in days gone by, or exist in a parallel time where glamor reigns supreme.

Sweet Savage Flame and Our Bookish Bests

Past Articles About Books In General

We thought it would be fun to search through our archives for some book-related topics. Below are a few articles from the past year that discuss books or reading in general.

world book day 2022