Tag: Contemporary Romance

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”

Category Romance Review: A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom

a love to last forever
A Love to Last Forever, Linda Randall Wisdom, Dell, 1986, Diana Voyaloju cover art

Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme #126

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Class of 1966

A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom is a fine romance between two former high school classmates, Stacy McAllister and Clarence “Mike” Harper. It’s 1986, and a 20-year class reunion brings the protagonists together. While Stacy was a popular cheerleader and prom queen who dated the captain/ quarterback of the football team, Mike had been a chubby, pimple-faced nerd who students like Stacy’s boyfriend had picked on.

Characters

Stacy’s life is not running as smoothly as it had years before. She’d once had a promising future with a scholarship to North Western University but gave it up to marry her boyfriend a week after graduation. While that marriage resulted in a daughter, it ended in divorce when Stacy had enough of her husband’s abuse. A second marriage also ended in divorce after she got pregnant with a son.

Now Stacy works in the same small town she grew up in, working as a secretary to a sleazy life insurance salesman and drives an old jalopy of a station wagon.... Read more “Category Romance Review: A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom”

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

Category Romance Review: Tabitha in Moonlight by Betty Neels

tabitha in the moonlight
Tabitha in the Moonlight, Betty Neels, Harlequin, 1972, Bern Smith cover art

Harlequin Romance #1905

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Heroine & the Hero

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Tabitha in Moonlight is a Harlequin Romance about an efficient, capable nurse (aren’t they always in these books?) in an elderly men’s ward. She falls for the new temporary surgeon, the Dutch-born, Dr. Marius van Beek. Betty Neels wields the typical doctor-nurse romance into a Cinderella story, with Tabitha starring as the poor, down-trodden stepdaughter who gets no love from her wicked step-mother and step-sister.

Dr. van Beek plays the prince’s role, but fortunately, this Prince is far more astute than his fairy tale predecessor, not requiring a glass slipper to identify his true lady love.

When first we meet Tabitha, she is presiding over her ward, checking on patients in a pleasant, personal manner, going as far as taking care of one old gentleman’s cat. She’s no beauty, as Neels describes her, but with her lovely figure, wide smile, and fabulous hair that she keeps primly knotted up, the reader knows Tabitha is actually a swan in hiding.

The Plot

Tabitha lives in a little flat near work.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Tabitha in Moonlight by Betty Neels”

The Male Authors of Vintage Romance

man and woman holding each others hand wrapped with string lights
Photo by Anastasiya Lobanovskaya on Pexels.com

Romance Is For Everyone

In the past, Sweet Savage Flame has focused on authors who used pseudonyms. We’ve posited reasons why romance writers would use pen names. One possibility given was the book was written by a man. As romance is often considered a woman’s topic, it’s understandable that male authors would favor an opposite-gendered moniker when publishing.

The realm of fictional violence has been historically masculine. Romance, on the other hand, has been consigned to the feminine sphere. Upon closer inspection, the matter is not so black-and-white. While females account for 82 to 85% of the romance genre readership, that still means many men enjoy love stories with happy endings.

Consider that romance is a billion-dollar industry, with a 30% market share of paperbacks alone. Romance lags (barely) behind only the suspense/thriller genre in total sales for adult fiction. In the United States, about 25 million romance books are sold annually. Despite being a primarily women’s domain, that means there are quite a few male romance readers. What about the writers?

Men Who Wrote Romance Novels

Men were part of the 1970’s romance revolution, and to this day, they remain part of it as writers and readers.... Read more “The Male Authors of Vintage Romance”

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”

Category Romance Review: Lovers and Strangers (aka Hollywood Nights) by Candace Schuler

lovers and strangers
Lovers and Strangers, Candace Schuler, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Temptation #549

MILD SPOILERS 😉

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

This review is of Lovers and Strangers, book #7 in the “Bachelor Arms” series by Candace Schuler. It’s a Harlequin Temptation from August 1995.

Series Overview

Like JoAnn Ross’ contributions to the “Bachelor Arms”  series, Ms. Schuler’s three books contain a mystery within a mystery. There is an overarching mystery that runs through all 11 books in the series. There is the mystery that is contained in Ms. Schuler’s books (Reviewer note: The versions of the three books I am reviewing are the ebook versions of the original books published from August-October 1995. It appears Ms. Schuler regained the rights to her work from Harlequin and republished the books in 2012/13 under a new series name: Hollywood Nights. Perhaps owing to that, supporting character names and the name of the building have been changed from the print version. However, the titles and the core Harlequin Temptation stories remain intact.)

Plot

The book begins in Los Angeles, 1970. Two brothers, Eric Shannon, 24, and his younger brother Jack, 18, are arguing over plans for a screenplay they’re collaborating on.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Lovers and Strangers (aka Hollywood Nights) by Candace Schuler”

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”

Category Romance Review: Never a Bride by JoAnn Ross

never a bride joann ross
Never a Bride, JoAnn Ross, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Temptation #537

MILD SPOILERS 😉

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

This review is for Never a Bride, book #4 in the “Bachelor Arms” series published in May 1995 by Harlequin Temptation and written by JoAnn Ross

Series Overview

In the first 3 books in the series, Kate Hoffmann wrote about three male friends who find love. In the following 3 books in the series, written by JoAnn Ross, three female friends come together for one of the ladies’ weddings.

It’s Always a Mystery

The book begins on December 31, 1933. A party is taking place at the home of William Randolph Hearst. The night will end in tragedy, however, as femme fatale actress Alexandra Romanov is killed. Her husband, screenwriter Patrick Reardon, is arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for her murder. 

Hey Angel

Fast forward 62 years to 1995 Los Angeles. We meet Caitlin Carrigan, 25, the heroine of the book, and an L.A. police officer. We also meet Sloan Wyndham, 31, the hero of the book and a Hollywood screenwriter. Caitlin and Sloan’s first meeting is memorable, and not in a good way.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Never a Bride by JoAnn Ross”

Contemporary Romance Review: Sometimes a Stranger by Angela Alexie

Sometimes A Stranger, Angela Alexie, Pocket Books/ Richard Gallen,1981, cover artist TBD

Richard Gallen Books #43801-8

Spoiler Free Review 😊

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Mary Anne Landers

A Category Romance on Steroids

Like big, dramatic contemporary romances set in glamorous, exciting milieus? With dynamic characters and lots of plot? Then I recommend Sometimes a Stranger.

It was originally published in 1981 as part of the Richard Gallen imprint from Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. The edition I read came from Paradise Press, a reprint house, in 1990. Can’t say I care much for the cover graphics of my copy. But the text itself—wow!

It does something unusual for a contemporary romance of any generation. Typically stories in this genre take place in “the eternal present.” There are no dates as in historical romances. It’s assumed that what’s going on can happen when the work is first published and any time thereafter.

Trouble is, the present ISN’T eternal. Things change. I imagine some readers (not including me) get put off when vintage-contemporary romances employ the fashions, pop culture, technology, and social attitudes of their times.... Read more “Contemporary Romance Review: Sometimes a Stranger by Angela Alexie”

Category Romance Review: Whisper to the Waves by Helen Beaumont

whisper to the waves
Whisper to the Waves, Helen Beaumont, Sapphire, 1982, Cover Artist TBD

Sapphire Romance

Spoiler Free Review 😊

Rating: 4 out of 5.

4 Stars

Reviewed by Mary Anne Landers

Welcome aboard!

Whisper to the Waves is a good contemporary romance that with a little tweaking could’ve been an excellent one. It was published by RCA Marketing in 1982 in its Sapphire Romance series. These were American reprints of British originals; this one was first published by Hamlyn Paperbacks in 1981. 

All I know about the author is that “Helen Beaumont” might be a pseudonym. She wrote romances under at least three other names. And there’s more than one author with this name.

Whoever she was, she displays here a keen sense of just what makes a story romantic. And emotional; this one is full of drama. All centered on a heroine I can readily admire and identify with, a woman of deep feelings and a truly romantic disposition. Her story is a moving and memorable read. I would’ve given it five stars if not for–well, more about that later.

Are shipboard romances real?

Sadie Wyman works as a nurse aboard the ocean liner Konkordia, under the ship’s physician Dr.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Whisper to the Waves by Helen Beaumont”

Category Romance Review: Tonight and Forever by Brenda Jackson

Tonight and Forever, Brenda Jackson, Pinnacle, 1995, Cover Artist TBD

Arabesque Romance

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Brenda Jackson’s Tonight and Forever is her first published book and the first in her long-running series of the Madaris family. It’s a Pinnacle Arabesque romance from 1995, which are category romances but are not numbered, at least not to my knowledge.

Plot And Characters

Lorren Jacobs has left behind her past in California to return to her roots in Texas. After a bad marriage led to a bitter divorce, all she wants is to be with the people she loves and focus on her career of writing children’s books. At a party, the successful doctor Justin Madaris catches sight of her and is instantly smitten. Lorren is a beautiful woman, and receiving male attention is natural, but she wants none of that. Especially not from handsome men like Justin Madaris.

While Lorren had an unhappy marriage to a horrible man, Justin is a widower of ten years. His marriage was happy, but sadly, his wife is dead. Justin, however, is still in the realm of the living and is willing to live and love.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Tonight and Forever by Brenda Jackson”

Free Vintage or Old School Romance Books on Amazon #2

mansfield park

There are so many books listed on Amazon for free to read, that we had to post some more freebies!

Amazon Prime

If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can borrow up to 10 books for free at a time. The lending library is limited to just 1,000 books, so check often to see what is available as the status of e-books changes. Currently, these romance novels published from the 1970s to 2000 are free to borrow (original cover edition followed by Amazon image/link):

Classic Romance

MANSFIELD PARK by JANE AUSTEN

Contemporary Romance

FOR ALL THEIR LIVES by FERN MICHAELS

SERENDIPITY by FERN MICHAELS

Gothic Romance

THE INDIA FAN by VICTORIA HOLT

THE SECRET WOMAN by VICTORIA HOLT

the secret woman

THE SHIVERING SANDS by VICTORIA HOLT

THE TIME OF THE HUNTER’S MOON by VICTORIA HOLT

Historical Romance

OUTLAW HEARTS by ROSANNE BITTNER

RAPTURE’S GOLD by ROSANNE BITTNER

WHISPER TO ME OF LOVE by SHIRLEE BUSBEE

DEVIL’S DESIRE by LAURIE MCBAIN

DEVIL'S DESIRE

MOONSTRUCK MADNESS by LAURIE MCBAIN

Moonstruck madness

LIONS AND LACE by MEAGHAN MCKINNEY

WILD ANGEL by MIRIAM MINGER

DEARLY BELOVED by MARY JO PUTNEY

SAVAGE ECSTASY by JANELLE TAYLOR

Savage Ecstasy

Kindle Unlimited

If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, no doubt you already take advantage of the many books you can read for a fixed monthly fee.... Read more “Free Vintage or Old School Romance Books on Amazon #2”

Category Romance Review: Driving Force by Sally Wentworth

Driving Force, Sally Wentworth, Harlequin, 1988, Cover Artist TBD

Harlequin Presents #1197

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Driving Force, a Sally Wentworth Harlequin Presents, offers few surprises but is a satisfactory read regardless.

Characters

West Marriot– our hero, not a 3-star hotel but a famous race car driver–was terribly injured in a race several months ago. Madeleine French, a nurse and physiotherapist, had been married to West for four years. Maddy couldn’t withstand the anxiety of being married to a man with such a dangerous career, so she gave him an ultimatum, married life or fast cars. When he refused to quit, she left him. Several months later, West was in an accident that immobilized him.

Maddy receives a call from West’s mother, requesting to catch up. In fact, Laura, West’s mother, declares to Laura West isn’t recovering at all and may never walk again. She begs Maddy to come to help her ex-husband, and although Maddy initially refuses, in time, she realizes she still loves her ex and can’t abandon him. Maddy knows it won’t be easy for West to accept her, as their divorce was acrimonious, with West, a man a proud man, begging Maddy to stay.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Driving Force by Sally Wentworth”

Category Romance Review: The Strong, Silent Type by Kate Hoffmann

The Strong, Silent Type, Kate Hoffmann, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD (Canille?)

Harlequin Temptation #529

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This review is of The Strong, Silent Type,  book #2 in the Bachelor Arms series and the 2nd of 3 books in the series written by Kate Hoffmann.

Wild One

The book begins with Josh Banks, the hero of the book and a tax accountant (yes, you read that correctly), meeting with one of his clients, actress Olivia Wilde (NOT the current actress using the stage name, this Olivia Wilde is a 75-year-old octogenarian actress). Olivia asks Josh for a favor; to keep her granddaughter, Taryn, out of Los Angeles for a few weeks (Olivia is up for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and feels that Taryn–a tabloid darling–might scupper her chances for the award with her behavior). 

When Josh meets Taryn, the heroine, he offers her money to leave L.A. She refuses. She’ll only agree to behave if Josh does something for her, which he is not willing to do at first. (He does agree, eventually, to pose for her).

Take Me as I Am

As the book goes on, Taryn gets into some mishaps which Josh has to extricate her from.... Read more “Category Romance Review: The Strong, Silent Type by Kate Hoffmann”

Category Romance Review: A Happily Unmarried Man by Kate Hoffmann

a happily unmarried man
A Happily Unmarried Man, Kate Hoffmann, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Temptation #533

MILD SPOILERS 😉

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This review is of A Happily Unmarried Man, #3 in the Bachelor Arms series published in April 1995 by Kate Hoffmann.

Bachelor Arms Series Book #3

The story begins at a mall in Los Angeles. Tru Hallihan and Josh Banks have come to the mall to shop for gifts for their respective wives. Tagging along is their friend Garrett McCabe, the hero of the book and a columnist for The L.A. Post newspaper. When Tru and Josh discover that domestic diva Emily Taylor is having a book signing in the mall, Tru and Josh decide to get autographed copies of her books for their spouses. Garrett, meanwhile, decides to write a vituperative column about Emily, ripping her up one side and down the other. He thinks the column is funny.

Others, however, don’t see it that way. Female readers call to cancel their newspaper subscriptions, and Richard Parker, Garrett’s boss, orders him to apologize to Emily, the heroine of the book. (There are other reasons Parker wants Garrett to apologize; he’s trying to buy “At Home,” the magazine Emily owns with her business partner, Nora Griswold). ... Read more “Category Romance Review: A Happily Unmarried Man by Kate Hoffmann”

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!