Tag: Harlequin Romance

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”

Covers of the Week #27

caressa

We’ve highlighted quite a few romance book covers here at Sweet Savage Flame. A common theme for many is to include animals, particularly horses, in the background to demonstrate passion and vitality. Some equines weren’t content to be cast as mere decoration, however. Neigh, these horses demanded a starring role with the couples engaged in their usual passionate clinches. (That sentence came off a bit odd, didn’t it?)

For the week of Monday, October 11, to Sunday, October 17, 2021, let’s give some love to the horses that make historical romance covers so much fun. (Now that sentence definitely sounded wrong!)

... Read more “Covers of the Week #27”

Covers of the Week #24

skylark

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

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

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

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

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

Covers of the Week #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!

Covers of the Week #20

springs fury

In 1971 singer/songwriter Carole King wrote the lovely song: “You’ve Got a Friend,” which detailed the lasting strength of love. James Taylor recorded it to great acclaim. Other artists like Dusty Springfield and Michael Jackson would put their own twists on the tune. These simple lyrics always stick with me:

Winter, spring, summer, fall
All you have to do is call…

YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND

The power of love is as old as the Earth and as constant as the four seasons. To live is to love! At Sweet Savage Flame, romance is in the air all year long. So to celebrate, from Monday, August 23, 2021, to Sunday, August 29, our 20th edition of Covers of the Week highlights four beautiful romance covers set during Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.

Do you have a favorite season for romance?

Covers of the Week #16

island enchantress

Wouldn’t it be nice to get away to an island paradise? I thought we all could enjoy a tropical theme for these dog days of summer. To those folks experiencing mid-winter in the southern latitudes, imagine relaxing on the beach like these lovers posing for this week’s romance book covers! For the week of Monday, July 26 to Sunday, August 1, 2021, here are some sexy embraces on sultry beaches. Enjoy! clinch

Category Romance Review: Whisper to the Stars by Hettie Grimstead

Whisper to the Stars
Whisper to the Stars, Hettie Grimstead, Harlequin, “Jh” cover artist

Harlequin Romance #1403

Spoiler-Free Review 🙂

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A Star of a Lower Magnitude

Whisper to the Stars is a vintage-contemporary romance that revolves around a trope hard to find nowadays: unrequited love. It starts out strong, with the promise of a deeply moving emo story. And it delivers, up to a point. Then it falters. Somewhere in the middle, it loses sight of what a romance is supposed to do: to engage and enthrall the reader.

Recently I read and reviewed for Sweet Savage Flame Yesterday’s Love by Marsha Manning, pen name of the prolific Hettie Grimstead. I was so enchanted that I sought out other romances by the same author. Which led me to Whisper to the Stars. To say I had high expectations would be putting it mildly.

It was first published in 1963 by Mills & Boon. The version I read is, of course, the transatlantic Harlequin reprint. Published in 1970, with three later editions (that I know of). It got pretty good ratings on Goodreads, so I must assume it was a crowd-pleaser.

For me, at least it was a good try.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Whisper to the Stars by Hettie Grimstead”

Category Romance Review: Country Bride by Debbie Macomber

Country Bride, Debbie Macomber, Harlequin, 1990, Will Davies cover art

Harlequin Romance # 3059

Spoiler Free Review 🙂

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Debbie Macomber’s Country Bride was my introduction to this hugely popular author. I’m ashamed to admit that although I’ve read a handful of her Harlequins, I had no idea that Debbie Macomber was such a commercial hit with her small-town romances. Up until recently, I had no clue that she’s got a whopping 200 million books in print and has written several movies for the Hallmark channel.

Country Bride was released in 1990, and I recall really loving it. Although this book maintains a largely positive rating overall, I was surprised that the top Amazon and Goodreads reviews were negative, blaming the heroine for being too self-centered or the hero for being too overbearing. I thought nostalgia might have colored my opinion of this book, but after a recent re-read, my feelings on Country Bride remain unchanged; I love this little series romance, and a big reason was the hero, Luke.

The Plot

Country Bride is the sequel to Macomber’s A Little Bit Country, and I read the books in reverse order, which negatively affected my opinion of the first book in the series.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Country Bride by Debbie Macomber”

Covers of the Week #9

Take a look and enjoy Blue Falcon’s favorite covers! For the week of June 7 to June 13, we asked our dear friend Blue Falcon to choose his favorite covers for this week’s theme. Thanks to these picks, I discovered a new line, Richard Gallen Books, which preceded the Tapestry imprint for Pocket Books.

Covers of the Week #8

Gentle Rogue

“A bird, bird, bird, b-bird is the word!” For the week of May 31 to June 6, can you spy the birds on these Elaine Duillo and John Ennis illustrated historical romance novel covers? Enjoy!

Covers of the Week #7

Romance is in the air! For the week of May 24 to May 30, here are some lovely Frank Kalan covers painted for the Harlequin Romance line. Enjoy!

Category Romance Review: Game Plan by Rosemary Hammond

Game Plan, Rosemary Hammond, Harlequin, 1990, Will Davies cover art
Harlequin Romance #3026
3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I cut my romance teeth on Harlequin Romances back in the early 1990s when I was a preteen. They taught me so much about the world! 😛 Rosemary Hammond’s Game Plan was the second adult contemporary romance I read. It was the first where the protagonists consummated their relationship. Sex in a book! Shocking! And, of course, the not-at-all sexy heroine was a virgin! This book is over 35 years old, so yes, it was very tame and innocent. But what did I know back then?

The Plot

Remember that Flock of Seagull’s song “I Ran”? The lyrics went: “I never thought I’d meet a girl like you/ Meet a girl like you/ with auburn hair and tawny eyes/The kind of eyes that hypnotize me through…”

Well, it was in Game Plan that I learned that very tall, voluptuous redheads who put their hair up in buns, dress in severe, drab suits, and wear glasses are seen as plain. Honestly, what kind of man would be attracted to that type? 😁

The story is this: a serious young college professor refuses to give a football star a passing grade and then clashes with his coach.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Game Plan by Rosemary Hammond”

Category Romance Review: Arafura Pirate by Victoria Gordon

arafura pirate
Arafura Pirate, Victoria Gordon, Harlequin, 1989, Will Davies cover art

Harlequin Romance #3025

From the back of the book:

Marine biologist Jinx Beaumont had the sinking feeling her given name foretold the voyage ahead of her. She was jinxed, all right – stuck with Race Morgan, a merciless buccaneer of a captain. Studying shark life on the rough seas north of Australia kept Jinx busy enough. She definitely didn’t need the unnerving distraction of a human predator like roguish Captain Morgan! Jinx fought against the magnetic pull and her desire. She didn’t want to become one of Race’s romantic conquests. But her inner turmoil only increased when she felt challenged by a rival who was stunningly beautiful…and vicious.

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Arafura Pirate by Victoria Gordon was among one of the first romances I read.

Arafura Pirate was set in coastal Australia with a spunky heroine named Jinx, a blond, short-haired marine biologist who was tough and independent. She sets out with her team of fellow scientists to tag sharks.

When she met the hero, Race Morgan (what a typical hero name that was!), she wore a shirt that said, “Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray.”... Read more “Category Romance Review: Arafura Pirate by Victoria Gordon”

Covers of the Week #5

They may be late, but here are romance covers to enjoy for the week of May 10 to May 16. Since this week will be short and hopefully end up sweet, we’ll celebrate some short and sweet romances illustrated by Will Davies covers for this week!

Left to right: Promise Me Tomorrow, Leigh Michaels, Harlequin, 1991, Will Davies cover art; That Dear Perfection, Alison York, Harlequin, 1988, Will Davies cover art; Country Bride, Debbie Macomber, Harlequin, 1990, Will Davies cover art; Don’t Call it Love, Lindsay Armstrong, 1984, Will Davies cover art

Category Romance Review: Seduction by Charlotte Lamb

Seduction, Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1980, Craig cover art

Harlequin Presents #428

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Charlotte Lamb’s Seduction features a ridiculously sheltered and innocent heroine and a hero so crazy and obsessed, they can only be found in old-school Harlequin Presents or bodice rippers, “mated-pair” paranormal romances, or perhaps self-published New-Adult books.

The Plot

Clea is an orphaned English girl living in Greece with her Greek stepfather and stepsister. Her step-sister is a caricature of a slut, pursuing the hero with inexplicably misplaced confidence. Worse, Clea has a creepy step-dad with unhealthy designs on her, as he wants Clea to remain untouched by any man (except himself).

Ben is an Englishman visiting Greece, and he becomes obsessed with Clea from the first instance. He will do anything to get her.

He has a female accomplice named Natalie who befriends Clea and helps Ben abduct her. I wondered what this guy had on Natalie to make her do such a thing, but we never found out. Although just like Kramer from the show, Seinfeld has the power of the “Kavorka,” the “lure of the animal,” which attracts lust and devotion, Ben wields a strange control over women.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Seduction by Charlotte Lamb”

Category Romance Review: Change of Life by Judith Arnold

change of life
Change of Life, Judith Arnold, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist TBD

Harlequin American Romance #362

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Change of Life, a category romance by Judith Arnold, seems less a romance and more a story of a woman’s mid-life crisis and journey to self-discovery.

The Plot

Lila Chapin is a long-time married woman with several rambunctious young boys. While Daddy is the fun parent, she’s a stay-at-home mom who cooks, cleans, disciplines, and is attentive to everyone’s wants and needs. On her 40th birthday, when her husband, Ken, and their kids forget all about it, she decides it’s time for a change in her life. She packs up her things, takes her keys, withdraws some money from their bank account, and leaves.

She settles into a hotel and figures it’s time to take care of her wants and needs. She informs her bewildered husband that she’s taking one month off from being a wife and mother. Lila feels she’s been taken for granted, and without her around, her family will realize how much they rely on her for everything.

Ken, of course, isn’t amused. He insists Lila come home, but she’s not budging.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Change of Life by Judith Arnold”

Category Romance Review: Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan

spell of the mountains
Spell of the Mountains, Rosalie Henaghan, Harlequin, 1989, cover artist unknown
Harlequin Presents #3027

From the Back of the Book:

I’d sooner kiss a snake than you!”
When Sophie had angrily insulted New Zealand hotelier Jon Roberts, she’d never expected him to respond with a wager. If he managed to wangle her cherished homestead motel away from her, he’d announced, he would claim a kiss as his prize…
Sophie had no intention of losing out to arrogant Jon! Until a fateful mountain snowstorm trapped them both together — and all her best laid plans went awry…
In the wintry wonderland of the mountains, Sophie — the icy snow queen — began to melt with Jon’s charms. But chilling winds from their past still blew between them… 
.”

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan was the first “adult” romance I read. I had read some Carolyn B. Cooney and the like, but never a love story about adults.

Back in January or February of 1990 a mysterious package of 4 books came in the mail. Whoever ordered them I never learned, but my mom gave them to me, since she knew I was a book-worm.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan”

The Evolution of Romance at Harlequin

the feathered shaft

Harlequin Romances are Becoming More Sexy

An article from February 11, 2021, by journalist Chris Lambie at saltwire.com addresses How Harlequin Romances Got Spicier. A study of 500 books found the covers got sexier as time has passed, just as the stories have. This phenomenon is not limited to Harlequin, but Harleys are the biggest players in the romance market, and they’re the oldest ones around.

From the article:

“All this begs the question, why study Harlequin romance covers over the decades? ‘If you want to understand what straight women want over time, I think this is a really telling way of looking at it,”’ Fisher said. ‘There’s only a certain segment of women that would be interested in these books. But I think it’s really useful in terms of understanding women’s idealized fantasies about mating.‘”

I’m afraid I have to disagree with this sentiment. I know straight women, lesbians, gay men, and straight men who read romance. It is evident that it’s mostly straight women read heterosexual romances. However, we shouldn’t ignore almost 1/5 of male readers or the other out-lying groups. Approximately 50% of romance readers are between the ages of 18-45, so of course, there are those looking for something different from their mothers or grandmothers.... Read more “The Evolution of Romance at Harlequin”

Category Romance Book Review: The Secret Baby by Day Leclaire

the secret baby
Harlequin Romance #3457 The Secret Baby, Day Leclaire, Harlequin, 1995,
The Secret Baby, Day Leclaire, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD
Harlequin Romance #3457
2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

*** Spoiler alert ***

The Plot

The Secret Baby (wow, I bet the editors stayed up nights trying to think up that title!) was a rather predictable story with a paint-by-the-numbers plot. This could have been pulled from an old daytime soap opera. Former lovers, a secret baby, a marriage-of-convenience, and revenge are just a few of the tropes in this Harlequin Romance.

Damien Hawke and Sable Jameson (oh those names!) were lovers who worked together, or rather, she worked under Damien…in various positions. They were in love until Sable seemingly betrayed Damien by selling company secrets. Sable denied it, yet Damien wanted nothing more to do with her.

Shortly afterward, Sable found out she was pregnant but couldn’t turn to Damien, who had tossed her callously out on her butt. Who did she turn to? Why the decrepitly aged head of the rival company Sable had supposedly sold (or not sold) those secrets to! Their marriage was one of convenience, so naturally, they never had sex (they never do in these books). She had the baby and hid his true parentage from Damien.... Read more “Category Romance Book Review: The Secret Baby by Day Leclaire”

Category Romance Review: Palace of the Peacocks by Violet Winspear

The Palace of the Peacocks, Violet Winspear, Harlequin, 1969, “Jh” cover art

Harlequin Romance #1318

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

So, this book may be a bit of an oldie, as it was published in 1969 not post-1972, but I’m running short on reviews for this weekend, plus it’s a Violet Winspear–an author whose works I enjoy. This one was a nice read, besides.

The Plot

In Winspear’s Palace of the Peacocks the heroine Temple Lane is typical of so many of her vintage romance sisters: orphaned, industrious, faithful, and unworldly. When she flies out to Indonesia to meet up with her long-time fiancé, her life falls into shambles after she discovers his affair with a local girl. Without any funds and no way back home, she’s desperate to find employment. Temple disguises herself as a boy to gain entry on a ship. She’s bunked with stoic, one-eyed, Dutchman Ryk van Helden (Winspear had a thing for maiming heroes, didn’t she? Blinding them, cutting off their limbs, etc.,).

Eventually, Temple’s true identity is revealed and Ryk offers Temple a job transcribing old journals in his beautifully enchanting palace. Ryk also provides Temple with housing and a female servant.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Palace of the Peacocks by Violet Winspear”