Tag Archives: Heather Graham

7 category romance authors who made it big

Category Romance Authors Who Made It Big

7 category romance authors who made it big

Category Romance Writers Who Became Bestselling Sensations

Many famous mainstream fiction authors were originally writers of series or category romance. Category romances are a staple of the industry. Nevertheless, they get little respect because it’s a subgenre seen as derivative due to a reliance on tropes.

These slimmed-down editions forced authors to write tight plots within a limited amount of pages. This constraint actually helped sharpen many authors’ skills and enabled them to branch off into other genres.

The following seven authors wrote Silhouette, Harlequin, Loveswept, or Dell Candlelight romances before garnering widespread acclaim.

1. Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown
Author Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown is a former category romance author who rose to fame.

She has written over 80 novels, including 73 New York Times bestsellers. Over 80 million copies of her books are in print worldwide. They have been translated into 34 languages.

Her blockbusters include Blind Tiger, Thick As Thieves, Seeing Red, Outfox, Tailspin, Seeing Red, and Mean Streak.

mean streak

Sandra Brown got her start with Silhouette in 1982 with Not Even for Love. She wrote it using a pseudonym, Erin St. Claire. The book has been re-issued as Sting. She also penned many excellent romances for the Bantam Loveswept line.

Not Even for Love, Erin St. Claire, Silhouette, 1982, cover artist unknown

Brown has written historical romances as well as full-length contemporaries and mysteries.

She has made several television appearances on Ture Crime programs. Her novels French Silk, Smoke Screen, Ricochet, and White Hot resulted in television films.

Our Sandra Brown category romance recommendation: A Secret Splendor, Silhouette Intimate Moments #29, 1984

secret splendor
A Secret Splendor, Erin St. Claire, Silhouette, 1984, George Jones cover art

2. Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr
Robyn Carr
Photo credit: Michael Alberstat

Carr’s A Virgin River Christmas was her first New York Times success in 2008.

Since then, her romances and women’s fiction books have spent nearly 250 weeks on that list. Her 20-book Virgin River series has produced more than 13 million copies.

Bring Me Home for Christmas, the 16th entry in the series hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. Fans of Carr’s Virgin River books can now enjoy them as a Netflix series.

Carr has sold over 27 million books which have been translated into 19 languages in 30 countries.

Virgin River

In 2016, the Romance Writers of America awarded Robyn the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.

Robyn Carr was a young mother of two in the mid-1970s, an Air Force wife, and educated as a nurse when she started writing fiction. She published her first book in 1980, a bodice ripper historical called Chelynne.


Almost a decade later, she wrote her first category romance for Harlequin. It was 1989’s Informed Risk, Harlequin Special Edition #517.

Informed Risk

Carr has published more than 45 books with Harlequin.

3. Iris Johansen

iris johansen
Author Iris Johansen

With her category romances, Iris Johansen broke into the romance genre at the beginning of the 1980s and quickly rose to fame. Her first book was Bantam Loveswept #14 Stormy Vows.

stormy vows

Iris Johansen had been writing category romances for a decade when she switched gears in 1991. She started to create long-length, suspenseful historical romances. The first was The Wind Dancer, which was a great hit.

In 1996 Johansen changed genres altogether, turning to crime fiction, where she has had smashing success. Titles include What Doesn’t Kill You, Dark Summer, Sleep No More, and Shadow Play.

shadow play

Johansen has over 30 consecutive New York Times bestsellers.

Johansen divides her time between Florida and Georgia. Her son–and frequent collaborator–Roy Johansen is an Edgar Award-winning screenwriter and novelist. Her daughter, Tamara, serves as her research assistant.

Our Iris Johansen category romance pick: The Delaney Series duo Wild Silver & Satin Ice from 1988.

4. Joan Johnston

Joan Johnston
Joan Johnston

Yet another New York Times bestselling author to have written series romances is the prolific Joan Johnston. Johnston’s books have also appeared in the top ten USA TODAY and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.

Her backlist consists of over 40 contemporary and historical romance novels. She has over 15 million books in print worldwide.

Johnston creates gripping family dramas and romantic adventures. Her popular series include her Bitter Creek and Blackthorne family novels, which overlap.

Joan Johnston

Johnston’s first two novels were historical romances, A Loving Defiance, and Colter’s Wife. Then she entered the contemporary genre in 1988 with Silhouette Desire #424 Fit to Be Tied. Over the years, Johnston would alternate writing category romance with full-length contemporaries and historicals.

Fit to Be Tied.

Before dedicating herself to writing full-time, Johnston had many careers. She was an attorney, a newspaper editor, a drama critic, a theatre director, and a college professor.

Johnston has combined her passion for travel to conduct research for her novels and has been to Italy, England, Greece, and Scotland, as well as traveling across the United States.

My favorite Joan Johnston book is the Scottish-set historical romance, The Bodyguard.

delaney jackson

5. Heather Graham

heather graham
Author Heather Graham

Heather Graham, also known as Heather Graham-Possezzere and Shannon Drake, is New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.

Graham majored in theater arts at the University of South Florida. She spent several years in dinner theater, performing backup vocals, and bartending. After the birth of her third child, Graham stayed home and began to write.

Her first book was published in 1983, When Next We Love, Dell Candlelight Ecstasy #117.

romance writers when next love graham

Her first category romance for Silhouette was Night Moves, Intimate Moments, 1985.

Since then, Graham has written over two hundred novels and novellas. They include series romance, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, and Christmas family fare.

Graham has 60 million books in print, published in twenty-five languages. She has written over 200 novels, more than half for Harlequin and Silhouette.

She was the launch author for Harlequin’s MIRA Books with her 1994 romance, Slow Burn.

romance writers slow burn graham

Graham has won a multitude of awards from prestigious institutions. She received a Silver Bullet from Thriller Writers and the Thriller Master in 2016. Graham is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA.

6. Brenda Jackson

brenda jackson
Photo credit: Blue Franswa Fotografia

Brenda Jackson is a New York Times and the USA Today bestselling author of over 140 books and novellas, with 15 million books in print.

Jackson’s professional writing career began in 1995 with the release of her first Madaris family book, Tonight and Forever, for Pinnacle‘s revolutionary Arabesque Line.

tonight and forever brenda jackson

In 2002, she signed with Silhouette to create steamy romances for their Desire line. Delaney’s Desert Sheikh, #1473, was the initial book in her super popular Westmoreland family saga.

delaney jackson

Since then, Jackson has received numerous national and literary awards and accomplishments. She was the first African-American author to make the New York Times Bestseller’s List and the USA Today’s Bestseller’s List in the romance genre. Jackson earned the Romance Writers of America’s Nora Robert’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for 2012.

Jackson has been involved in numerous charities. She promoted scholarship programs to enable low-income students to access higher education.

Jackson has been featured in magazines such as Essence, Sister-2-Sister, Today’s Black Woman, Ebony, Romantic Times, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, and Cosmopolitan.

She has released full-length contemporary romances to great acclaim, including her Catalina Cove Series.

forget me not jackson

Her novels, One Special Moment and Truly Everlasting, have been made into movies by BET and Five Alive Films, respectively. Passionflix produced A Brother’s Honor from her Granger Series.

7. Sherryl Woods

Sherryl Woods Photo credit: Nina Subin
Sherryl Woods Photo credit: Nina Subin

Sherryl Woods has published millions of romances and mysteries. In addition to her, more than 120 romances for Silhouette and MIRA Books, Woods has written thirteen mysteries. There are 9 in her Amanda Roberts series, and the rest are part of her Molly DeWitt series.

Her first book, Restoring Love, was published in 1982 by Dell Candlelight Ecstasy under the pseudonym of Suzanne Sherrill.

romance writers Restoring Love

Her second romance novel, Sand Castles, followed later that year under the pseudonym of Alexandra Kirk. Woods would use her real name when she moved to Berkley Publishing to write for their Second Chance at Love line.

Then in 1986, she started her long career for Silhouette Desire with Not at Eight Darling set in the world of television.

Like many prominent romance authors, Woods’ books have made it to the small screen. As a result, fans of her Sweet Magnolia Series can now enjoy them as a program on Netflix.

Sweet Magnolia

My first Sherryl Woods was baseball romance Fever Pitch, a 1991 Silhouette Desire that I heartily recommend.

romance writers Fever Pitch

Your Opinion

Have you read any of these romance writers’ category books? Or are you more familiar with their mainstream full-length releases? Did you know these romance writers got their start in the category romance?

Please, drop us a comment, and let’s talk romance.


liar's moon heather graham

Category Romance Review: Liar’s Moon by Heather Graham

category romance
Liar's Moon by Heather Graham
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme #159
Published by: Dell
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 286
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Category Romance Review: Liar’s Moon by Heather Graham


The Book

Liar’s Moon, a Dell Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme by Heather Graham is an overwrought foray into romantic suspense.

There’s intrigue, murder, and a long-ago love affair between a teenage girl and a much older, close family friend.

Events lead to a dramatic and happy conclusion in this so-so-category romance.

The Characters and the Set-Up

Tracy Kuger has come to New York for her father’s funeral. Who was her father? He was Jesse Kuger, Liar’s Moon’s version of The Beatle’s John Lennon. Only in Liar’s Moon, these Beatles consisted of Jesse, Leif, Tiger, and Sam, and they called themselves The Limelights.

(Incidentally, this was also the name of a string of nightclubs run by entrepreneur and Ecstasy kingpin Peter Gatien. The most (in)famous of the clubs was located in an old, converted church in Manhattan. Lots of memories for me from the mid-1990s! Today it’s a gym. Do techno dance clubs even exist anymore? I’m old, so I don’t know about these things.)

Tracy’s father was inexplicably killed, and his murderer was shot dead by police in a subsequently prompt fashion.

Tracy’s instincts tell her this was not the work of a mere maniacal fan.

Leif Johnson was Jesse’s best friend. Years before the book starts, a “sexually precocious” yet virginal Tracy threw herself at Leif, and he being the mature Rock Star that he was, just couldn’t say no to his BFF’s daughter.

Tragedy and circumstances forced Tracy into exile to Switzerland for seven years. The Tracy who returns from Europe to bury her father is now a thriving and (supposedly) independent businesswoman.

The Plot

The plot may be uncomfortable for readers who dislike significant age differences. Tracy was 17 years old when she “seduced” Leif, who was in his late 30s. But she came on to him, not the other way around! You can’t blame the guy, right?

Complicating matters is that Tracy became pregnant from the fling. As a result, her parents conspired to make Tracy believe her baby died at birth.

Then they shipped the baby off to Leif, who raised his son with his wife Celia, whom he deeply loved. The reader knows from the opening pages about Leif’s happy marriage, even as his dreams are haunted by images of an alluring Tracy in the moonlight.

Leif (with a name like Leif, you’d think he’d be a blond, but no, he’s a dark and hirsute stud) is concerned for Jesse’s children’s safety. He, too, suspects the killing was not an isolated incident. Jesse’s 20-year-old son Jamie is an up-and-coming musician whom Leif has taken under his wing.

And of course, there is Tracy (an independent woman, remember?), who does not need Leif’s role as her–ahem–guardian. But guard her he will, whether she likes it or not.

Leif and Tracy are still hot for one another, and passion rears its purple head. All the while, danger lurks as the pair search for clues to the mystery.

Someone had reason to murder Jesse, who wasn’t the saintly icon everyone painted him as being. Assembled together is a cast of assorted characters, with members of the old band, friends, and family forming a list of potential killers.

In the end, major revelations come to light, the bad guy’s identity is revealed, and he/she receives their punishment.

The lovers get their happy-ever-after ending.

However, the conclusion left me feeling like I’d been forced to swallow a pint of sour, curdled milk.

My Opinion

Liar’s Moon has “sort of” an icky plot with a big age gap between the main characters. But that wasn’t the icky part of it.

What skeeved me out was Leif’s role as the best friend of Tracy’s father. He was practically an uncle to Jesse’s kids.

Even worse is how Leif rides roughshod over Tracy. He confronts her with the truth about their “dead” baby in a sadistically cruel manner. Leif dismisses Tracy’s pain over the perceived loss, then forcefully demands Tracy be his wife.

Finally, Leif introduces Tracy to her own child as the boy’s new stepmother. A cheerful epilogue doesn’t make up for Leif’s atrocious behavior.

Final Analysis of The Book

Liar’s Moon was an angsty read, for sure. Regardless, the unheroic hero’s faults were too numerous to overlook. I mean, how could Graham name the main male character Leif and not make him blond? Unforgivable.

Still, Heather Graham is a solid author, even when writing for a restrictive category line. I can’t blame her for trying.

Liar’s Moon is an alright story that could have been better if the hero hadn’t been such a pompous and domineering jerk.

2.95 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 3.1


She’d been a wild teenager willing to risk anything for revenge. But when she seduced Leif Johnston, she hadn’t counted on falling in love…hadn’t believed her family would intervene and sweep her off to Switzerland.

Seven years later, Tracy Kuger was a successful, independent woman. But her determination to find her father’s killer would carry her right back into New York’s deceiving limelight…into the treacherous bosom of her powerful family…into Leif’s lean, hungry arms. Passion and peril bound them together even as doubts and dangerous secrets tore them apart.

Tormented by the past, could Tracy face the truth and embrace the future—a love born under a liar’s moon?