Tag: Historical Romance

Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe

Tempt Not This Flesh, Barbara Riefe, Playboy Press, 1979, Jordi Penalva cover art

She could never love him again, what woman with pride and self-esteem and memory could?

TEMPT NOT THIS FLESH

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Heroine

Lorna, the heroine of Barbara Riefe’s Tempt Not This Flesh definitely deserved a better book than the one she was forced to partake in. Really, with quotes likes this:

“Every day, almost every hour a new problem cropped up, piled upon the other like [kindling] piling around Joan of Arc at the stake. Still, whatever had happened, whatever was to come, this Yankee was no martyr; come what may, [Lorna] was not about to be a human sacrifice on the altar of this old man’s insatiable ambition. A pawn in his game, perhaps, but only until she could turn the play around and checkmate him.”

Or this one, which shows she is much too smart for this mild turkey of a bodice ripper:

“She could never love him again, what woman with pride and self-esteem and memory could? It was like being brutally raped, only to have your assaulter satisfy his lust, then turn around and propose marriage.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe”

Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Rebel by Iris Bancroft

Rapture's rebel
Rapture’s Rebel, Iris Bancoft, Pinnacle, 1980, cover artist unknown

From the back of the book:

Torn between her desires for a Russian colonel and a dashing lieutenant in the Swedish army, Kirsten is swept by savage destiny into the raging lusts of a revolution… Against the tumultuous background of the Northern War of 1710 is woven the enthralling saga of a tempestuous woman forced to choose between her impassioned loyalty and the ecstasy of forbidden love.

1 1/2 stars

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

I HATE being let down by books that seem to have promise, but end with a lifeless whimper. Bodice rippers set in Russia are my siren song! This should have rocked!

Rapture’s Rebel by Iris Bancroft is the first non-Viking historical romance set in Scandinavia that I’ve read.

The Plot

Russian soldiers have taken over a town in Sweden and Kirsten hides in a hot sauna for protection. Stupid Kirsten lets a little kitty in there with her and he dies, the poor thing! Well, maybe not so poor. Kitty’s pain is over, but mine was still to come as I had this turkey of a book to finish.

The heroine’s a twa– er twit, and there’s a rapacious older Russian (basically Rod Steiger in Dr.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Rebel by Iris Bancroft”

Historical Romance Review: Stolen Spring by Louisa Rawlings

Stolen Spring, Louisa Rawlings, Popular Library, 1988, cover artist unknown

From the back of the book:

“Mademoiselle Marie-Rouge’s bewitching gray eyes widened with shock. King Louis’ minister had made his offer very clear: Rouge must become a spy or else her beloved father would be thrown in debtor’s prison. She chose to flee into a storm-swept night away from the golden court at Versailles and the intrigues that threatened her life…In a miller’s cottage she found a stranger–a brazen, daring man who claimed to be a simple peasant. His arms sheltered her, his kisses intoxicated her more than royal wine, and his desire showed her a paradise no riches could buy. Would he forgive the girl who took his sweet love tonight–only to run from his heart tomorrow?”

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Lousia Rawlings, the writer of such greats as Stranger in My Arms and its sequel, Wicked Stranger, was a masterful author. It’s unfortunate she no longer writes wonderful historical romances in the truest sense of those words.

(Edit: she’s republished her novels as e-books, so now there is no excuse for anyone not to read her!)

The Plot

France and Versailles under the reign of Louis XIV was a decadent, lavish era, and Louisa Rawlings captures it perfectly in Stolen Spring.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Stolen Spring by Louisa Rawlings”

Historical Romance Review: Heather by Cordia Byers

Heather, Cordia Byers, Fawcett, 1979, cover artist unknown

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Why, oh why did I not listen to the words of wisdom just DNF this lifeless excuse for a bodice ripper?

But no, like the idiot I am, I kept reading on, expecting something interesting to occur. First one thing happens, and then this happens, and then this other thing happens, but none of it has any zing or excitement about it. In Heather by Cordelia Byers, stuff occurs while characters are like marionettes being pulled by strings to the next scene. Absolute sacrilege for a bodice ripper, because these are the kind of books that are supposed to be so chock-full of craziness that they madly affect the senses, either by offending or delighting or titillating.

I was a little offended, I suppose; not because there was anything to upset my “delicate sensibilities,” but because this book was so freaking boring.

Beautiful Heather Cromwell is brought up as a foundling by a wealthy Marquis. She’s treated as a part servant/part distant relative, and even though it’s not a rough life, it’s not a great one, either. Heather grows up loving the Marquis’s son, David but knows that her love is hopeless.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Heather by Cordia Byers”

Historical Romance Review Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright

Silver Storm, Cynthia Wright, Ballantine, 1979, cover artist unknown

It had been so long. He pulled her gown open and her breasts spilled out like ripe, round melons…

SILVER STORM

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I started reading Cynthia Wright’s Silver Storm, then put it down; it was sweet, but sometimes too sweet and I have enough cavities. Then halfway through it changes in tone. Our previously gentleman hero does a 180 and turns into a lecherous jerk. It was great and I wanted more!

The Plot

The first half involves a sensuous French privateer Andre Raveneau escorting orphaned Devon Lindsay to her fiancé in Virginia at the end of the American Revolution. The girl is obviously not in love with her missing man but devoted to him out of a weird sense of commitment. All the while, this tall, gorgeous, gray-eyed Frenchman plays nice, and Devon stomps her foot and plays hard to get. Andre was such a gentleman; I wondered where this was going.

But oh, he has a plan–a cunning plan–to trap his strawberry-haired prey, and when he finally gets what he wants, he plans just as cruelly to be rid of her, eagerly awaiting his next new lay.... Read more “Historical Romance Review Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright”

Historical Romance Review: Purity’s Ecstasy by Janette Seymour

Purity’s Ecstasy, Janette Seymour, Pocket Books, 1978, Harry Bennett cover art

Youth and beauty were her sole assets on Earth.

PURITY’S ECSTASY

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Like many other late 1970’s to early 1980’s bodice rippers, Michael Butterworth’s (aka Janette Seymour) second entry into his Purity trilogy, Purity’s Ecstasy, is a tawdry, rollicking ride filled with just about every ‘ripper trope and then some.

In the first book, Purity’s Passion, after beautiful Purity survived the French Revolution, she was made the ward of the enigmatic and barely-there Mark Landless, with whom she fell madly in love. However, she had numerous obstacles to overcome before getting her man (namely other men). The same is more or less the case with this sequel, as Mark is presumed dead after being captured by pirates. Purity knows in her heart Mark is still alive and she will do whatever whomever she has to do to find him.

Alas, after being kicked out into the streets by cruel in-laws, Purity has to search for employment. In her own words her “youth and beauty were her sole assets on Earth” so what’s a girl to do?... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Purity’s Ecstasy by Janette Seymour”

Historical Romance Review: Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson

Tara’s Song, Avon 1978, cover artist unknown

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson is yet another middling Viking romance that disappoints. Written in the late ’70s at the height of the bodice ripper era, you’d expect this Viking romance to rapacious and fun, but I found it rather ho-hum.

Having been betrayed by love in the past (the heroine is not a virgin, if it matters), the blonde, Irish beauty Tara enters into a convent. Despite what the book burb claims, Tara is actually not a novice, but a full-fledged nun who has taken all her religious vows. Yet for some mysterious reason some of her fellow nuns ensure that Tara studies the pagan Nordic runes. Obviously, the elder sisters knew their convent would be overtaken by a horde of ravenous Vikings and runic readings would come in handy for protection later on.

Tara’s new life begins when she is captured by Rorik. He, of the long, curly reddish-blond hair and two long mustaches that reach past his chin, but no beard. I imagine him as a young metal god, like a cross between Dave Mustaine & James Hetfield, only with lots of muscles.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson”

Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood

These Golden Pleasures, Warner Books, 1977, Elaine Duillo cover art

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

What can I say about Valerie Sherwood’s These Golden Pleasures? Well, this 512 page epic starts out wonderfully but then falters then lags in the middle, and is rushed at the end.

Roxanne is in San Francisco on the eve of the great earthquake of 1906. She has to choose between the two men who will decide her fate, one of them her true love.

The story goes back to when Roxanne was a 15-year-old girl in Kansas, and the drama of her life unfolds. As is usual in a Valerie Sherwood, the heroine’s first sexual experience is not with the hero. She has a fling with Buck, her best friend’s fiancé.

Circumstances force her out of Kansas and Roxanne goes to Maryland, where she finds work as a maid for the wealthy Coulter family. She is romanced by two brothers: cynical, business-minded Gavin and handsome, carefree Rhodes who sails ships. This is where the book gets cooking! The tension is hot… And then a stupid misunderstanding leads to a long separation. I lament the fact that Sherwood didn’t do more with the brothers.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood”

Updates #3

update lettering text on black background

Hello, again! I hope all is well on your end. My family is going through a bit of a trying time right now, as one of our beloved cats has departed from us and it hurts terribly to think about her being gone. I’m trying to keep myself busy with writing, blogging, and fixing up this site, so I hope you don’t mind my updates flooding your inbox.

As you might see, I’ve added a bit more to the site: more book reviews, more cover artists, and more information regarding publishing houses, author biographies, and backlists. Plus I’ve expanded the scope of Sweet Savage Flame to include other categories of romance that were published in the post-Flame and the Flower era to the turn of the millennium. I want this site to be a valuable source of historical information for romance bibliophiles.

So now when you go to the MENU bar you can access books and authors by historical romance or category romance (contemporary) genres.

If there are authors or books you’d like to see represented here, please drop a comment and let me know. For example, I’m currently working on Charlotte Lamb and Penny Jordan pages.

These topics can be easily accessed from the MENU bar:

AUTHOR PAGES:

... Read more “Updates #3”

Historical Romance Review: A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I hated A Pirate’s Love for many reasons, some based on logic, most others based on pettiness. If you’re looking for a great review that does a better job explaining why this book blows, search elsewhere. I’m just going to go on a diatribe based on my ever-waning recollections of this “romance”:

The multiple rapes that the hero commits upon the heroine didn’t really faze me, although they did get redundant. After all, it’s a bodice ripper, and that’s what comes with the territory. If a hero raping the heroine offends you, best not read this genre. It was everything else, in this, Johanna Lindsey’s second book, that I despised.

I hated Bettina and her knee-length hair that’s easily hidden under a hat! (Apologies to Johanna who actually had knee-length hair. She could easily pass for one of her heroines.)

I hated how she cried over her dresses and how ill-tempered she was and hearing about her flashing eyes that were blue one minute, then green another. Not blue-green eyes, mind you, that look different depending on the light or what colors they reflect. Her eyes just change color randomly with her emotions.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey”

Historical Romance Mini-Review: This Triumphant Fire by Anne Carsley

This Triumphant Fire
This Triumphant Fire, Anne Carsley, Avon, 1982, cover artist unknown

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

(I have long ago put this book in storage, and it’s too much of a pain to dig out, but before I forget it all, here’s a review):

A Great Villain and a Hero Missing-in-Action

Anne Carsley’s This Triumphant Fire is an ok bodice ripper with a more interesting villain than hero. The heroine is a beautiful French girl living off the charity of her English guardians. If I recall correctly, the hero is a rakish fellow who is having a romance with one of the daughters in the family. He also has a secret life as a highwayman. After a brutal rape attempt by one of the sons, the heroine kills her attacker and flees into the night.

The hero and heroine meet again, and he takes her to his cabin in the woods. They make passionate love and spend an idyllic time together before the hero abandons her. The heroine catches him cheating on her with another woman. She confronts him, and in the typical jerky-hero style he is unrepentant.

They are separated and she finds her way on a ship to the American south, where she enters in a marriage of convenience with a suave, attractive, older man.... Read more “Historical Romance Mini-Review: This Triumphant Fire by Anne Carsley”

Historical Book Review: Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrove Payes

From the back of the book:

Beautiful, spirited young Mellie Wilton thought the handsome Earl of Henning was going to rescue her from her degrading life in London and take her to his wealthy estate in Kent because he wanted her for his wife. When he tricked her into marrying his son so that he would have an heir to his fortune, Mellie became enraged. Tormented by a husband who could never love her, yet consumed with desire for the man who had deceived her, Mellie was filled with a burning need for fulfillment and revenge.

Moment of Desire, Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Playboy Press, 1978, Gina D’Achille cover art

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

An Anti-Heroine?

After a couple of decades of reading romance, I can’t say I’ve encountered too many heroines like Melusina Wilton and that’s a damn shame.

Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrave Payes might be an aberration, both for her (I wasn’t fond of the other Cosgrove Payes book I read) and the historical romance genre. It was published by Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Press, which churned out bodice-ripping romances and schlocky sci-fi well into the seventies and early eighties, part of the golden era of pulpy trash.... Read more “Historical Book Review: Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrove Payes”

Category Romance Review: Escape From Desire by Penny Jordan

Escape From Desire
Escape From Desire, Penny Jordan, Harlequin, 1983, Tom Bjarnason cover art

Harlequin Presents #569

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Penny Jordan’s Escape from Desire was for me a very satisfying, yet silly read.

A Tropical Vacation

Tamara is on vacation on the island of St. Stephen, all by herself, as her stuffy fiancé has no time for frivolities like lounging in the sun. Tamara is typical of Penny Jordan’s heroines, slightly repressed due to an overbearing aunt who raised her. But as she sunbathes on the beach, Tamara’s doubts about her engagement come to a head. While Malcolm is everything Tamara thought she wanted in a husband–staid, unemotional, professional–she recalls the happy, loving marriage of her parents and ponders if she can go through a loveless union so different than that of her deceased parents.

Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger on the beach admires her bikini-clad body with his eyes. When he notices her engagement ring, he’s cruel to her, thinking she’s just out in the Caribbean for one last hurrah.

A Jungle Nightmare

Tamara signs up for a jungle trek to take her mind off her worries when who should show up, but the mysterious stranger from the beach, our hero Zach Fletcher.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Escape From Desire by Penny Jordan”

Historical Romance Review: A Lady Bought with Rifles by Jeanne Williams

[He] might after a season let me go, but I had a frightening dread that if he possessed me long enough, he would drain me till I became his thing, his creature—that I wouldn’t go, even if he allowed it…

A LADY BOUGHT WITH RIFLES

Spoiler Alert ⚠

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A Lady Bought With Rifles is an amalgam of great writing and stupid characterization. I was extremely frustrated reading it because it could have been one of those legendary bodice rippers that old-school fans would be talking about to this day.

A Lady Bought with Rifles, Jeanne Williams, Pocket Books, 1977, Ron Lesser cover art

The Heroine

Upon her father’s death, the British-raised Miranda is called back to her father’s ranch in Mexico. There she meets two strikingly different American men, Trace, a tall, dark, and mysterious pistolero, and Court Saunders, the foreman of Miranda’s newly inherited mines and lover to her resentful half-sister, Reina. Blond, panther-like, and roguish, his sensual presence is almost irresistible.

The sisters both inherit the ranch. Miranda, being a foreigner, is aghast by the circumstances of the ranch and mines, particularly how the indigenous Mexicans are treated, how the evil Reina treats her, how gorgeous hunk Court pursues her…and just about every other thing she can find to complain about, rightly or wrongly.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: A Lady Bought with Rifles by Jeanne Williams”

Historical Romance Review: Highland Tryst by Jean Canavan

Highland Tryst, Pocket Books, 1986, Elaine Gignilliat cover art

Tapestry Romance #85

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Let me spoil this turkey and save anyone who’s even contemplating reading this mess of a book their valuable time. As far as I know, we only live one life, and there’s no reason to spend a moment of it in undeserved agony.

(Highland Tryst is also about 30 years out of print, so I don’t feel too bad about hurting anyone’s career.)

Kathlyn and Alex are from warring Scottish clans. When Highland Tryst begins, they are already lovers, meeting frequently for very intimate encounters. They’ve seen each other naked, inside and out. They know what the other looks like, sounds like, smells like… Just to be totally clear: they’ve HAD SEX WITH EACH OTHER MANY TIMES.

Their families discover the affair so Kathlyn and Alex are separated. Kathlyn flees into the wilderness and is rescued by Duncan, an ugly, deformed stranger. Kathlyn is repelled by his looks, at first. Duncan is kind to her and eventually they fall in love.

And HAVE SEX.

So now, Kathlyn is torn between her former handsome lover, and the kind, yet ugly stranger who’s saved her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Highland Tryst by Jean Canavan”

Growing Pleasures

That title doesn’t sound right, does it? But it is a pleasure to describe the changes coming to his site. The more I think about it, “Growing Pleasures” has tumescent connotations. The phrase simply pulses off the pages. Well, that’s appropriate for a blog specializing in vintage smut!

I’ve been researching authors, publishing houses, and cover artists, and have found a lot of commonality among both historical and “contemporary” romance written from 1970-2000. Names, books, and covers kept popping up that seemed relevant. I had wanted to strictly keep this an old-school historical romance blog. Now I see how shortsighted that was. I’m a reader of all old school romance–historical & contemporary–and there is a strong connection between the evolution of the category and the historical romance genres. That special time in history needs to be told fully if it’s to be remembered accurately.

It will take a bit of change, but I will be adding category (and perhaps gothic romance) authors, covers, and publishing information. I will only focus on romances that overlap the post-Flame and the Flower era to the end of the twentieth century. So while that means vintage romance, that won’t include comics, nurse romances, older Harlequin Romances, or Gothics written pre-1970s (if I do Gothics at all; to be honest, I’m not a big reader of them).... Read more “Growing Pleasures”

Historical Romance Review: Charlotte by Amanda Douglass

Charlotte, Tower & Leisure Sales Co., 1978, cover artist unknown

From the back of the book:

Lovely young Charlotte Bourne was the apple of her father’s eyes and a belle of New York society. The onset of the War Between the States introduced her to young Liam Brady, whom her dissolute brother Richard had hired to serve as his substitute in the Union Army. Liam and Charlotte fall deeply in love, but before they could marry, Charlotte had to come to terms with her turbulent feelings for the two other men in her life. The raging Civil War echoed the conflict in Charlotte’s heart…

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Charlotte is…

It’s…

Well, it’s a book.

The best thing about this circa 1980 mini-bodice ripper is the Newport cigarettes ad in the middle of it:

 photo Newport ad.jpg

Charlotte takes place during the Civil War in New York City beginning 1863 or 1864 (both dates are given). For a historical book, it’s historical, but for a romance, the romance is lacking.

This book is only 239 pages long, but the hero doesn’t make an entrance until page 144. And he is Missing-In-Action for most of it. The back blurb tells you the entire plot of this dreck.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Charlotte by Amanda Douglass”

Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

Defy Not the Heart, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1989, Elaine Duillo cover art, Fabio cover model
Defy Not the Heart, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1989, Elaine Duillo cover art, Fabio cover model

SPOILER ALERT

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Johanna Lindsey: Romance Superstar

For a while–except for maybe Jude Deveraux–there was no other mass-market romance author in the 1980s to 1990s whose prolific writing achieved such commercial success than Johanna Lindsey. Lindsey reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list with Defy Not the Heart.

During this time period, Lindsey was at her peak, and in a span of 10 to 15 years put out book after book (with the best covers ever!), that, for but a few exceptions, were all fun reads or even rank among my most beloved romances.

For sure, they were not always the best written, often rambling on about unimportant characters and telling more than showing. Often, I wanted to strangle the heroines for their stubbornness and TSTL tendencies.

Even so, I loved her plots involving kidnapping and forced marriages. They featured overbearing, handsome men who would treat their heroines like crap one minute, and then made passionate love to them and would brush their hair as after play. I ate Lindsey’s books up like candy and have the emotional cavities to prove it!... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey”

Link-O-Rama #1: Blogs and Sites That Are Bodice Ripper or Old-School Historical Romance Friendly

I will add these sites to the LINK option on the menu. It’s helpful to know some places on the internet to read about and discuss retro historical romance from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Historical Romance Review: Viking Rose by Ashland Price

Viking Rose , Zebra, 1993, Pino cover art
From the back of the book:

SHE WAS A SPIRITED IRISH MAIDEN

When Alanna sighted a blond giant of a man bathing in a nearby stream, the Irish maiden guessed he was one of those dangerous raiders she’d heard tales of. Though she should have fled, Alanna could not draw her eyes away from his bronzed muscles, long sun-gold hair, and piercing blue eyes. Before she knew it, the Norseman had captured her…. Outraged, Alanna planned her escape; yet when his rock-hard arms enveloped her and his demanding kisses set her pulse on fire, she marveled that a man from a frozen land could evoke such a rapturous heat in her own blood…

HE WAS A FEARLESS VIKING RAIDER

Intent on scouting the alien country for his Viking raiding party, Storr had no time for a furious Erse maiden! Yet, he could not let her sound an alert, so he took her captive. And what a choice beauty he’d gotten! Her lush curves, cocoa-colored eyes, and dark auburn-streaked hair made her a prize beyond compare, But it was the brave but gentle spirit in this fair rose of Erin that finally made the fierce warrior wish to brand her as his alone.

... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Viking Rose by Ashland Price”