Tag Archives: Nora Roberts

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.


retro romance

10 Retro Romance Authors Relevant Today

retro romance authors

These 10 Retro Romance Authors Still Write Today

These “old-school” or retro romance authors have been successful in the genre for 25, 30, or even 40 years. Their contributions to the industry are numerous. These women have won many awards and sold tens of millions of books.

Lisa Kleypas

Lisa Kleypas burst onto the scene in September 1987 with her Onyx release, Where Passion Leads. She is a Wellesley College graduate and former beauty pageant queen (Miss Massachusetts). Kleypas was only 21 when she signed her first book deal. Thirty-five years later, she’s perhaps historical romance’s most famous author.

Kleypas has published 49 novels and short stories. She has dabbled in contemporary romance. But historicals are where she has her biggest fans. Her books have won various awards for distinction. Kleypas is both a USA Today and NY Times best-selling author. Her most recent outing, Devil in Disguise, came out in August 2021.

Lynne Graham

One of Harlequin’s most prominent authors is Lynne Graham, who hails from Northern Ireland. Mills & Boon published her first book, Bittersweet Passion, in 1987. It wasn’t until she began writing Harlequin Presents a couple of years later that Graham would gain huge acclaim. Her first HP was The Veranchetti Marriage. Her passionate romances about Greek, Italian, Hispanic, and Mediterranean heroes have captured millions of fans. She has written 120+ books, and 45 million have been sold worldwide. Promoted to the Greek’s Wife will be a February 2022 release.

Jodi Thomas

Jodi Thomas, whose real name is Jodi Koumalats, is a Texas icon. Most of her books take place in the Lone Star State. Her first novel, Beneath the Texas Sky, published in 1988, won a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Western Romance. Thomas has received many awards for her books which resonate with authenticity.

She has written both historical and contemporary romances and has also branched into women’s fiction. Thomas has two of her books scheduled for release in 2022, including Sunday at Sunflower Inn.

Nora Roberts

La Nora, as the industry calls her, is a publishing phenom. She has written over 200 romances, including category romances, contemporaries, romantic suspense, and science fiction.

Born Eleanor Marie Robertson, Nora Roberts submitted her first manuscript to Harlequin, who rejected her as they didn’t need more American writers. Silhouette quickly swiped her talents. Their Romance line released Irish Thoroughbred in 1981. The rest is history.

Nora Roberts’ books have sold over 150 million copies. Roberts’ prodigious output sees her create two books a year. Nightwork will be coming out in May 2022.

Lorraine Heath

Historical romance writer Lorraine Heath was born in England and raised in Texas, which gives her a unique perspective when writing. Although she is one of the “later” authors on this list, she has consistently produced romances for the past 28 years.

Her first book, Sweet Lullaby, was a big hit with readers in 1994. The Duchess Hunt is her most recent romance. It came out in October 2021. Heath has two more books lined up for 2022. Her novels have won numerous awards and garnered glowingly positive reviews from fans and critics alike.

Diana Palmer

Diana Palmer (aka Susan Kyle) has written contemporary romance since 1979. Her first book was a MacFadden Romance called Storm Over the Lake. She would later move to Silhouette, becoming one of their most successful authors. She has written over 160 titles, both full-length and category romances, as well as historicals.

With Diana Palmer, readers know exactly what they’re getting. The hero is a hard Alpha male and the innocent heroine is strangely drawn to him, despite his off-putting demeanor. Her books have sold tens of millions worldwide. Palmer’s latest, Wyoming True, was just published in November 2021.

Jude Deveraux

Jude Deveraux is perhaps one of the last remaining authors from the original “bodice ripper” era, although her romances were hardly hardcore ‘rippers. In 1978, her first book, The Enchanted Land, was released by Avon, although she would move to Pocket Books after her second release. Her novels would be set in almost every era, including historicals, contemporaries, and time travel.

She has written women’s fiction as well, but she still writes romances to this day. Her most recent is Chance of a Lifetime in 2020. Another romance will follow in 2022. With over 50 million copies of her books sold, Deveraux remains one of romance’s leading ladies.

Debbie Macomber

Debbie Macomber is a slice of Americana pie. She began her career writing category romances for Silhouette and then Harlequin. Her first book was 1983’s Starlight.

Like many authors on this list, she has also written women’s fiction. Macomber’s Christmas romances are an annual event, and she had had movies and series produced for the Hallmark Channel. She has sold about 200 million books. Macomber’s most recent book was It’s Better This Way in late 2021.

Catherine Anderson

Oregon-born Catherine Anderson has penned some super-emotional romances. She has written categories, historicals, and contemporaries. Her first book was a romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue, Reasonable Doubt, published in June 1988.

Perhaps her most popular book is Annie’s Song, about a deaf woman who is mistakenly thought of as an “imbecile.” Anderson has written 40+ more books. The latest was Maple Leaf Harvest in August 2021.

Mary Balogh

Born in Wales, Mary Balogh began writing traditional regencies for Signet in 1985. Her first book, A Masked Deception, would be one of the many regencies she would publish. She began to write full-length historicals in 1992 with Beyond the Sunrise.

Balogh is a widely popular author with over 120 titles to her credit (short-length, novels, and full-length). Her Slightly series was very successful, hitting the NY Times bestseller lists. Balogh’s most recent romance was Someone Perfect in 2021.

Who Did We Miss?

Although it seems every week a beloved writer is retiring or passing away, there are still many authors who got their start in the 20th century creating output today.

Who did we miss? What other “old-school” authors are producing work in the 2020s? Are there authors you wish were still writing? Please drop us a comment, and let’s talk romance.

Night Shift

Category Romance Review: Night Shift by Nora Roberts

Night Shift, Nora Roberts, Silhouette, 1991, cover artist unknown

“I’m in love with you, Cilla.” Slowly, his eyes steady on hers, he pulled her closer. “With every part of you.” Soft, persuasive, his lips cruised over hers. “I only want fifty or sixty years to show you.”


Silhouette Intimate Moments #365


4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Night Shift Memories

If you follow my reviews, you may notice I inject some personal vignettes or anecdotes into them. If it’s TMI, apologies for oversharing. But like music or scents, each book I read is imprinted with a certain memory. When I hear “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton, it takes me back to Junior Prom and my supposedly platonic date getting all clingy with me. I’ll think about a different man whether it’s Brut, Joop!, Davidoff Cool Water, or Grey Flannel cologne I smell. (Brut is my dad; the rest…are not.) If I have no memory of the book, there’s because there is no recollection to go with it.

Nora Robert’s Night Shift is vividly memorable because I recall sitting in the cancer ward at Mather Hospital waiting with my mother while my grandmother got her chemo treatments. In hindsight, perhaps it was rude of me to sit there and read rather than comfort my mom, who was worried about her dying mother. Still, I helped translate to doctors for my mom, who spoke broken English when she had questions. There’s a memory of going to the cafeteria and eating Utz potato chips for the first time. This book was released in January of 1991. My Mamá would be dead by December 23 of that year.

So many books I read that year are filled with remembrances.

The Plot

Cilla O’Roarke, short for Priscilla–but don’t dare call her that–is a nighttime disk jockey whose silky smooth voice enthralls legions of fans, including policeman Boyd Fletcher. He’s arrived on the scene with his partner Althea to investigate the increasingly threatening calls that Cilla’s been receiving.

Boyd has a major crush on her from hearing her voice on the radio. It’s no surprise he’s instantly smitten upon seeing her in person. Cilla tries her best to keep her distance, even as the police do their best to stay close to her and find who’s her stalker. Boyd is extremely protective and a great hero.

Cilla is a prickly character. She’s not a very open person, and all she cares about is her younger sister, Deborah. And keeping her radio program. She refuses any course of action to defend herself, so Boyd is determined to be there to save her if need be. Cilla wants nothing to do with cops, as one of her parents was one, and Cilla secretly fears getting hurt by letting him in her life.

But that Boyd is a charmer. Slowly, but slowly, he’s able to get her to admit her attraction to him. They become friends and then lovers.

However, as usual in these romantic suspense plots when you let your guard down that’s when the villain strikes.

Who is Cilla’s deranged fan? Will Boyd be able to get there before it’s too late?

Final Analysis of Night Shift

Night Shift was a satisfying romance, even though you knew pretty much what was going to happen. Nora Roberts’ writing was of fine quality, and Boyd was a great, protective hero. It was thoroughly believable that he was able to get Cilla to fall for him despite her fears.