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?
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.
Illustrator and fine-art painter Sharon Spiak has made a name for herself in the romance industry for producing various gorgeous covers for many bestselling authors. She also had the privilege to paint Fabio almost as much as the Duillo ladies did.
Hailing from the state of New York, Spiak studied fine arts at SUNY-New Paltz. She continued her studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, where she trained under prolific romance master Pino Daeni. In the 1980s and 1990s, Spiak would design hundreds of book covers, working with the top models and publishers.
Although Pino mentored her, Spiak was not his imitator. Her style is both uniquely her own and yet hard to pin down. The heroes and heroines Spiak paints have gorgeous hair flowing in waves or curls. While she adds extensive detail to backgrounds, the use of color in the foreground results in eye-catching covers. Like many artists, Spiak would have her models photographed in poses before sketching several possible covers. Spiak painted in various mediums, playing with hues and light to make her images pop out.
In the romance genre, we often see some types of plots or character types repeated. These similarities resonate for myriad reasons. Some tropes are common in vintage or old-school romance, but not so much in modern romances. Then there are tropes that never go out of style.
What’s the appeal of a trope? Readers appreciate experiencing familiar tales in different settings or with various kinds of characters. A trope can be retold over time and appear fresh in the hands of an individual author.
At Sweet Savage Flame, we’re dedicating a page to these common themes. Visit the MENU under BOOK REVIEWS and click on ADVANCED BOOK SEARCH. You’ll find a new way to search for book reviews via plots, settings, hero & heroine. We’ll be updating the list with each review.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet…
ROMEO AND JULIET, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
Pen Name, Nom de Plume, Alias, and Author Pseudonyms
Author and raconteur Mark Twain was born Samuel “Longhorn” Clemens. The legendary George Eliot was not a man but a woman named Mary Ann Evans. Even the famous J.K. Rowling shortened her given name of Joanne Kathleen to publish. The use of pen names is an aspect that exists in all fields of writing.
In the romance genre, an author might use an alias for various reasons. Perhaps their real name lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Because some romance writers produce fiction in multiple genres, different names are used. There are male novelists who want to appeal to the majority female audience. Or the authors could be married couples or duos who need catchy noms-de-plume.
Below is a brief list of writers and their pen names. Since hundreds of authors use aliases, this is a short compilation. Therefore we included only those we have reviewed, highlighted, or soon will review and/or explore in-depth. With each romance author pseudonym, we provide an example book title or link to a book review.... Read more “Romance Authors With Pseudonyms”
In a recent post, Jacqueline asked, “The Hero, the Heroine, or the Love Story?” querying about what people read romance novels for. I answered in the comments section, but I also felt like I wanted to elaborate a bit more. Hence, this post.
I read romance novels for all the reasons Jacqueline stated, plus these other reasons:
I Read to Escape the World
I work in human services, working with people with extensive trauma histories and helping them find their way back to more solid ground. It’s a very emotional job and I need to find a counterbalance to that. Reading is that counterbalance.
I Read for Entertainment
Reading, for me, has always been an enjoyable pastime, and it remains one to this day.
I Read to Learn
People who scoff at romance novels say you can’t learn anything from them. I strongly disagree. I have learned many things from romance novels; I have learned how to be a better, kinder, smarter person from reading these books. I’ve also learned what NOT to do, thanks to the many crappy heroes in the books I’ve read. Thanks, guys.
There are some brief points to address here about our vintage romance book blog. And yes, some of this is bragging. I’m so happy at the growth of Sweet Savage Flame and the little community we’re building here, so I hope you’ll share in my joy!
We have a new reviewer Mary Anne Landers, aka “Arkansasannie.” Not only are her reviews fun to read, but she also brings with her information regarding vintage category romances that are outside my usual scope. I’ve learned quite a bit from her in the past few weeks and hope to learn even more.
Mary Anne’s Category Romance reviews are already the most viewed ones on this site, so let’s give her a hand! That tells me that people who come to this blog want reviews on old-school books they can’t find anywhere else, and we’re listening! I have to get my old Dell Candlelight Ecstasy Supremes out of storage and review them!
Remember, Mary Anne is also an up-and-coming author, so you might want to follow her on her Facebook page Mary Anne Landers Facebook, for her latest updates! With her unique perspective on category romances and Blue Falcon’s in-depth reviews on Historicals, I’m very proud of our little group here.... Read more “Updates #7”
When you read a romance novel, what are you reading it for? The romance? The heroine’s journey? The hunky hero? Or something else entirely?
The Placeholder Reader
Recently, I came upon a quote by author Laura Kinsale. Rather than add it to the Kathleen E. Woodiwiss page, I thought it would make for a good conversation piece. In her essay “The Androgynous Reader” in Jayne Ann Krentz’ book, Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, Kinsale cites the heroine of K.E.W.’s Shanna as proof that the average romance reader does not identify with the heroine, but rather, s/he imagines her as a placeholder for themselves to be with the hero, for:
“[A] sillier and more wrongheaded heroine than Shanna would be difficult to imagine… Feminists need not tremble for the reader–she does not identify with, admire, or internalize the characteristics of either a stupidly submissive or an irksomely independent heroine. The reader thinks about what she would have done in the heroine’s place.”
I agree and disagree with Kinsale’s assessment. As a woman, I do not internalize a foolish heroine’s poor decision-making. When it comes to reading romance, unless feminism is an explicit theme of the book, that topic doesn’t enter in how I judge the story.
When I started this site three months ago, I envisioned a small blog where I’d talk about historical romance novels written in the last quarter of the 20th century and post an occasional vintage review. Several weeks in, I decided to broaden the scope to include “contemporary” romances published during that era, which opened huge avenues to discovery. For example, authors whom I’d known solely as historical or contemporary writers excelled in multiple genres. Or the history of one paperback publishing house branches out and takes root into one another, making it difficult to define who published what. More importantly, what I thought would be an easy task turned into a major endeavor: learning SEO, CSS, maneuvering plugins, trying to find a slick-looking template that wouldn’t slow the site to a crawl…
Life has a way of catching up to all of us eventually, and one’s health is part of that. In my family recently, we have had a couple of close calls with relatives. I had a bad spell around Mother’s Day and have just been recovering from another set of ailments that hit me hard early last week.... Read more “Updates #6”
Each person has their own unique limit of what they can or cannot tolerate in fiction. Although it has an absolute requirement for a happy ending, the romance genre may contain deal-breakers for readers looking for a pleasurable experience that takes them away from reality for a few hours.
Our Pet Peeves
Some of our negative book reviews at Sweet Savage Flame have pointed ti personal pet peeves as reasons why we couldn’t enjoy our reading experiences.
In Nadine Crenshaw’s Captive Melody, there were two negative tropes that were deal breakers for Blue Falcon. First, a captive who experiences Stockholm Syndrome for her captor. Second, the hero seeking to inflict vengeance upon an innocent party. There are cruelties that characters experience that cannot be offset by skillful writing or a conveniently happy ending.
As I’ve stated before, as in Dana Ransom’s Love’sGlorious Gamble: I can’t enjoy a romance where the hero is mourning the death of a previous beloved. While I prefer a heroine to be the hero’s only love, I can accept a rival for his affections, so long as she is alive. A flesh and blood woman will always pale to the perfection of a saintly ghost.... Read more “Pet Peeves and Deal Breakers in Romance”
To this day, I still mourn the passing of a romance great, Johanna Lindsey. Lindsey holds a special place in my heart, more so than any other historical romance author. Oddly enough, the first Lindsey I read was not a historical romance, but her 1990 science-fantasy romance, Warrior’s Woman. After that, her books became an addiction for me.
It’s no wonder that her publishers labeled her with the motto “Everyone Loves a Lindsey.” She reached the #1 position on the New York Times Best Seller list with Defy Not the Heart, Angel, and other books. Lindsey sold over 60 million copies of her approximately 56 published romance novels. Her works were translated into at least a dozen other languages.
Life, Love, Family, & Career
Lindsey was born Johanna Helen Howard on March 10, 1952, in Frankfurt, Germany, to Edwin Dennis Howard, a soldier in the U.S. Army, and his wife, Wanda Lindsey (nee Castle). After her father died in 1964, Lindsey and her mother settled in the state of Hawaii, as her father had always dreamed of doing.
H. Tom Hall’s art work on romance book covers is legendary. His style is instantly recognizable, refined, yet sensual.
Hall was born in 1932 and grew up in Prospect Park, Pennsylvania. He studied at the Tyler School of Fine Art and received his BFA from Philadelphia College of Art.
While in the U.S. Army, Hall wrote and illustrated a children’s book published by Knopf. After illustrating children’s books and magazines for many years Hall moved on to create book covers. His work has graced some of the biggest bestsellers of all time, like Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and some Colleen McCullough works, including The First Man in Rome and The Thorn Birds.
His career was so widely varied and successful that he was commissioned to do the reprint of John Steinbeck’s Cup of Gold and illustrated the cover of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’s blockbuster bodice ripper, Shanna. The latter book sold millions of copies, and the passionate clinch cover was a huge part of the romance novel’s allure.... Read more “A Closer Look at Cover Artist: H. Tom Hall”
Forced into marriage to the English nobleman Stephen Montgomery, Scotswoman Brenna MacArran, the leader of her clan, vows to make his life miserable.
While Deveraux’s heroes in the Velvet Series had their bad moments, particularly Gavin, and to a lesser extent,Miles and Raine, in Highland Velvet, Stephen Montgomery was the stuff girlish dreams are made of.
Stephen was kind and loving to his sister-in-law, Judith, always taking her side whenever Gavin preferred his evil mistress. He stayed by her bedside during her painful miscarriage and supported her throughout.
When Stephen saw Bronwyn for the first time, he fell instantly in love with her. He worked his butt off to get the approval of the men in Bronwyn’s clan and had to fight that creepy Roger Chatworth for her hand in marriage, even though they were already betrothed. Heck, he even changed his last name so that her MacArran family name wouldn’t die out. And he was no wussy male, but a deadly soldier willing to work hard and rethink his value system when faced with contradictions.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux”
Old-school historical romances were quite diverse in settings, ranging from the Occident to the Orient, from the Middle East to everywhere in Europe to the Americas. In my time reading these books, I’ve come across several ways to say “my love,” “my beloved,” or “my darling” in various languages. As language is very nuanced, there are many words of love you can express among your friends, family, lovers, pets, etc.
I’ve tried to compile some ways to share intimate words with the one you love most in various languages.
Is your language on this list? If not, how do you say these words and phrases in your native language? Please, drop a comment and let’s talk romance!
My Love/ My Beloved or My Dear/My Darling
I love you.
(f) habibti; (m) habibi
Ana uHibbuki. (to a female) Ana uHibbuka. (to a male) Ana Ahabak. (to a male)
(f) ma chère; (m) mon cher (darling) mon amour (my love)
Victor Gadino is an award-winning artist who holds an MFA from Pratt Institute. His work has appeared in elite promotions for the corporate, publishing, and entertainment fields.
Gadino’s big break in cover art illustration came through Avon’s Gordon Merrick gay romantic series, beginning with The Lord Won’t Mind. These–at the time–controversial images showed Gadino’s knack for sensual paintings that held a touch of whimsy.
Gadino did not begin his craft as a romance illustrator on Johanna’s Lindsey’s Prisoner of My Desire, but it helped catapult his name in the romance cover industry. Elaine Duillo had been Lindsey’s regular illustrator at the time, and although this was just a one-off occurrence, Gadino’s artwork was immediately appreciated by fans. (I love the horse grazing in the background.)
Gadino would design incredible-looking covers for authors such as Rosemary Rogers, Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham), Betina Krahn, and Sandra Hill. His works are defined by exquisite attention to detail, whether it be the hero’s muscled abs or the heroine’s beautiful gown and flowing hair. Many of his covers have been designed as stepbacks, with a “respectable”-looking front, but when they’re opened, there’s a beautiful illustration inside.... Read more “A Closer Look at Cover Artist: Victor Gadino”
While I’m busy with this blog, I’m also in the process of completing my first book, The Savage Noble, which I hope to have out by August 1, 2021. You can find the first two chapters of my book at wattpad.com or my website jacquelinediazromance.com.
New Additions and More Updates to Come
I have been adding more book reviews to this site, at least two every day. The Coach to Hell is one book that was fun to review, if not read. We are blogging bi-weekly about romance-related issues and uploading new pages. There’s a blog post about our love for Fabio and pages on the history of Harlequin Historicals and Fawcett Books.
There’s now a STORE attached to this blog. I’m reducing my vast paperback and hardcover library by selling used books. I have many books to sell, from multiple genres, including romance, science fiction, children’s books, and non-fiction. There are few doubles, so it’s first-come, first-serve if you find something you’d like to purchase from my vintage-and-not-so-vintage collection. For example, the rare out-of-print book Bliss by Judy Cuevas is available for $30, a fair price.... Read more “Updates #5”
Australian author Valerie Parv recently passed away at the end of April, joining her fellow Harlequin/Mills and Boon colleague, Emma Darcy, who passed away late last December. Combined, these two women accounted for over 100 million books sold worldwide. Despite being gloabal phenomenons, their accomplishments did not receive the acclaim they deserved.
At our Sweet Savage Flame Podcast, we honor the memory of these two romance legends, Valerie Parv and Emma Darcy.
The podcast can be accessed at the site below, or on Spotify, Google, and many other forms:
Like bodice rippers and vintage romances of yesteryear, model Fabio Lanzoni has been unfairly maligned and even mocked by many modern-day romance readers. There’s a sentiment of contempt displayed at the old clinch covers, with some going as far as declaring that Fabio represented a low point in the genre. As a fan of Fabio and old-school romance, I cannot emphasize how wrong I think these detractors are.
The painted covers of retro-romances were created by talented artists using beautiful men and women as their models. They were works of art, despite–or perhaps because of–their campy, sexual nature. Lovers of romance should embrace that period in history, as they fail to understand that Fabio was supposed to be over-the-top and outlandish. He was advertising an exaggerated fantasy that we all knew was a bit ridiculous.
In trying to defend their beloved books, some readers take them too seriously. The romance novel industry has always been outrageous and irreverent by its nature, which is part of the fun.
After writing my review for Emma Darcy’s Don’t Ask Me Now, I found out the sad news that she had passed away four months ago, on December 21, 2020, at the age of 80. Emma Darcy was a pseudonym for the husband-and-wife duo of Frank and Wendy Brennan.
Emma Darcy’s Life
Wendy was born in Dorrigo, New South Wales, Australia, on November 28, 1940. She was a bright student and achieved success in college. She was the first female computer programmer in the Southern Hemisphere.
Wendy and Frank married in 1964, and after having children, Wendy chose to leave the workforce and stay home to raise them. Frank was a businessman and a pharmacist.
Both were lovers of reading and they decided to join forces to write books together. Frank and Wendy wrote several books which they submitted to Mills and Boon. The legendary editor, Jacqui Bianchi, aka bodice-ripper author Teresa Denys, accepted their submissions but asked for them to be tweaked a bit before publication. In 1983, the couple released their first book as Emma Darcy, the Mills, and Boon/ Harlequin Presents Twisting Shadows.