Tag: romance books

The Male Authors of Vintage Romance

man and woman holding each others hand wrapped with string lights
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Romance Is For Everyone

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?

Men Who Wrote Romance Novels

Men were part of the 1970’s romance revolution, and to this day, they remain part of it as writers and readers.... Read more “The Male Authors of Vintage Romance”

A Closer Look At Sharon Spiak

the hawk and the dove
Sharon Spiak at work

Spiak, The Book Cover Illustrator

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.

Spiak, The Book Covers

Among some of the earlier covers, Sharon Spiak produced were these two for Pocket Books’ Tapestry imprint.... Read more “A Closer Look At Sharon Spiak”

Romance Authors With Pseudonyms

yellow flower
yellow flower
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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”

Why Do I Read Romance?

black framed eyeglasses on book
black framed eyeglasses on book
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Blue Falcon’s Romance Journey

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. 

I Read to Experience New Things

I’ve not traveled much in my life, due in part to many things, one of which is a fear of heights.... Read more “Why Do I Read Romance?”

What’s in a Name? Favorite Romance Novel Names

wooden name tags arranged on table during wedding ceremony

In the comment section of the review of Passion’s Treasure/Just Say Yes by Betina Krahn that I reviewed, our colleague Mary Ann Landers asked about the name of the book’s heroine, Treasure Barrett. That query got me thinking about romance novel names: do I have favorite ones? I certainly do!

Some of My Favorite Romance Novel Names:

Bandit’s Embrace by Georgina Gentry, Zebra, 1989, artist unknown

Amethyst (nee Durango)

Book: Bandit’s Embrace by Georgina Gentry. (March 1989)

This character was named after her beautiful purple eye color. When I read this book, it got me thinking about other “precious gem” names for females, such as Diamond, Emerald, Peridot, and Sapphire.

Audrina (nee Harris)

Book: Dakota Flame by Sonya T. Pelton. (July 1989)

I loved this name when I first saw it. The name Audrina is a contraction of her first and middle names, Audrey Tina. 

Breanna (nee Kenton) Remington

Book: Dakota Dreams by Constance O’Banyon (June 1991).

Breanna is not the most unusual name, but it is one of my favorites. I also loved Breanna Kenton Remington.

The Devil’s Price, Carole Mortimer, Harlequin, 1986, cover artist unknown

Cynara (nee Williams)

Book: The Devil’s Price by Carole Mortimer (January 1986)

This name may be my all-time favorite romance novel name.... Read more “What’s in a Name? Favorite Romance Novel Names”

Why Romance? Why Vintage?

Ladies-Home-Journal

Mary Anne’s Story

I love to read. I love stories. And right now, my kind of story is vintage romance fiction. 

By which I mean romances published in the twentieth century. In particular certain varieties of the genre, with features that were once popular but have since gone out of style. That’s why I’m grateful for a blog like Sweet Savage Flame. Here I can get info and opinions about my favorite body of fiction. And share my own!

Why romance? Why vintage? To answer both questions, I must start with who I am as a reader.

“Her First Romance” by Charles Edward Chambers. September 1922 issue of “The Ladies’ Home Journal,” Curtis Publishing Company.

A Lifelong Love of Reading

I’m an American and a Baby Boomer. I was born the year Eisenhower was elected. And exposed to the cultural influences of my generation. I liked some kinds of art and entertainment, tolerated others, rejected some. I wasn’t picky at first, but the years made me pretty selective.

I’ve been in love with reading ever since I could read. In the beginning, there was Dick and Jane. Then books assigned by my teachers or given to me by my parents. Well, my mother; my dad wasn’t much of a reader.... Read more “Why Romance? Why Vintage?”

Author Spotlight: Penny Jordan

Penny Jordan pic
Penny Jordan pic
“Penny Jordan” (real name Penny Jones-Halsall)

Penny Jordan was an immensely popular author for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin. She wrote romantic love stories that readers have enjoyed for 40 years. Penny Jordan was not her real identity but one of her many pseudonyms. Let’s take a look back at the career of this talented author.

Life Before Writing

Born on November 24, 1946, Penelope “Penny” Jones came into the world in a nursing home in Preston, Lancashire, England. Like many future writers, Penny had a vivid imagination as a child and was an active reader. Starting at age 10 or 11, her mother introduced Penny to the romantic serials in the Woman’s Weekly magazines. She became hooked on reading Mills & Boon and was a devoted fan. In those days, private lending libraries were the only source to obtain those books. Not until years later would the books go on sale in shops so Penny could have her keep of them.

She had met the love of her life, Steve Halsall, as a teenager, whom she married after her graduation. Steve was supportive of Penny’s burgeoning ambitions to write and purchased a typewriter for her to create romantic fiction.

Enter Caroline Courtney, Penny Jordan, and Anne Groves

Penny entered a competition run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA), which brought her to the attention of an agent, and in 1979 she published Duchess in Disguise, the first of her 25 Regency romances written under the name Caroline Courtney.... Read more “Author Spotlight: Penny Jordan”

Updates #7

white orange and green floral bouquet decor
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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!

Welcome Mary Anne

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”

The Hero, the Heroine, or the Love Story?

love cherish me

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.

... Read more “The Hero, the Heroine, or the Love Story?”

Updates #6

garden secret
stack of books near magnolia flower on table
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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…

So, blogging.

Jacqueline Diaz Romance

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”

Pet Peeves and Deal Breakers in Romance

crop person showing broken paper heart
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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’s Glorious 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”

Link-O-Rama #2: Blogs, Sites, Podcasts & More

art artistic blank page book

All these links will be added to the Links menu above.

Sites:

Also, check out his Guide to Category Romance Series 1965-1989. The ~1970-2000 era in romance novels we focus on overlaps with this guide, so it’s a valuable reference for category romance.

Podcast:

This outrageous podcast, The Bodice Tipplers, reviews romances from all eras and genres:

Tumblr:

Look for beautiful Harlequin covers at: Vintage Harlequin Romance Cover Art

Twitter:

Every day @ArtOfTheClinch tweets out a gorgeous clinch cover.

Author Spotlight: Johanna Lindsey

A Heart So Wild, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1986, cover artist Robert McGinnis

A Historical Romance Favorite

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 HeartAngel, 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.

While still attending high school, at the age of 18 Johanna married her one true love, Ralph Bruce Lindsey.... Read more “Author Spotlight: Johanna Lindsey”

A Closer Look at Cover Artist: H. Tom Hall


H. Tom Hall

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.

The First Man in Rome, Colleen McCullough, Avon, 1991, Tom Hall cover art

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”

The Languages of Love

planet earth

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!

LANGUAGEMy Love/ My Beloved or My Dear/My DarlingI love you.
Arabic(f) habibti; (m) habibi Ana uHibbuki. (to a female)
Ana uHibbuka. (to a male)
Ana Ahabak. (to a male)
French(f) ma chère; (m) mon cher (darling)
mon amour (my love)
Je t’aime.
German mein(e) Liebling (my darling)
mein(e) Schatz (my sweetheart)
Ich liebe dich.
Greek agápi Se agapó. S’agapó.
Irish mo stór (my love)
mo chuisle (my heartbeat)
Tá grá agam duit.
... Read more “The Languages of Love”

A Closer Look at Cover Artist: Victor Gadino

Victor Gadino

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.

The Lord Won’t Mind, Gordon Merrick, Avon, 1971, Victor Gadino cover art

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”

Updates #5

woman in black tank top lying on bed

Things have been moving quickly here at Sweet Savage Flame.

woman in black tank top lying on bed
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Jacqueline Diaz, Romance Author

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.

Used Book Store

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”

Sweet Savage Flame Podcast

Valerie Parv

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:

WordPress Podcast Site

Valerie Parv 1950-2021

Emma Darcy 1940-2020

Romance Cover Model: Fabio Lanzoni

Fabio
Fabio
Fabio Lanzoni

A Controversial Romance Icon

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.

We romance readers in the 1990s were far savvier than our contemporaries give us credit for being. The joke was never on Fabio, the reader, nor the genre.... Read more “Romance Cover Model: Fabio Lanzoni”

Belated Farewell to Emma Darcy

emma darcy

Farewell to a Talented Author

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.

Frank and Wendy wrote 45 books together before Frank passed away in 1995.... Read more “Belated Farewell to Emma Darcy”