Tag Archives: romance books

free Reading log

Free Printable Reading Log and Planner for 2023

We’re offering a free printable reading planner/ log for your convenience to use in 2023 to keep track of your reading list.

Reading planner

New Season, New Turning of the Wheel of Time

It’s Spring, which in many religions and societies is also the new year. We’re a bit late for the New Year in January (or the Lunar New Year, for that matter), but it’s never too late for new resolutions.

We’re familiar with those goals. You could mightwant to get in good shape, spend more time with family, or go on a trip.

Whatever you do, it’s important to follow through on objectives and keep the momentum rolling.

Our resolution is trying to get more organized, And what better way to do that than with a reading/log planner? How about a free one?

Free 8-Page Reading Journal: Easy to Download and Print

We’ve made a free 8-page printable reading planner/ log. This may help you get organized–at least where reading is concerned. The first page is a cover, and the second is a 2023 calendar, so you need only to print them once. Then print worksheet pages 3 to 8 as many times as you need to have an entire journal you can use all year long.

The printables feature spaces for setting goals, logging your daily reading progress, and tracking books you’ve read.

What’s more, our reading planner and log are entirely free to download and print. In order to get it, all you have to do is click the download button to access the PDF. You can print the sheets as many times as you need, making it perfect for those who want to monitor their progress.

Whether you’re a voracious reader or trying to read more, our reading planner and the log is the perfect tool to help you achieve your reading goals. It’s easy to use, customizable to your preferences, and, best of all, completely free!

Click on the link below to download a free 8-page PDF reading planner kit. Print as many sheets as needed.

FREE 8-Page Reading Planner Kit

Happy Reading in 2023

This free printable planner lets you create your specialized reading journal. Use them for your reading lists and notes, and take notes on your progress.

So why not give it a try? Download our reading planner/reading log, and start tracking your reading progress to make 2023 a year full of new and exciting reading adventures.

We’ll be offering more printables and freebies in 2023. Happy reading!

top ten tuesday to be read list spring 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Our Spring 2023 To-Be-Read List

We’re listing ten books on our to-be-read list for Spring 2023 for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme.

top ten tuesday to be read list spring 2023

Top Ten Tuesday

It’s Top Ten Tuesday, where depending on the week’s theme, we post a list of 10 of our best/favorite/most important bookish-related items.

Thank you to That Artsy Reader Girl for providing us with this feature and for the creative ideas.

“Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.”

That Artsy Reader Girl

Ten Books on My Spring 2023 TBR List

This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “Spring 2023 Books to Read.”

We had to tweak this list a bit, as we always try to do things as far ahead as possible. So rather than this list consisting of books-to-be-read, they are books-to-be-reviewed. Introvert Reader has read almost all the books listed below, so look out for these ten reviews in the upcoming months.

1. Historical Bodice Ripper: The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss

flame and flower

Doomed to a life of unending toil, Heather Simmons fears for her innocence — until a shocking, desperate act forces her to flee… and to seek refuge in the arms of a virile and dangerous stranger.

A lusty adventurer married to the sea, Captain Brandon Birmingham courts scorn and peril when he abducts the beautiful fugitive from the tumultuous London dockside. But no power on Earth can compel him to relinquish his exquisite prize. For he is determined to make the sapphire-eyed lovely his woman… and to carry her off to far, uncharted realms of sensuous, passionate love.


2. Traditional Regency: Lord Carew’s Bride by Mary Balogh

lord carews bride

Samantha Newman is getting older, but though she is beautiful and courted by a large number of gentlemen, she is restless and unhappy. While she is staying in the country with her friends Jennifer and Gabriel, she takes a walk alone and wanders onto the property of the reclusive Marquess of Carew.

She meets him far from the house and mistakes him for a landscape designer. He is an ordinary-looking man and is half crippled. He is also friendly and unassuming, and Samantha soon relaxes into a warm friendship with him.

It is only much later, back in London, when she is again threatened by the man who broke her heart years ago during her come-out Season, that Samantha discovers who her friend really is. And this time she is tempted to settle for the contentment of friendship in order to escape the pain of love.

Lord Carew’s Bride by Mary Balogh

3. Harlequin Historical: Sun Woman by Lindsay McKenna

sun woman mckenna


Desperate to save the last of her family, Kuchana had become a scout for the

army. To the young Apache, the return of her people to the reservation seemed the only way to ensure their continued survival. Her chosen path was not an easy one, but the promise of a future with Gib McCoy gave her the will to complete her journey.

Lieutenant Gib McCoy had known his share of women, but the pampered eastern ladies of his past paled next to Kuchana’s ethereal beauty. Her courage drew him to her like a moth to the flame. He could not protect her from the jealousy and prejudice that surrounded them, but he knew he would not rest until she was in his arms forever.


4. Silhouette Desire: Wrong Address Right Place by Lass Small

Wrong Address, Right Place tadiello


Linda Parsons was excited about her first business trip–and a shambles of a bed-and-breakfast place wasn’t going to dampen her spirit. Especially since ruggedly sexy innkeeper Mitch Roads seemed determined to make her stay enjoyable. There was certainly nothing wrong with this perfect specimen of a man, and his all-too-personal kisses soon drove all professional matters out of Linda’s mind.

Mitch knew Linda had come to the wrong address, but she was too beautiful to turn away. He’d play host and win her heart. But Mitch quickly learned that Linda despised liars. If she found out about his charade, would she check out–for good? Or could he convince her to make a lifetime reservation?

Wrong Address Right Place by Lass Small

5. Harlequin Temptation: Two Can Play by Emma Jane Spenser

Two-Can-Play emma jane spenser

They were playing a dangerous game

Private Investigator Natalie Tracy specialized in finding what was lost–missing kids, family heirlooms–so a treasure hunt piqued her curiosity. She’d been hired to unravel the clues hidden in the pages of The Quest. Her first step was to track down the elusive author, Alexander Garrick. That’s when she learned a new set of rules….

Rule #1: Despite her attraction to Alex, she couldn’t trust him.

Rule #2: She only had three weeks to solve the riddle, but her future happiness depended on it.

Rule #3: In a game where winner takes all, the stakes became her life!

Two Can Play by Emma Jane Spenser

6. Silhouette Intimate Moments: Paintbox Morning by Kathleen Eagle

Spring 2023 TBR list


Miguel Hidalgo had been left for dead by the minions of De Colores’s evil dictator, but he was very much alive—and determined to exact revenge and return his country to freedom. But even a man of Miguel’s determination and talents couldn’t accomplish that alone. He needed Veronica Harper.

Ronnie had flown into De Colores on a mission of mercy only to find herself hijacked at gunpoint, forced to fly the handsomest man she’d ever seen to safety. Soon guns were no longer necessary because once Ronnie heard Miguel’s story, she was eager to help him rescue his island home and even more eager to spend the future by his side.

Paintbox Morning by Kathleen Eagle

7. Harlequin Presents: The Shining of Love by Emma Darcy


Dedicated to her husband and their work at a rural Australian outback clinic, Suzanne had rejected the temptation Leith Carew had offered.

But he’d taken away her inner peace, just as she’d taken his. And when their paths crossed again, the longing that coursed through Suzanne’s body could no longer be denied. Except this time, Leigh was not free…

The Shining of Love by Emma Darcy

8. Paranormal/Science Fiction/Futuristic Romance: Passion Moon Rising by Rebecca Brandewyne

passion moon rising duillo

Ileana – The cherished princess of a brave and noble land. Violet-eyed, silver-haired, she was graced with beauty, pride and passion … born with a great gift and a rare destiny.Cain – A warrior prince who denied the danger that could destroy him. He lived by his courage and his instincts, and from the moment he gazed on Ileana, he knew nothing would vanquish his desire.

In each other’s arms, they shared a rich and wondrous love that brought them to exquisite ecstasy. But in a fierce and fiery clash of wills, their union was torn by betrayal and mistrust. Now, as their kingdoms are plunged into the terror of war, they must take up the only weapon that can save their world … the power that blazes in the blackest of nights – the gleaming sword of love!

Passion Moon Rising by Rebecca Brandewyne

9. Western Historical Romance: Temptation’s Trail by Dana Ransom

temptations trail ennis

When Amanda Duncan headed West to find her missing brother, she knew she was a little out of her element. Her privileged upbringing in a fancy boarding school hadn’t prepared her for the perils of frontier Texas. So, she made a plan-all she had to do was hire a hero. But when legendary gunslinger Harmon Bass showed up, he wasn’t what she expected at all. True, he was gorgeous beyond belief, but he was also unarmed! What kind of hero didn’t carry a gun?

Rugged half-breed Harmon Bass needed a job that paid well and disguised his true mission. What ha got was an irritating and irresistible trail partner who could not ride, shoot or keep quiet! Yet with every move she made, he wanted her more! Maybe it was Amanda’s sheer pluck…or unexpected courage…or the way her beautiful brown eyes glowed with sensual fire. Here was a woman to tempt and torment him-the woman he’d been waiting for all of his life. Now, as he and the feisty eastern beauty crossed a wilderness dogged by crooked lawmen and avenging outlaws, Harm only prayed they lived long enough to calm the love that waited at the end of…TEMPTATION’S TRAIL

Temptation’s Trail by Dana Ransom

10. Harlequin Super Romance/ Full-Length Contemporary: The Hellion by LaVyrle Spencer


RACHEL. The image of elegance, social standing, and beauty, she had barely recovered from her husband’s death when the wildest, most passionate flame of her youth stepped into her life, once again…

TOMMY LEE. The all-time hellraiser of Russellville, Alabama, he had three marriages behind him and a string of fast cars and women. The townsfolk said he’d never change. But Rachel knew differently…

One they were high school sweethearts, too young and reckless to handle the consequences of their love. Now, twenty-four years later, Tommy Lee could still excite Rachel like no other man. Maybe this time, they could make it work. In spite of his wild reputation…the local gossip…or Rachel’s questioning heart.

The Hellion by LaVyrle Spencer

That’s Ten Weeks of Spring Reading

Overall, this Spring will be a season of romance and adventure as we dive into our top ten book picks. We can’t wait to review all these fantastic romance novels and share our opinions with you.

Thanks again to That Artsy Reader Girl for organizing Top Ten Tuesday and giving us fun ideas each week!

Your Opinion

What books are on your Spring TBR list? Or is it more like a pile than a list? What do you think of our to-be-read list for Spring 2023?

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

the judas kiss will davies

Category Romance Review: The Judas Kiss by Sally Wentworth

The Judas Kiss by Sally Wentworth is a legendary Harlequin Presents. It’s a twisted tale of revenge, deceit, lies, and passion sure to thrill readers.

category romance
The Judas Kiss by Sally Wentworth
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1981
Illustrator: Will Davies
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #480
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Category Romance Review: The Judas Kiss by Sally Wentworth


The Book

Sally Wentworth’s The Judas Kiss has to rank in my top ten Harlequin Presents because it’s just so epic on so many levels. Nothing is as exhilarating and satisfying as a cray-cray-crazy old-school romance that fires on all cylinders and is filled with riveting twists and turns, deception and revenge. This has a heroine with a vicious will of steel and a hero who turns from kind to cruel to kind–in the end.

At 188 pages, The Judas Kiss is a little book that packs a wallop. It spans over four years and takes the heroine from a sweet, happy-go-lucky girl deeply in love to a hardened ex-criminal who gets plastic surgery to seek vengeance on the man who wronged her—the very man she once loved.

It’s like a Spanish telenovela, La Dama de Rosas, starring Jeanette Rodriquez and Carlos Mata! Boy, that takes me back!

la dama de rosas
La Dama de Rosas, RCTV Internacional

The Plot

Lynette and Beric

Lynette Maxwell is a young British stewardess who meets and falls in love with Beric Dane, a handsome pilot with no baggage. At only 19, Lyn is gaga for Beric, who is young for a hero of this Harley era–he’s only 29.

She’s a virgin and wants to take their relationship to the next level. Beric demurs, claiming to respect and love her too much to take her so casually. Lyn’s the kind of girl a man waits to marry before bedding her, and Lyn, in her haze of love, agrees.

On a return flight to the UK, she gets hauled in for questioning because a container of white powder was found in her bag inside her teddy bear. She is imprisoned, desperately afraid, and wonders how this could have happened.

She accuses Beric of planting the drugs on her after she realizes he was the one person who had access to her purse since they deplaned.

In response, Beric informs the police that she is making up stories to implicate him and abandons her. Lyn is convicted of the crime and goes to prison for three years. Lyn’s parents want nothing to do with her, and her great-aunt is the only person on the outside to support her.

Lynette’s Revenge, Part One

Prison turns Lyn from a sweet, trusting person to a woman embittered by deceit who lives only for vengeance. Fortunately, prison is just the place to meet hardened criminals who know a thing or two about revenge.

When Lyn gets out of the slammer, her face is reconstructed via the finest plastic surgery. She changes her hairline, chin, and nose, and her eyes are pulled further apart. Then she dyes her hair blonde. Viola! Lyn is now Nettie Lewis.

She tracks down Beric in Singapore and gets a job there teaching kids. She stays at the hotel where Beric and his flight crew stay for layovers and then starts to cozy up to some of the stewardesses, who introduce her to Beric. Beric is intrigued by her and pursues her with vigor. She rejects his advances, which spurs his further. He wants “Nettie” with a furious passion.

judas kiss mills and boon
The Judas Kiss, Mills & Boon

Lynette’s Revenge, Part Two

Lyn’s plans change when she realizes how deeply he falls for her. She decides that instead of planting drugs on him–which could potentially put her in danger– it would be better to make him fall in love with her and destroy him in another way.

She repeatedly shoots him down until she worries she may have overplayed her hand. But Beric comes back with a wedding proposal. Unlike before, when Beric wanted to wait until marriage to have sex with Lyn, now Beric wants to smash hard with Nettie. But our cool girl Lyn plays him like Georgia Johhny bowed his fiddle in a contest against the Devil.

They get married surrounded by his warm family, who are delighted that, at last, Beric has found happiness.

Lyn’s complicated plan began before the wedding when she flew out to their honeymoon destination with a tour group to set the trap. Then she took a flight back to get married.

On their honeymoon, Lyn leaves some clues making it seem she’s come to a mysterious, bloody end. She plants a bracelet in the hotel and messes up their room to look like it has been ransacked. Then she slips back with her previous tour group and wears a brunette wig. She watches from the fringes as Beric’s world crumbles around him.

Finally, she hightails it back to England to resume her life as Lyn. She even lets her natural hair color grow out.

Beric’s Revenge

Many months later, Lyn is now a slight attendant again. Although she has to fly regularly, Lyn is always careful not to book with Beric’s airline.

However, she gets recognized by one of his crew and comes face to face with Beric again. Beric pretends he doesn’t recognize her, but we know he does.

Now, it’s his turn for payback. He stalks her and pretty much kidnaps her when he gets her alone in a cottage. The gig is up! This is not the kind and gentle Beric she had known nor the eager fiance dazzled by new love.

This Beric is enraged, betrayed, and wants answers. And he wants that honeymoon night she never gave him.

Lyn is truly frightened–at first. But in the end, defiance reigns in her heart. Beric is no victim but the evildoer who put her in prison.

Beric realizes Lyn is genuinely innocent and sincerely believes he set her up. It was her outrage at this injustice that propelled her to seek revenge. His love for her makes him see the errors of his ways, and Beric vows to find who set her up.

With a little bit of sleuthing, they soon discover the true culprit. They find that she is living in her own personal hell as life has not gone well.

Lyn decides the guilty party has been punished already by Karma. She has had her fill of revenge and is not pleased with herself, knowing how she hurt Beric in her hunt for his blood.

But Beric–who is really a wonderful hero–forgives her. This enables Lyn to let the past anger and hurt fade away.

She and Beric turn to one another, and their Harley hell becomes heaven.

Final Analysis of The Judas Kiss

The Judas Kiss is freaking fantastic! This book deserves to be remembered in the annals of Romancelandia’s hall of fame. It has such an audacious plot, with a heroine who is cruel and single-minded in her pursuit of vengeance,

Beric is fantastic. He’s a really decent guy who’s shattered by Lyn’s actions. In his hurt, he is also cruel, seeking retaliation for Lyn’s treachery. But ultimately, his decency compels him to go in a different direction.

Oh, this was such fun! What a shame The Judas Kiss is not available in e-book format. If Dorren Hornsblow’s (Sally Wentworth’s real name) family controls the rights to this, hopefully, they’ll correct that error one day.

If you’ve never read this, what whacktastic excitement you’ve missed out on! Go on, search your favorite UBS, and get this one. Even if you hate it, The Judas Kiss can’t fail to thrill!

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.9


The man she’d loved had ruined her life

“I didn’t do it!” Lyn had protested, horrified, when accused of drug smuggling. But no one–customs officials or jury–had believed her. And then she discovered that her pilot boyfriend, Beric, had deliberately set her up! Her blind, trusting love rapidly turned to hate.

After three years in prison, she was determined to be revenged on Beric. So she worked out a complicated plan to get back into his life without his knowing who she was. And it worked.

But not quite in the way that Lyn had intended…

The Judas Kiss by Sally Wentworth
tazia's torment

Historical Romance Review: Tazia’s Torment by Sylvie F. Sommerfield

Tazia’s Torment by Sylvie F. Sommerfield, an early Zebra bodice ripper, has some good qualities, but overall, that’s all the book has.

book review historical romance
Tazia's Torment Rating: three-stars
Published: 1980
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Forced Seduction
Pages: 495
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon

Historical Romance Review: Tazia’s Torment by Sylvie F. Sommerfield


The Book

This review is of Tazia’s Torment, a 1980 Zebra historical romance by Sylvie F. Sommerfield.

The Plot

One Night, four men–Garrett Flye, Louis Plummer, and brothers Delmond “Del” LaCroix and Cameron “Kirk” LaCroix, the “hero” of the book–go to a restaurant to watch a performance given by a dancer. The dancer in question is Elena Maria Constancia Fantasia de Montega–to use her full nomenclature. She is known as “Tazia” for short and is the book’s heroine.

Unknown to the men, Tazia and the four men share a tragic history. One of the four men listed above killed Tazia’s brother, Manolo, and Tazia is determined to find out which one and punish him.

Tazia and Kirk marry, but after four months, they separate due to their secrets. Tazia returns to her home, Casa del Sol, in California. There, she faces more sadness and shock. By virtue of their marriage and the archaic, sexist laws of the 1800s, Kirk– her estranged husband– owns Tazia’s family home now.

This leads to another rift between the couple. The arrival of Tazia and Kirk’s daughter, Mercy, mends the rift.

Two of the other men arrive at Casa del Sol and find happiness.

The fourth man, however, is lurking to destroy the happiness of the other three. As part of that process, he kidnaps Tazia and Mercy. The wife of one of the other men loses her life. Kirk and company rescue Tazia and Mercy, both of whom are unharmed. And ultimately, they solve the mystery of Manolo’s death. Subsequently, the killer is disposed of.

And there is a Happily Ever After for the three couples, although not in a linear way.

tazia's toment
Tazia’s Torment, ReIssue, Zebra, 1985 cover artist TBD

The Upside

Tazia’s Torment is, in a way, a book that would establish Mrs. Sommerfield’s writing style. It has a bit of emotion, some depth to her characters, and special attention placed on her supporting characters.

The Downside

Mrs. Sommerfield didn’t delve as deep into her characters as I would have liked to see. I felt there was more SHE COULD HAVE REVEALED ABOUT THEM.

The early tone of the book is patronizing to Tazia. This is due to the attitude of the male characters: “We need to save Tazia because we know things she doesn’t.”

Finally, the ending of the book is very weak sauce. I thought the storyline of one of the men falling in “instaluv” with and marrying his deceased wife’s sister was creepy.


There are a few sex scenes. These are not really descriptive in any way, nor are they terribly romantic.

Steam Level: As Senora Elena Maria Constancia Fantasia de Montega de LaCroix might say: “La pasión es tan tibia como el agua del baño del bebé.”

(The passion is as lukewarm as a baby’s bathwater).


Tazia is raped several times. Del is shot. In the end, the good guys kill the villain.

The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Tazia’s Torment

Sylvie F. Sommerfield’s California-set bodice ripper Tazia’s Torment is not a bad book. However, it is not as good as it could have been.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 3



Beautiful and tempestuous Fantasia de Montega aroused passion in every man who was fortunate enough to see her dance. And though many tried, none could learn where this mysterious and unapproachable beauty came from, or why she disappeared after every show.

But no one who beheld her could have guessed her dark secret—her mission of revenge—or the cruel trick of fate that would make her unwittingly fall in love with the very man she had vowed to kill….

Tazia’s Torment by Sylvie F. Sommerfield
irish rose elaine gignilliat

Covers of the Week #93: Irish Roses

Irish Roses–wild or not–are the focus of this edition of Covers of the Week. St. Patrick’s Day is coming up soon, so Erin go Bragh!

irish rose romance covers

Theme: Irish Roses

The rose is the flower most often associated with romance. Regarding book titles, it’s the go-to blossom for the genre, followed by jasmine, lily, and heather. (Personally, I prefer tulips. But I can see how that might make for awkward-sounding titles.)

Because St. Patrick’s Day is quickly approaching, we thought displaying romances with Irish Rose covers would be fitting.

Having no idea what an actual Irish rose looked like, I was surprised to discover that “the official Irish Rose” (L. Aeonium arboreum) is a succulent. Succulents are hearty plants that, like cacti, should be easy for anyone to maintain. (Not me; every cactus and succulent to have been under my brown thumb came to a bad, sad end).

Originally native to North Africa and the Canary Islands, the rosette succulent forms branches that grow little bushes of bright yellow blossoms with star-shaped petals, which soon dies after the flowers bloom.

As for the wild Irish rose, Ireland is home to a wide variety of these floral beauties, including many hybrid forms. Each county boasts that their native–and naturalized–roses that climb hedgerows, hug rocky shores, or dot sandy land, are the most stunning to be found.

Most of these wildflowers bloom in June and July, their white, pink, and purple blossoms adding bright bursts of color to the Emerald Isle.

“My Wild Irish Rose… the sweetest flower that grows…”

“My Wild Irish Rose, Chancellor “Chauncey” Olcott. 1899

A Note

Around this time last year, Covers of the Week #49 also had an Irish theme. Since we already used Nora Roberts Irish Rose for that edition, one of the four titles here is not like the others. Even so, the book’s Irish setting and the cover’s loveliness make up for the slight inconsistency.

The Covers

For the week of Monday, March 6, 2023, to Sunday, March 12, 2023, our Covers of the Week theme is the Irish Roses.

Irish Rose Covers (from Left to Right, Top to Bottom)

Your Opinion

What do you think of this week’s theme of Irish Roses? Do any of the covers stand out to you as a favorite?

Do you have a recommendation for a future Covers of the Week theme? Let us know, and we’ll try it out.

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

Elusive as the Unicorn by Carole Mortimer

Category Romance: Elusive as the Unicorn by Carole Mortimer

The most exciting aspects of Adam and Eve—the main characters in Carole Mortimer’s Elusive as the Unicorn—sadly start and end with their names.

category romance
Elusive as the Unicorn by Carole Mortimer
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: TBD
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 187
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Category Romance: Elusive as the Unicorn by Carole Mortimer


The Book

Elusive as the Unicorn by Carole Mortimer is another mediocre romance that Harlequin publishers bafflingly honored with their so-called Award of Excellence.

Why they chose this ho-hum Carole Mortimer entry when she’s written many more books that—although they might not have been the best of the best—at least had some sizzle to them, is a mystery to me. It only reinforced my belief that the editors gave this distinction to authors with long careers as a “pat on the back” for their overall body of work, not because a story was particularly riveting.

elusive as the unicorn

The Plot

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

The plot of this one is a little cringy. Alas, it’s not cringe-worthy for the good “bad” reasons that an HP or Mills & Boon can be. Eve Eden—yes, that’s the heroine’s name—is a British woman with a secret. She keeps it so well hidden that not even her beloved fiancé knows of it.

Adam Gardener—yup, that’s the hero’s name—is an American art businessman (yeah, I know that’s not the accurate term, but Adam’s demeanor shouts cocksure US capitalist, not fine art lover) in the UK searching for the elusive “Unicorn.” The Unicorn is a painter whose works have caused quite a stir in the art scene. But no one knows who this mysterious Unicorn is.

Have you guessed their identity already?

When Adam meets Eve, he knows they’re meant for one another—their names decree it so! He pursues her relentlessly, even if she is engaged to a dull fiancé. Eve has loved her fiancé Paul for years. Why? Beats the heck out of me. Sure, their names are Biblical, but she’s Old Testament, and he’s New Testament–an obvious sign they were never meant to be.

Paul’s Not Really the Marrying Kind, Anyway

Paul doesn’t speak to her kindly and ditches her at a party to mingle with important people. This allows Adam to tell Eve how horrible Paul is. He berates her for being such a shortsighted fool and scolds her for letting her boyfriend treat her like crap. So Eve should ditch that zero and hook up with him, the book’s hero.

Then one day, Adam plants a big old Yankee kiss on her, which gets Eve hot and bothered. She realizes, “Oh, I’m supposed to be attracted to the guy I want to marry, not just like him for “reasons.” So she dumps Paul, and Adam is there to gobble her up.

Ultimately, Adam gets proof that Paul was stealing Eve’s fortune right from under her nose. Eve was too busy with her art to count her millions, and multitasking was not for her. Seriously this girl was just so passive!

No worries, Adam is mega-rich, and Eve can paint her brilliant pieces to heart’s content on either side of the Atlantic.

elusive as the unicorn mortimer ward of excellence
The art scene in the early 1990s was très avant-garde.

Adam Gardener and Eve Eden (The Stupidest Names Ever for a Couple in a Romance Novel)

Adam was like a single-minded predator, a shark fixated on what he wanted to eat (Eve tacos). He was so overbearing; it was actually charming. Adam was the lone bright spot in this book, but his flame was not strong enough to make this thing sizzle.

Eve is a placid, non-entity of a character. All she wants is to be left alone to paint her pictures and marry Paul. Her grandparents left her a windfall, so Eve could afford to live as she pleased. (Eve’s an orphan, naturalment). She has a cousin who makes googly eyes at Adam, but there’s nothin’ doin’ there.

elusive as the unicorn

Final Analysis of Elusive as the Unicorn

Elusive as the Unicorn was one in a string of mediocre Harlequin Presents that I read in the spring of 1990, which made me temporarily lose interest in the line in favor of the more lusty Temptation romances. I thank the “reading gods” for authors Robyn Donald, Violet Winspear, and especially Charlotte Lamb for drawing me back in with their over-the-top cruel heroes and insane plots.

This book wasn’t horrid, but it wasn’t exciting or angsty. While I appreciated (and still do) that Carole Mortimer was one of the few authors in the Presents line who wrote blond heroes, if Elusive as the Unicorn was an example of the best of her works, I wasn’t interested in reading more. Thankfully, it turned out that Mortimer wrote many, many books, and this award-winning romance was by no means the best of them.

This is a romance I’m glad to say I’ve read—for historical reasons, not out of enjoyment.

elusive as the unicorn
Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 2.3


Eve Eden considered Adam forbidden fruit

When Eve Eden discovered that Adam Gardener, successful art entrepreneur, was searching for the legendary English artist, The Unicorn, she nervously shied away. The Unicorn’s true identity hit too close to home….

Besides, Eve was rattled by Adam’s mesmerizing presence, especially in light of the ridiculous coincidence of their names–and his determination to take advantage of it! But Eve was already engaged to marry her longtime friend, Paul.

Yet Eve found herself troubled by the different choices Adam and Paul presented. If only the answer to her dilemma didn’t keep eluding her….

Elusive as the Unicorn by Carole Mortimer
feb 2023

February 2023: Sweet Savage Flame Wrap-Up

feb 2023

February Posts

It’s a new month! For your convenience, we’ve created a wrap-up of Sweet Savage Flame‘s posts in February 2023.

Romance Book Reviews Posted

monthly wrap ups

The following list consists of the romance novels we reviewed last month.

Articles Posted

romance book blog

These are the articles, quizzes, lists, puzzles, and other romance or book-related blog posts we wrote or reposted last month.

Covers of the Week Posted

covers of the week

As always, we publish our favorite Covers of the Week every Sunday. These are the posts for the month gone by. You can also access the past Covers of the Week via the main menu at the top of every page.

Your Opinion

What do you think about last month’s posts on Sweet Savage Flame? Are there reviews, covers, or articles you’d like to see in the future?

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

top ten classics

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Best Classic Romances of All Time

We’re listing our ten best classic romances for our first Top Ten Tuesday post.

ten best classic romances

Top Ten Tuesday: Genre Freebie Week

We’re dipping our toes into something new here—Top Ten Tuesdays—and if you like it, let us know, and we’ll keep this going as a regular or semi-regular segment.

“Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.”

Each week has a new bookish theme. We figured today was a perfect day to start as the theme for February 28 is “Genre Freebie.” For this week, we decided to choose the 10 Best Classic Romances. As far as we’re concerned, “classic” means at least a century old–when it comes to books, anyway.

Romance Novels Have Must Have Happy Endings, Even the Classics

Happy endings are essential for us to consider a love story a romance. Let’s look at some classic works of literature and see if they qualify.

  • Romeo and Juliet: No, they die by suicide!
  • Jane Eyre: Yes. Mr. Rochester is blind, but he and Jane get married.
  • Wuthering Heights: No, Cathy dies, and Heathcliff mourns her for decades before dying.
  • Anna Karenina: Oddly, this can go either way. Despite the title, Anna Karenina tells two parallel love stories, not just one. After Anna throws herself on the train tracks and dies, Vronsky goes off to war as a suicide measure. However, Levin and Kitty survive and thrive. They live HEA with their family in the countryside, and he finds God.
  • Dr. Zhivago: No. Yuri and Lara are separated and die apart from one another.
  • Nicholas Sparks: Get out of here!

Our List of 10 Best Classic Romances (With Happy Endings)

We’re looking back 100 years and more to pick ten classic romances that we consider some of the best love stories ever written! Because a romance is not a romance unless it has a happy ending!

This list of 10 classic romances is in chronological order, not order of preference.

Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

This legendary story is our favorite romantic fairy tale because the lovers actually have to fall in love. Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s Beauty and the Beast explores the love story between a beautiful young woman named Beauty and a frightening beast. The Beast, despite his fearsome appearance, possesses an unexpected inner beauty.

Through their time together, the two discover that although some may judge outward appearance, true beauty lies within.

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

The Taming of the Shrew is a battle of wills between the two sexes and a romance that will have you laughing. This comedy by William Shakespeare still resonates with audiences today. It follows the story of Katharina, a “shrewish” woman, and her eventual conquest by the loveable Petruchio. We see how two strong-willed people can find common ground and true love through great wit and clever dialogue.

With many memorable moments, there’s no other play that captures the joys and frustrations of romance quite like this one.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

top ten romance classice pride and prejudice

How could this Jane Austen classic not be on our top ten list? Pride and Prejudice follows the Bennets, a family living in early 19th-century England. Daughter Elizabeth must navigate many feelings: love, hate, pride, and prejudice.

The stubborn and sharp-tongued Elizabeth clashes with the elitist and uptight Mr. Darcy in this timeless romance. Along the way, readers see her story of self-discovery and growth as she and her family face complicated issues surrounding marriage, class, social status, money, and family obligations.

Jane Austen’s wit and humor make this an enjoyable reading experience.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

ten romance classics

Jane Austen’s timeless classic, Persuasion, is a stirring romance that follows the fortunes of Anne Elliot, a young woman whose family pressures her to reject her true love, Captain Wentworth. As both characters struggle with their time’s moral and social conventions, they are eventually drawn together in a tale of love overcoming adversity.

A romance with an enduring message about the power of true love and following one’s heart, Persuasion is in some ways better than Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

10 top classic romance noevls

Jane Eyre is not the first Gothic (Castle of Otranto is), but it is the first Gothic romance. Charlotte Bronte’s novel is a haunting masterpiece that should be included in any list of the best classic romances. The story follows Jane as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, confronting and overcoming the many obstacles in her path. Jane is a wonderful heroine, and Mr. Rochester is a bad man we love!

With its powerful themes of female independence and social norms, Bronte’s work is one of the greatest classic love stories ever written that deserves to be on this list.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

10 classic romance stories

Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South is a classic romance that is sure to make you sigh in delight! Margaret Hale moves from the south of England to the industrial North. There, she meets Mr. Thornton, a powerful mill owner who challenges all her preconceived ideas. As a clash of cultures and values ensue, Margaret and Thornton’s relationship grows in intensity until they are hopelessly in love with one another.

With its captivating characters, engaging plot, and realistic depiction of 19th-century England, this work of literature has earned its place as one of the best classic romances of all time.

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

10 best classic romances

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy makes our list because of the wonderful relationship between the independent heroine Bathsheba Everdene and the man she ends up with, her neighbor Gabriel Oak. This Victorian novel presents a heartwarming story with strong undertones of love, loss, and redemption. The plot follows Bathsheba Everdene as she navigates a web of relationships with Gabriel Oak, Sergeant Troy, and William Boldwood, who battle for her affection.

With its vivid descriptions of rural England, Far From the Madding Crowd is filled with unforgettable characters and timeless romance that will remain etched in readers’ hearts. It’s a rare Thomas Hardy book with a happy ending,

A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

10 classic romances a room with a view

E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View is an Edwardian-era romance. Beginning in Florence, Italy, in the early 1900s and follows Lucy Honeychurch as she visits the Italian city, where she learns to embrace life and love. She resists societal stiff-upper-lip expectations and instead seeks a life of empathy and passion with the free-spirited George Emerson. Through her blossoming relationship with the unconventional George and other characters, Lucy discovers a newfound freedom and courage to follow her heart against all odds.

The Sheik by Edith Maude Hull

the sheik

We will never stop shouting our praise for this wonderful desert romance. The Sheik by Edith Maude Hull is a classic romance novel first published in 1919. The story follows Lady Diana Mayo, an Englishwoman who is kidnapped in North Africa, where she encounters the mysterious Sheikh Ahmed Ben Hassan. With both of them determined to resist their feelings for one another, they fight against their growing love while struggling with cultural clashes.

Rich in exotic detail and filled with adventure and excitement, The Sheik is an absolute must-read for all fans of classic romance novels.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

10 best classic romances

Although banned in many nations upon publication and excoriated as pornographic filth, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is actually a beautiful romance classic. D.H. Lawrence’s novel is set in 1920s Britain and follows the bold and beautiful Lady Constance Chatterley. After her husband returns home from the war paralyzed, Connie forms a bond with their gamekeeper, Mr. Mellors. Then they embark on a passionate and forbidden affair.

The novel deals with class and sexual politics. Its stirring portrayal of true love amidst impossible odds, combined with erotic imagery, places it among our top classic romances.

(Okay, so, we broke our rule or this one. Lady Chatterly’s Lover is 95 years old. But in five years [hopefully, we’ll still be around!] if/ when someone comes upon this article, it will be accurate then.)

Your Opinion

These classic romantic stories all feature happy endings, which makes them essential reading for any romance fan. What do you think of our picks for the top ten classic romances? What are your choices?

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance!

texas star

Dueling Reviews: Texas Star by Deana James, #1 (Blue Falcon)

We’re posting a pair of Dueling Reviews where our reviewers have two very different opinions on Texas Star by Deana James. Here is Blue Falcon’s take.

Texas Star by Deana James
Rating: half-star
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: Texas-Angel #3
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Forced Seduction, Western Romance, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 458
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon

Dueling Reviews: Texas Star by Deana James, #1 (Blue Falcon)


The Book

This review is of Texas Star, a Zebra Lovegram western historical romance and book #3 in the “Texas” series by Deana James.

The Setup

The book doesn’t begin in Texas but in Mexico, where Estrella Luisa Garner y Montejo, hereafter known as Star Garner, the book’s heroine, lives with her brother, Tomas, and his wife, Clara.

Riding onto their property is a man calling himself “Christopher Stewart,” who claims he wants to breed his horse to Tomas’ horses. They don’t realize Christopher has ulterior motives.

It isn’t until he spirits Star away that he reveals the truth: his name is Christopher Stewart Gillard. He is a bounty hunter hired to bring Star back to Texas to die for the killing of her husband, Luke Garner.

The Backstory

Christopher was employed by Matthew Garner, Luke’s father, to bring Star back after Luke was shot and killed, ostensibly by Star. Star was tried and convicted by a jury, but Tomas rescued her before she was hung.

The real story is far more complicated than that.

The Plot

As Chris transports Star from Mexico to Texas, they become lovers.

However, he also hits her, and she is later raped by an attacker, whom she kills. Chris takes Star to his ranch, where she meets his son, Duff, 5.

Duff’s mother, Christine, passed away, giving birth to him. While there, Star hopes if she satisfies Chris sexually, he won’t turn her in.

Chris’s response: bringing Star to Crossways, Texas, to be hanged. Matthew, however, doesn’t actually plan to kill Star. He has other plans in mind for her.

Upon discovering he was wrong about Star, Chris regrets bringing her back to Matthew and tries to rescue her.

Maudie then hires him as her bodyguard, among other things. Chris leaves, then he tries to spirit Star off Garner’s ranch. The rescue attempt is only partially successful, as Matthew catches up to them and shoots Chris, severely wounding him.

Despite being wounded, Chris makes his way to Garner’s ranch, where Maudie holds Duff hostage. She shoots Matthew and tries to force Chris to marry and impregnate her.

He is saved by Star, who shoots and kills Maudie after the truth of what happened to Luke is revealed.

In the end, Star and Chris realize they love each other, marry, and have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

I suppose I can give Star credit for surviving her abusive relationship with Luke.

The Downside

Having said that, she then engages in another abusive relationship with Chris, who, like Luke, emotionally, mentally, physically, and sexually abuses her.

There are two romance novel tropes I absolutely hate.

1. Stockholm Syndrome romance

2. Revenge/proxy romances, where the hero punishes the innocent heroine for something someone she either knows or doesn’t know did to the hero.

Texas Star is in the former category.

None of the primary characters are likable.

There are also multiple creepy elements, such as the fact that Maudie and Matthew-who were twins–were engaged in an incestuous relationship.


Steam Level: The sex scenes between Star and Chris range from coercive to not exciting. Lukewarm at best.



Assault, battery, shootings, sodomy, and killings. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Texas Star

Star may forgive Chris for his perfidy. I don’t. This western romance by Deana James, Texas Star, is not the worst book I’ve ever read–that “honor” still belongs to Cassie Edwards’ putrid novel Eugenia’s Embrace.

But it is in the top 10 worst books I’ve ever read.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 0.4

(Cover points don’t count!)



Ebon-haired Star Garner was a wanted woman–and Chris Gillard was determined to collect the generous bounty for bringing her in. He caught the lovely fugitive… but then she trapped him–bewitching him with her luscious figure and innocent onyx eyes. Instead of returning her straightaway to the law, the hot-blooded cowboy took her to his ranch. There he tried to have his fill of her, at high noon and at darkest night, but once he tasted her magnolia-petal flesh, it was impossible to sate his unquenchable desire.


Desperate to be free again, Star made love to her captor as if her life depended on it. The beautiful outlaw sacrificed her very soul to please him… until, to her horror, she discovered she craved and needed his raw, masculine force. Still, she knew Chris had his price and he’d turn her in with no regrets. But what she never counted on was his obsession with her–and how he’d pursue the sleek beauty to the ends of the earth to forever to possess his fiery TEXAS STAR.

Texas Star by Deana James

Victor Gadino Artwork for Sale at Fine Art America

Artist Victor Gadino is offering prints and products featuring his amazing romance cover art for sale at Fine Art America.

victor gadino art

Visit Fine Art America to Purchase Victor Gadino’s Art

As Sweet Savage Flame, we’re not shy about our adoration for New York artist Victor Gadino. Now here’s a fantastic chance for romance cover art enthusiasts to buy a masterpiece created by one of our favorite cover artists. At Fine Art America, Gadino is offering his beautiful work for sale.

His romance cover designs may be found on a wide range of products for extremely reasonable prices. You can get a small print for less than $20! If you really want to go all out, you can get a fully framed, portrait-sized print to display prominently in your home.

Maybe you can even own an original Gadino painting!

More Than Just Paintings, Many Fun Products For Sale

Gadino recently started offering some of his iconic romance oil paintings as affordable posters, notebooks, face masks, t-shirts, totes, phone cases, and other fun items on Fine Art America.

One just has to click here: Buy Victor Gadino Art. Or go to the FineArtAmerica.com site and search for “Victor Gadino” to see the items. The quality of the products is excellent, as one would expect from a maestro of sensuality.

We’ve highlighted Gadino’s erotic artwork many times here on this site. You can look at our Victor Gadino page to see some of his work for romance book covers.

Not only are these pieces beautiful, but they’re also a great way to add a little diversity to your walls.

victor gadino
Victor Gadino

The original artwork has been featured on the book covers of some of the most beloved romance novels ever. Now they are available for fans of Victor’s work to purchase in an array of stunning prints, canvases, and products.

Browse Victor’s pieces to find the perfect addition to your home, office, or collection. These unique and high-quality products make an excellent gift for any romantic at heart.

To learn more about Victor’s works and availability, check out his website for more information! In addition to selling giclee prints of your favorite covers, you can acquire his non-romance-related art from his site.

Act Fast or Miss Out Owning a Fantastic Work of Romance History

Don’t miss out on Victor’s beautiful artwork. Visit Fine Art America today to explore Victor Gadino’s art and purchase your favorite pieces.

Victor Gadino‘s artwork is extraordinary in its unique blend of modern and classic styles. His works bring us an entirely new perspective on art and creativity. Fine Art America is proud to offer these magnificent pieces of art for sale, so don’t miss this opportunity to own a piece of history!

Romance art is hot right now, and these pieces will go fast. Best of luck!

We hope these stunning Gadino images add beauty and joy to your days!