Theme: Moon On Covers (In Honor of the Lunar New Year)
This week’s covers feature moons glowing in the night, in honor of the Lunar New Year.
The Lunar New Year, known also as the Spring Festival and Chinese New Year, begins today Sunday, January 22, 2023. It is a traditional holiday celebrated by many East and Southeast Asian nations and cultures that marks the beginning of a new lunar calendar.
The name Spring Festival is due to the lunar calendar’s association with the Spring planting season. Farmers gave thanks for the harvest of the past year and to looked forward to the new agricultural season. The festival would involve cleaning homes, offerings to ancestors and gods, making new clothes and other preparations for the new year.
Today in Mongolia, China, Korea, Vietnam, and other East and Southeast Asian countries, citizens celebrate Lunar New Year. In nations such as the United States and Canada, people also observe the holiday.
The holiday is a time for families to come together and reflect upon the end of the old year and to wish for good luck and prosperity in the year to come. Festivities typically include exchanging gifts, parades, cultural performances including lion and dragon dances, and traditional foods.
The celebrations last for 15 days, and the most important day is New Year’s Eve.
The Lunar New Year and Phases of the Moon
The Lunar New Year is determined by the lunar calendar, which is based on the moon’s cycles. Specifically, it is based on the first new moon of the lunar calendar year. For that reason, the lunar calendar is different from the solar calendar, which is based on the cycles of the sun and is used in most Western countries.
The lunar calendar is divided into 12 months, each with 29 or 30 days. So to keep the lunar calendar in sync with the solar calendar, an extra month is added every 2 or 3 years. This means that the Lunar New Year can fall anywhere between late January and mid-February of the solar calendar.
The date of the New Lunar Year varies depending on the moon’s phases, but typically falls between January 21st and February 20th.
On this Lunar New Year, the Luna will be in its first phase after the new moon. The moon is close to the sun in the sky and should be mostly dark, except for the right edge.
Phase: Waxing Crescent; Illumination: 1%; Moon Age: 0.74 days Moon Distance: 363,541.36 km Sun Distance: 147,238,179.62 km
The Lunar New Year is time to start anew, both symbolically and literally.
For this edition of Covers of the Week for Monday, January 23, 2023, to Sunday, January 29 we’re showing off some of our favorite romance covers with moons in the night sky in honor of the Lunar New Year.
Don Case is an artist whose works I have seen on the cover of historical and regency romances since I began reading the genre 33 years ago.
Lamentably, I have never been able to uncover any information about this talented illustrator. In fact, the only hits I got on him during a web search directed me to my Pinterest page of Case’s covers.
His presence in the industry goes back to the mid-1980s. Publishers such as Warner Books, Simon & Schuster‘s Pocket Books Division, Berkeley/ Jove’s Charter imprint, and Kensington’s Zebra imprint have displayed Case’s cover illustrations.
His style is bright and colorful. It appears Case used a spray technique in some of his early covers (similar to George A. Bush). By the 1990s, like many of his Zebra colleagues, such as Franco Accornero and Jon Paul Ferrara, he incorporated digital methods to create romance covers.
Don Case the artist remains a mystery, but his lovely artwork isn’t forgotten. For the week of Monday, January 16, 2023, to Sunday, January 22, 2023, this Covers of the Week shows off four covers designed by Donald Case.
With all the variety of poses for romance covers, the rarest to spot is the woman on top of the hero. Clinch covers show couples embracing in various positions. Standing up, laying down, in bed, on the floor, on the seashore… Every situation imaginable has been pictured on the covers of romance books.
But seeing the heroine in a dominant position or laying on top of the hero is hard to find. Believe us, we searched and searched.
And indeed, we were fortunate to come upon a selection of covers where the exception is the rule.
The heroines in these romances are running the show! For the week of Monday, January 9, 2023, to Sunday, January 15, 2023, this Covers of the Week displays an assortment of covers featuring the women laying on top of their heroes.
Women on Top Covers (from Left to Right, Top to Bottom)
Always, Jo Morrison, Harlequin, 1990,cover artist TBD
What do you think of this week’s theme of women on top? Do any of the covers stand out to you as a favorite? 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.
What better way to celebrate the New Year than with fireworks–on romance covers, that is! 2022 is over and it’s a New Year with 2023. It’s a time to look back and forward. To reflect upon the past and look to future. We’re thankful for our readers and are happy to note that some exciting events in store for 2023!
To celebrate the the arrival of 2023 our first edition of Covers of the Week for the new year starting Monday January 2, 2023 to Sunday January 9 highlights firework explosions. Sweet Savage Flame wishes you all the best in 2023!
Old school romance covers had a wide variety of settings, from indoor to outdoors and in every season. Winter is the time to cuddle close to the one you love. Last week was the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, but it was also Christmas, so we didn’t have a chance to welcome in the winter season.
We’ve chosen to show off four romance covers with snow. These winter backgrounds are the perfect settings for couples trying to stay warm with the heat of their passion.
For the week of Monday December 26, to Sunday, December 1, 2023 Sweet Savage Flame‘s final edition of our Covers of the Weekfor 2022, we have romance covers with snowy winterscape scenes. We’ll see you in 2023!
Passion Flowerbegins with introductions to the heroine of the book, Catherine Mary “Jasmine” O’Neil. She is so nicknamed due to the fragrance her late mother wore, which comforted Jasmine after her mother’s death.
Jasmine lives in Jamaica with her grandfather, Franz, a physician. Later, she meets Captain Johnathon Mahn, an English ex-pat and the hero of the book. Johnathon is asked to root out arms smuggling in Jamaica, which is how he and Jasmine come to meet.
Jasmine and Franz accidentally find out about the illegal activity. Franz is killed, and Jasmine is taken captive. She is told she can gain her freedom if she spies on Johnathon.
He finds her spying on him, and they become lovers. Both later escape Jamaica and set sail for Johnathon’s plantation in Virginia.
In Virginia, Jasmine gets a job as a physician’s assistant. What she doesn’t know is that the job–and her home and many other things–are due to the largesse of Johnathon.
Jasmine also attracts many male admirers. These admirers arouse Johnathon’s jealousy, which later leads him to rape Jasmine. Jasmine and Johnathon later marry once it is known that she is pregnant.
One of the soldiers from Jamaica finds Jasmine in Virginia and kidnaps her. In the end, she is saved, and Jasmine and Johnathon then have their Happily Ever After.
The most interesting character in the book, in my view, is Bear Dog, a half-bear, half-wolf who befriends Jasmine on the ship voyage to Virginia and saves her when she is kidnapped.
When the most interesting character in the book has four legs and fur, that is a stinging indictment of the human characters. Neither Jasmine nor Johnathon are particularly deep characters, although Jasmine is more so than Johnathon.
The storylines are flat and lifeless. The “Jamaican Gun Smuggling” trope is so lame Ms. Horsman may as well not have included it.
Then there is Johnathon’s rape of Jasmine. No romance hero ever redeems himself with me if he sexually assaults a woman.
There is very little to no romance between Jasmine and Johnathon.
There are a handful of sex scenes, none of which are graphic or interesting.
In addition to Franz’s killing, there are scenes of attempted rape, rape, assault and battery, shootings, and killings. None of the violence is graphic.
Bottom Line on Passion Flower
Jennifer Horsman has enough items on the menu of Passion Flower to make a good meal. Instead, she produces a book that’s raw, like sushi.
Gorgeous Jasmine O’Neil never meant to fall in love with the insolent handsome captain. His voice was commanding, his reputation was roguish, and his manner was much too imperious. But despite all his drawbacks, the innocent beauty couldn’t resist the spell of masculine charm and tingling pleasure he cast upon her. Suddenly, she knew she was in love – and she was certain that his declarations of desire were undying promises of matrimony.
PARADISE OF ECSTACY
Captain Johnathon Mahn couldn’t deny himself the untouched woman’s beckoning curves. He tangled himself in their sweet tormenting rapture. Nothing could ever make him give up this mistress – but nothing would ever compel him to wed! He was a man of independence who took what he wanted…and he craved his fragrant Jasmine, his velvety blossom, his delicate PASSION FLOWER.
Artist James Griffin is a fine artist who has been illustrating romance covers since the 1970s. He has painted covers for almost every major romance publisher, getting his big start with Fawcett. He famously painted many stunning covers for Jennifer Blake
His career in romance continued well into the 2010s and as he moved from painting in oils to using digital technology.
James Griffin‘s covers from the 1980s and 1990s are quite distinct from his 21st-century ones, even though both periods are stunning.
His “classic” era artwork is dramatic with windswept hair and passionate embraces. James Griffin’s graceful aesthetic resulted in romance covers that emotionally resonated with readers.
For the week of Monday, December 12, 2022, to Sunday, December 18, 2022, our Covers of the Week focuses on the early romance covers painted by artist James Griffin.
There’s something quite dashing about a hero who wears a cloak or a cape that flows in the wind. He doesn’t need to be a vampire to rock the look, as the garment is a staple for noblemen in Historical romances.
Legend says Sir Walter Raleigh laid his cloak down on the wet grounds so his beloved Queen Elizabeth would not be forced to walk in the mud.
Often in romance novels, during lovemaking scenes set outdoors, the hero would spread his cape on the ground, at which point he and the heroine would make love.
These caped crusader heroes are our focus for our Covers of the Week for Monday, December 12, 2022, to Sunday, December 18, 2022. Books featuring handsome men wearing cloaks are always eye-catching, and we hope you enjoy these selections.
The Covers from Left to Right, Top to Bottom
Renegade Lady, Kathryn Atwood, Jove, 1982, James Griffin cover art
Books about love stories for teenagers have been popular forever. Just as the modern romance genre exploded in the 1970s, so too did the teen romance genre. Especially in the 1980s and 1990s, these books were ubiquitous.
There were dozens of paperback imprints for every kind of teenage romance. Historicals were just as popular as contemporaries. Bantam Starfire, Scholastic Sunfire were just two of the more popular series. Who among us who grew up during that era never read one of these love stories?
Jordi Bosch Peñalver was born in Barcelona, Catalunia, Spain in 1927. Peñalver signed his artwork as Jordi Penalva. He worked primarily as an illustrator of fantasy and military fictional well as comic book covers.
Penalva has an older brother, Antonio Bosch Peñalver, who was born in 1925 and created several comic strips in Spain.
Jordi Penalva studied at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes in Barcelona. In the late 1950s, he began work as a comic artist with several companies, eventually finding his way to DC. Along with other Spanish artists of his era, like Manuel Sanjulian, Esteban Maroto, and Enrich Torres, Penalva was popular for his sensual art style and comic work, including his Vampirella covers.
Penalva dabbled in romance cover art in the 1970s and early 1980s. In the late 1970’s he was frequently used by Playboy Press, illustrating full-cover color clinches. That style would be used as a template by many other publishers like Kensington and Dorchester to attract potential readers.
For the week of Monday, November 21, 2022, to Sunday, November 27, 2022, ourCovers of the Week focuses on the early romance covers by Jordi Penalva.
The Covers from Left to Right, Top to Bottom:
Midnight Fires, Andrea Layton, Playboy Press, 1979
Daughter of the Sand, Pamela South, Playboy Press, 1979
21 of the Best Historical Romance Cover Illustrators
I adore romances from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, partly due to the beautiful cover art. Over the years, I’ve amassed thousands of dazzling images. It’s a fun hobby trying to discover the artists who created them.
This compilation began as an attempt to list the ten artists every lover of old-school romances and clinch covers should know. Ten became fifteen, then twenty. Finally, I settled on 21 illustrators to identify.
This catalog of names consists of some of the best romance cover artists of all time.
That doesn’t mean these are the only artists to know, as this list is limited to historical romances written in the last third of the 20th century.
These 21 entries provide a starting point for the novice learner.
1. Robert McGinnis
Robert McGinnis illustrated Gothic books before he turned to mainstream romance.
His first bodice ripper was Avon‘s reissue of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss‘ The Flame and the Flower. McGinnis then designed the cover for her sophomore outing, The Wolf and the Dove. His suggestive clinches for Johanna Lindsey, Patricia Hagan, and Laura Parker gained him acclaim and notoriety.
McGinnis worked almost exclusively in tempera paints.
His mature, angular style was an instant draw for romance. McGinnis created the first naked man covers, which delighted genre fans.
But it was the McGinnis woman who was a being of legend. McGinnis depicted the feminine form in a most alluring fashion.
“The McGinnis Woman possesses a whirling narrative force all her own, a perfumed cyclone of sexuality, savvy, mystery, and danger. She also sells books—lots and lots of books.”
The strokes are broad yet precise. Hall’s scenes contain a dark, smoky essence. The heroines’ long locks flow wildly, while the heroes’ faces are shadowed and inscrutable.
Hall had a sensitive, respectful touch when portraying people of different races and ethnicities. Thus his illustrations were prominent on paperbacks set all over the world.
3. Harry Bennett
Harry Bennett‘s dazzling style of swirls and whorls of flowing hair may be especially familiar to fans of Pocket Books‘ early historical romances. He created memorable covers for Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Jude Deveraux.
While his work inspired many other artists, Harry Bennett’s covers have been confused with those of H. Tom Hall. While their depictions might appear similar, a keen eye needs only to look at the faces of the male models to spot the difference.
Of his artwork, Bennett’s son Tom, also a painter, said:
“My father had a great facility with mediums, and he experimented and adapted to new trends with different techniques. His favorite medium above all, in both his painting and illustration, was oil.
He also worked extensively in egg tempera, inks, and various combinations of tempera and oil. In the 1950s and early ’60s he worked a great deal in water-based media like gouache.
Later, he would occasionally work in acrylic. But late in his career, it was almost exclusively oil with a black oil medium.”
Elaine Duillo was the undisputed “Queen of Romance Covers.” She started in pulp fiction before moving on to Gothics and romance.
Duillo was not ashamed to be sexy and outrageous with her art. She embraced camp to the hilt. Her reverence for beauty and perfection made her creative style a wonder to behold.
Duillo’s technique was marked by hyper-realism, unparalleled attention to detail, and a vast palette of colors.
Elaine would paint light hues onto a black canvas. This achieved stunning results for elements such as platinum-blonde or red-gold flowing waves of hair or sumptuous, satin gowns that looked like one could touch them.
Duillo worked in acrylics and oils. She placed her signature, “Elaine,” as close to the bodies as possible.
Her daughter Melissa Duillo-Gallo also produced romance covers, in a manner similar to Elaine’s.
5. Pino Daeni
Pino Daeni’s brushstrokes, the curves of his feminine subjects, and their facial expressions make his covers uniquely recognizable.
Daeni was always willing to experiment with different methods and poses. He was one of the early artists to employ the wraparound cover design and the pose and clinch style.
Pino worked in oils and preferred to stand while painting.
Pino’s innovative technique precedes him. He mixed impressionism and realism to create his own intoxicating style.
“I used to paint in the academic way. Then I changed. I could no longer stay with just one school. Everything was interesting to me. I was curious about various schools of thought.”
6. Elaine Gignilliat
Elaine Gignilliat designed covers for hundreds of romances. Her artwork demonstrated exquisite attention to detail, especially with the textures of fabrics and hair. Her use of bright colors against dark backdrops made for remarkable images.
Like most other cover artists of her day, Gignilliat worked in oils.
Also, like many other of her contemporaries, Gignilliat designed covers for epic historical blockbusters and shorter category romances.
After making the initial sketches for a cover, she would start her paintings by drawing everything in oil with a small brush.
Next, she established the color values, where the darkest, middle tones, and lightest areas would be. Then she would add the general colors in a light oil wash.
Afterward, the real painting began as Gignilliat developed the faces and hands, giving them more color and form. This eventually resulted in a beautiful picture which was then made into a book cover.
Ginsburg’s book covers are more romantic than sensual. The edges of his subjects blur into the background,
While Ginsburg could display the human body in an alluring way, his covers were rarely gratuitous.
He has a compassionate eye that highlights the humanity of his subjects. Like H. Tom Hall, Ginsburg has a talent for empathetically painting people of diverse heritages.
Ginsburg’s style influenced many artists of Avon covers in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
8. Morgan Kane
No one could capture the ornate, intricate patterns of fabrics as Morgan Kanecould.
Whether presenting a lacy gown, a multi-textured cape, or a mosaic of hues on a blanket, Kane can make one can feel the material just as well as one sees it.
In contrast, he depicted human forms in a much softer manner. The difference between the grounded beauty of his subjects against ornate backgrounds, textiles, or flowers makes for a visual treat.
9. Robert A. Maguire
Robert A. Maguire was another of the many illustrators who created lurid pulp covers. While his pulp art was highly sexualized, his romance covers are more sedate.
An emotional connection is the focus, not sex. The faces of Maguire’s females are delicate, with thickly-lashed eyes and rosebud lips.
Maguire played light and dark tones against each other in an enchanting manner. His method is not surreal nor hyperreal. Instead, it is idealized unrealism, approaching the imagined perfection of a cartoon.
Like Elaine Duillo, Maguire often placed his signature–“R. A. Maguire”–as close to the bodies as possible, in the shade lighter than the background.
10. Roger Kastel
Famous for his movie posters, Roger Kastel‘s romance style shares similarities with that of Maguire & most significantly, Max Ginsburg.
Kastel favored a romantic, blurred technique instead of a precise, angular reality.
Kastel’s brushstrokes fused colors together, creating a hazy aura around the couples.
11. Walter & Marie Popp
Walter and Marie Popp designed Regency, Gothic, and bodice ripper covers. Each genre had its own method to it.
The Gothics were shrouded in darkness and mist.
Regencies were marked with a sweet, crisp quality.
For the historical romance covers, the Popps embraced sexy with their curvaceous heroines and muscular heroes.
The female faces look similar, as Walter often used his wife Marie, a model, as his muse. Their expressions are a variation of hers, from their full lips to their round eyes.
12. Victor Gadino
The great Victor Gadino‘s technique is masterful. His attention to fine detail is exquisite.
Note the musculature of the hero’s abdominal and pectorals, the lace on the hem of the heroine’s skirts, the silk pattern of pillows, and the heavy-lidded eyes in the hero’s lusty expression.
His use of jewel-tone colors results in covers that sparkle like precious gems.
More than any other artist since Elaine Duillo, Gadino’s art is typified by a carnal sensuality. His approach is hyperrealistic, with figures as close to perfection as the human eye can conceive.
13. Sharon Spiak
Sharon Spiak’s mentor, the Italian master artist, Pino Daeni, was a massive inspiration to her when she was his apprentice.
She painted in oils, creating an atmosphere of enchantment always backed by passion. Spiak’s paintings for romance novels capture sensuality, beauty, and fantasy by captivating the viewer in the intimacy of the moment.
Her approach differs from cover to cover. There is always a delicacy to the females’ features and a lovely interplay of pastels against darker tones.
14. John Ennis
John Ennis utilizes a “Disney Princess” method of painting, as his human images are beautiful but unrealistic. His covers have a fanciful, almost cartoon-like, fairy-tale quality. His work is based more on fantasy than romanticism.
Ennis played around with shades of light and contrasting hues, resulting in striking covers that made him a natural fit for Zebra.
If one notes the texture of the heroines’ hair, one can see individual strands and curls against blocks of solid color.
Like Franco Accornero, John Ennis was an early innovator of digital artwork.
15. Franco Accornero
Franco Accornero, also known as “Franco,” pioneered computerized art design. Due to his fascination with the capabilities of technology, Franco always pushed boundaries.
Before he transitioned to digital artwork in the 1990s, Franco worked primarily in oils.
As an independent freelance artist, he was responsible for all cover design elements, from setting up the scene to models, costumes, and props. He arranged various poses with different lighting arrangements.
His fine director’s eye created a dramatic and flattering balance of light and shadow.
Franco would use a wind machine in the photo sessions to get that flowing hair look.
16. Renato Aime
Renato Aime worked primarily in oils in addition to other mediums. He frequently designed covers for Dorchester and Kensington, two publishing houses that hired artists with an eye for the outlandish.
Aime captured the curvaceous female forms in contrast against the more rigid muscles of the males in a most pleasing way.
While Aime’s technique is recognizable as his own, it does bear some resemblance to his fellow Italian illustrators. One can see similarities to the covers of Pino Daeni and Franceso Accornero. Note the blending of colors and the identifiable strokes.
Elaine’s work is titillating and highly elaborate. Melissa’s art tends to the sweeter side with more playful emotions. Duillo-Gallo applied flamboyantly bright colors, exemplifying the feel of the 1980s and 1980s.
After she married, Melissa signed her covers as Gallo, not Duillo. Unlike her mother, she usually placed her signature away from the bodies.
Melissa also used less eyeshadow than her mother did, which is saying something!
18. Gregg Gulbronson
Gregg Gulbronson utilized a distinctive approach, making his covers both breathtaking and easy to recognize. Romance, sexuality, fantasy, and reality all meld together in Gulbronson’s art.
Gulbronson used spraying/airbrushing techniques, which made for a striking and individualized look.
Enveloped in a romantic haze, the couples in clinches are surrounded by a dreamy ambiance. The figures seem to glow as the light plays against their hair, skin, and clothes.
19. Ray Kursar
Ray Kursar was yet another artist with a noticeable style. His paintings look more like drawings. Kursar worked with multiple mediums to create his illustrations, such as pastels and watercolors.
He employed various elements to make his covers stand out: emphasis on bright colors, flowers, animals, and fabrics.
Hair is constantly flowing in the wind, while the locks of waves and curls are well-defined.
20. James Griffin
James Griffin‘s covers from the 1980s and 1990s are quite distinct from his 21st-century ones, even though both periods are stunning.
The late-era clinches are made digitally and approach hyperrealism.
Griffin’s illustrations of the “classic” era are more dramatic, with windswept hair and passionate embraces. The couples are shown leaning back or lying down, rarely standing straight up.
His graceful aesthetic resulted in book covers that emotionally resonated with the romance reader.
Geer’s style is so distinct. There is much going on in his images, whether sketches or paintings.
His attention to the tiniest of subjects amazes the eye. He used uniform brush strokes to create spectacular backgrounds, intricate curls in the hair, or elaborate textures in clothing. The bright pigments twinkle like stars against their darker settings.
Geer’s scenes appear dream-like but are far more memorable.
Final Thoughts on Cover Artists
Sweet Savage Flame believes it’s essential to keep the memory of these skilled cover illustrators and their works alive.
Hopefully, by familiarizing yourself with these artists’ techniques, you’ll quickly identify their covers on sight. No more having to confirm with a signature!
Do you think this a fair compilation of some best romance cover artists? Who are your favorite old-school illustrators?
Is there an artist you think we should have placed on this list but missing? What are your thoughts on painted versus digital cover art?
Cover art can show more than just passionate clinches. These armed heroines are fierce! Whether it’s aiming a bow and arrow, wielding a sword, holding a slingshot, or brandishing a rifle, these armed women mean business. These are strong women who know how to defend themselves.
But is that enough to keep the hero at bay?
Let’s take a look at covers featuring heroines who can protect themselves in different ways.
For the week of Monday, November 7, 2022, to Sunday, November 13, 2022, our Covers of the Week #77 focuses on romances featuring armed heroines who are in control and in charge.
Gothic romance covers stick to a standard formula. A beautiful woman flees from a castle, mansion, manor, or plantation. Usually, the images are set at night, presumably in late fall or early winter, as the trees are bare of leaves and appear menacing with long, needle-like branches reaching out into the darkness.
In the hands of a talented artist, these images can appear fresh even as they adhere to the form.
It’s almost Halloween, and no genre in romance captures the essence of this frightful holiday better than Gothics do. We’re celebrating the holiday of Tricks or Treats with hauntingly gorgeous cover art.
We wonder what evil lurks behind those windows and inside the imposing walls of those homes. Or does the danger lurk outside, luring these women to their doom?
This week from Monday, October 24, 2022, to Sunday, October 30, 2022, for this installment of our Covers of the Week, we’re displaying some eerie Gothic covers where the heroine cannot hide her terror nor escape it.