Tag: romance novels

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?”

What Category or Series Romance Do You Read?

red petaled flower

Research Into Category Romance

The history of series romances goes back roughly a century ago to 1909. Since the rise of paperback publishers, many romance lines have come and gone. Still standing is Mills & Boon and its parent company, Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. Bantam and Dell, no longer publish category romance, nor does Signet, Zebra, or Simon and Schuster. The latter formed Silhouette Books in 1980. However, Harlequin famously purchased that line, eventually folding it into its own.

Arrows From the Dark
Arrows From the Dark, Sophie Cole, Mills & Boon, 1909 (From Harper Collins Inside the Archives, courtesy of Reading University)

On our menu above, we have pages dedicated to romance authors, cover artists, and publishing houses. The history of publishing houses and imprints can be quite byzantine, as many companies were bought out by others, only to be resold again. In researching paperback romances of the past, I’ve come upon both an abundance and paucity of information, depending upon who or what I’m investigating. I want to do more in-depth research on each line, but often when I come upon fascinating tidbits of history, it leads to another line or publisher.

This is a rather tortuous way of saying I’m stuck.... Read more “What Category or Series Romance Do You Read?”

My Romance Novel Journey

first love, wild love

Recently, Jacqueline asked why people read romance novels. I’ll answer that question in another post, but I wanted to use this one to explain how I became a romance novel aficionado.

How it All Began

My romance novel journey began in 1980. My late mother had a small collection of books and I picked one up and started reading it. (I don’t recall the name or author of the book, but it was a Harlequin Romance about two figure skaters whose previous partners dumped them. The hero and heroine then teamed up, and fell in love. Little did I know what that first book started.

To Begin Again, Jan MacLean, Harlequin, 1980, Fred Oakley cover art

Expanding the Circle

As the 1980s went on, my reading choices expanded, from Harlequin Romance to Harlequin Presents, Superromance and Temptation, as well as Richard Gallen contemporary romances and Zebra/Kensington historical romances.

First Changes

As the ’90s came and went, I turned away from historical romances and went all-in on Harlequin and its sister imprint, Silhouette books. (The clerks at B. Dalton, a sadly defunct bookstore chain, began to know me by name as every month, I would go in and purchase two baskets full of books).... Read more “My Romance Novel Journey”

Updates #7

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white orange and green floral bouquet decor
Photo by Secret Garden on Pexels.com

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

I came upon a quote by author Laura Kinsale that I wanted to address. 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, which I am currently reading, author Laura 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

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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. However, despite its absolute requirement for a happy ending, the romance genre can still be filled with 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 focused on pet peeves for the reasons why we ultimately couldn’t enjoy our reading experiences.

In Nadine Crenshaw’s Captive Melody, there were two negative tropes that were deal breakers for Blue Falcon: a captive who experiences Stockholm syndrome for her captor and the hero seeking to inflict vengeance upon an innocent party. There are cruelties that characters experience that cannot be offset by writing skill or a conveniently happy ending.

As I’ve stated in several reviews, such as for Dana Ransom’s Love’s Glorious Gamble, I can’t enjoy a romance where the hero is still mourning the death of a previous love. 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 promoting the top clients of the corporate, publishing, and entertainment worlds.

Victor 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 controversial images showed Gadino’s knack for kitschy yet sensual paintings.

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 industry. Elaine Duillo had been Lindsey’s regular cover 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 an 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”