romance writers 1970s

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The Best Selling Novels of the 1970s

Bestselling Books

A Stranger in the Mirror

August 1914

August 1914

Beggarman, Thief

Beggarman, Thief


Breakfast of Champions


Captains and the Kings


Daniel Martin

Delta of Venus

Delta of Venus

Jacqueline Susann's Dolores

Jacqueline Susann's Dolores

Dreams die first

Dreams die first

Evening in Byzantium

Evening in Byzantium


Eye of the Needle

Fools Die

Great lion of God

How to Save Your Own Life

How to Save Your Own Life

Humboldt's Gift

Humboldt's Gift

I Heard the Owl Call My Name

I Heard the Owl Call My Name

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Islands in the Stream

Islands in the Stream


Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Love Story

Ranking the best novels and non-fiction books of every genre.

Novels to Change Your Whole Life

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18 Must-Read Historical Romance Authors

Get swept up in a romance that takes you back in time…and makes you weak in the knees.

books by historical romance authors

Contemporary romance is great in its own right, but there’s just something about a historical romance that makes us yearn for a time of rules and restrictions that were made to be broken. 

We’re talking longing looks from across the ballroom, scandalous late night meet-ups, and throwing all sense of propriety out the window. 

From transporting readers back in time and nailing societal norms to writing tantalizing love scenes, these historical romance authors do it best. 

And though you might just think of Jane Austen-style Regency romances when you hear “historical,” there’s so much more to the genre! Including Western, Scottish, Victorian—in addition to Regency—romances, there’s something for everyone on this list. 

Who’s your favorite historical romance author? Let us know in the comments! 

Johanna Lindsey

historical romance authors

Marry Me by Sundown

By Johanna Lindsey

With over 50 historical romance books to her name, author Johanna Lindsey was an incredibly popular bestselling author. 

Known for her 12-book Malory-Anderson Family series , the author expanded her Callahan-Warren series (also known as the Montana series) in 2018 with Marry Me by Sundown.  

The series features three standalone books that each follow intertwined characters, usually a Callahan brother. 

Marry Me by Sundown is no exception, and centers on Morgan Callahan—who left his family’s cattle ranch to make it on his own as a miner—and Violet Mitchell, a London socialite who returns to America to help her struggling family. 

Though these two are initially at odds, Morgan soon finds that this “thorn in his side” may actually be the woman of his dreams. 

Lindsey wrote her first book, Captive Bride , in 1977, and before she passed away in October of 2019 from a battle with lung cancer, she published her last work Temptation’s Darling . 

From her Regency novels to those set in Medieval England, Lindsey’s stunning books provide us with addicting romance reads. 

RELATED: From Enemies to Lovers: Johanna Lindsey’s Latest Historical Western Romance

historical romance authors

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Tom E. Huff/Jennifer Wilde

love's tender fury, by historical romance author jennifer wilde

Love's Tender Fury

By Jennifer Wilde

Thomas Elmer Huff authored 23 gothic and historical romances under such abbreviations of his name as T.E. Huff and Tom E. Huff, as well as several feminine pen names like Edwina Marlow, Beatrice Parker, Katherine St. Clair, and Jennifer Wilde. 

His romances, popularized under his Wilde pseudonym, featured first-person narratives from the perspective of the heroine, and often featured multiple male romantic prospects for the heroine to decide between.

Huff’s historical romance Love’s Tender Fury was published in 1976, and is the first book in the Marietta Danver Trilogy. 

The series follows the titular Marietta, a London woman born out of wedlock who grows up to be wrongly convicted of a crime and sent to North America to be sold into indentured servitude. 

Marietta leverages her alluring beauty as a means to survive, and as she scrapes together a life for herself, the winding path of fate introduces her to such impassioned men as Derek Hawke, mysterious planter; Jeff Rawlins, a bold, blunt, and charismatic man; Jeremy Bond, a truly intriguing rake; Red Nick, a cruel yet sensual pirate; and Count Gregory Orlov—a handsome ex-lover of Catherine the Great. But which of these darkly fascinating men hold true claim to her wild heart?

The standalone novel Dare to Love spent 11 weeks on the New York Times paperback bestseller list after its 1978 publication, and in 1988 Huff received a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times . 

In 1990, Huff died from sudden heart failure at the age of 52.

RELATED: 10 Swashbuckling Pirate Romance Books That Will Leave You Swooning

Harper St. George

an outlaw to protect her, by historical romance author harper st. george

An Outlaw to Protect Her

By Harper St. George

This Harlequin romance author writes all kinds of historical romances, from Viking to the Gilded Age to Westerns. And if you think Harlequin books are only from the 20th century, think again! Harper St. George is a current author, and most of her work has been published in the last five years, which means you're getting classic historical romance with modern sensibilities. 

An Outlaw to Protect Her follows gunslinger Zane Pierce. He's the only man who can protect Glory Winters, a brothel madam who's found herself in danger. But is letting an outlaw get close to her worth it?

civil war saga, by historical romance author sara orwig

Civil War Saga

By Sara Orwig

While Sara Orwig has an impressively long list of contemporary romance under her belt, she has a hefty stack of historical romances to her name, as well—across genres, she has written over 100 books since she was first published in 1978. 

She is not only a charter inductee into the Oklahoma Professional Writer’s Hall of Fame, but also a two-time winner of the Oklahoma Novel of the Year Award by the Oklahoma Writers Federation. Additionally, her books have been on the bestsellers list for USA Today , Waldenbooks, and B. Dalton. 

She has received eight awards from Romantic Times , including Best Western Historical Romance Writer.

Orwig’s three-part Civil War Saga weaves tales of passion amidst a sweeping military conflict between the American North and South. In the first novel of the engaging series, New Orleans , a southern belle of high financial means is in the middle of her own internal war, as two different men compete for her love. 

Memphis follows a stubborn and strong-willed woman as the battles encroach on her home—and a cavalryman encroaches on her heart. In the final novel in the series, Atlanta , surprisingly passionate feelings blossom when a Yankee colonel travels south to a decimated city, only to find that not all wars ended with the cease of gunfire.

Be sure to also check out Orwig’s phenomenal Southwestern Saga —following tales of passion across a westward expansion—and her Comanche Series —centering around romances on the Texas frontier.

RELATED: 11 Western Romance Books That Will Make You Yearn for a Cowboy of Your Own

Laura Kinsale

uncertain magic, by historical romance author laura kinsale

Uncertain Magic

By Laura Kinsale

Though she doesn’t publish books as frequently as most romance authors, Laura Kinsale has been publishing her work since her first novel in 1987, titled Uncertain Magic. 

Holding a Master of Science in Geology from the University of Texas at Austin, she previously worked in the petroleum industry before being published. The author is the winner of two RITA Awards. She won the 1991 Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements for The Prince of Midnight, and the 2005 Long Historical Romance award for Shadowheart . 

Her debut work, Uncertain Magic , is a fantasy romance novel set during the Regency Era. Roddy Delamore is gifted, or cursed—as she sees it, with the ability to read minds. How can she ever expect to find a husband when she’s privy to all her suitors’ deplorable thoughts? 

But when Lord Faelan Savigar comes along, and she can’t read his mind, Roddy jumps at the opportunity to marry him. Confused by her proposal, what with his bad reputation, he soon comes to give her his heart in this delightful romance.

RELATED: The Best Historical Romance Novels That Will Steal Your Heart  

Janice Preston

cinderella and the duke, by historical romance author janice preston

Cinderella and the Duke

By Janice Preston

Drawing much of her inspiration from Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, Janice Preston is a British author of Regency romance novels. She's authored more than a dozen since her first novel, Mary and the Marquis , was published in 2014.

Cinderella and the Duke is the first novel in Preston's Beauchamp Betrothals series. Impoverished outcast Rosalind Allen had long given up hope of marriage. But when she meets a mysterious stranger, she can't help but dream about a different future.

Amanda Scott

the reluctant highlander, by historical romance author amanda scott

The Reluctant Highlander

By Amanda Scott

With a Master of History, it’s no surprise that Amanda Scott does her research when writing her beloved Scottish romance .  

Before she took the plunge into writing historical romance sagas, she published Omaha City Architecture —a coffee-table book. Her first romance book, The Fugitive Heiress , was published in 1981, and since then she’s written over 60 novels—mostly historical, and many of them Scottish romance. 

The Reluctant Highlander tells the story of Lady Fiona Ormiston, who at first resists her husband-to-be, the rugged Sir Adham MacFinlagh, before realizing how passionate he really is. But with his family secretly an enemy of the king, Adham will have to decide whether he’s loyal to the wife he’s fallen madly in love with or his allegiance to bring down the crown. 

RELATED: 10 Books Like Outlander That'll Make You Want a Scot of Your Own  

Virginia Heath

miss bradshaw's bought betrothal, by historical romance author virginia heath

Miss Bradshaw's Bought Betrothal

By Virginia Heath

Known for her Regency rom-coms, Virginia Heath has multiple nominations for Romantic Novel of the Year, has published more than two dozen novels, and still finds time for long walks around London.

Miss Bradshaw's Bought Betrothal is one of our favorites of Heath's novels. The story follows Evelyn, an heiress who's long been trapped under the thumb of her cruel stepmother. To finally break free, she hires a rake to pose as her fiancé . But things go pear-shaped when her hired husband-to-be skips town, leaving his estranged brother as Evelyn's only option.

RELATED: 10 of the Best Historical Romance Mystery Books

Heather Graham

come the morning, by historical romance author heather graham

Come the Morning

By Heather Graham

Author Heather Graham , who sometimes writes under the pen name Shannon Drake, is one of the most well known figures in the romance community. 

Writing both contemporary and historical romance novels, Graham has published over 150 novels and novellas. After the birth of her daughter, the author quit her job working at a dinner theater and instead wrote romance and horror stories in her spare time. In 1982, her hard work paid off and she sold her first romance novel: When Next We Love .

In the years since, Graham has written everything from holiday romance stories to romantic suspense—winning a Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA in 2003. 

The first book in her Graham Clan series , Come the Morning , introduces us to Waryk de Graham—who defeated the Normans as a boy and has been the Scottish king’s charge ever since.  

A decade later, King David arranges a marriage between Waryk and Lady Mellyora MacAdin of Blue Isle. But neither one of them are amenable to the forced nuptials, as both have other lovers they’d rather marry. First published in 1999, this book is just the first in an addictive 7-book series.

RELATED: Our Most-Anticipated Romance Books of 2020  

Louise Allen

surrender to the marquess, by historical romance author louise allen

Surrender to the Marquess

By Louise Allen

Louise Allen is the pen name of Melanie Hilton, a British author who's been penning romance novels since 1993. You may also see her work under the name Francesca Shaw, a pen name she shared when writing collaborative novels with a friend. 

An accomplished woman, Allen has a degree in archaeology and geography, and she won the Love Story of the Year prize from the Romantic Novelist's Association in 2011 for The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst, and again in 2014 for Scandal's Virgin.

Surrender to the Marquess is part of Allen's beloved Herriad series. After Lady Sara Herriad's husband is killed in a duel, she decides she will no longer kowtow to the ton . And while she agrees to help him for his sister's sake, she certainly has no reason to change her behavior for Lucian Avery, the Marquess of Cannock. 

Bertrice Small

historical romance authors

Darling Jasmine

By Bertrice Small

Small wrote over 50 fantasy, historical, and erotic romance novels in her lifetime. Though the author passed away in 2007, her legacy as a great romance author has lived on. 

Some of Small’s most famous series include The O’Malley Saga and Skye’s Legacy , and she was also the recipient of numerous awards from Romantic Times.

In Darling Jasmine, the first book in the Skye’s Legacy series, we meet Jasmine—a woman who has already been forced into marriage twice. And when the king demands a third arranged marriage—this time, to Jemmie Leslie (the fifth earl of Glenkirk)—she flees to France with her husband. 

Enraging the court, Jemmie sets off to find her. But what they don’t realize is that he’s the man that Jasmine secretly desires…and it’s going to take more than a night of passion to tie her down in this romance set in 17th-century Europe. 

RELATED: 17 Forbidden Romance Books to Heat Up Your Reading Life  

historical romance authors

Lisa Kleypas

historical romance authors

Cold-Hearted Rake

By Lisa Kleypas

Fan-favorite historical romance author Lisa Kleypas sold her first book, Where Passion Leads , at the young age of 21. A master of multitasking, Kleypas was crowned as Miss Massachusetts in the 1985 Miss America competition around the same time. 

Since then, she has won such literary awards as Best Sensuous Historical Romance from Romantic Times and the RITA award for Best Short Historical. Her works have been featured on the New York Times bestseller list and the Amazon Editor’s Top Ten Picks list on multiple occasions.

RELATED: 8 Romance Authors for Fans of Lisa Kleypas

The opening novel of her popular Ravenels series, Cold-Hearted Rake , follows Devon Ravenel and Lady Kathleen Trenear. Ravenel is a notorious rake of London who inherits an earldom—one that comes with a massive debt and an estate inhabited by three innocent sisters and the widowed and strong-willed Lady Kathleen. 

Ravenel and Lady Kathleen immediately clash in every imaginable way, but though they should both know better than to fall for the charms of the other, they may have no choice but to ultimately surrender to their fiery feelings.

RELATED: 11 Must-Read Books for Fans of Jane Austen

historical romance authors

Lara Temple

the duke's unexpected bride, by historical romance author lara temple

The Duke's Unexpected Bride

By Lara Temple

Lara Temple had always loved Regency romance novels, but didn't believe her own writing was good enough to be published until her mother entered one of her novels in Harlequin's annual writing contest. To her surprise, she made it to the top ten—and Harlequin commissioned her to write five Regency romance novels.

Temple is known for her strong and sexy characters, and this novel is no exception. Sophie is a country girl visiting London, and she's enjoying the trip very much, even if her over weight pug is the closest friend she has there. Then she meets the Duke of Harcourt, and she's very intrigued indeed.

After his fiancée died, Max put off the search for a new match—and he certainly doesn't want to marry an outgoing girl who will remind him of her. But despite Sophie's effervescent personality, he can't seem to stay away from her.

Georgette Heyer

historical romance authors

Regency Buck

By Georgette Heyer

Often credited as essentially creating the genre of historical romance (and more specifically, it’s Regency romance subgenre), Georgette Heyer lived from 1902 to 1974, publishing over 50 novels including the posthumously released My Lord John . 

Heyer was known for her impressively extensive knowledge of the Regency era, which she meticulously employed in her writing. However, while the setting was articulated with historical precision, Heyer made a point of creating characters with modern sensibilities, branding her heroines as “eccentric” within their written world.

One of Heyer’s first Regency romances was Regency Buck . Becoming a bestseller upon its 1935 publication, this novel follows Judith Taverner, a lovely heiress who travels to London to become a part of high society. 

Her guardian Julian St. John Audley—the fifth Earl of Worth—takes on his role begrudgingly, and in treating Judith with an air of overfamiliarity befitting women of a less respectable nature, he earns her immediate disdain. 

Amidst a flood of marriage proposals, Judith’s brother—Peregrin—getting into increasing amounts of trouble, duplicitous plots, and a great deal of tense sparring between Judith and Julian, the two find themselves kindling more than just an annoyance for one another.

The novel An Infamous Army acts as a sequel to Regency Buck , focusing primarily on the romantic entanglements of Julian’s brother Colonel Charles Audley, as he falls for the scandalous Lady Barbara.

historical romance authors

Julia Quinn

historical romance authors

The Duke and I

By Julia Quinn

Author Julia Quinn didn’t always know she wanted to be an author. After attending Yale University for her undergraduate studies, Quinn decided she wanted to become a doctor and spent two additional years taking the required science courses in order to enroll in medical school. 

During that time, she began writing historical romance novels as an escape from studying—publishing three books by the time she started medical school. The rest is history, as the author decided to pursue her career as an author instead of a doctor.

Her wildly popular Bridgerton Family Series consists of nine novels, with each book focusing one of the eight Bridgerton siblings. 

The ninth and final novel in the series serves as a “Second Epilogue” to each of the stories—telling readers what happened after each of the novels. 

The first book in the series, The Duke and I, follows Daphne Bridgerton. Rumor has it the very eligible duke Simon Basset is about to propose to her…but it’s really all a sham to get society mothers hoping to marry off their daughters at bay. But as Daphne twirls around ballroom after ballroom with the handsome Simon, something begins to change…and she just might be willing to make their fake arrangement very real. 

RELATED: 8 Romance Books for Fans of Julia Quinn's Bridgerton Series  

historical romance authors

Sarah MacLean

historical romance authors

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

By Sarah MacLean

A popular Regency romance author, MacLean was a literary agent before publishing her first novel in 2009. That book was her one and only young adult romance book, The Season , which took place as young girls navigate their first season out in society—hoping to find a good marriage. 

Since then, MacLean has focused on adult historical romances, including Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. The book is the first in her Love by Numbers series , and follows a Lady looking for a more exciting life. 

Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules…and it’s left her bored and unmarried. Hoping to shake things up, she enlists a partner—the wickedly handsome Marquees Gabriel St. John. But if she’s not careful, she’ll break the most important rule of all: Don’t fall in love. 

RELATED: Romance, Mystery, and More: 11 Royally Delightful M.C. Beaton Books  

historical romance authors

Eloisa James

historical romance authors

Wilde in Love

By Eloisa James

If you’re a fan of historical romance, then Eloisa James needs no introduction. The Fordham professor is the author of numerous bestselling Regency and Georgian romance novels. 

Though her first three books, the Pleasures Trilogy , were published in hardcover starting in 1999, she soon switched publishers so that her books could be published in mass market paperback.

Wilde in Love is the first book in James' Wildes of Lindow Castle series . The novel is set in Georgian England and follows Lord Alaric Wilde, who has just returned home after years of dangerous adventures. 

What he doesn’t expect is the mob of screaming ladies that meets him—unaware of his reputation. He escapes to his father’s castle and encounters Miss Willa Ffynche…who wants nothing to do with him. But she soon becomes the only woman he’s ever truly wanted in his life, and she certainly isn’t going to make it easy. 

RELATED: 10 Delightfully Good Eloisa James Books  

historical romance authors

Alyssa Cole

an extraordinary union, by historical romance author alyssa cole

An Extraordinary Union

By Alyssa Cole

Though Alyssa Cole writes historical, contemporary, and sci-fi/fantasy romance, her historical romance book, An Extraordinary Union, put her at the center of the genre when it was published in 2017. 

The first book in The Loyal League series takes place during the Civil War when a former slave, Elle Burns, trades her freedom to return to the South as spy for the Union. 

At the same time, Malcolm McCall is a detective for Pinkerton’s Secret Service—risking his life infiltrate Rebel territory. The two join forces, and start a passionate romance. 

Though they’ll do anything to preserve the Union, what if that means losing each other in the process?

RELATED: 13 Romance Book Series You Won’t Be Able to Put Down

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Featured photo (from left to right): Alyssa Cole, Johanna Lindsey, and Eloisa James

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romance writers 1970s

100 Must-Read Historical Romances

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Jessica Tripler

Jessica Tripler is an academic who lives in Maine. Follow her on Twitter @jessicatripler.

View All posts by Jessica Tripler

Regency England is probably romance’s best known setting, but historical romances span the centuries and continents. With this list, I tried to represent that breadth, but I barely scratched the surface.

If you don’t normally read romance, consider trying one of these. Be aware that in a genre romance novel, the focus is on the relationship, and the setting has to serve that. I think the best historical romances offer a vibrant, evocative setting that conveys the spirit of the age. The setting helps make the characters who they are, and the characters embody the setting, but their relationship is the key to the book.

If you are a romance reader, I apologize. I have without doubt left off your favorite author or book. Please share the names and titles in the comments: like most romance readers, I believe there’s no such thing as a scary TBR pile.

Also, I hope you can take a moment to share the pride I felt putting this list together. We are lucky to read a genre that is elastic enough to include such a wide range of characters, plots and settings. And all without losing sight of what brings readers to it in the first place: to bear witness to and savor the triumph of romantic love and renewed hope for peace and justice in this world.

My Fair Concubine , Jeannie Lin (Tang Dynasty, China)

Medieval – Elizabethan

The Conqueror , Brenda Joyce (England 1069)

Prisoner of My Desire , Johanna Lindsey (England)

Keeper of the Dream , Penelope Williamson (Welsh border)

Brothers of the Wild North Sea , Harper Fox (Dark Ages)

Fires of Winter , Roberta Gellis (12th Century England/Dark Ages)

What A Scoundrel Wants , Carrie Lofty (12th century/Robin Hood)

The King’s Man , Elizabeth Kingston (13th century Wales)

The Secret, Julie Garwood (Scottish Highlands, 1200)

Alinor , Roberta Gellis (Europe, 1206)

The Saint , Monica McCarty (early 14th century Scotland)

A Bed of Spices , Barbara Samuels (Strassburg, 1348/Plague)

By Possession, Madeline Hunter (14th century England)

For My Lady’s Heart , Laura Kinsale (1360s/70s, Northwest England)

Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight , Alyssa Cole (early 1500s Scotland)

Skye O’Malley , Bertrice Small (Elizabethan England and Europe)

Eighteenth Century Britain and Europe

Laird of the Mist, Paula Quinn (17th century Scottish Highlands)

Thief of Shadows , Elizabeth Hoyt (1730s London)

Outlander , Diana Gabaldon (1740s and 1940s Scottish H ighlands)

These Old Shades , Georgette Heyer (1755-6 France)

A Most Unsuitable Man , Jo Beverley (1760s England)

False Colours , Alex Beecroft (1762, The Georgian Age of Sail)

The Sergeant’s Lady , Susanna Fraser (Peninsular War, Spain)

Ruthless, Anne Stuart (1760s Paris)

The Forbidden Rose , Joanna Bourne (Reign of Terror, France 1793)

Revolutionary War/Colonial US

Rising Wind , Cindy Holby (Colonial Georgia/ early 1700s)

The Turncoat: Renegades of the American Revolution , Donna Thorland (1777 Philadelphia)

Be Not Afraid , Alyssa Cole (Revolutionary War)

Untamed, Pamela Clare (New York, French and Indian War)


Rogue Spy , Joanna Bourne (1802)

All Through the Night , Connie Brockway

The Notorious Rake , Mary Balogh

Unveiling Love , Vanessa Riley 

Thunder and Roses , Mary Jo Putney (Wales)

Venetia , Georgette Heyer

To Love A Thief , Julie Ann Long

Flowers From the Storm , Laura Kinsale

Bound With Love , Megan Mulry 

Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander , Ann Herendeen 

The Viscount Who Loved Me , Julia Quinn

All I Ever Needed , Jo Goodman

Beau Crusoe , Carla Kelly 

More Than A Mistress , Mary Balogh

The Duke’s Wager , Edith Layton

Mr. Impossible , Loretta Chase (1821, Egypt)

Enlightenment, Joanna Chambers (trilogy) (1820s Edinburgh)

The Rogue Not Taken , Sarah MacLean

A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal , Meredith Duran

The Magpie Lord , KJ Charles (includes bonus magic)

Never Too Late, Amara Royce

Loving Leonardo , Rose Anderson 

To Have and to Hold , Patricia Gaffney

Devil in Winter , Lisa Kleypas

Private Arrangements , Sherry Thomas

The Proposition , Judith Ivory

The Duke of Shadows , Meredith Duran

A Lady Dares , Bronwyn Scott

The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie , Jennifer Ashley

My Beautiful Enemy , Sherry Thomas 

The Duchess War , Courtney Milan

Winter Garden , Adele Ashworth

Black Silk , Judith Ivory

19th Century US: Civil War/Reconstruction/Old West/Frontier

Sunshine and Shadows, Roberta Gayle  (19th century Colorado)

Forbidden , Beverly Jenkins (Nevada)

Indigo , Beverly Jenkins (Michigan)

Kissing the Captain (1876, California) 

Passion’s Furies , Altonya Washington (1821, Charleston)

Backwards to Oregon , Jae (1830s)

Nowhere To Run, Gay G. Gunn (1849 South/California)

The Wives of Bowie Stone , Maggie Osborne (Kansas)

Sam’s Creed , Sarah McCarty (1858 Texas)

Seduced, Molly O’Keefe (1860s West)

Gold Mountain , Sharon Cullars (1865 California)

Destiny’s Embrace , Beverly Jenkins (19th century California)

His Secondhand Wife , Cheryl St. John (19th century Colorado)

Harlot , Victoria Dahl (1875 Colorado)

Dancing on Coals , Ellen O’Connell (1881 Arizona Territory and Northern Mexico)

The Preacher’s Promise , Piper Huguley (1866 Ohio)

The Bridegroom , Linda Lael Miller (1915 Arizona)

Gilded Age- Mid-Twentieth Century (mostly US)

Beast , Judith I vory (Gilded Age cruise ship/France)

Somebody Wonderful , Kate Rothwell (1882 New York)

The Portrait , Megan Chance (New York, 1885)

Tempted Tigress , Jade Lee (Qing Dynasty, late 19th century China)

Tiffany Girl , Deanne Gist (1893 Chicago)

Think of England , K.J. Charles (1904 England)

Simple Jess , Pamela Morsi (Ozarks, 1906)

A Company of Swans , Eva Ibbotson (1910s Europe and South America)

A Spear of Summer Grass , Deanna Raybourn (1920s Africa)

Whistling in the Dark , Tamara Allen (1919 New York)

Black Gold, Anita Richmond Bunkley  (1920s Texas) 

Jazz Baby , Lorelei Brown (Boston)

Taffy , Suzette Harrison (1935 South)

Unhinge the Universe , Aleksandr Voinov and L. A. Witt (WWII)

Blood Moon Over Britain , Morag McKendrick Pippin (WWII)

Vintage Contemporary (these were contemporaries when they were published but almost feel historical now)

The Ivy Tree , Mary Stewart (1961 Northumberland)

The Honey is Bitter , Violet Winspear (1967)

Sister Peters in Amsterdam , Betty Neels (1969)


Gambled Away: A Historical Romance Anthology , Joanna Bourne, Isabel Cooper, Rose Lerner, Jeannie Lin, Molly O’Keefe

Through the Hourglass: Lesbian Historical Romance , edited by Sacchi Green and Patty Henderson

The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology , by Kianna Alexander, Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, Piper Hug u ley

romance writers 1970s

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The 25 Best Romance Authors (And Their Most Swoonworthy Reads)

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Blog – Posted on Tuesday, Mar 19

The 25 best romance authors (and their most swoonworthy reads).

The 25 Best Romance Authors (And Their Most Swoonworthy Reads)

Romance is one of the most popular genres in literature today, both for readers and writers of romance novels . And it’s no wonder why: romance is exciting, sexy, and compulsively readable. Luckily, there are tons more books coming out all the time! So to help you get a handle on the genre, we’ve compiled this guide to the 25 best romance authors, along with the love stories they’ve written that are sure to make you swoon. 😍 (By the way, the list is in alphabetical order, so if you’re searching for your own favorite author, you’ll know exactly where to look.)

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the number of great romance authors out there, you can also take our 30-second quiz below to narrow it down quickly and get a personalized romance book recommendation  😉

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Carolyn Brown

Brown has been writing romance for twenty years now — her debut novel Love Is came out in 1999. Since then, she’s produced a great deal of both contemporary and historical romance. However, Brown’s real niche is cowboy romance: stories that are typically set in the southern United States and feature a tall, dark, troubled rancher. Meanwhile, the strong-minded heroine isn’t looking for love — she’s too focused on her child, and/or trying to shake the memories of a good-for-nothing ex — but damn if she doesn’t find it under the boiling hot Texas (or Tennessee or Oklahoma) sun after all.

Must-read: Long, Hot Texas Summer

When Loretta Bailey caught her husband Jackson kissing another woman, she turned her back on Lonesome Canyon Ranch forever. That was seventeen years ago… and now Loretta and Jackson’s daughter wants to drop out of college to marry a rancher. Naturally, Loretta is dead-set against the idea. But in order to combat it, she’ll have to return to the ranch and work together with Jackson, who’s just as wily (and devilishly handsome) as ever.

Catherine Bybee

Bybee is the queen of Amazon’s contemporary romance charts, with her bestselling Weekday Brides and Not Quite series (and their spinoffs). She also dabbles in historical and paranormal romance , and is especially skilled at synthesizing her own traumatic experiences into her work: not only is she a survivor of child abuse, she also endured a terrible accident when she was working as an ER nurse. Bybee began to write during her recovery, remembering the solace that romance books and love stories brought her when she was young — and eventually turned out some of best titles on the market today.

Must-read: Wife by Wednesday ( Weekday Brides #1)

Wife By Wednesday introduces us to Samantha Elliot, the head of a matchmaking firm consulted by millionaire Blake Harrison… who’s intent on having Sam pose as his wife. And though Sam never meant to matchmake herself , how can she resist his $10 million offer? But while their deal is supposed to be all appearances, Sam finds herself confusingly attracted to Blake, which spells double trouble when his ex gets involved.

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Since 1980, Carr has made quite a name for herself in romance — particularly with her Virgin River series, which follows various love affairs unfolding at a forest outpost in California. From the gruff marine who gets in touch with his softer side to the burned-out sous chef who has to contend with a pretty steamy dish (if you know what we mean), Virgin River supplies a stream of near-endless romantic possibilities. Not to mention it’s slated for a Netflix series starring Alexandra Breckenridge !

Must-read: Virgin River ( Virgin River #1)

After unexpectedly becoming a widower in her thirties, nurse practitioner Melinda Monroe jumps at the chance to move to woodsy, secluded Virgin River, only to realize it’s not what she expected. Between her shabby accommodations and the local doctor’s icy attitude, Mel’s just about ready to pick up and leave — until she meets a retired marine who convinces her to stay.

Alyssa Cole

Alyssa Cole is a uniquely impressive contributor to the historical romance subgenre. She specializes in American Revolution and Civil War-era stories, and has done wonders for diversity in romance: many of her characters are women of color, and much of the drama in her narratives stems from the challenges of interracial love and marriage in the past.

Must-read: An Extraordinary Union

This award-winning novel takes place during the Civil War and follows Elle Burns, a former slave who goes undercover to spy for the Union. She soon meets Malcolm McCall, a Pinkerton detective who shares her motives to bring down the Confederacy… but their political inclinations aren’t the only mutual feeling between them. When things start to become truly dangerous, Elle and Malcolm must decide what’s most important: their country or their love.

Lauren Dane

Lauren Dane is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, known for her Brown Family and Chase Brothers series. Dane began writing in 2005 and has since turned out over 60 books. (Yes, you read that correctly!) Besides being one of the most prolific authors on this list, she’s also one of the most risqué — so if you like your romance on the steamier side, consider adding her to your list.

Must-read: Laid Bare ( Brown Family #1)

Seriously, hold onto your hats because this one is shamelessly immodest. Laid Bare begins with police officer Todd Keenan and rock musician Erin Brown, whose old flame is rekindled when they meet again in Seattle… but which threatens to burn them up after a ménage à trois with one of Todd’s best friends. There’s no telling where this relationship of sorts will lead, but one thing is for sure: it’s going to be one wild hell of a ride.

Tessa Dare is another NYT bestseller, but in a very different category: classic “bodice rippers” that focus more on smoldering sexual tension itself than the resolution of said tension. Indeed, Dare’s titles clearly indicate her propensity for Regency romance — from Romancing the Duke to Say Yes to the Marquess , her books are the perfect form of escapism into another time and place.

Must-read: Do You Want to Start a Scandal ( Castles Ever After #4)

This one is part history, part mystery, part love story! At the Parkhurst ball, young Charlotte Highwood is implicated in a scandal that makes it look as though she’s involved with Piers Brandon, Lord Granville — and now she’ll have to marry him if she can’t prove her innocence. Which would be inconvenient indeed, since she doesn’t even like the guy. But as the two of them set out to uncover the true scandal-makers, Piers proves himself a surprisingly useful accomplice. Soon Charlotte’s growing attraction to him makes her wonder if she even wants to complete their mission…

Madison Faye

For a quick rebound to the erotic, Madison Faye’s books are even more salacious than Lauren Dane’s. If you were a fan of Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty Quartet , you’ll love Faye’s similarly sexy fairytales: a series of five works fittingly titled Possessing Beauty . Or if fairytale retellings aren’t your thing, you can always turn to Dirty Bad Things or Her Daddies (again, you read that correctly), two other mega-popular works by Faye. Hailed as “quick and filthy,” these white-hot erotic romances will just about melt your Kindle clean away.

Must-read: Beasting Beauty ( Possessing Beauty #1)

Logan is the callous, cursed Prince of Torsund. Isla is the sweet youngest princess of Avlion. When they meet at a ball held by her father, sparks fly — and clothing flies off. Logan certainly is a beast in the bedroom, but that doesn’t mean Isla can’t find a way to tame him. Sweet, sexy, and savage all at once, this just-under-100-page novella is the perfect remedy to spice up a regular night in.

Pippa Grant

Pippa Grant is another reigning ruler of the Amazon charts whose specialty is, for lack of a better term, total jerks. The heroes in her stories are anything but heroic: we’re talking possessive exes, egocentric hockey players, and horrible bosses. Or at least they start off that way. With the help of their leading ladies — who are sometimes sweet, sometimes saucy, but always totally irresistible to the main guy — they turn over a new leaf and become much better humans . How’s that for an HEA? (Romance slang for “happily ever after.”)

Must-read: The Pilot and the Puck-Up

NHL player Zeus Berger is as cocky as his Greek god namesake, and he’s never failed to satisfy a woman… until he meets Joey Diamonte, former military special ops pilot and self-made businesswoman, who matches him in confidence and thoroughly surpasses him in smoothness. Unfortunately, their first encounter doesn’t quite go as Zeus planned. Now determined to prove to Joey that he’s more than one-night-stand material, Zeus will try anything to show her what he’s made of (besides muscle, that is).

Lorraine Heath

Lorraine Heath is an absolute staple of the romance genre. Since 2001, she’s turned out over a dozen different series in every subgenre from historical to paranormal. However, despite their quantity, her works never sacrifice quality — Heath has been especially praised for the genuine emotional depth and strong characterization in her writing. So if you’re looking for story-based drama rather than its cousin smut, you can’t go wrong with Heath's love stories.

Must-read: In Bed with the Devil ( Scoundrels of St, James #1)

Lucian Langdon, aka Luke, is scorned in London as the “devil earl” for his atrocious reputation. Lady Catherine Mabry needs help so desperately that she’s willing to strike a deal with him. Thus begins their relationship as co-conspirators… which of course, soon turns into something more. The delicious slow burn between the scoundrel and the lady also includes a pretty meaty social plot, peppered with plenty of tongue-in-cheek Dickens references .

Beverly Jenkins

Jenkins is a true trailblazer of diverse romance — she’s been writing since the nineties, and her books almost always feature African-American main couples, often set in times when that experience was overlooked. However, Jenkins makes a point of not writing exclusively about slavery. In order to represent a genuinely wide range of black history, most of her books take place between the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement.

Must-read: Bring on the Blessings ( Blessings #1)

Though Jenkins is known for (and very talented at spinning!) her historical romances, this contemporary work is a great intro for first-time readers. In Bring on the Blessings , 52-year-old Bernadine Brown takes her wealthy, adulterous husband to court — and wins. A $275 million settlement, to be exact.

Adamant to “pay forward” her good fortune, Bernadine decides that her next project of choice won’t just be one man, but an entire town: Henry Adams, Kansas, which was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. After purchasing Henry Adams on the Internet, Bernadine must work together with its stubborn mayor Trent July to bring the town back to its former glory… and perhaps find some glory in each other as well.

Lisa Kleypas

When it comes to historical romance, no one quite compares to Kleypas: she started writing in 1985, when she was only 21 years old, and hasn’t looked back since. Beginning with a few quick duologies, Kleypas eventually escalated to elaborate multi-book series, her most famous being The Wallflowers and The Hathaways . These books follow the members of various families in mid-19th century London as they attempt to find love in one way or another. Each story is also wrapped in a well-woven tapestry of historical context; indeed, one of Kleypas’ greatest strengths is her intimate knowledge of the era.

Must-read: Mine Till Midnight ( The Hathaways #1)

Amelia Hathaway has an awful lot on her plate. She’s figuring out her place in aristocratic society (which she’s just joined after a surprise inheritance), taming her wild younger siblings, and most recently dealing with her feelings for upper-class bad boy Cam Rohan. Cam, like Amelia, comes from not-so-noble stock — unlike her, however, he longs to return to it. This plan is complicated by only one thing: his desire for Amelia. And when she asks him for help in a sticky situation, he can’t say no to her…

Lauren Landish

Landish specializes in “sexy-as-hell book boyfriends,” as she says on her Goodreads page — one look at her rippling-muscle covers and you know you’re in for a good time. Her works can get pretty explicit, but she’s also got plenty of fun romantic devices to keep readers happy: meet-cutes, fake relationships, and reunited high school sweethearts abound, especially in the stunningly sexy Irresistible Bachelors series.

Must-read: Mr. Fixit ( Irresistible Bachelors #5)

Expert handyman Caleb Strong ( get it? because he’s strong? ) and Cassie White have been friends for over a year now, ever since they met in Hawaii. So when Cassie needs help renovating her childhood home, it’s only natural that she turn to Caleb. But actually having to watch him work proves a challenge in the self-control department… especially when she starts fantasizing about him working on something else. In other words, this book is pretty much the written equivalent of that Fifth Harmony song — if you liked that video, you’ll love Mr. Fixit .

Adriana Locke

On the other hand, if you prefer flawed, vulnerable heroes to totally confident ones, Adriana Locke might be more your speed. Locke has been in the romance business for just a few years, but she’s already turned out numerous series full of bad-boys-with-serious-damage (though of course, none of that stops them from eventually finding love).

Must-read: Crank ( Laundry Family #7, Gibson Boys #1)

Sienna Landry gets off to a bit of a rocky start with small-town mechanic Walker Gibson — namely, she busts up the front of his truck. For a guy like Walker, there’s nothing worse… except maybe the attraction he feels to this girl who’s just destroyed his most prized possession. Conflicted over Sienna in more ways than one, Walker still can’t seem to avoid her, and the shimmering tension between them mounts until it’s practically leaping off the page. But there’s something he’s not telling her — not least because he doesn’t want to think about it himself.

Julianne MacLean

Julianne MacLean (not to be confused with the next entry on our list) writes primarily historical romance, though she’s also branched out into contemporary on occasion. She’s best known for her American Heiress and Pembroke Palace series, which are sure to please fans of Downton Abbey and other early 20th century tales. Or if you’re a fan of Outlander , check out her excellent Highlander trilogy: a slow, sexy burn that includes Captured by the Highlander, Claimed by the Highlander, and Seduced by the Highlander .

Must-read: The Color of Heaven ( Color of Heaven #1)

Like Jenkins’ Bring on the Blessings , MacLean’s Color of Heaven series doesn’t exactly represent her larger body of work. However, it’s a good entry point for new readers — if also quite an emotional one. The Color of Heaven follows Sophie Duncan, a woman whose life goes off the rails when her daughter is diagnosed with leukemia and her husband cheats on her. But after a terrible accident, Sophie’s eyes open to everything she does still have, and she embarks on a newly buoyant journey of life, love, and revelation.

Sarah MacLean

Sarah MacLean has also found her niche in historical romance, but of a more traditional sort: she tends to stick to the Regency/Victorian periods, and she’s absolutely mastered the niche. As the author of over a dozen high-profile historical romances, and winner of several awards given by the Romance Writers of America, she’s one of the leading voices in the romance genre. Along with Lisa Kleypas (and Julia Quinn and Nora Roberts, both of whom we’ll get to soon), Sarah MacLean is essentially a founding mother of the historical subgenre as we know it today.

Must-read: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake ( Love by the Numbers #1)

Lady Calpurnia Hartwell is sick and tired of her title, especially since she’s never been able to live up to it. She’s more than ready to break the rules of ladyhood… but she can’t do it alone. And who better to recruit as her “accomplice” (the Regency equivalent of friends-with-benefits) than Gabriel St. John, a marquess and fellow eschewer of society? Of course, as Callie and Gabe grow closer, she realizes that she might not be such a nontraditional girl after all. The only question now is: can she tell him?

Courtney Milan

Milan is another prominent writer of WOC characters in romance, particularly characters of Asian descent. Though she’s also got quite a few “classic” historical romances in her repertoire, her most interesting and dynamic works to date include the Cyclone series, with an upcoming work entitled Show Me that will be an LGBT romance between two women of color. In the meantime, though, she has plenty of other captivating titles for readers to explore.

Must-read: Hold Me ( Cyclone #2)

This pitch-perfect amalgam of classic romantic setups involves both a) an enemies-to-lovers transformation, and b) a case of secret identities, as our main couple (unbeknownst to them) chats anonymously online!

Jay na Thalang and Maria Lopez have been running in the same Bay Area circles for ages, but that doesn’t mean they actually like each other. On the contrary, Jay’s misogynistic attitude gets Maria all riled up, and Maria’s apparent ditziness causes Jay to dismiss her. But as with just about every romance, things are not as they seem… as secrets are unveiled and revelations occur, Maria and Jay get thrown into a completely unexpected romantic odyssey.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Susan Elizabeth Phillips has been hot on the romance scene since the early eighties, and is credited with creating “sports romance,” in which the characters and plot revolve around some sort of athletics. She’s also been called the “Queen of Romantic Comedy” within the genre — at a time when most romance writers took the historical route, Phillips wasn’t afraid to get a little goofy. As the Nora Ephron of romance novels, Phillips is an essential addition to any self-proclaimed romance lover’s reading list.

Must read: It Had to Be You ( Chicago Stars #1)

New York girl Phoebe Somerville has just inherited the Chicago Stars — an entire football team of sexy-but-also-sex ist men, the worst of whom is head coach Dan Calebow. Dan isn’t exactly happy with Phoebe’s takeover, nor does Phoebe appreciate Dan’s constant snide remarks… yet neither of them can stay away from each other long enough to stop bickering. With warmth, humor, and irresistible chemistry, It Had to Be You is a veritable Super Bowl of a novel.

Julia Quinn

Like so many of the authors on this list, Julia Quinn has a fascinating origin story. In the early nineties, she decided to attend medical school; as she studied for the necessary prerequisites, she started writing romance novels on the side. She was then admitted to Yale Medical School, but realized she had already found her true calling. So she dropped out to become one of the most eminent historical romance writers of her generation — and is still writing today!

Must-read: The Duke and I ( Bridgertons #1)

It’s the ultimate high-society scheme: Lady Daphne Bridgerton and Duke Simon Basset are only pretending to court, so that Simon can avoid the clutches of actual marriage and Daphne can attract jealous men. (Exactly what you want in a partner, right?) Except now, Daphne is starting to have second thoughts about Simon — especially when they’re pressed together on the ballroom floor, and she can hardly keep dancing for desire. This Regency twist on the “fake relationship” trope will definitely make classic romance fans swoon.

“All the heat, all the heart,” is Rai’s signature slogan, and her brilliant, steamy, and wonderfully diverse books certainly live up to it. Though Rai is a relative newcomer, she already has five series under her belt and a reputation in the contemporary romance world for her innovative premises and vivid characters. (It hasn’t been released yet, but look out for her upcoming novel The Right Swipe , about two rival dating app creators who fall in love!)

That was the deal. Every year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler would share one perfect night of illicit pleasure. The forbidden hours let them forget the tragedy that haunted their pasts—and the last names that made them enemies.

Until the night she didn’t show up.

Now Nicholas has an empire to run. He doesn’t have time for distractions and Livvy’s sudden reappearance in town is a major distraction. She’s the one woman he shouldn’t want . . . so why can’t he forget how right she feels in his bed?

Livvy didn’t come home for Nicholas, but fate seems determined to remind her of his presence—and their past. Although the passion between them might have once run hot and deep, not even love can overcome the scandal that divided their families.

Being together might be against all the rules . . . but being apart is impossible.

Must-read: Hate to Want You ( Forbidden Hearts #1)

Just like so many of our couples, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler have a deal. Except theirs is limited to just one night of guilty pleasure a year — guilty because of the animosity between their families. They’ve been secretly hooking up for ten years, and each looks forward to that night of mind-blowing passion… until Nicholas gets too busy running his own family’s empire. Of course, Livvy’s not going to let him slip away that easily. Laden with passion but also profound emotion, Hate to Want You is Rai’s superb answer to sexy yet realistic romance.

Alexa Riley

Riley is another big Amazon chart-topper — unusual for a romance author with mostly standalone and short-series books. However, Riley’s edge over other authors might come from the fact that “she” is actually two writers, a duo of anonymous friends who have put out over 100 titles (!) since 2015. Also, similar to Madison Faye, Alexa Riley’s books are best described as quickies: many are 100 pages or less, but what they lack in length, they make up for in heat.

Must-read: PS... You're Mine by Alexa Riley

This Valentine’s special features a schoolteacher named Katie Lovely and a marine named Mark Gunner (did we mention that almost all Riley characters have hilariously tongue-in-cheek names?). In any case, Katie’s class is doing a pen pal project with overseas Marines, and she accidentally signs herself up, too… only to find her correspondence with Mark is, well, different than she anticipated. So don’t worry just because they don’t see each other in person (at least not at first) — those letters get hot and heavy pretty quickly.

Nora Roberts

If there’s one author on this list who’s a recognized household name, it’s Nora Roberts. Since 1980, Roberts has written and published an astounding number of romances — her website claims the number stands at over 215!

But this incredibly prolific production has not come at the cost of quality. Over the years, Roberts has been praises for her creative storylines, her wry sense of humor, and for pioneering the “dual shifting perspectives” style (i.e. two different narrators who switch back and forth) that has come to define the genre. She’s also been the recipient of countless Golden Medallion and RITA Awards from the Romance Writers of America, and she’s had several of her books adapted into movies, including Montana Sky and High Noon .

Must-read: Born in Fire ( Born in Fire Trilogy #1)

It’s impossible to say that Born in Fire is the only Nora Roberts must-read, but it’s certainly one of her best. It centers on Maggie Concannon, a fierce-minded, free-spirited woman living in Ireland. And while she may work with glass for a living, Maggie is not easily shattered — until she meets money-minded gallery owner Rogan Sweeney, who wants to manage her career. The two butt heads as their working relationship progresses, but can’t deny their attraction — which grows even hotter than blown glass over the course of this story.

Nalini Singh

Singh is another very exciting new voice in the romance genre. She mostly writes paranormal romance, but of a particularly debauched variety; she’s especially known for her Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunter series, both of which are rife with racy scenes.

Nalini Singh dives into a world torn apart by a powerful race with phenomenal powers of the mind-and none of the heart.

In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of \'rehabilitation\' - the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was...

Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy coexistence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion - and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities - or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation.

Must-read: Slave to Sensation ( Psy-Changeling #1)

This remarkable hybrid of paranormal romance and science fiction establishes the world of the “Psy”: a ruling race that prohibits emotions (sort of like in The Giver , but much worse). Sascha is one of the few Psy who still feels pain and desire — but she can’t reveal this to anyone, lest she be forced into “rehabilitation.” Meanwhile Lucas Hunter is a part-human, part-animal changeling who needs Sascha’s help. Their connection grows and they soon find themselves struggling to resist the sensation between them… though they know it could be deadly.

Susan Stoker

Susan Stoker’s series are famous for adapting the classic damsel-in-distress scenario to the modern day. Her heroines are victims of spousal violence, sex trafficking, terrorism, you name it — but there’s always a valiant hero there to save the day. And while it might seem to contradict the rules of feminism for the men to be constantly rescuing the women, we’re actually grateful for a series that promotes men protecting their partners, when so many romances blur the line between abuse and love.

Must-read: Rescuing Rayne ( Delta Force Heroes #1)

As a flight attendant, Rayne Jackson’s whole life is up in the air — with the exception of the occasional down-to-earth tryst. One particularly memorable night was with Keane “Ghost” Bryson, a rugged, reticent Delta Force member. Of course, Rayne doesn’t know that, since Ghost kept his true identity hidden from her. But when their paths cross again under the most dire of circumstances, Ghost must put everything on the line to protect Rayne: not just his secrets, but his life.

Lauren Willig

The final historical romancer on our list, Lauren Willig has been writing since 2005. Her speciality is the Napoleonic era, and her works take particular inspiration from The Scarlet Pimpernel — another historical novel written by a woman almost exactly a century before Willig herself started writing. However, don’t worry about her work being derivative. Willig is most definitely one of a kind, and the rich history and complex characters in her books make for top-notch romance.

Must-read: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

With a frame narrative reminiscent of Susanna Kearsley, Willig tells this story through Eloise Kelly: a 21st-century American college student who goes to England to finish her dissertation. There she finds much more than academic motivation in the form of the “Secret History of the Pink Carnation” — a book about England’s most cunning spy during the Napoleonic Wars, and the thrilling romance that involved them.

We’ll round off this list with some good old-fashioned… erotica! Zane has been a prominent author in the erotic romance subgenre since 1997, when she started writing steamy stories for her own entertainment. Over two decades later, she’s now the publisher of Strebor Books with Simon & Schuster, and her works have been turned into a TV series and even a feature film.

Must-read: Addicted

Zoe Reynard is a successful businesswoman, a loving wife, a devoted mother… and a sex addict. No matter how she’s tried, she’s never been able to shake her “fatal attraction.” Now, as Zoe confesses to her therapist, she delves into her sizzling sexual history and dark childhood.  But her romance with her husband is still front and center — hence what makes this a genuinely gorgeous work and not just a salacious romp (though it has that going for it, too).

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Shirley MacLaine and Kenneth Mars in the 1971 film version of Desperate Characters.

Top 10 novels and stories of the 1970s

In a decade when feminism brought a new weight to the treatment and status of women in fiction, the best male writers began to take domestic life seriously

L ooking back at the 70s, and at my own bookshelves, I realise what a fertile time this was for fiction, especially for novels and stories written by women. The feminist movement led to a burgeoning of books about female experience, and some male writers seemed to be focusing more on the turmoil and joys of household life. Of course, as in any other period in literary history, all writers were driven by the personal, singular impulses of the imagination.

When the following books were first published all those years ago – like some of my stories – I was often torn between domestic responsibilities and writing. Somehow I was fortunate enough to also find time to read, and the various voices of these writers were in my head, guiding and inspiring me as I tended to my real and fictional families

1. God on the Rocks by Jane Gardam (1978) Eight-year-old Margaret Marsh observes the brackets of mortal life – her baby brother with his lolling head, and an elderly woman in an oversized pram – and opines that the world would be better without people. Her mother argues unconvincingly in favour of humankind while Margaret’s father, the leader of a fanatic religious sect, peppers her with biblical quotes. Margaret has other influences: Lydia, her lax, outspoken nanny; adult siblings Charles and Binkie, who have some mysterious link to Margaret’s mother; and the inhabitants of a decaying asylum into which she wanders. The surprising connections among all of these characters are gradually and brilliantly revealed. God on the Rocks is a masterwork of comedy and tragedy in which fallible people inhabit an imperfect world.

2. Will You Please be Quiet, Please? The Stories of Raymond Carver (1976) The lives of Raymond Carver’s working-class characters are conveyed in brief tales of longing and misery. Carver’s language is deceptively simple, as in this opening line: “Bill and Arlene Miller were a happy couple.”The reader, drawn in as if eavesdropping on strangers, is rewarded with startling psychological complexity. The mother of a violently disturbed boy tries to escape her frightening reality. A man overhears customers of his waitress wife ridicule her body, and compels her to lose weight. The “happy” Millers start to occupy their vacationing neighbour’s apartment, leading to a disastrous reckoning. The stories in this collection remain an unsparing depiction of how we live.

3. Final Payments by Mary Gordon (1978) When Isabel Moore’s demanding and devoutly Catholic father dies after a series of strokes, she’s released from caring for him into the terrifying freedom of independence. Isabel was 19 when she first became his carer after her mother’s death, and now she’s an unworldly 30. Two female friends offer advice and support, and two men become her lovers. Isabel, who struggles with the meaning of Christian love, has to choose between the pleasures of an unfettered life and doing penance for an act that contributed to her father’s fatal illness. Final Payments was Mary Gordon’s debut novel, and it is remarkably insightful and accomplished.

4. The Living End by Stanley Elkin (1979) Dickens, with his wit and compassion, may be Stanley Elkin’s literary forebear; this triptych in which much of the action takes place in Heaven and Hell, also brings Dante to mind. Elkin’s narrative begins in an earthly American city, where the saintly Ellerbee is murdered in a holdup. After glimpsing Heaven, he finds himself deposited in Hell, where he challenges God for forsaking him. Like many of Elkin’s characters, his wisecracking God could moonlight as a stand-up comic as he damns Ellerbee for the pettiest of trumped-up charges. Two others consigned to Hell – Ellerbee’s murderer’s sidekick and a cemetery groundskeeper – also protest their eternal fate in this rousing, irreverent, and hilarious novel.

Joan Plowright in the title role of the 2005 film of Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont.

5. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor (1971) Attentive relatives, especially grandchildren, are the chief currency at the Claremont, a retirement hotel in London. But the proud, recently widowed Mrs Palfrey’s only grandson Desmond has not responded to her numerous invitations to visit. Through an accident in the street she meets Ludo, an insolvent young writer with an indifferent family, and a mutually satisfying arrangement ensues. He pretends to be Desmond, and as she treats him to meals in the Claremont’s dining room, they form a deep and affectionate bond. Yet even harmless, joyful deception must come to an end. This is a darkly funny, unsentimental look at the loneliness of old age and the vicissitudes of human attachment.

6. Corregidora by Gayl Jones (1975) Toni Morrison was the editor of this powerful first novel, which opens with a scene of violence related in an almost detached first-person voice. Ursa Corregidora, a blues singer and the descendant of slaves raped by their masters, is thrown down a flight of stairs by her jealous husband, causing her to lose the baby she’s carrying and her ability to fulfil the family mandate to “make generations”. Ursa’s story is interspersed with a competing narrative, in italics, about her great-grandmother’s brutal experience of enslavement to a man also named Corregidora. Ursa first heard these reminiscences when she was a five year old sitting on “Great Gram’s” lap, and was slapped for disbelieving them. The dual narratives continue and coalesce, with the past haunting and informing the present. Together they form a visceral work of fiction and a harsh and necessary history lesson.

7. Foreigner by Nahid Rachlin (1978) Feri, an Iranian-American woman, visits her father in Tehran, and is dismayed by how uncomfortable she feels in her rigidly patriarchal homeland. She discovers that her mother, who’d abandoned her as a child, ostensibly for religious pursuits, had actually gone off with a lover. Feri’s American life, including her own marriage, is tenuous. She reunites with her now deserted and destitute mother and experiences unexpected happiness. When Feri’s husband comes to claim her, she’s caught between two cultures, two contending loyalties. Rachlin beautifully depicts the urgency of Feri’s dilemma, and the peace her decision brings her.

8. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (1975) First published in 1975 as a novel for children, this has all the ingredients – fantasy, adventure, and young romance – that a youthful audience enjoys. The four members of the Tuck family drink from a rural spring and discover that none of them ever ages or dies. Eighty-seven years later, when (perpetually) teenage Jesse Tuck meets Winnie Foster, an overprotected girl who both craves and fears excitement, endless life becomes a dubious gift. This wonderfully imagined story about the dream of immortality and the certainty of death still rivets readers of all ages.

9. Desperate Characters by Paula Fox (1970) Sophie and Otto Bentwood lead privileged lives. But there are outer and inner encroachments on their happiness and safety. Their lovely urban street abuts a destitute area, Otto and his law partner are bitterly embattled, and Sophie is still consumed by an affair that ended years before. Then she’s bitten by a feral cat she’s been feeding, and keeps delaying treatment for the festering wound. The narrative suspense of this compressed and exquisitely written novel is matched by the mounting emotional tension between its quietly desperate characters.

10. Grendel by John Gardner (1971) Grendel, in the Old English poem Beowulf, is descended from the biblical Cain. In a kind of reversal of evolution, he’s a serial-killing, man-eating monster, with feelings limited to rage and vengefulness. His death – after his arm is ripped off in a battle with the heroic Beowulf – is cause for celebration. In John Gardner’s novel, we hear Grendel’s side of things, and he has a few more human qualities, such as curiosity and wit. He still crunches the bones of his victims – he’s a monster, after all – but in Gardner’s soaring, poetic prose, he’s both villain and anti-hero, reminding us uncomfortably of ourselves.

Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket by Hilma Wolitzer is published by Bloomsbury. To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at . Delivery charges may apply.

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romance writers 1970s

A Century of Reading: The 10 Books That Defined the 1970s

Yup, it's the me decade.

Some books are flashes in the pan, read for entertainment and then left on a bus seat for the next lucky person to pick up and enjoy, forgotten by most after their season has passed. Others stick around, are read and re-read, are taught and discussed. sometimes due to great artistry, sometimes due to luck, and sometimes because they manage to recognize and capture some element of the culture of the time.

In the moment, you often can’t tell which books are which.  The Great Gatsby  wasn’t a bestseller upon its release, but we now see it as emblematic of a certain American sensibility in the 1920s. Of course, hindsight can also distort the senses; the canon looms and obscures. Still, over the next weeks, we’ll be publishing a list a day, each one attempting to define a discrete decade,  starting with the 1900s  (as you’ve no doubt guessed by now) and counting down until we get to the (nearly complete) 2010s.

Though the books on these lists need not be American in origin, I am looking for books that evoke some aspect of American life, actual or intellectual, in each decade—a global lens would require a much longer list. And of course, varied and complex as it is, there’s no list that could truly define American life over ten or any number of years, so I do not make any claim on exhaustiveness. I’ve simply selected books that, if read together, would give a fair picture of the landscape of literary culture for that decade—both as it was and as it is remembered. Finally, two process notes: I’ve limited myself to one book for author over the entire 12-part list, so you may see certain works skipped over in favor of others, even if both are important (for instance, I ignored  Dubliners  in the 1910s so I could include  Ulysses  in the 1920s), and in the case of translated work, I’ll be using the date of the English translation, for obvious reasons.

For our eighth installment, below you’ll find 10 books that defined the 1970s. (Head here for the  1910s ,  20s ,  30s , 40s ,  50s , and 60s ).

romance writers 1970s

Though García Márquez’s magnum opus was published in Argentina in 1967, and helped usher in the international literary Latin American Boom, it wasn’t published in English until 1970. It was an instant success. “The novel came off the press in Buenos Aires on May 30, 1967, two days before  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band  was released, and the response among Spanish-language readers was akin to Beatlemania: crowds, cameras, exclamation points, a sense of a new era beginning,” wrote Paul Elie in  Vanity Fair . It sold 8,000 copies in Argentina in its first week. After its publication in English, the paperback edition “became a totem of the decade. By the time García Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize, in 1982, the novel was considered the  Don Quixote  of the Global South, proof of Latin-American literary prowess, and the author was “Gabo,” known all over the continent by a single name, like his Cuban friend Fidel.”

It wasn’t just read but acclaimed from nearly every corner. William Kennedy famously described it this way in the New York Times Book Review : “ One Hundred Years of Solitude  is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race. . . . Mr. García Márquez has done nothing less than to create in the reader a sense of all that is profound, meaningful, and meaningless in life.” It has won literary awards in Italy, France, Venezuela, and the United States. It has influenced countless novelists, from Toni Morrison to John Irving to Salman Rushdie. It continues to be read, studied, and adored, and has been translated into over 37 languages and sold over 45 million copies . It was a lot of people’s first favorite novel. It is still a lot of people’s favorite novel.

In 2009, the international literary magazine Wasafiri asked 25 writers from around the world to “pick the title that they felt had most influenced world writing over the past quarter-century,” and only  One Hundred Years of Solitude  received more than one vote (three, to be exact). “[It] taught the west how to read a reality alternative to their own, which in turn opened the gates for other non-western writers like myself and other writers from Africa and Asia,” explained Ghanaian writer Nii Ayikwei Parkes. “Apart from the fact that it’s an amazing book, it taught western readers tolerance for other perspectives.”

romance writers 1970s

“You could almost hear the collective generational sigh of relief in 1970 when Blume published this groundbreaking, taboo-trampling young adult novel: finally, a book that talks frankly about sex without being prim or prurient, and about religion without scolding or condescending,” Lev Grossman wrote in  TIME . “Blume turned millions of pre-teens into readers. She did it by asking the right questions—and avoiding pat, easy answers.” She turned millions of pre-teens into readers, and she also helped them turn into teens, a little less painfully than they might have done otherwise.

“Blume wasn’t the first writer to legitimize and celebrate the interior life of young girls,” Anna Holmes pointed out in The New Yorker .

Fitzhugh, Beverly Cleary, and Laura Ingalls Wilder all imbued their female protagonists with the same sort of spunk and self-reliance, as did the beloved Y.A. writers Lois Lowry and Lois Duncan, whose most popular books, like Blume’s, were released in the years between 1970 and 1985. But Blume’s work feels significantly more influential than that of her predecessors and peers, at least where contemporary pop culture is concerned. (I suspect this has a lot to do with the straightforward way Blume that approaches difficult subjects, not to mention her gift for realistic dialogue and her palpable compassion for both her characters and her readers.) Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody, who wrote “Young Adult,” last year’s critically acclaimed drama about a messed-up Y.A. writer, published  an appreciation of Blume  in the pages of  Entertainment Weekly  in 2008. And Chuck Palahniuk’s 2011 novel, Damned , which centers on a thirteen-year-old female protagonist’s death and descent into Hell, is inspired by Blume’s books, right down to its structure.

So it’s not that it was such a literary feat—it’s that generation after generation has read and loved and taken solace in this book. It has sunk deeply into our cultural consciousness—without even being a movie. Now, after nearly 50 years, the book is being adapted into a film, which has spurred a new round of reminiscing and remembrance. “It is this right of passage for women and girls” director Kelly Fremon Craig told Deadline . “It’s rare for me to run into a woman or girl who hasn’t read it and every time I’ve mentioned it to a woman, they clutch their heart and let out this joyful gasp. There’s something so timely and full of truth and I remember for me that at that age, it felt like a life raft at a time when you’re lost and searching and unsure. This book comes along and tells you you’re not alone. Women remember where they were when they read it. I can’t think of another book you can say that about.”

the joy of sex

Just as The Joy of Cooking  was life-changing and  ubiquitous in American households in the 1930s , so was  The Joy of Sex  in the 1970s. Upon its publication in 1972, as Sarah Lyall memorably put it , “the book thrust itself into public consciousness with all the subtlety of a gigolo at a convention of bishops. It was also stunningly popular, a well-thumbed fixture of bedside tables across America that spent 343 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.” Sex is okay, it reminded us. It’s loving, and feels good, and is also fun—even if you look like the Hairy Man, and like him, are fervently against deodorant. Written by British scientist and physician Alex Comfort, and eventually selling over 12 million copies worldwide, the book was a seminal (sorry!) piece of the growing sex-ed landscape.

A runner-up for this space, of course, is  Our Bodies, Ourselves , a similar volume assembled by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. As Ariel Levy put it in  The New Yorker :

If The Joy of Sex was like Joy of Cooking —though in some ways it was closer to Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking , what with its strong authorial voice and affection for elaborate undertakings, to which Comfort assigned French names like pattes d’araignée, cuissade , and feuille de rose — Our Bodies, Ourselves  was like the Moosewood Cookbook . Everything in it was healthful, enlightened, nourishing.

And slightly lacking in bacon fat.

romance writers 1970s

Thompson’s drug-binge road-trip extravaganza is about the 60s, not the 70s, but it was in the latter decade when it was published, and when it became a name-making sensation. It didn’t exactly debut to great critical reviews, but the papers soon came around. In a 1972 New York Times   review, Crawford Woods called it “by far the best book yet written on the decade of dope gone by,” and, of its literary importance, wrote:

Not the least of Thompson’s accomplishments is to suggest that, by now, the New Journalism is to the world what the New Criticism was to the word: seductive, commanding—and, finally, inadequate. The form that reached apotheosis in Armies of the Night  reaches the end of its rope in Fear and Loathing , a chronicle of addiction and dismemberment so vicious that it requires a lot of resilience to sense that the author’s purpose is more moralizing than sadistic. He is moving in a country where only a few cranky survivors—Jonathan Swift for one—have gone before. And he moves with the cool integrity of an artist indifferent to his reception.

Now of course, it’s a classic of counterculture literature and the most famous example of Thompson’s Gonzo journalism (though he considered it a failed example) and has sent many an enthusiastic young man to Vegas, one imagines.

romance writers 1970s

Though not everyone loves it , Pynchon’s mammoth WWII novel is certainly a candidate for our Great American Novel and has in turn influenced a slew of other Great American Writers , including George Saunders, who wrote:

I don’t think anyone has gotten closer than Thomas Pynchon to summoning the real audacity and insanity and scope of the American mind, as reflected in the American landscape. I read Pynchon all out of order, starting with Vineland , and I still remember the shock of pleasure I got at finally seeing the America I knew—strange shops and boulevards, built over former strange shops and former boulevards, all laid out there in valleys and dead-end forests, heaped on top of Indian cemeteries, peopled with nut jobs and hustlers and moral purists—actually present in a novel, and present not only in substance but in structure and language that both used and evoked the unruly, muscular complexity of the world itself.

In Pynchon, anything is fair game—if it is in the world, it can go in the book. To me there is something Buddhist about this approach, which seems to say that since the world is capable of producing an infinity of forms, the novel must be capable of accommodating an infinite number of forms. All aesthetic concerns (style, form, structure) answer this purpose: Let in the world.

This is why Pynchon is our biggest writer, the gold standard of that overused word inclusiveness : No dogma or tidy aesthetic rule or literary fashion is allowed to prefilter the beautiful data streaming in. Everything is included. No inclination of the mind is too small or large or frightening. The result is gorgeous madness, which does what great literature has always done—reminds us that there is a world out there that is bigger than us and worthy of our utmost humility and attention.

Gravity’s Rainbow won the 1974 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction (or technically, shared it with Isaac Bashevis Singer’s A Crown of Feathers and Other Stories —is this why there was a streaker at the ceremony?), and was selected unanimously for the Pulitzer by the fiction jury—Elizabeth Hardwick, Alfred Kazin, and Benjamin DeMott—but the Pulitzer board turned it down as “unreadable,” “turgid,” “overwritten” and “obscene,” and no prize was awarded that year. In a 1973 review in the New York Times entitled “One of the Longest, Most Difficult, Most Ambitious Novels in Years,” Richard Locke wrote:

Gravity’s Rainbow is longer, darker and more difficult than his first two books; in fact it is the longest, most difficult and most ambitious novel to appear here since Nabokov’s Ada four years ago; its technical and verbal resources bring to mind Melville and Faulkner. Immersing himself in “the destructive element” and exploring paranoia, entropy and the love of death as primary forces in the history of our time, Pynchon establishes his imaginative continuity with the great modernist writers of the early years of this century. Gravity’s Rainbow is bonecrushingly dense, compulsively elaborate, silly, obscene, funny, tragic, pastoral, historical, philosophical, poetic, grindingly dull, inspired, horrific, cold, bloated, beached and blasted.

“Among American writers of the second half of the 20th century, Pynchon is the indisputed candidate for lasting literary greatness,” Richard Lacayo wrote in TIME . “This book is why.”

romance writers 1970s

Pirsig’s “novelistic autobiography” was  rejected 121 times before it was eventually accepted for publication, but his editor James Landis knew a good thing when he saw it. “The book is brilliant beyond belief,” he wrote ahead of the book’s publication. “It is probably a work of genius and will, I’ll wager, attain classic status.” Someone give this guy a fortune telling stand, because the book was an instant and enduring hit.  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance sold a million copies in its first year, and has continued selling in the 40 years since. “Zeitgeist novels tend to fall in one of three categories, none of which have anything to do with the quality of the work itself,” wrote Nathaniel Rich .

In the first category are books nostalgic for a simpler, romanticized past; James A. Michener’s Centennial , the best-selling novel of 1974, is an example. The second category is made up of books that unwittingly capture the spirit of their time, a feat accomplished in the early ’60s by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Group . Forward-looking novels that provide glimpses into the future, while echoing anxieties of the present— 1984 , Neuromancer , White Noise —comprise the third category. Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance pulls off the remarkable feat of straddling all three categories, achieving an unusual triple crown. It is a nostalgic, old-fashioned novel that nevertheless reflects the malaise of its era and prefigures our own technophiliac age. Pirsig’s hat trick has much to do with the novel’s incredible commercial success.

“There is such a thing as a zeitgeist, and I believe the book was popular because there were a lot of people who wanted a reconciliation—even if they didn’t know what they were looking for,” sociologist Todd Gitlin told the New York Times . “Pirsig provided a kind of soft landing from the euphoric stratosphere of the late ’60s into the real world of adult life.”

romance writers 1970s

“It’s the work that brought down a presidency and launched a thousand reporting careers,” as Alex Altman put it in TIME . “It remains a testament to the power of shoe-leather reporting—and is perhaps the most influential piece of journalism in history.” Yes, Woodward and Bernstein changed the country with this book—or, to be precise, first with their reporting on Nixon and the Watergate scandal, next with this book, and finally with the film adaptation, because Robert Redford makes anything go down smoother. This, of course, was back in the 70s, when disco was in, we all had shag carpets, and Congress actually cared whether or not the American president was a corrupt liar. Indeed, Nixon resigned only a few months after the book’s publication. Better days, friends.

romance writers 1970s

Few events captured the public consciousness like the Manson murders and subsequent trial. Even 45 years after Charles Manson’s conviction in 1971, if you write a novel based on him, it is likely to become a bestseller . Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s account of the crimes, trial, and conviction sold over seven million copies and is (or at least was at the time of Bugliosi’s death in 2015) the best-selling true crime book ever published. In a 1974 review in the LA Times , Robert Kirsch described it this way:

Though basically a prosecutor’s view of the complex case, the book attempts something more: the most comprehensive account of the murders, the investigation, the trials and the aftermath yet written. Some part of this account emerges from direct observation and months of immersion in the depths of the affair — including the paradoxical nature of the author’s contact with Manson, who often demonstrated his grudging respect for Bugliosi as an adversary by conversing with the prosecutor. It is a measure of the latter’s importance in Manson’s eyes that Bugliosi was put at the top of the Family’s death list.

The way that review ends is telling. “We cannot afford to shrug away the Tate-La Bianca murders,” Kirsh writes. “Too much has happened since then to show the threat to society from casual and seemingly senseless violence, from the Santa Crux murders and the Houston mass killings to the crimes of the Symbionese Liberation Army. To accept these as simply symptoms of the malaise of the times is to abandon the obligations of civilization to rationally address even the most irrational and fearful events.” Bugliosi’s volume was one such rational address—in a sea of hysterical ones.

romance writers 1970s

I’m bending the rule on not repeating authors for Alex Haley, because  The Autobiography of Malcolm X , while being told to and reported by him, wasn’t really his story.  Roots: The Saga of an American Family  was based on his own family’s history (though the authenticity of the book and even the originality of Haley’s work has been called into question), and it quickly became a cultural sensation. It sold more than six million copies by 1977, and was on the  New York Times  bestseller list for forty-six weeks, twenty-two of them at number one. Though Saul Bellow won the Pultizer for fiction in 1976, Haley was awarded a special citation the next year—which, incidentally, was the year the miniseries hit American televisions and truly exploded this book into the mainstream. Haley was a huge celebrity; Historian Willie Lee Rose called it  “the most astounding cultural event of the American Bicentennial.” According to Haley’s 1992 obituary in the New York Times , the book and miniseries “spurred an interest in genealogy among Americans of many ethnic heritages,” and at least at that time, the show was still counted “among the 100 highest-rated programs. According to Nielsen Media Research, its eight episodes reached average audiences that ranged from 28.8 million households to 36.3 million households.” In a 1992 interview, Haley said, “To this day, people, particularly African-American people but white people as well, will just totally, unexpectedly walk up and not say a word, just walk up and hug you and then say “Thank you.””

romance writers 1970s

Stephen King has had as much (or more) influence on the American literary landscape as any other author;  The Shining  was his first major breakout. Yes, his first two novels,  Carrie  (1974) and Salem’s Lot (1975) had been  big sellers in paperback , but  The Shining  was the first King novel to become a bestseller in hardcover. That is, people were willing to pay the big bucks for it. “I think my audience shifts up,” King theorized in 1981. “A lot of people started reading my books when they were 15 and now they’re older and can afford to buy a hardcover.” Either way,  The Shining  has become one of King’s most iconic works, in part because of the Stanley Kubrick adaptation, which he famously hated . In a 2001 introduction to the book, King describes it as his “crossroads novel,” and suggests that its success is based on his decision “to go deeper—to admit Jack’s love of his father in spite of (perhaps even  because  of) his father’s unpredictable and often brutal nature.” The end result both satisfied and transcended the usual genre rules—and though he’s always gotten his fair share of bad reviews , you can’t deny that the people love their King.

See also: Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (1970), Stanislaw Lem, Solaris (first English translation, 1970), Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970), Kate Millet, Sexual Politics (1970), James Dickey, Deliverance (1970), Joan Didion, Play it As It Lays (1970),  The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor (1971), Dr. Seuss, The Lorax (1971), Frederick Forsyth, The Day of the Jackal (1971), William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist (1971), Jane Goodall, In the Shadow of Man (1971), Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves (1971), John Berger, Ways of Seeing (1972), Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence (1973), Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973), J. G. Ballard, Crash (1973), Toni Morrison, Sula (1973), Adrienne Rich, Diving Into the Wreck (1973), Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (first English translation, 1974), Studs Terkel, Working (1974), Peter Benchley, Jaws (1974), Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974), Stephen King, Carrie (1974), Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed (1974), John Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975), E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime (1975), William Gaddis, J R (1975), Saul Bellow, Humboldt’s Gift (1975), Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975), Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren (1975), Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting (1975), James Salter, Light Years (1975), Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), Renata Adler, Speedboat (1976), Raymond Carver, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? (1976), Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time (1976), Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire (1976), Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior  (1976), Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment (1976), Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly (1977), Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (1977), Michael Herr, Dispatches (1977), Joan Didion, A Book of Common Prayer (1977), John Irving, The World According to Garp (1978), Iris Murdoch, The Sea, The Sea (1978), Hubert Selby Jr., Requiem for a Dream (1978), Edward Said, Orientalism (1978), Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), Octavia Butler, Kindred (1979), Elizabeth Hardwick, Sleepless Nights (1979), William Styron, Sophie’s Choice (1979), Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber (1979), Norman Mailer, The Executioner’s Song (1979), Cormac McCarthy,  Suttree  (1979)

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Romance Reading Timeline: 1970s Pt. 1

Posted July 11, 2011 by swetergrl86 in Romance . Tagged: Anne Mather , Barbara Cartland , Charlotte Lamb , Harlequin Presents , Harlequin Romance , Janet Dailey , Kathleen Woodwiss , Margaret Rome , Rachel Lindsay , Violet Winspear . 6 Comments

1970s: No such thing as political correctness. Women’s Lib completely missed this boat.

First romance I ever read: BRIDE OF ZARCO , Margaret Rome

bride of zarco

I started reading romance novels in the mid-70s, starting with this tiny tome-ette.   It was my mom’s. One evening, I just picked it up and started reading.  Next thing I knew, I was halfway through (which wasn’t much considering how lean these books were).  Before, I had tried, but could not connect with the text.  I read it again to see what made this one different than the others I had tried to read.  I think… I just… liked the plot.

Maybe, the year that I read it, my mind was finally ready.  I know I was reading a ton of books that year from my school library.  Yeah…maybe it was just time.  Gorgeous dress on the cover. Shitty logic.  Zarco told the heroine that she was too beautiful to be a nurse.  Let the plain women be nurses because they could not hope for better.  What’s worse – I was all like, “yeah, whatever”.  I didn’t question the logic.  Shame on me.  I know better now.

So I went through my parent’s closet – they had bookshelves in their closet – and one by one, pulled them down and read practically everything mom had, specifically the Harlequin Presents® and a handful of basic Harlequins®.  I also went through her stash of Barbara Cartlands.  She had the early Pyramid series of books – first editions!  Then I happened upon a Bantam series book at school,  THE CRUEL COUNT, which I “took”.  Man, I could go through two or three books on a Saturday or Sunday and keep up with my reading from the school library.  It was ON!  I read so many books by English and Canadian authors that I started to sound different from my friends. 

Most of the Harlequin Presents were by Commonwealth authors: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, in addition to the many English authors; even from South Africa.  They were very good about including words from French, Italian, Greek – depending on the man’s background.  ZARCO contained some words from Portuguese as that was his nationality.  As I was already reading/writing/speaking Spanish, it was no problem to pick up the tidbits of all these other languages. 

It’s funny because one would think that romance novels have nothing to offer the intellect.  They don’t now, but back then, I dunno.  It wasn’t the racket it is now. Harlequin has not only jumped the shark, it has kicked it onto the shore where it gasps vainly for breath while people hack it open with rusty butter knives.  But back then, in the 70s, there were glamorous descriptions of far-away places and all those languages, and people doing interesting things.  That the men were assholes for most of the book, well, that was still considered normal.  If I had a penny for every description that included “arrogant”, “autocratic”, “wealthy”, and “domineering”, I could buy one of their mansions. I was shocked when, little by little, books were being written where the man was NOT an asshole.  It was like, “Wow! I like this SO MUCH BETTER!”

Spirit of Atlantis

Towards the end of the 1970s, especially once Janet Dailey came on the scene, the men’s attitudes were toned down considerably.  They were still brooding and insensitive, but not as mean or vengeful.  In Anne Mather’s SPIRIT OF ATLANTIS, the story was really sweet and sincere.  There were a few old-school holdouts: Charlotte Lamb, Carole Mortimer, Violet Winspear.  Lamb and Mortimer, especially, seemed to have a thing for barely-legals hooking up with men about two generations older.  That’s like… 1800s old-school.

Desire Has No Mercy

This one, while being a very good story, did have a “forced seduction” in the beginning of the story.  A near-rape, if you will.  “Forced seduction” is, roughly, when a woman’s natural responses to sexual stimulation are used against her, to take away her power or her will.  Not nice at all. But FS is used to sell a billion books a year.

The Valdez Marriage (Harlequin Presents #288)

Under siege.  I liked this book when I read it in 1979, but now that I think about it, Big Brother Valdez was an asshole. He tried to force the heroine to marry his brother because supposedly she was responsible for the accident that crippled him.  Oh right. Like he can just take someone’s life away like that.  AND be in love with her.  THIS is the kind of BS that was being phased out at the end of the decade.

The Devil's Arms

Rape.  Some traditions die hard.  The “hero” thought the heroine was her slutty twin.  Then he sees the birthmark. Oops, my bad.

They, among a few other die-hards,  did not catch up for a while.  No, Janet Daily was, I think, the first American to really change Harlequin and its protagonists.

She wrote a novel set in every state.  I’d say about half the men were assholes…

Dangerous Masquerade Harlequin Presents #171

and half were not – the later half.

Northern Magic (Harlequin Presents)

This was a big deal to me!  Men did not have to be horrible to be interesting.  How about that!  Another thing that changed was that they did not have to be European millionaires with pedigrees.  What a relief!  It was fun and all, but those types are like space aliens.  It was nice to see a man who was a local business owner or an explorer or even a rancher.  Rachel Lindsay and Robyn Donald wrote lovely stories with lovable, adorable men.

Wife for a Year


Large-Scale Historicals

I read, not knowing what I was in for, some appalling historicals where the ingenue was raped then fell in love with her rapist.  That’s just sick – and not in a good way.  Not only that, but she had to sleep with men on every continent before she found her way back to the rapist/first love.  Nauseating. Truly.


I’m surprised that I liked this book.  I loathe tropical weather. Just hate it!  And this was nothing if not tropical.   All those references to heat and moisture just irritated me were the reason I did not read this more than twice.  One, it is too damn long, and then the aforementioned heat and humidity were getting in the way of my enjoyment. Same thing with SAVAGE SURRENDER. They never went anyplace cool, like Switzerland.

I read more than these, but they represent what I was reading when I wasn’t reading Harlequins or Barbara Cartlands.  I never read any Rosemary Rogers books. I went straight to Johanna Lindsey, but Lindsey was more an 80s thing.  As the 1980s began, you could see a pattern of evolution.  Characters and plots were using more domestic backgrounds.  The industry was exploding.  Then in 1982 there came… Silhouette Desire®…

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Posted by Romance Reading Timeline 1970s Pt. 2 « The Festering Blurb:Bursting Open w/Pungent Prose on July 19, 2011 at 1:05 PM

[…] Swetergrl: Semi-pro writer; full-pro teacher « Romance Reading Timeline: 1970s Pt. 1 […]

Posted by Roundup 11: Wondering Whether to Continue « The Festering Blurb:Bursting Open w/Pungent Prose on September 24, 2011 at 6:33 PM

[…] Romance Reading Timeline Part 1 – Harlequin and Hysterical Historicals […]

Posted by Harlequin Presents Class Reunion | The Festering Blurb:Bursting Open w/Pungent Prose on March 11, 2014 at 9:51 PM

[…] Romance Reading Timeline 1970s Pt. 1 […]

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Posted by Candis on March 26, 2016 at 3:10 PM

Came across your blurb and wonder if you can help me find a book I read the the very early 80’s. I too got caught up in a lot of the Harliquin books you mention and now have to wonder why I was so addicted!!! The book I am looking for is not a Harliquin. I don’t remember the title or the author. It is a western about a woman who lives on a farm with her father. Her father dies and she can not run the farm on her own. She is threatened with losing the farm so she hires a local man to help her even though he just returned after being in prison for rape. She does not believe he is guilty. Another local woman accused him and as he had a bad reputation was not believed when he claimed he was innocent, he was found guilty and sent to prison. He is ostracized on his return and can’t find work so they get together and end up marrying. They are harassed by neighbors and the local law but eventually they prove his innocence. Hope you or someone can help.

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Posted by swetergrl86 on March 26, 2016 at 8:31 PM

Hi. Thank you for viewing this post. I read several books through the 80s and 90s with that plot format. Unfortunately, I don’t remember that specific one. I know it’s not Elizabeth Lowell. It’s not Jude Devereaux. If it was very graphic, it won’t be the authors who wrote for the Harlequin. Consider going to . You can search by year and genre. Hope this helps. 🙂

Posted by Candis on March 27, 2016 at 11:54 AM

Thank you for the reply. I will try that website.

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Books that defined the 1970s

History may like to remember the 1970s as gloomy, but it was also a decade of fascinating social and cultural change. From Toni Morrison to Thomas Pynchon, Germaine Greer to Robert Persig, here are the authors who captured it best.


By the 1970s, the times, they really were a-changing. While hippy culture had all but run aground, the hedonistic counterculture that defined the 1960s had launched a seemingly unstoppable wave of political awareness around race, sexuality, the environment and the economic liberty of women. 

But at the same time, the cold hand of reality was beckoning, and people were beginning to wonder, “So where, really, do we go from here?” For many, it felt like a sort of breathing space between the heady drama of the 1960s and whatever on Earth was around the next corner.

As such, the 1970s became a decade of intense cultural self-reflection. And, as always, there were writers aplenty ready in the wings to throw their pennies into the conversation. So here, from Toni Morrison to Thomas Pynchon, Germaine Greer to Robert Persig, are 20 of the best books that reflected what Tom Wolfe famously dubbed the "Me" decade.

'While feminism had started to take hold during the Swinging Sixties, the majority of Middle England still expected women to exist in the kitchen'

The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (1970)

Feminist publishing started with a bang in the Seventies: in October 1970, a 31-year-old Australian academic (and, increasingly, familiar face on television) named Germaine Greer released  The Female Eunuch .

While feminism had started to take hold during the Swinging Sixties, the majority of Middle England still expected women to exist in the kitchen, dishing up dinners and raising children rather than having a career. Women couldn’t own a mortgage or a car, without the signature of their father or husband. 

The Female Eunuch  exploded this picture of suburban settlement, arguing that the nuclear family, complete with submissive housewife, repressed women’s sexuality to such an extent that they effectively became eunuchs. The book was phenomenally successful, nearly selling out its second print run within five months. While critics dismissed  The Female Eunuch  as “fatally naive”, among other things, it nevertheless defined the brand of feminism that Greer unleashed: riotous, furious and unafraid of conflict.

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Bloom (1970)

YA fiction may seem like a contemporary phenomenon: even millennials may argue that they were well into their Twenties when phenomena such as Twilight and The Hunger Games came along. But before that we had Judy Blume, who was truly revolutionary when she started writing about topics including sex, birth control, masturbation and grief for teenagers in the late Sixties.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret was Blume’s third book – and the one that catapulted her to recognition. The titular Margaret is 11, desperate for puberty to arrive and confused about what her parents’ interfaith marriage means for her own beliefs.

But also the more relatable things: the all-consuming trial of buying one’s first bra, having a period and fancying boys in class. No wonder Time magazine declared that Blume “turned millions of pre-teens into readers”.

'The coffee-table Kama Sutra of the baby-boom generation'

The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort (1972)

Sexual intercourse didn't begin in 1963, as Philip Larkin  famously larked in the poem 'Annus Mirabilis'. Good gracious no. What we know of sex today began nine long years after that with the publication of Alex Comfort's “gourmet guide to lovemaking”.

It was, in effect, a sex manual for people who wanted to make love, not war, throbbing with graphic descriptions of sexual positions, each demonstrated by vivid illustrations of a bearded man and his valentine engaged in all manner of corporeal entanglements.

Part of its sensational appeal was its humour, riffing masterfully on the cookbook style, including chapters like ''Starters,'' ''Main Courses'' and ''Sauces and Pickles.'' But its advice, too, raised more than just eyebrows. “Never fool around sexually with vacuum cleaners,” it wisely counselled, tongue only half in cheek.

The world lapped it up, and it became – as The New York Times put it – “the coffee-table Kama Sutra of the baby-boom generation". Twelve million copies sold, it was a radical text that revolutionised the sex life of 1970s suburbia.

"[The Shining movie] is like a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it" - Stephen King

The Shining by Stephen King (1977)

The 1970s were arguably Stephen King's ripest decade. It was the period he wrote Carrie , Salem's Lot, Rage, The Stand and Dead Zone . But if there is one novel so entrenched in the cultural landscape that most people know the story whether they've read it or not, it's The Shining (partly, but by no means exclusively, thanks to Stanley Kubrick's mind-melting movie adaptation).

As if you really need a synopsis, it's about a man who takes a job as a caretaker at a remote hotel for the winter. He brings his wife and son for the season with hopes of finishing his novel, breaking his alcoholism and fixing his family's issues. Only, in the hotel's vast emptiness, he slides hopelessly into murderous insanity as reality and fantasy bleed into one.

It has become one of the most popular and enduring horror stories of all time, and would set the tone for a writer who has by now had more books adapted or optioned than any other living author. (side note: King hated Kubrick's movie, once describing it as like “a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it.”)

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Top 21 Romantic Age Writers and Their Works

Top 21 Romantic Age Writers and Their Works- The Age of Wordsworth is called the Romantic Age. The Romantic age is supposed to begin in 1789 which is the year in which Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballad was published. The poems published under the heading Lyrical Ballads are the first collection of Romantic poems and the preface to them is the first preamble to Romantic theory of poetry .

The Romantic Age, covering two generations of poets, officially came to its end in 1837 when Queen Victoria succeeded to the throne and marked the beginning of the Victorian Age

As we have said above, the Romantic period in English literature is clearly divisible into two generations of poets. The first generation belongs to Wordsworth, Coleridge, Walter Scott, and Robert Southey. They are known as older poets. The second generation of Romantic poets includes Lord Byron, Shelley, and Keats. They are called younger poets.

Top 21 Romantic Age Writers and Their Works

  • William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
  • Walter Scott (1771-1832)
  • Robert Southey (1774-1843)
  • John Clare (1793-1864)
  • S.T Coleridge (1772-1834)
  • Lord Byron (1788-1824)
  • P.B Shelley (1792-1822)
  • John Keats (1795-1821)
  • Jane Austen (1775-1871)
  • Charles Lamb (1775-1834)
  • William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
  • Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859)
  • Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866)
  • Samuel Rogers (1763-185)
  • James Hogg (1770-1835)
  • Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
  • Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)
  • Thomas Hood (1799-1845)
  • John Gibson Lockhart (1794-1854)
  • Savage Landor (1775-1864)
  • Maria Edgeworth
  • Rabindranath Tagore
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Famous Romantic Age Writers and Their Works

1- William Wordsworth

  • The Lyrical Ballads
  • The Prelude
  • The Excursion
  • Tintern Abbey
  • Ode on Intimations of Immortality
  • The Solitary Reaper
  • Ode to Duty
  • The Leech-Gatherer
  • Upon Westminister Abbey
  • The Rainbow
  • We are Seven
  • The World is Too Much with us
  • To the Cuckoo
  • The Daffodils
  • Early Spring
  • Strange Fits of Passion Have I known

2- Walter Scott

  • The Bride of Lammermoor
  • Quentin Durward
  • The Heart of Midlothian
  • Old Mortality
  • The Antiquity
  • Guy Mannering
  • Red Gauntlet
  • The Black Dwarf
  • The Monastery
  • The fortunes of Night
  • TheBetrothed
  • The Talisman
  • Lives of the Novelists
  • Life of Napoleon
  • Tales of Grandfather
  • The Lay of the Last Minstrel
  • The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Boarder
  • The Lady of the Lake

3- Robert Southey

  • Joan of Arc
  • After Blenheim
  • The Holly Tree
  • The Scholar
  • A vision of Judgement
  • Life of Nelson
  • Thalaba the Destroyer
  • The Curse of Kehama

4- John Clare

  • Selected Poems
  • Poems of Clare’s Madness

5- S.T Coleridge

  • Biographia Literaria
  • Aids to Reflection
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
  • France: An Ode
  • Destiny of Nations
  • Frost at Midnight
  • Dejection: An Ode
  • Youth and Age
  • Religious Musings

6- Lord Byron

  • Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
  • The Bride of Abydos
  • Hours of Idleness
  • The Vision of Judgement
  • The Prisoner of Chillon
  • Marino Faliero
  • English Bards and Scotch Reviewers
  • The Siege of Corinth
  • The Corsair

7- P.B Shelley

  • On the Necessity of Atheism
  • The Revolt of Islam
  • Prometheus Unbound
  • The Mask of Anarchy
  • The Witch of Atlas
  • The Indian Serenade
  • Ozymandias of Egypt
  • Epipsychidion
  • Ode to a Skylark
  • O World! O life! O Time@
  • Defense of Poetry
  • The Sensitive Plant

8-John Keats

  • The Eve of St.Agnes
  • The Eve of St. Mark
  • La Balle Dame Sans Merci
  • Ode to a Nightingale
  • Ode fo Autumn
  • Ode on a Grecian Urn
  • Ode to Psyche
  • One Melancholy
  • On first looking into Chapman’s Homer
  • Bright star

9-Jane Austen

  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Mansfield Park
  • Northanger Abbey

10- Charles Lamb

  • Essay of Elia
  • The Last Essays of Elia
  • John Woodville
  • Tales from Shakespeare
  • Specimens of English Dramatic Poets
  • The English Comic Writers
  • The Old Familiar Faces

11-William Hazlitt

  • Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays
  • The English Poets
  • The Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth
  • The Round Table
  • Table Talk on Men and Manners
  • The Spirit of the Age

12- Thomas De Quincey

  • Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
  • English Mail Coach
  • Dream Fugue
  • Murder Considered as one of the Fine arts
  • Suspiria de Profundis

13- Thomas Love Peacock

  • The Four Ages of Poetry
  • Headlong Hall
  • The Philosophy of Melancholy
  • Maid Marian
  • The Misfortunes of Elphin
  • Crotchet Castle
  • Grill Grange

14- Samuel Rogers

  • Pleasure of Memory

15- James Hogg

  • The Queen’s Wake

16- Thomas Campbell

  • Pleasures of Hope
  • Gertrude of Wyoming
  • Lord Ullin’s Daughter
  • The Last Man
  • Ye Mariners of England
  • Hohenlinden
  • The Battle of Baltic

17- Thomas Moore

  • Lalla Rookh
  • Irish Melodies

18- Leigh Hunt

  • Story of Rimini
  • Autobiography

19-Thomas Hood

  • The Dream of Eugene Aram
  • The SOng of the Shirt
  • The Bridge of Sighs
  • Ode to Melancholy
  • The Haunted House

20-John Gibson Lockhart

  • Spanish Ballads
  • Life of Burns
  • Life of Scott

21- Savage Landor

  • Imaginary Conversations
  • The Citations of William Shakespeare

22- Maria Edgeworth

  • The Absentee
  • Castle Rockrent

Romantic Age in English Literature PDF

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MCQ on Romantic Age in English Literature

1- The Romantic movement is also called ”The Romantic Revival’ because it revived

A- The Value of Elizabethan Poetry

B- The value of the Classical School of Poetry

C-The Values of Greek Poetry

D- The Values of Roman Poetry

2-Who were the authors of Lyrical Ballads?

A- Wordsworth and Coleridge

B- Wordsworth and Walter Scott

C- Wordsworth and Southey

D- Wordsworth and Thomson

3-The Oxford Movement was basically a

A- Religious Movement

B- Political Movement

C-Social Movement

D-Literary Movement

4- Who was the leader of the University Wits?

A- Christopher Marlowe

B- Robert Greene

C- John Lyly

D- Thomas Kyd

5- Wich of the following known as ”the morning start of reformation?

A- John Wycliff

B- William Tyndale

C- John Occleve

D-John Gower

Related- Get 1000+ MCQ on Romantic Age in English Literature

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A.S. Byatt, Scholar Who Found Literary Fame With Fiction, Dies at 87

One of Britain’s most ambitious and intellectual novelists, she won the Booker Prize with “Possession,” her 1990 tale of illicit love spanning two centuries.

A portrait of Ms. Byatt standing against a stone wall. She wears a blue jacket over a black turtleneck shirt and has short, wavy gray hair.

By Rebecca Chace

A.S. Byatt, one of the most ambitious writers of her generation, whose dazzling 1990 novel, “Possession,” won the Booker Prize and brought her international fame as a novelist and unapologetic intellectual, died on Thursday at her home in London. She was 87.

Her longtime publisher, Chatto & Windus, announced the death in a statement on Friday. It did not cite a cause of death.

Ms. Byatt was a brilliant critic and scholar who broke the academic mold by publishing 11 novels and six collections of short stories. “I am not an academic who happens to have written a novel,” she bristled in an interview with The New York Times Magazine in 1991. “I am a novelist who happens to be quite good academically.”

Ms. Byatt’s intellectual passion was evident in “Possession.” Subtitled “A Romance,” it is a scholarly detective story nesting one tale of illicit love inside another: One couple lives in the Victorian age, the other in the late 20th century. The mystery is set in motion when a young scholar discovers something extraordinary at the London Library in 1985: old love letters tucked inside a rare edition of Victorian poetry.

Investigating this love affair compels the two modern-day scholars who track them down to fall in love as well. Along the way, Ms. Byatt mocks the foibles of the academic world while effortlessly writing, in the voices of her fictional protagonists, her own Victorian poetry.

“Possession” became an unexpected best seller and was made into a feature film in 2002, directed by Neil LaBute and starring Gwyneth Paltrow. A novella from her book “Angels and Insects” (1992) had already been made into an Oscar-nominated film in 1995 by Philip Haas. Both film adaptations increased Ms. Byatt’s visibility as an author who widened the scope of contemporary British fiction.

Ms. Byatt built her literary reputation slowly and steadily with two early novels, “The Shadow of the Sun” (1964) and “The Game” (1967), followed by a four-volume series known as the Frederica Potter quartet.

Like Ms. Byatt, Frederica and her siblings come of age in mid-20th-century England, a period when even highly educated women were expected to stop working if they married. Ms. Byatt’s own greatest terror was being trapped by domesticity.

“I had this image,” Ms. Byatt told The Guardian in 2009, “of coming out from under and seeing the light for a bit and then being shut in a kitchen, which I think happened to many women of my generation.”

Ms. Byatt’s early career was overshadowed by her younger sister, the writer Margaret Drabble , whose debut novel, “A Summer Bird Cage” (1963), became an immediate best seller. When she was first published, Ms. Byatt told The Paris Review , she was more afraid of the constant comparison to her better-known sister than of bad reviews. While her early fiction was generally received respectfully, she said that some dismissed it as “another novel by somebody rather like Margaret Drabble.”

The relationship between these highly competitive literary sisters was always strained. They did not read each other’s work or see each other often, fueling endless gossip for the literary press. Both sisters maintained that their rivalry was overstated, though Ms. Byatt may have undercut that argument by dryly telling the BBC in 1991 that she and Ms. Drabble had “always liked each other on the bottom line.”

But in later years they had a harder time containing themselves, and tension occasionally spilled out into public view.

When Ms. Drabble, who survives her sister, published a semi-autobiographical book, “The Pattern in the Carpet” (2009), Ms. Byatt told The Telegraph that she’d rather people didn’t read someone else’s version of her mother. Ms. Drabble fired back that her sister was so territorial, she had been offended when Ms. Drabble included a family tea set in one of her novels. By 2011, Ms. Drabble was telling The Telegraph that their feud was beyond repair.

Ms. Byatt was born Antonia Susan Drabble on Aug. 24, 1936, in Sheffield, England. Her father, John F. Drabble, a barrister and judge, published two novels himself. Her mother, Kathleen (Bloor) Drabble, was a teacher and homemaker.

Antonia was the oldest child; Margaret was born three years later, and two more siblings followed. Both parents had gone to the University of Cambridge and expected all four of their children to do the same, which they did.

But their mother overtly favored Margaret, which contributed to the competition between the two older girls.

Ms. Byatt described herself as having been an unhappy child who had suffered from severe asthma and spent a great deal of time in bed, where reading became her escape from a tense and angry household.

Ms. Byatt and Ms. Drabble were both sent to the Mount School, a Quaker boarding school in York where their mother taught, and both went on to Newnham College, the women’s college at Cambridge that their mother had attended. Ms. Byatt earned a “first” (highest honors) degree in English in 1957, followed by a year of graduate work at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. She continued her doctoral studies at Somerville College Oxford, where she was discouraged from writing fiction by her Ph.D. supervisor, who told her , Ms. Byatt recalled: “My dear, every young girl with a first-class degree expects to be able to write a good novel. None of them can.”

When she left Oxford to marry Ian Byatt, an economist, in 1959, her scholarly grant was terminated; men in similar circumstances did not lose their grants.

To her horror, Ms. Byatt found herself relegated to the role of faculty wife at the age of 25. But she persevered, writing with what she described as fierce desperation while caring for two young children.

The marriage ended in 1969. She went on to marry Peter John Duffy, an investment analyst, and had two more children.

Ms. Byatt continued to publish novels and critical studies, but then tragedy struck, in the early 1970s, when her only son, Charles, who had just turned 11, was struck and killed by a drunken driver. Ms. Byatt had just accepted her first teaching position, at University College London.

“I think what saved me was the students,” she said of her grief in an interview with The New York Times. “They were in another world; I had to change gear.”

Ms. Byatt addressed the loss of her child in a short story, “The July Ghost,” about a grieving mother, and in a poem, “Dead Boys,” in which she meditates on how a child remains with the mother constantly, even in death. It ends with the lines “My cheek was damp with his warmth / And five days later cold.”

She said the experience changed her writing. “I suddenly thought, Why the hell not have happy endings?” she recalled to The Paris Review. “Everybody knows they’re artificial. Why not have this pleasure, as one has the pleasure of rhyme, as one has the pleasure of color?”

Ms. Byatt wrote and edited many works of literary criticism, including two books on the British writer Iris Murdoch and one about the relationship of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. She also edited, with Nicholas Warren, a book of essays about George Eliot. She was a senior lecturer in English at University College from 1972 to 1983.

While some of her writing, particularly her academic writing, was criticized as so dense as to be impenetrable, she was included on The Times of London’s 2008 list of the “ 50 Greatest British Authors Since 1945 .”

Ms. Byatt was made a dame of the British Empire in 1999 for her contributions to contemporary English literature, though some of her most popular works were yet to come.

Her novel “The Children’s Book” (2009), based on the life of the popular children’s book author E. Nesbit, incorporates fairy tales into social commentary on British utopian movements of the early 20th century. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2009 and received the James Tait Black Prize in 2010. “A Stone Woman,” a widely anthologized story that was included in Ms. Byatt’s collection “Little Black Book of Stories” (2003), explores themes of grief and aging through a woman’s metamorphosis into stone following the death of her mother.

Her most recent book was the career-spanning collection “Medusa’s Ankles: Selected Stories,” published in 2021.

In addition to Ms. Drabble, Ms. Byatt’s survivors include her husband; three daughters, Antonia Byatt, Isabel Pinner and Miranda Duffy; a younger sister, Helen Langdon , an art historian and author; and a brother, Richard Drabble , a barrister.

By the time she was in her early 80s, Ms. Byatt felt she had accomplished a lot by simply becoming a writer.

“I think most of my life I’ve felt very lucky, because I expected not to be able to write books,” she said in a 2016 interview . “And I never really wanted to do anything else.”

Ashley Shannon Wu contributed reporting.

An earlier version of a picture caption with this obituary, using information from Getty Images, misidentified the Cambridge University campus where a 1991 photo of Ms. Byatt was taken. It is King’s College, not Newnham College.

An earlier version of this obituary misspelled the surname of the author on whose life Ms. Byatt’s novel “The Children’s Book” was based. She was E. Nesbit, not Nesbitt.

An earlier version of this obituary misstated the year Ms. Byatt’s collection “Little Black Book of Stories” was published. It was 2003, not 2018.

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