Rocking The Old School Romance: 80’s and 90’s Romance

I’ve been an occasional romance reader since my teens but to be honest I don’t really remember any of the romances I read in the early days of my reading adventures. I do remember my first real romance novel was historical, and probably had Fabio or some other long-haired dude on the cover holding up a lusty looking heroine up as she swoons over his moobage. I can almost picture it if I close my eyes and hold my breath. Whew, dizzy.

I wrote about my first romance novel in a post last May and how I was a little bit traumatized by the “throbbing member” and how often that thing was pressed up against the heroine. Luckily I got over it and was eventually able to appreciate the importance of the throbbing member in romance. Very.Important.

Tender Love Johanna Lindsay

This is not it, but man, you have got to love that hair! I bet his member is…never mind.

So these days I love my romance novels and can’t go a day without out without getting twitchy and cranky. I’m reading currently released romances now, but I would love to go back in time and read some great romance novels from the 80’s and 90’s. I know romance has changed over the years and I’m prepared to be scandalized.

I asked the Fiction Vixen review team for some recs. Within seconds my inbox was flooded with suggestions. So many that we created a separate recommendations list just for romances published in the 80’s and 90’s.

These ladies know their old school lovin’.

Johanna Lindsey:

Viking Love: (good stuff, I still own my paperback copies)

Fires of Winter 1980

 Hearts Aflame (BK 2) 1987

Regency Love: The beginning of the much loved Malory saga

Love Only Once 1985

Tender Rebel (bk 2) 1985

Medieval Love: This is the one where the hero has no loving skills so he goes to the town whore to find out how to give it to his woman good.

Defy not the Heart 1989

Russian Love: This one involves aphrodisiacs and kidnapping. I still own the paperback of this one too.

Secret Fire 1987

Western Love:

A Heart so Wild (still my favorite all time Lindsey) 1986

Savage Thunder  1989— Sex on a horse.


Katherine Sutcliffe:

These are in 1990 and 1991. Totally politically incorrect but holy crap, good.

A Fire in the Heart 1990

Dream Fever 1991 ( one of my all time favorites)


Gail Link:

Wolf’s Embrace 1989 The Hero’s name is Rolf, he’s Irish and  he kidnaps the heroine. Need I say more?


Judith McNaught:

A Kingdom of Dreams 1989 So Romantic.

Whitney, My Love 1985

Almost Heaven 1989

Something Wonderful 1988

Once and Always 1987


Julie Garwood:

The Secret


Honor’s Splendor 1985

Gentle Warrior 1985


Jude Deveraux:

The Montgomery Series:

The Black Lyon 1980

The Velvet Promise 1981 (hero is a total ass to heroine)

Highland Velvet 1982

Velvet Song 1983

Velvet Angel 1983

A Knight in Shining Armor  1989


So all you hard-core, long-time romance readers it’s time to step up to the plate. Give us/me your 80’s and 90’s romance recommendations.  



  1. says

    OMG, you made my heart go ka-thump.

    Fires of Winter? Hearts Aflame? Le sigh. Johanna Lindsey was my crack in my youth. Her and Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. Shanna? Seriously, I wanted to name my first daughter Shanna. (I didn’t) The Flame and the Flower? Oh swoon.

    I stopped reading romance around the mid-90’s, and then found PNR 20 years later, but I’m forever grateful to my neighbor who had a stash of bodice rippers she let me and my friend read when we were 16 or 17. I don’t remember being scarred by throbbing members, I may have been precocious. :-)

  2. JacquiC says

    I am thinking that Lavyrle Spencer should be on this list. I remember loving a LOT of her books (for example, The Endearment (1982), Sweet Memories (1984), Twice Loved (1984), Spring Fancy (1984)). And lots more.

  3. says

    I think the throbbing members are what kept my attention on romances.. But I do like that they are just cocks now instead of members, or staffs, or swords, etc…

    I’m dying here. LOLOLOLOLOL

    • Angela says

      And… I destinctly remember Karen Marie Moning’s first book Beyond the Highland Mist (1999) where the heroine sees the hero on his horse and since he’s a highlander he, of course, goes cammando and she can’t tell if it’s his member or the horse’s. I remember thinking… and she still had sex with him? When his peepee is as big as a horses? Is it weird that I remember stuff like that….? :)

  4. says

    The 80’s and 90’s were golden years in romance…I think Bertrice Small should be on this list as well. She popped my historical romance cherry with Velvet (I think that’s the english title) IMO, Sky O’Malley was one kick ass chick in historical days!

  5. JeniferJenifere says

    Johanna Lindsey got me started on my love of romance novels, with Judith McNaught and Julie Garwood following closely behind. I still have about 30 of their 80’s & 90’s books on my bookshelves, lol. I’ve read Fires of Winter, Kingdom of Dreams and Something Wonderful along with several of the other books you listed, several times. I also have several Kathleene Woodiwiss books that I enjoy rereading.

  6. Tabs says

    I just got started reating 80s and 90s romances this year with Garwood and Lindsey as well. That’s some good crack right there.

    I actually just finished Johanna Lindsey’s “Prisoner Of My Desire” a few days ago and it was so good that I’ve still been feeling the aftershocks and not yet been able to pick another book up yet (Boy, is that a sign of a good book). I was hesistant to pick it up since the plot has the heroine raping the captive hero and then the hero getting his eye-for-an-eye-style revenge on, but OMG it was amazing. The h/h have an incredible push-pull dynamic and the romance builds so incrementally that by the time they each realize they’ve fallen for the other, I was SOLD. Highly reccomend.

  7. Tabs says

    Also, Johanna Lindsey’s “Once A Princess”: The one where a surly Russian prince reluctantly fullfills his father’s dying wish and goes to recover a long lost princess only to find that the “princess” is a New Orleans barmaid who thinks his story’s full of shit, refuses to go with him, and escapes from his clutches like 7 billion times because she is a badass extraordinaire.

  8. says

    I still love Angel by Johanna Lindsey. I haven’t reread it in awhile, but I love it. Hope it holds up next reread like it did in the last ones.

  9. Ren says

    Well, I’m born at 80’s but of course I’m not read anything since I’m still a baby :/. And I become romance reader in 2006. Too late, I know. I think I know more about 90’s romance books, like Linda Howard’s and Sandra Brown’s. As for Johanna Lindsey, she’s not my favorite. I ‘d read Secret Fire, and sadly I don’t like the force seduction and rape theme from it :(

  10. says

    So many good ones from the 80s and 90s!

    I also am a huge fan of Johanna Lindsey’s Angel. I would add The Magic of You and Gentle Rogue (who doesn’t love a pirate lord?).

    One of my all-time favorite romances which is from the late 1990s is Stephanie Laurens’ Devil’s Bride.

    Amanda Quick’s Surrender, Scandal & Seduction. I loved all of her historicals from the 1990s. Catherine Coulter’s The Hellion is a very memorable one for me. Elizabeth Lowell’s Only Mine is a book that I adored (even though the hero is a bit of an alphahole). And then there is Susan Johnson whose books pushed the envelope in terms of sexuality. Some of my favorites are Sinful, Wicked and Pure Sin. I read a lot of Mary Jo Putney’s books during the 1990s, although can’t think of specific titles off the top of my head.

    I spent much of the 80s and 90s reading category romances, so have very fond memories of Diana Palmer, Anne Mather, Carole Mortimer, Penny Jordan along with many others I’m sure. But I will stop now. :)

  11. says

    Lol, I think all my old favourites have been mentioned. Bertrice Small writes very explicit historical romances, they are more erotic then some erotica I have tried. Still, her heroines survive and overcome everything to find happiness at last. You have to love that.
    Jude Deveraux, Elizabeth Lowell, Catherine Coulter, Lynn Kurland, Johanna Lindsey, Christina Skye (I am reading Defiant Captive at the moment, and I don’t think that hero can be redeemed at all). Susan Sizemore wrote historicals before she started paranormal romance, as did Lori Handeland.

  12. CK says

    Okay, I love many of the books listed by others and still own most of those crack-tastic Johanna Lindsey books. I routinely check out the Garwood books from the library, too. However, I have to give some love to Slow Heat in Heaven by Sandra Brown. Loved me some of that hot cajun Cash Boudreaux!

  13. Samantha Edwards says

    I found your page while searching the web looking for a book i read a long time ago I belive it would have been written in the 80s or 90s but not sure.I also cant remember the name makes it kinda hard to find but I was hopeing mabye you had read it or someone who sees this has. the story is about a young princess whos family (except she and her brother) gets killed, before they are murdered her father hides a cepter or jewel to the cepter in the wall and he cuts the princesses hand so she will remeber were its been hidden after the family is killed she is saved by a ships captin and taken to england( I think) and raised by the family she later falls in love with the boy who i think is either the son or the nephew of the captin . she dosnt really know who she is the description givin of the girl is hair as pale as moonlight and eyes the cooler of purple the country she is from has a lot of jasmines.I know this is not much to go on but this is driving me crazy please help.

  14. Kerrie says

    Virginia Henley’s The Pirate and The Pagan was a favourite of mine for a long time.