Ah, the '80s! A decade of big hair, Miami Vice, MTV, Duran Duran, shoulders padded out to there, and an explosion of over-the-top, lush, blooming romances that came to be known as bodice rippers.
That pejorative term for a genre we love lives on well into the 21st century, but it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the novels that defined that decade of romance. After all, the '80s also ushered in some serious study of the genre, including Carol Thurston’s The Romance Revolution: Erotic Novels for Women and the Quest for a New Sexual Identity (1987).
It began, as we all know, with the publication of The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss in 1972. While the '70s saw some of the biggest authors come into their own, Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers being two notable examples, it was the '80s when iconic authors we still enjoy today made their mark in publishing. It was also an era of books featuring words like “savage, devil, splendor, surrender” in the titles, and covers designed to get truck drivers to give them prominent placement on drugstore spinner racks. It was all about the racks, in case you’ve ever wondered why books marketed to women had so many bosomy cover models falling out of their bodices. So here is a list of ten of the top romances of that era:
1. The Windflower by Laura London (a.k.a. Tom and Sharon Curtis), Historical (1984)
For some readers, this mid-decade novel is the historical romance to end all historical romances. Now that it’s back in print, a new generation is discovering what we all loved about the book. It wasn’t just that Merry and Devon’s story was so well done, the writing flowing so lyrically, but secondary characters like Cat and Rand Morgan continued to haunt us long after we’d closed the covers.