Classic Romance: Which One First? Elizabeth Lowell Edition

Classic Romance: Which One First - a pile of books with an ereader on top with classic romance which one first written on the screen?Yesterday we talked about the science fiction covers of Ann Maxwell's Dancer series. Today, I want to ask your opinion about Elizabeth Lowell! If a reader had never read a Lowell novel, which one would you recommend first and foremost? 

I remember tearing through several Elizabeth Lowell novels in college. The paperback book rack – which was not large – was right across from the main entrance, and there'd be plenty of paperback romances lined up on the shelf. I'd take at least two per week. And, given that my memory is already pretty shoddy and that I was already plenty stressed, I would take out the same book every other week and re-read it. But it was so good I didn't care, and kept re-reading it. 

That's how I came to read Untamed about sixteen times. I don't even like medievals all that much, but I read and re-read that book over and over. For me, Lowell has ample crack in the pages. 

But do I remember the title? No, of course not. I remember the STEPBACK: 

A blonde muscular dude on pink satin sheets with a redhead alongside him


The HAIR. His possibly medieval MULLET. The sheets that appear to be a weave that didn't exist at that time (is that satin?)!  I mean, there is three quarters of a man butt on that stepback. I remember it vividly.

And I liked the book, too, obviously. 

I also have pretty strong memories of the stepback for Enchanted, which was the next book in the medieval series, and of course the very small library at my women's college had that one, too. (Thank you, whomever ordered the popular fiction back then, because you saved my sanity.)

blonde dude and woman with black hair and yellow costume with purple sheets behind them


First, I am pretty sure that's the same model pair. Her hair is a different color, but I think it's the same. And instead of man butt we have man groin – who, while I'm pondering this stepback, clearly pulled out the luxury sheets for this seduction, but didn't iron them or anything because they look like they've been folded for years. Look at all those creases! Surely “Iron the sheets before you get naked” is on the mulleted-hero seduction checklist, right?

Anyway, if you ask me which Elizabeth Lowell novels I adored most, I'd tell you the one with the pink satin sheets and the one with the purple satin sheets with all the creases. Because that is a perfect amount of information to go book shopping with, right?

(This is why you shouldn't ask me – at least not when I am unable to Google my description to come up with, you know, a title.)

What about you? Are you an Elizabeth Lowell fan? Which of her romances do you like best and would recommend to a new reader? Not only did Lowell write historicals, but she, like many historical authors at that time, switched to romantic suspense as well, so there's a LOT of backlist to recommend. Which one should a reader try first? 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Carol says:

    I love Elizabeth Lowell’s work, even her early category romances are good (and don’t require one to make allowances for when they were written, though they aren’t, of course, her best work). I also loved the Maxwell sci fi back in the day, partly because it was extremely sensual. Last fall I ran across Love Song for a Raven, which was reprinted in 2006, but originally published in 1987 (in the Silhouette Desire line; isn’t Wikipedia fabulous?). It’s probably the best short romance I’ve ever read (and I’m not a fan of contemporary unless it’s suspense). The couple are the only characters in the book until the end, and each comes to the story battered in ways that make it extremely difficult to believe that love can be theirs. The development of their romance is amazing and believable in spite of the compressed time frame. I think it would be fair to call it a category tour de force. So this would be a excellent place to start if it’s in your reading bailiwick. The medieval trilogy SB Sarah mentions the first two thirds of above is wonderful; again, not something I’m prone to say about medievals. For a long time now she’s focused on RS and is just great; one can hardly go wrong. You could pick by geography: Eden Burning is a terrific story set in Hawaii; Australia—Death is Forever. (Setting is another character for Lowell and she does her research.) But probably my favorites are the 4-part Donovan series starting with Midnight in Ruby Bayou (followed in order by Pearl Cove, Jade Island and Amber Beach). Her two most recent books—Dangerous Refuge and before that Beautiful Sacrifice are not ones I include among her very best, but if you can suspend disbelief well enough (not usually a major requirement for reading Lowell), B S is quite the Central American archaeology thrill ride; D R a good story about greed in the fragile lands of the eastern Sierra Nevada. Don’t read either first; save them for when you need a decent RS and they’re at hand (the price having come down).

  2. 2

    One thing is true – the lady can write. Even in the old purple prose days, she could wade her way through it and come out the other end. She’s also the epitome of a professional writer – if a series didn’t sell, she started a new one, although she regretted not writing Eric’s book as it should have been written.
    My two favourites are “To The Ends of the Earth” and “Tell Me No Lies.” They have that uber-masculine hero, and to modern tastes he might not work, because her heroes always have a cruel streak. One reason “To The Ends of The Earth” works so well for me is the grovel at the end. Epic grovel.
    The Donovan series was uniformly great, and I can never decide which one I like best.
    The other thing I remember was that she was writing in the days of moustaches, and her heroes often have one. But if you see pictures of her hubby at the time, he had one, so perhaps they tickled her fancy. 
    But really, although they push the limits, anyone wanting to know how to write a great romance should read a few of those. I think I have all the classics, and I do re-read. They’re with my Linda Howard collection, books that are close enough for me to pick up and thumb through from time to time.

  3. 3
    kkw says:

    Have you ever tried to iron sheets? Incredibly time consuming. And that hair doesn’t leave time for much else.

    I liked the Donovan series, and I don’t generally care for suspense or jewels. I am sure I’ve liked others as well, but those are the ones I read most recently, and thus remember best.

  4. 4
    Elise Logan says:

    Um. Do you want pictures again?

    I liked Fever better than Dark Fire, I liked Warrior better than Sweet Wind, Wild Wind or Outlaw or Granite Man. I loved A Woman Without Lies and liked Love Song for a Raven. I loved Summer Games (didn’t as much love the expanded reprint called Forever Summer or something), I was uncomfortably fond of The Danvers Touch (reprinted and expanded as To the Ends of the Earth with a total ass of a hero).

    For other titles, I’d have to go to the actual bookshelf and look, and I’m just too lazy to do that right now. Like you I remember mostly covers.


  5. 5
    Wendy says:

    OMG! Enchanted was in the magical box of awesome in the break room at my mom’s store. I remember those wrinkled purple sheets!! Oh maaaaaan…I’m going to have to looking for that now that I know what it is. (A HABO mystery I didn’t even know I was nursing until I saw that stepback.) I hope I am not terribly disappointed. Sixteen-year-old me devoured everything and wasn’t very critical.

  6. 6
    laj says:

    The Donovan series is great. I love those 90’s Seattle stories from Lowell and Jayne Krentz too.

    The series order is Amber Beach, Jade Beach, Pearl Cove and then Ruby Bayou.

  7. 7
    Barb in Maryland says:

    Oh my, Elizabeth Lowell—I have such a love/hate relationship with her books (and I do believe I’ve read them all, starting back in her category days).  Her old Silhouette Desires (the red covers—y’all remember those, doncha?) were chock full of uber-alpha asshats who had been done wrong by a woman and are thus treat all women (including our heroine) as scum of the earth.  The women are noble doormats and rarely, if ever, whack the hero upside the head with a clue-by-4.  I really can’t recommend these.  But her old Silhouette Intimate Moments—oh! the angsty goodness!!  “Summer Games” is on my keeper shelf and is re-read often.  (He maybe alpha, but he’s no asshat and she has a really good spine—win,win).

    But I’ve always thought that her best stuff is her romantic suspense.  “Tell Me No Lies” still holds up.  I wasn’t wild about the Donovans—except for “Ruby Bayou”.  Among her later works, I loved “The Wrong Hostage”.  I also have a soft spot for “The Ruby”.

    However, my altime faves are the Fiddler and Fiora mysteries that she and her husband wrote as A. E. Maxwell.  “Just Another Day in Paradise” is the first one.

  8. 8
    Kim says:

    As others have noted The Donovan books was a very good series. However, her last two books, Beautiful Sacrifice and Dangerous Refuge were major disappointments. Beautiful Sacrifice was especially hard to get through. It read like a primer on archeology.

  9. 9
    Jennifer Bell says:

    I too have read all of her romance and romantic suspense novels. I love the Donavon series, and the stand-alone book about diamonds Death Is Forever. It fits into the over all theme of the Donavon books: gems make people do bad things.

    The medievals are good if you want some light witchcraft and magic with your alpha males and broadswords.

    She expanded most of her Silhouette titles to full length books. Including the infamous To the Ends of the Earth. It is a must read and a “wall banger” at the same time. I always wanted a book about the doctor. For such a small part she is very fleshed out, and I want to know more of her story.

  10. 10
    PetiteJ says:

    Wait, I can’t figure out the legs in the first cover. The bent one to the right matches the heroine’s pose but seems really beefy compared to the bottom-most if that is his.

  11. 11
    Christine says:

    Which is the book with Tennessee Blackthorn as the hero? I think it’s “Outlaw” and it’s my favorite of hers. I also liked “Warrior” the one about his brother Nevada. I was disappointed the book about their other brother Utah (who was mentioned in the books) was never written.

  12. 12

    While I love the Donovan series and would recommend those books, I’d like to mention Tell Me No Lies from the mid 80s. Oh, hell, read anything  by Lowell and you can’t go wrong. Her women are always strong, her men often have facial hair (yum) and the research she does for the plots is always detaild and fascinating.

  13. 13
    Readsalot81 says:

    Her romantic suspense is the one of the very few on my keeper shelves. She manages to do both the suspense and romance very well.  I would strongly recommend the Donovan books as other readers have.  I was always disappointed that we never got the twins, Justin & Lawe’s books. :)  Her books that include the Rarities Unlimited (I think?) are hit & miss. I love Ian’s book. Risa & Shane’s – not as much.

  14. 14
    roserita says:

    I’d like to recommend Change, an Ann Maxwell SF stand-alone.  For a long time I really wanted to be BFFs with a Changeling, and I wanted more Changeling books.

  15. 15
    Becky says:

    I adored her Donovan series but I felt like the series got weaker as she went into Rarities Unlimited and St Kilda consulting and her recent releases have been library reads only.  I seem to remember that I liked her medievals.  I think she’s has a strong general body of work but she’s one I would borrow first.  Some you want to own and re-read regularly and some make for a reasonably pleasant snow day read.

    I read some article or interview or something that gave me the impression that sometime the writing can be a group project between her, her husband, and her son (?) and I suspect that’s what happens sometimes.  I do get the feeling that different people have written some scenes and that sort of thing and some of them do read as being more like how I would expect a man to write the scene.

    The thing that really turned me off of her was actually how she interacted on facebook.  She tended to be sort of obnoxious about reader questions.  I completely understand how they get repetitive but…

  16. 16
    Gry says:

    I loved her sci-fi, and am quite sad that she never wrote more in her Fire Dancer series. But I must admit that one of her Romances has really stuck with me (the book was Fever) which I read _very_many years ago, and which I recently found again as an e-book *does happy dance*
    My most favorite book of all remains Timeshadow Rider, though!

  17. 17
    Kate Pearce says:

    Love the Donovan’s, Archer in Pearl Cove being my favorite.
    Loved the medievals. ‘
    Loved all the Ann Maxwell, particularly the Fire Dancer series and Silk and Shadows. Didn’t like Change at all.

    Her earlier stuff is a bit hit and miss, big angry heroes, doormat heroines, but the odd gem. Liked Granite Man and Song for a Raven.

    Not keen on her romantic suspense, stopped auto-buying a few years ago, so mainly reread now. :(

  18. 18
    Meg says:

    OK.  I’m realizing just how much of an unhealthy attachment I developed to Elizabeth Lowell starting in college (when I would escape into the local bookstores and read furtively in the Romance section).  I’m also realizing just how much I enjoy a “hero” who is a jackass as long as there is a ton of angst involved and the situation ends with appropriate levels of groveling (in short: it’s clear WHY I have an attachment to Lowell).


    I like To the Ends of the Earth quite a bit.  Ditto Remember Summer (which was my first Lowell, so it gets nostalgia points).

    Since I am a horse person, I like most of her westerns, though my favorites are for historical Only His, Only You, Reckless Love, & Winter Fire and for contemporary, Fire and Rain & Granite Man. 

    The Donovan Series is quite good, too.  I think I like Pearl Cove the best.

    I also ditto the people who mention her shorter Silhouette Intimate Moments ones.

    Yup.  I have a problem.

  19. 19
    jane says:

    Loved the Donovan series of books and Shane and Risa’s book. Also really liked Winter Fire- pretty sure that was one of the first romances I ever read. Lately, though, her books are just so repetitive for me and really not interesting. The last couple have been the same story over and over- same characters, same characteristics, same set up. She’s no longer a must read and is now just an author I remember fondly and read for old times sake.

  20. 20
    Stephanie Doyle says:

    Huge Elizabeth Lowell fan. Loved the historicals, but I think her Silhouette Desires are my favorite. Don’t make me choose!

    Okay fine I’ll choose… the Outlaw, Warrior series… loved those books. Wanted to become an archeologist because of those books.

  21. 21
    Helen M says:

    Okay, first thing’s first – I’ve gonna try and end everything being in italics…

    Did it work?

    The Medieval trilogy are regular re-reads for me (my copies have the same stepbacks you posted above, Sarah!), but The Only books are my favourites – I can’t believe how little love they are getting here! Only His was the first Lowell I ever read, and Caleb and Willow’s story remains my favourite. Somehow, I read the first four books while I was at uni, and then completely failed until last summer to find out that there were two more in the series – Autumn Lover and Winter Fire. I obviously bought them as fast as my fingers could fly over my keyboard, and devoured them straightaway. Loved them.

  22. 22
    Helen M says:

    Aw, shucks.

    In other news – I feel like anyone who isn’t already familiar ought to see the other stepback from the trilogy Sarah posted two of:

    Satin sheets! Velvet pillows!

  23. 23
    DonnaMarie says:

    You are making the urge to go under the bed to dig all these out almost impossible. Except for the Medieval trilogy which is directly in my line of sight if I look to the right. Along with Tell Me No Lies, which is the only romance I’ve ever had to replace due to wear and tear.

    Let me just toss another pseudonym into the mix. I love the Fiddler books written as A.E. Maxwell.  He’s a former violinist P.I. Hence Fiddler.

  24. 24
    Pamela1740 says:

    I am jealous that your college library had such a well-stocked paperback rack! Although I did read plenty of sanity-saving romance novels in college, I didn’t discover Lowell until more recently. I read all of the ONLY series—western historicals—two winters ago, and loved them. In addition to the deft dialogue and badass characters, I loved the way she conveyed such a powerful sense of the western landscape – harsh, wide open, and raw.

  25. 25
    azteclady says:

    Here’s hoping we end the italics here…


    My very first Lowell was Untamed, and it remains a favorite. I was living in Caracas when I found it—pretty recent release, too!—and it made enough of an impression that, when I moved to Florida a few years later, she was one of the authors I looked for in used book stores. I was absolutely ecstatic to find the next two books, Forbidden and Enchanted.

    Love Song for a Raven is also up there, and many of her earlier romantic suspense titles, written as Ann Maxwell, hold up quite well more than a dozen years after publication.

    I do have a couple—or three—problems with her, though.

    First problem: the rewrites. I just can’t deal with them—for this reader, they just ruin what were good books to begin with, and often the title changed meant that I bought the same story twice. Very uncool.

    The second problem was that I would become intrigued by what seemed to be an overarching plot in the universe of a series—for example, the mysterious ambassador in The Ruby and Shadow and Silk—only to have the series be dropped.

    This is extremely frustrating when it happens once or twice, but as I go down the list of related books under her various pseudonyms, it happens again and again and again. So I’m left wanting to know what happens with the Donovan twins, and with Utah Blackthorn, and with Eric of the North (from the medieval trilogy—yes, his story is sorta told in Moving Target, but seriously? a few magic flashbacks is not quite the same as a full length novel set in the same world as the original trilogy. Jest sayin’.)

    I would become very invested on those characters whose stories were left dangling, and search high and low for the sequel, and find…zilch. Much cursing would ensue. Then on to the next series, start loving the world, three to four books in, and then…zilch.

    There is only so much frustration of that kind I can take, particularly coming from the same author.

    And finally, the latest books started to feel repetitive—which is why I stopped buying anything after the last Rarities Unlimited book (in fact, I don’t believe I have finished reading that one, The Color of Death, even though is in the bookshelf somewhere)

    However, if you want classic romance, many of her early books are worth reading.

    Oh and I absolutely second the recommendation for her historical Westerns—her Only series, particularly the first four books, has great heroines, imo.

  26. 26
    SB Sarah says:

    Fixed the italics – sorry about that.

    @HelenM: MOUSTACHE OF EXCELLENCE! Talk about a perfectly groomed mega stache. Wow.

    I also remembered another Lowell that I loved – and I keep forgetting that it’s a Lowell novel. A couple of you mentioned Fever – and gosh, I loved that book. It’s been released digitally as Gry noted ( The hero is a rich dude trying to manage his dad’s expectations, but the heroine is a researcher living on a section of land monitoring plant growth. She’s been raised with several tribal cultures, and the part where Lowell describes the differences in the way the hero and heroine keep time sticks in my mind almost permanently.

  27. 27
    sarrible says:

    To the Ends of the Earth was one of the first romances I ever read (I swiped it from my mom when I was 15 or 16) and I didn’t actually realize what a fucking DICK the hero was until years later. Despite it, I loved Elizabeth Lowell for a long time, for all the reasons everyone has mentioned. Amber Beach is one of my go-to sick day reads and I love that medieval series, but I’d never seen the insane satin-sheet stepbacks. This genre we have is just amazing.

  28. 28
    Helen M says:


    Reading all the love for the contemp novels makes me think I need to try again. I read Midnight in Ruby Bayou when I was a young teen, didn’t really connect with it. Actually forgot it was Elizabeth Lowell until after I’d fall in love with the Only series and went looking to see what else she’d written. And I’ve started but then had to skim read Desert Rain and To the Ends of the Earth – somehow, the qualities in Lowell’s heroes that I find so compelling in historical(ish) settings, just makes me read them as dicks in contemporaries. Way to have double standards there, Helen.

  29. 29
    Becky says:

    @Helen I don’t think its all the wrong to have the double standard.  I do expect somewhat different behaviors from different times and even different settings.  While there are lines that I don’t ever find acceptable no matter how historically accurate- like rape or being a child bride to an elderly man, I’m ok with the idea that the medieval woman probably isn’t going to have the same level of political clout as her husband or may need to call upon a man to defend her castle.  In the same vein, I’m totally ok with sword skills in medievals but will probably raise an eyebrow at it in a contemporary.

    @azteclady I had totally forgotten about the way she abandons story lines.  In another mystery interview (maybe it’s in her FAQ on her website?) she say that it has to do with changing publishing houses.  Which, yes, I can understand but I don’t see this sort of thing happen with such regularity with other authors.  For instance, I sort of have Lowell, Krentz, and Garwood on roughly the same page.  All 3 have been writing quite well for quite a while across a number of genres.  While all 3 have occasionally kept us waiting (isn’t Garwood the one with the sister from The Wedding who everyone is aching to see?), you do get the sense that Krentz and Garwood actually do keep that in mind and if they haven’t written the story, yet, it may come and I can’t imagine that there was a really strong reason why Lowell would have the publisher problems that Krentz and Garwood have apparently skipped.

  30. 30
    Susan says:

    As problematic as many of her books are (some of the biggest dickwad “heroes” ever), I have fond memories of a number of them, especially the medievals and historical Westerns. But, hands down, my favorite is Reckless Love. Yes, Ty could be an ass, but he (mostly) redeemed himself and Janna was a sweet mix of vulnerable and strong.  The setting is so vivid and compelling, and the interactions with the wild horses is fascinating—almost more riveting than the romance. Wish Lowell had written books about the other brothers and Blue Wolf, but there was a small connection/reference in that contemporary with Luke (Case’s descendant) and Carla (I believe).

    Now I want to reread some of these…

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