Valentino: Worldwide Sex Symbol by @JoanReeves #mgtab

Photo of Rudolph ValentinoAllow me to introduce you to the world’s first worldwide sex symbol, Rudoph Valentino.

He was the silent movie hero who made women all over the world pant and swoon.

Today is Valentino Day which commemorates his death on August 23, 1926. That should give you an idea of the influence this man’s life and death had on the world.

If you don’t know of this dark-haired Italian with the piercing gaze, ask your grandmother or great-grandmother.

Paved the Way for Today’s Alpha Hero

It’s not such a reach to say he was the model for all of the alpha male heroes that appeared on the cover of those early romance novels. You know, the heaving bosoms and thrusting loin covers that made romance authors cringe.

Actually, looking at the most popular romance covers today, the shirtless, muscled chest (far more spectacular than Valentino’s) still rules the cover wars.

I didn’t know Rudolph Valentino had a day commemorating his death until I was looking at one of those “Today in History” websites. The fact that he does have a day dedicated to his memory is testament of his influence on popular culture in his era.

The Brooding Hero Sex Symbol

The silent film era hero was born in Italy as Rudolfo Alfonzo Raffaelo Piero Filibert Guglielmi De Valentina D’Antonguolla. That’s a mouthful.

He starred in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Sheik, Blood and Sand, The Eagle, and Son of the Sheik. Women cinema-goers fell in love with Valentino’s portrayal of the alpha male hero. In today’s world, we would consider him a misogynist at best.

The Sheik book cover

Still available on Amazon & other booksellers, ebook & print.

The Sheik, a 1919 novel by E. M. Hull (Edith Maude Henderson Hull), was a huge worldwide bestseller so women were ready for a visual representation of the man. Cast as the Sheik of the international bestseller, Valentino breathed life into the the brooding alpha hero.

If you’ve ever read the book, then you know that the sheik rapes the heroine repeatedly. She broods on how much she hates him and eventually manages to escape. She is recaptured by him. As they ride back to camp, she comes to the sudden realization that she is in love with him!

Gag me with a spoon! Although the language from that era is restrained and the rapes happen “off screen,” the idea is abhorrent to me. The book is not my idea of a romance, but it’s certainly a picture of gender roles and attitudes about sexuality of that era.

Valentino’s portrayal firmly entrenched the desert romance or sheik romance, as a popular trope in romance fiction that is still mined today. Fortunately, most contemporary books using this trope in various guises eliminate the rape part of the scenario.

Who Was Edith Hull?

Anonymous drawing of Edith Hull, courtesy of Wikipedia

Edith Hull

Ms. Hull wrote several more novels with desert settings. They were some of the most popular commercial fiction of that era. I’ve heard several popular romance authors of today cite The Sheik as the most romantic book they ever read. The book is still being reprinted and sold. You can find it on Amazon if you’re interested.

Mrs. Hull began writing when her husband, a civil engineer and later a prize-winning pig farmer, was serving in World War I. The Sheik was actually her first book and was published in England in 1919. It quickly became an international bestseller. Publishers Weekly listed it as a top ten best seller in America for 1921 and 1922.

Gasp! How Many Books Sold?

Photo of pile of books

CC0 License:, Pile of covered books #159751

The book sold over 1.2 million copies worldwide. Just think about that. This was an era without television, internet, social media, etc. Those sales came mostly from word of mouth–woman reader to woman reader.

Sales increased even more when Paramount released the movie version in 1921. That sent Rudolph Valentino into immortality–the Latin Lover, the greatest “lover” of the silent screen as he was proclaimed.

By 1923, the novel had published well over 100 editions. Sales surpassed all other best-sellers combined! Her novel wasn’t the first desert romance. Robert Smythe Hichens and Kathlyn Rhodes had broken ground with the desert romance genre, but Hull’s book proved to be the most popular and influenced romance writers who hadn’t even been born yet.

Stacks of gold coins

Public Domain Pictures

Ms. Hull continued to write into the 1930s, and her 1925 novel The Sons of the Sheik was also a tremendous success.

Ditto for the film version Son of the Sheik, which again starred Valentino.

Later in life, Ms. Hull said her only regret was that she had sold the film rights for her novels for too little money. (Sounds like a familiar complaint.)

Back to Valentino aka Mr. Sexy

Grayscale photo of multi-storied building

Photo (CC0) by Eneida Nieves from Pexels

Valentino had applied for American citizenship shortly before his death. On August 15, 1926, he collapsed at a Park Avenue hotel in Manhattan and was hospitalized.

Doctors determined he had appendicitis and gastric ulcers and operated immediately. After that, perforated ulcers mimicking appendicitis were referred to as Valentino’s Syndrome. Then he developed peritonitis.

His condition continued to deteriorate until he developed pleurisy. His doctors knew he wasn’t going to make it. Back then, it was common practice not to tell the patient or family or anyone that news. It’s said on the day he died, he briefly became conscious and talked with the doctors about his future. Then he lapsed into a coma and died a few hours later at the age of 31.

Women Committed Suicide!!!

Black and white photo of griefstricken woman

CC0 Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

Upon notice of his death, mass hysteria ensued, greater than happens today upon the untimely passing of an iconic celebrity.

A crowd of over 100,000 people lined the streets of Manhattan to pay their respects at his funeral. Suicides of despondent fans were reported. The next day a riot broke out that required most of the NYPD to control it, and police had to line the streets for the remaining days of the viewing.

After a funeral mass in Manhattan on August 30, his body was transported by train to California where another funeral was held in Beverly Hills. Want to know more about Valentino and his effect on popular culture? Read this.

Today’s Alpha Hero

In our time, the most popular alpha hero is a man who can walk on the wild side yet be a polite gentleman to women.Infographic of Dead Heat cover art and text from reviews

To the woman he loves, he’s tender and protective. If the woman he loves is threatened, then look out. All bets are off. That’s the kind of alpha hero I love to read about and write about.

John Galloway, the hero in my romantic thriller Dead Heat is that kind of alpha male–a Navy SEAL who will do whatever it takes to protect those he loves.

Post Script

As you swoon over the latest hero in a romance novel, just think–he wouldn’t be there if Edith Hull hadn’t written The Sheik, and Rudolph Valentino hadn’t breathed life into the character with his performance and made the world of women readers and cinema-goers sit up and take notice.

Joan’s Next Book

You’ll find my her next book in the Love, Christmas 2: Movies You Love Holiday Collection.
Infographic of Love Christmas 2 cover artSprinkle a little Christmas magic into your life with 26 ALL-NEW, never before released romances. This collection is available for pre-order now. It’s going to be HUGE so order your copy today!

Fountain Pen


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Choose a Man: Navy SEAL or Fire Fighter

Two twenty-something women are sitting in a bar in San Diego or New York City. In the lounge of PF Chang’s or Ruth’s Chris Steak House. One of these women is you. You’re wearing four point five inch glossy red strappy sandals, one leg crossed over the other so your black and white polka dot skirt is halfway up your thigh. You’re chatting with your friend and she’s wearing light pink matte lipstick, a three-inch wide pink Bakelite bangle bracelet and her blond hair in a high ponytail of cascading waves.

You know you both look hot, but you always do. So, it’s no big deal. Another warm summer night out in the city. You feel the attention, but it’s like a second skin—always there. Music, clinking glassware and slightly tipsy conversation surrounds you while you take your second sip of your Singapore sling then exhale to relax after your initial catch-up with your friend.

Now you look around. At the men. And there are plenty of them.

Are you in the neighborhood pop-spot near the Coronado Navy base filled with newly inducted warriors?

Or are you in the neighborhood hot spot of a downtown Manhattan Firehouse frequented by hot-off-their-shift lifesaving men?

Do you want the kind of man who would kill to protect you?

Or do you want the kind of man who would run into a fire to save you?

Don’t worry, there is no right or wrong answer—unless you say neither. (But what woman would say that? Honestly?)

You might say either would do, but I think most would have a preference, most of us would see the subtle distinction and maybe come down on one side or the other.

Me, you ask? I’d go for the Navy SEAL. Don’t ask me why.

But I’m going to ask you (fair or unfair) which you would pick and WHY?

Go ahead—tell me.

In the meantime, I’m working on a few stories starring two best friends. One is a Navy SEAL and the other is an FDNY Fire Fighter. Coming soon…

Catch up with me and my progress on these stories at



New Release: Hunks to the Rescue!

Falling for Captain Hunk is here! I’m excited that this novella, a spin-off of my Beachcomber Investigations romantic detective series, was released today, on JUNE 13th–your lucky day–as part of the Hunks to the Rescue box set.

The set features 18 novellas by award-winning, bestselling and wonderful authors who I can personally recommend. Each story features a hunky hero who rescues his woman from some danger or terrible situation. These are the special stories about being rescued by your dream man, the kind of stories that make your heart wobble and your blood hum.

But you don’t need to take my word for it–you can own the set for only $.99 and try all 18 novellas for yourself.

Today you can meet the authors at our HUNKS TO THE RESCUE Facebook Release Party. You’re all invited!

Here’s a SNEAK PEEK of Falling for Captain Hunk:


Chapter 1

“Jim, you’re killing me. Literally.” Captain Colin Lynch looked at the bloody, fat-veined roast beef held up for his inspection by the deli man.

Cap, as his friends called him, was on a mission, but it had nothing to do with his usual state police business..

He’d been standing at the deli counter for the past ten minutes, and it was beginning to look nearly impossible to find food that did not contain some deadly additive or excessive fat. He might be the man in charge of keeping mayhem at bay on Martha’s Vineyard but, unfortunately, that was of no use in accomplishing today’s task

Jim shrugged.

“Then you belong at the salad bar with all them—”

Cap was spared the rest of the comment when Jim was interrupted by the sound of cans crashing to the floor followed by a surprised screech.

“Sounds like a problem in the canned vegetable aisle,” Jim said.

Cap would have responded with a wisecrack about the unhealthy nature of canned foods, but when he turned, what he saw stopped him.

A woman, a vision really, with long dark hair wearing jeans that curved tight around every sculptured turn of her long legs, brushed past him in a hurry. She might have been ballerina graceful, but she was strong enough to knock him back a step. Cap had no chance to react except with a jump in his pulse. She was past him and disappearing before he had a chance to stop her.

Then she turned to look back at him. The startling blue eyes that met his snapped with electricity. The zap shot through him and he could have sworn his heart actually stopped a beat. The connection lasted for only a fraction of a second.

Then it was gone as she moved away like a fawn on the run.

As his heart settled down, Cap exchanged a quick glance with Jim to see that the grizzled old marine-turned-deli man agreed with hiss assessment. The lithe beauty ran as if she were escaping from someone. This could be trouble.

And uniform or not, on duty or not, Cap was the man in charge of trouble. He tamped down the hum of alertness caused by adrenaline while he took off in the direction where he’d heard the crash. A man was halfway down the aisle and heading his way.

Shit. Not him.

He recognized Kaspian Ellison, aka Kasper the Ghost, from the morning’s bulletin from the governor’s office. His old special-ops-commander-turned-governor, Peter John Douglas, sent him the man’s picture with a warning. And a request. Technically, it was an order since Peter, as the governor of Massachusetts, was his boss.

The request had been to watch Ellison as a person of interest in a murder. The file would follow.

Kasper the Ghost marched forward like he was on a mission. As if he were trying to catch up with a disappearing beauty.

Cap hoped to hell this head of a heroin trafficking empire with a penchant for violence had nothing to do with the memorable woman he’d seen. Going on instinct, Cap decided to put himself in Ellison’s path at the end of the aisle.

Hunks to the Rescue is available at:

AMAZON.      iBOOKS.      NOOK.      KOBO   

For more information about special offers including a FREE BOGO box set and calendar pages featuring your favorite hunk, and information about all the books and authors, visit us at