RIP Johanna Lindsey — Legendary Romance Writer Dead At 67

Her books were famous for their bodice-ripper cover art and high-adventure stories.

How Did Johanna Lindsey Die? New Details On Tragic Death Of Legendary Romance Writer At 67 Simon & Schuster

If you have ever walked by a rack of mass-market paperback books for sale, you've probably seen the name Johanna Lindsey.

For 40 years, the author has written books that feature shirtless, swashbuckling men ripping the bodices of beautiful women on the cover. Her stories of adventure and romance helped define a genre that consistently ranks among the most-read style of books in America. 

Now sadly, Johanna Lindsey has passed away at the age of 67. 


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Her family says her death from cancer came several months ago but they wanted to grieve privately before they shared the news with the world. She left behind three children and four grandchildren, as well as a catalog of over 60 romance novels. 


How did Johanna Lindsey die? 

1. Johanna's Lindsey moved around frequently as a child.

Lindsey was born Johanna Howard in 1952. She was born in Frankfurt, Germany, where her father, who was in the Army, was stationed. The family continued to move frequently when Lindsey was a child until her father died in 1964. At that time, she and her mother moved to Hawaii because it had always been her father's dream to live there. 

2. She began a writing career on a whim.

Lindsey married her husband Ralph in 1970 when just after she finished high school. She left a secretarial job after marrying him. She started writing on a whim a few years later. Her first novel was The Captive Bride, which was published in 1977.

She told reporters she didn't have a full plot or outline for the novel when she began writing it. "Desert sheikh, romance, kidnapping — that’s about all I started with,” she said. “I just sat down one day and wrote the middle scene, the love scene in the tent. I amazed myself — I couldn’t stop writing.”


She submitted the first chapter to the publishing house Avon, and a few weeks later they asked for a full manuscript. Once she sent it, she said it was accepted for publication with only one change.  

3. She wrote more than 60 books.

Over the next 40 years, Lindsey wrote dozens of more books and frequently topped best-seller lists. The cover art for her novels featured iconic images of beautiful women in period clothes swooning in the arms of handsome muscular men. Fabio was often the model for her heroes and her books helped promote him to iconic status as well. 

Her stories spanned numerous genres within the basic paradigm of romance stories: she set them on Viking ships, in the desert, in the future, and in medieval castles. The heroines of her stories were adventurous in both their plotlines and their sex lives, offering readers escapism from everyday life in more ways that one.

"Johanna’s strong, feminist heroines were revolutionaries in their own right — fighting for partnership, respect, and happily ever after," author Sarah McLean told reporters. "These were heroines who captained their own fate... they lived fearlessly, fought passionately, and loved with abandon... and they inspired millions of us to do the same.”


Her most recent book was published in July 2019.

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4. How did Johanna Lindsey die?

Her family announced her death and explained that she had passed away from stage four lung cancer several months ago. Although she died on October 27, 2019, her family didn't say anything until they were ready to talk about the terrible news. 

Her son Alfred Lindsey said they hadn't announced her passing because they were all too devastated about it. 

5. Fabio paid tribute to Lindsey.

The model who portrayed so many of Lindsay's shirtless heroes on her book covers was saddened to learn of her death. Fabio, the Italian actor and model, who is synonymous with the romance novel covers that marked the beginning of his career, responded to the news this week. 

"I loved being featured on her covers," wrote Fabio in a statement. "Rest in peace, Johanna. Thank you for sharing your gift. You will be missed."


Fabio was the model for her book covers.


6. Fans shared their favorite books.

Fans of Lindsey's work have been on Twitter sharing their memories of her books with one another. One Twitter user wrote, "Johanna Lindsey’s work changed my life. Her stories are the reason I first fell in love with romance and dreamed of becoming an author. I’m so grateful that she shared her talent w/ us, and for all the characters, worlds and words she inspired. She will be missed. #MyFirstJohanna."

"RIP to my favorite author. #MyFirstJohanna was Say You Love Me. Kelsey and Derek made me like a historical romance genre," another reader recalled. "My gateway to a different world. I fell in love with Malory-Anderson and Reid Families too. Truly and inspiration. May you rest in peace Johanna Lindsey."

McLean tweeted a tribute thread, saying, "It's hard for me to remember #MyFirstJohanna because I can't remember romance without her. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch for me to say I can't really remember myself without her. Or, rather, I don't like to remember myself without her." She continued, "Here's the truth. I wouldn't be here without Johanna. I wouldn't be writing without her, certainly. But I also wouldn't be the same person. She was one of the authors who changed the way I saw the world and the way I saw myself at a time when I didn't like either very much."

Johanna Lindsey is survived by sons Alfred, Garret and Joseph, and four grandchildren. Her husband Ralph died in 1994.


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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.