It was the summer of 1994, and not only was all of Charleston glistening with sweat from the sultry nights of an extreme Southern heat wave, but the city was also deep in the throes of an unmatched hunger for adult romantic literature. People were lining up in the streets, waiting for the next great trash novel to release and sate their desires for a naughty read. Smut authors became local A-List celebrities overnight, reaping the rewards of an afternoon spent at their typewriters.
And, while Charleston's great romance authors of the time — Chuck North, Sheppard Marry, Shem Shrimpfischer, and Ashley West — are all now part of the city's pantheon of literary legends, one of the genre's greatest names has all but disappeared into the annals of history: Ravenel Steele.
- LeRoy Mazyck (Pixel Studios) / Scott Suchy
The City Paper's Pulitzer Department has spent the past year searching for all they could find out about Steele — a pen name for sure — but, has been able to uncover little about this recluse. (Editor's note: Though we don't even know if Steele is still living or deceased, we're pretty sure the author's real first name is Chip.)
As forgotten as Steele is to the public today, the writer remains one of Charleston's most prolific romance novelists of all time with 235 titles published in just one summer. The novels' deftly crafted narratives all incorporate popular summertime themes specific to the Lowcountry.
We submit for your consideration, the top Ravenel Steele novels of all time, and some of the Holy City's great summer eats, drinks, and activities that inspired them.
For the Love of Grilled Meat
Synopsis: Madeline Rose was always warned to avoid red meat. The only daughter of two devout vegans, she was protected from the come-hither aroma of cookouts and burger shacks. But as Rose blossomed into womanhood, her curiosity grew — as did her hunger. Then, on a steamy summer day, Rose encountered Dean Brisket. The bad boy of the barbecue world, he was everything Rose’s parents had warned her about. But from the smell of smoked meats that hung on his clothes to his sauce-stained fingers, Brisket was more than capable of whetting Rose’s appetite for the savory pleasures she had so long denied herself. What followed was a love affair that was medium rare, yet still well done.
By Kinsey Gidick, Connelly Hardaway, Mary Scott Hardaway, Kelly Rae Smith, Enid Spitz, and Dustin Waters
Portraits by LeRoy Mazyck/Pixel Studios, Photo Illustrations by Scott Suchy, Swimsuit photography by Jonathan Boncek
Models: Murat Atilla, Sabrina Hyman, Abigail Morrow, Jerry Mosa, Megan Murphy, Codie Richardson, Nico Rittmeyer, Lily Slay, Audrey Smoak, and Walker Trull
Hair and Makeup:Karson Terrell, Special thanks: Kelly and Wyatt Durette