Category romance

What Category or Series Romance Do You Read?

Research Into Category Romance

The history of series romances goes back roughly a century ago to 1909. Since the rise of paperback publishers, many romance lines have come and gone. Still standing is Mills & Boon and its parent company, Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. Bantam and Dell, no longer publish category romance, nor does Signet, Zebra, or Simon and Schuster. The latter formed Silhouette Books in 1980. However, Harlequin famously purchased that line, eventually folding it into its own.

Arrows From the Dark
Arrows From the Dark, Sophie Cole, Mills & Boon, 1909 (From Harper Collins Inside the Archives, courtesy of Reading University)

On our menu above, we have pages dedicated to romance authors, cover artists, and publishing houses. The history of publishing houses and imprints can be quite byzantine, as many companies were bought out by others, only to be resold again. In researching paperback romances of the past, I’ve come upon both an abundance and paucity of information, depending upon who or what I’m investigating. I want to do more in-depth research on each line, but often when I come upon fascinating tidbits of history, it leads to another line or publisher.

This is a rather tortuous way of saying I’m stuck.

The Manatee, Nancy Bruff, Harlequin, 1949, cover artist unknown

Sweet Savage Flame isn’t just a blog where we share our opinions of books. We are dedicated to providing as accurate information as possible about the history of Romance novels. It’s also a place where we encourage viewer feedback and input. Your knowledge as a romance reader is as valuable as the information we obtain from research. We’re lucky to have followers who know more about certain genres or artists than we do. Sweet Savage Flame values those historical insights.

Ellen Matthews, Mission Nurse, Ralph E. Hayes, Dell, 1967, cover artist unknown

Questions For Our Readers

Would you like us to assign a page to each contemporary category line right away, and add information as we come upon it? We could either writing articles on a more frequent basis or update the pages and announce any changes via a general monthly update. Or would you prefer completed pages filled with as much information as possible, even though it means slower output?

Let us hear your views in the comments section below.

More importantly, what lines would you like us to focus on first? What are your favorite category or series romances? Personally, I adore vintage Harlequin Presents, and I cut my teeth on Harlequin Romances and Temptations.

(I had wanted to run a poll, but it looks like WordPress isn’t cooperating today). If you would please leave a comment saying what is your best-loved series of romance, that would be greatly appreciated!

Below is a brief list of category romances. For a more comprehensive list, you can view this great site:

A Guide to Category Romance Series (1965-1989)

  • BANTAM LOVESWEPT
  • DELL CANDLELIGHT
  • DELL CANDLELIGHT ECSTASY
  • DELL CANDLELIGHT ECSTASY SUPREME
  • HARLEQUIN AMERICAN ROMANCE
  • HARLEQUIN INTRIGUE
  • HARLEQUIN PRESENTS
  • HARLEQUIN ROMANCE
  • HARLEQUIN SUPERROMANCE
  • HARLEQUIN TEMPTATION
  • MAGNUM/PRESTIGE BLUE FIRE
  • SILHOUETTE DESIRE
  • SILHOUETTE INTIMATE MOMENTS
  • SILHOUETTE ROMANCE
  • SILHOUETTE SPECIAL EDITION

If you can vote in the poll below or drop a comment, it would be of tremendous help. We’re asking for your opinion so that we can better provide the content you love.

As always let’s talk romance!

7 replies »

  1. Hi, Jacqueline.

    This is going to be a long response, so apologies in advance.

    I read or have read the following category series (started during the timeframe we cover here at SSF):

    Gallen Romance: (1979-1982). Mostly their contemporary romances-I LOVED their covers-but a few historicals as well.

    Harlequin American Romance : (1983-2018).

    Harlequin Presents: (1973-).

    Harlequin Romance: (1949-).

    Harlequin Superromance (1980-2018).

    Silhouette/Harlequin Special Edition; (1982-)

    Zebra/Kensington Bouquet: (1999-2001).

    Zebra/Kensington Encanto: (1999-2002).

    Zebra/Kensington Heartfire (1987-1994).

    Zebra/Kensington Lovegram (1985-1997).

    Zebra/Kensington Lucky in Love: (1992-2002).

    Zebra/Kensington Precious Gems Contemporary (1996-2002).

    Zebra/Kensington Regency Romance:(1985-2005).

    Zebra/Kensington Splendor (1997-2002).

    Zebra/Kensington To Love Again (1992-2002).

    As to the question of assigning pages and filling in information as we go along or completed pages, I will say this: I appreciate the fact that you have provided the space for people to share our collective love of vintage romance novels. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how much work the efforts you have undertaken and are planning to undertake are, and I for one truly appreciate those efforts. It is not my place to tell you how to operate SSF. I trust you and your knowledge and wisdom to decide what is best for the site and I will help in any way I can to assist you in achieving those goals.

    • Thanks, Jacqueline. I’m in the same boat. Very interested in the history of romance fiction. But there’s too little information online. Or offline. It’d be even worse if it weren’t for Blue Falcon and you!

      So yes, there’s a real need for a blog like Sweet Savage Flame. I hope I can help.

      As for my attitude towards romance series, it’s complicated. I know that phrase is a cliché, but it’s true.

      For the past few generations, the history of romance fiction has largely been the history of romance series. I’m more than aware of that. I can’t and don’t underestimate their importance and meaning.

      But part of me, a big part, is and has long been uncomfortable with the whole idea of series romance. I just don’t like the idea of writers following a formula. We can always argue over what is and is not a formula; and whether a given editor, author, or series follows it. Here I’m going by my definition of a formula, and what represents an example.

      Though I’ve read plenty of series romances, the fact that they’re part of a series plays little if any role in my picking out a particular title. What does matter to me is the premise, as summed up in the blurb. Or less often, in a review.

      I’ve noticed my fave romances of the past tend to be grouped according to publisher or imprint. For instance, I’ve spoken highly of romances in the Magnum line, an imprint of the small New York publisher Prestige Books, sometimes with partners, during the 1970s and 1980s. But these books were all reprints. And from various sources.

      I sense these romances were carefully curated. But they weren’t a series in the sense that Harlequin Presents was and still is, original publications selected and prepared for a target readership by one editor or a small group of editors.

      Thus there was never a “Magnum formula”. Which is just fine by me! And surprise surprise, my own romance writings don’t follow anyone’s formula. I don’t aspire to write for any extant series.

      To answer your question about series romance pages, I recommend the first option. Given the nature of information online, especially in a niche field like this one, it’d work much better than the second choice. Otherwise you’d be stuck with the dreary task of frequently revising the “final” articles on this blog.

      As for what you should focus on first, well, I’ll read about any series! Even if it’s not my usual fare. So I’ll let you and your major contributors determine that.

      Good luck!

      • Dear Mary Anne,

        Thank you for your input! I think you’re right, the place to start is to focus on one topic, research it in full and commit to it. I have a book on the history of Mills & Boon and another on the cover art. So I will start with the beginning of romance in the 20th century, as it relates to the categories we focus on.

        I can see you are far more fluid in your outlook than I am, which is a good way to keep things fresh.😊 I have ADHD, among other issues, so often find myself disinterested when books get too formulaic. It’s one of the reasons why I’m not as enamored with the current stale trends in historical romance, my favorite romance genre. OTOH, I like knowing what I’m getting into when reading, which is why I prefer some category romances as opposed to others.

        The Magnum/Prestige collections sound like the format the Bantam Loveswept editors copied. There was no overlying theme in that line, except for a word count. Authors were encouraged to write sensual love stories, but any plot that committed to “happily ever after” was acceptable.

        Thanks again. I really value these discussions that bring up lots of food for thought here!

    • Quite a list there! Many of the beautiful Gallen covers were illustrated by the noted pulp cover artist Harry Bennett, whose bright swirls and whorls made his artwork uniquely memorable. When Pocket Books replaced the Gallen romances with Tapestry, he would continue to produce covers for them.

      Again, thank you as always for the kind words. I tend to dither when it comes to making a decision, whether it be as mundane as picking out a pair of shoes or where to start doing household chores. The result is that I end up doing things slowly, or not at all. As an indecisive procrastinator, sometimes a little feedback is helpful. Your varied list has been of use to me, because it tells me there is no better place to start than the beginning, which I will do, starting with the history, or at least a truncated version of Mills and Boon. I’m in between two books about M & B, so it should be easier than picking a category randomly.

      Cheers!

  2. i would like to see a page for each category line,i began reading my moms gothic romance, harlequin and bodice busters from the early 70’s to early 80’s and have come back to enjoying romance novels again, also want to collect vintage harlequins. LOVE THIS BLOG!!!!!

    • Dear Neil,

      Thank you so much for sharing your love of romance with us. 😀 I am going to create a page for Mills and Boon, and from there, I’ll create a page for Harlequin Romance and Presents line and so forth. I’ll keep followers updated with a brief blog posting for them, so keep an eye out. As for Gothics, I’ll try to do more reviews. I think I’ve only posted one here so far. I have a thick stack of Gothics resting on my shelf, so I hope to get to them soon!

      Cheers,

      Jacqueline

Please drop a comment and let's talk romance!