A Brief Look at Category (aka Series) Romance


In 1980, big-name publisher and distributor Simon and Schuster would enter the romance field. They had in the past distributed Harlequins throughout North America.

Now they were in direct opposition with the company. Simon & Schuster’s entry into the genre would start the “Romance Publishing Wars.”


The Silhouette Romance series was to compete with the Harlequin Romance line. These books were “sweet” in nature. Like Harlequin Romances, they usually did not include sex scenes and certainly not explicit ones.

Mills & Boon/ Harlequin author Anne Hampson famously left Harlequin to produce the first books for Silhouette.

Janet Dailey, Fern Michaels, and Nora Roberts would write for Silhouette. Silhouette Romances featured more familiar American settings, as well as some foreign ones.

A Man Without a Heart, Anne Hampson, Silhouette, 1981, Will davies cover art
A Man Without a Heart, Anne Hampson, Silhouette, 1981, Will Davies cover art


Before there were Harlequin Temptations, there was the Silhouette Desire series. Silhouette publishers created the erotic series in 1982. This was a more sexually charged line than had ever been seen before. They were set in North America and written by North Americans.

Silhouette Desire #1 was Corporate Affair by Stephanie James (aka Jayne A. Krentz).

Elizabeth Lowell, Lass Small, Diana Palmer, and Brenda Jackson all penned romances for Desire.

ready willing and abel
Ready Willing and Abel, Nancy Martin, Silhouette, 1990, cover artist unknown

Intimate Moments

Romantic journeywoman Candace Camp would have the privilege of releasing the first Silhouette Intimate Moments romance in 1983, Dreams of Evening, under her pen-name Kristin James.

These romances ran over 200 pages and focused on issues of the day that affected all couples. Toward the new millennium, the line would change to deal primarily with romantic suspense or action-oriented plots.

The Perfect Marriage, Laurey Bright 1995 Diane Sivavec
A Perfect Marriage, Laurey Bright, Silhouette, 1995, Diane Sivavec cover art

Special Edition

Silhouette Special Edition romances began publication in 1982 with Janet Dailey’s Terms of Surrender. Simon & Schuster had poached her talents from Harlequin.

These romances were not only openly sexual but emotionally so. They dealt with all sorts of deep relationship issues.

Authors such as Debbie Macomber, Diana Palmer, Ruth Wind, and Gina Ferris Wilkins would write for the line.

meant to be married
Meant to be Married, Ruth Wind, Silhouette, 1998, Cover Artist TBD


Dell started publishing paperbacks in 1943, the early years of the American paperback revolution. They published just about everything in their day: reprints of older works, mysteries, westerns, puzzles & crossword books, joke books, and, of course, romance.

In the late 1960s, they created the Candleight series, line dedicated to just romance.

Candlelight Romance

These books were published from 1967 to 1982. Dell Candlelight Romances initially began as medical romances, then later included Gothic, historical, and contemporary.

This line should be noted for publishing Entwined Destinies by Rosalind Welles in 1980. It was the first category romance written by an African American author to feature Black protagonists.

entwined destinies
Entwined Destinies, Rosalind Welles, Dell, 1980, cover artist TBD

Candlelight Ecstasy Romance

Legendary African-American editor Vivian Stephens founded the Candlelight Ecstasy Romance in 1980. These books ran about the same length as Harlequin Romances or Presents, about 188-190 pages.

They were a more sensual and erotically charged series than the standard Candlelight Romances. This line ran for about seven years and was incredibly innovative.

dedicated man
The Dedicated Man, Lass Small, Dell, 1983, cover artist unknown

Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme

In 1983 Dell expanded their stable of romances further by launching the Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme line. These books were longer than the Candlelight Ecstasy Romances by 100 pages, allowing for more in-depth plotlines and deeper emotional content.

The line was successful but only lasted until 1987. A conglomerate acquired Dell in 1986 and merged the company with Bantam & Doubleday.

Dell would continue to produce romance novels, but only as single-edition, full-length works.

Man in Control
Man in Control, Alice Morgan, Dell, 1984, cover artist unknown


Bantam was formed in 1945 as a paperback publisher. It has been purchased over the years by numerous corporations. Bantam books exist today as an imprint of Random House Publishers, one of the “Big Five” (formerly Big Six) publishing houses.


Editor Carolyn Nichols founded the Loveswept imprint to focus on big-name authors. The contemporary category series ran from 1983 to 1999 for almost 1000 editions. Sandra Brown’s Heaven’s Price was the first book released.

This line was different from the other series of its time, as it had no strict adherence to tropes. The stories ranged from angsty to humorous. Heroes could be billionaires, military men, bikers, scientists, or the neighbor next door.

Writers had a lot of leeway to create the stories they wanted. They only had to include romantic love scenes and stick to the page count, which ran a little over 200 in number.

Janet Evanovich, Iris Johansen, Suzanne Brockmann, and Kay Hooper were authors who wrote for Loveswept.

Time enough for love
Time Enough For Love, Suzanne Brockmann, Bantam, 1997, Ed Tadiello cover Art

2 thoughts on “A Brief Look at Category (aka Series) Romance”

  1. Hi, Jacqueline.

    Thank you for this article about the beginnings of the romance novel industry and its various publishers and imprints. I look forward to reading more of these articles in the future.

    1. Much appreciated, Blue Falcon! There’s so much history behind all the publsihing houses and imprints, I figured I’d start with a general article and add more articles to the pages.

      Hope you’re keeping on keeping on! All my best!

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