I hope our readers view SweetSavageFlame as more than just a blog. We’re not academics, but we try to document the romance genre’s history since the last quarter of the 20th century. Even though this site is just a couple of weeks old, Sweet Savage Flame is building a substantial catalog of old-school romance books. We analyze and sort by reviews, authors, publishers, imprints, and/or cover artists. In addition, we look at the history behind the individuals and the companies that helped form the romance novel industry.
Every few weeks, we’ll highlight institutions or people archived on our pages. So let’s begin at the beginning with the originators of the paperback movement, Pocket Books.
Pocket Books: America’s First Mass Market Paperbacks
Started in 1939, Pocket Books was the first mass-market paperback distributor in the United States. They initially just reprinted classic works. Over time, Pocket Books developed their own stable of writers.
Through the years they would produce thousands of books that were accessible to readers. The revitalization of the romance genre started with Avon‘s 1972’s The Flame and the Flower. 1974 would see the one-two punch release of The Wolf and the Dove and Sweet Savage Love. Not to be outdone by Avon, Pocket Books quickly tapped into the market.
The company would release the hugely popular Purity trilogy, written by Janette Seymour (aka Michael Butterworth) in the late 1970s. The eponymous heroine, Purity Jarsy, finds herself in harrowing misadventures. She is often “separated from her true love, and must f— her way back to him.” The first installment Purity’s Passion was a great success. It was followed by Purity’s Ecstasy and finally Purity’s Shame. Over two million books were sold.
In October 1982, Pocket Books launched the Tapestry line, releasing two historical romances a month for four years, which consisted of 97 books total. Jude Deveraux and Julie Garwood both wrote for the Tapestry line. Other authors included Ena Halliday (aka Sylvia Halliday and Louisa Rawlings), Maura Seger, Linda Lael Miller, Patricia Pellicane, and Ruth Ryan Langan.
Whitney, My Love
In 1985 Harlequin writer, Judith McNaught would release the historical romance Whitney My Love which revitalized the Regency genre by making it more sensual. Pocket Books marketed McNaught’s romances as more sensitive and serious works than the tawdry bodice rippers of the 1970s. She would sell over 30 million books worldwide.
How many Pocket Books romances have you read? Do you have a favorite author? Drop a comment and let’s talk romance!