The Harlequin Historical line has gone through various iterations with different cover designs and author contributions.
The History of Mills & Boon and Harlequin
Like all Harlequins, the Historical line has its roots in the Mills & Boon company.
Mills & Boon, a UK-based enterprise, has a long history dating back to 1908. However, they only began focusing on romance fiction in the 1930s.
Harlequin Ltd., based in Canada, came into existence in 1949, primarily publishing paperbacks of various genres.
In 1957, Harlequin acquired the North American rights to reproduce Mills and Boon’s books, particularly medical and nurse romances. Eventually, they bought out Mills and Boon in 1971, forming one company with two names.
Changes in the Industry
Up until then, Mills and Boon sold its books in North America under the Romance line, which were sweet romances usually with nothing more explicit than passionate kisses and “I love you”s. Sex scenes were described with euphemisms. Only married partners engaged in it.
After the revolutionary year of 1972, with the release of The Flame and the Flower, every publisher in the industry tried to reinvent themselves as “sexier.” In 1973, Harlequin introduced the Presents line. At first, these were just reprints of some older works by more established writers.
By 1977, Harlequin had launched a historical series called Masquerade. Through its Worldwide Library division, it released about 90 books. The last one was in 1981.
Harlequin Regency Historical Romances
Harlequin briefly published traditional Regency romances in the 1980s. These books had great covers. Eva Rutland, one of the first black romance novelists, wrote for them.
Harlequin Historical – First Series
Harlequin would again try their hands at the mainstream historical genre in 1986. This time the books were numbered. However, Harlequin scrapped the line after only a little more than a dozen editions in 1987.
|1||Dunbar, Inga||Rose Royale||Jul-1986|
|2||Luellen, Valentina||The Passionate Pirate||Jul-1986|
|3||Dean, Dinah||The Country Cousins||Aug-1986|
|4||Edmonds, Janet||Count Sergei’s Pride||Aug-1986|
|5||Acaster, Linda||Hostage of the Heart||Sep-1986|
|6||Cresswell, Jasmine||The Moreton Scandal||Sep-1986|
|7||Cooper, Barbara||Fortune’s Kiss||Oct-1986|
|8||Luellen, Valentina||Where the Heart Leads||Nov-1986|
|9||Armstrong, Evelyn Stewart||The Keepsake||Dec-1986|
|10||Hulme, Ann||The Garden of the Azure Dragon||Dec-1986|
|11||Buchan, Kate||Buccaneer Bride||Jan-1987|
|12||Pyatt, Rosina||The Marquess and Miss Yorke||Jan-1987|
|13||Miles, Deborah||Sweet Mary Anne||Feb-1987|
The New Harlequin Historical Romances
Harlequin revamped the historical series a year later. This line is the same iteration of the Harlequin Historicals of today.
Kristin James (aka Candace Camp) wrote the first book for the series, Satan’s Angel.
In addition, this was under the new numbering system. These books differed from the earlier historicals as there was a greater effort to find quality writers. The covers were also more appealing. This was due to artists like Pino, George H. Jones, Judy York, and Max Ginsburg creating artwork for the line.
Nora Roberts, Heather Graham, Susan Johnson, Kathleen Eagle, Cassie Edwards, Louisa Rawlings (aka Ena/Sylvia Halliday), Nicole Jordan, Ruth Langan, Maura Seger, and Stephanie Laurens are authors who wrote Historicals in the 20th century.
Like all things, the line would change through the years. In the early 1990s, the emphasis on numbering was reduced. Then the cover design was altered to less resemble a category line.
In 1998, the Historicals were revamped again, and they stopped numbering altogether in the 2010s.
Into the New Millennium
Harlequin still publishes Historicals, although most readers purchase them as e-books. The stories are decidedly not bodice-rippers or even old-school in nature.
Characters often have modern mindsets. Perhaps due to the 300-page limit, the books do not usually span years or involve continent-hopping.
However, they are one of the most diverse mainstream lines, at least in regard to time periods and settings. Harlequin Historical stories can take place at any time.
From the ancient ages, the Medieval era, the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration, Westerns, Regencies, the fin-de-siecle, and just about any other age in between, you can find a romance in that setting.
- Claire Delacroix Talks About Her Harlequin Historicals
- Favorite Numbered Harlequin Historicals
- Harlequin Historical List at Library Thing
- Harlequin Masquerade List at Library Thing