Harlequin Historicals

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The History of Mills & Boon and Harlequin

Like all Harlequins, the Historical line has its roots in the Mills & Boon company.

Mills & Boon is the old lady on the block when it comes to romances. They are a UK-based enterprise whose history goes back to 1903. Although, they didn’t start focusing on “women’s” fiction (i.e. romance) until the 1930s.

Meanwhile, across the pond in Canada, Harlequin Ltd. came into existence after World War II in 1949. Harlequin mostly printed paperbacks of previously published works. They released a lot of pulp, including mysteries, westerns, historical fiction, and other genres.

In 1957 Harlequin purchased the North American rights to reproduce Mills and Boon’s vast library of books. Most of these were medical/nurse romances. Harlequin bought out Mills and Boon in 1971, creating one company with two names.

Change 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 launched a historical series called Masquerade. Through its Worldwide Library division, it released about 90 books. The last one was in 1981.

1Wilby, JaneEleanor and the MarquisHRSep-1977
2Herbert, JuliaThe RunawaysHRSep-1977
3Bell, MargueriteA Rose for DangerHRSep-1977
4Deguise, ElizabethPuritan WifeHRDec-1977
5Herbert, JuliaThe Fortune-HunterHRDec-1977
6Luellen, ValentinaFrancescaHRDec-1977
7Sark, SylviaSophie and the PrinceHRMar-1978
8Bell, MargueriteThe Devil’s DaughterHRMar-1978
9Luellen, ValentinaMadelonHRMar-1978
10Farnes, EleanorThe Rose and the ThornHRJun-1978
11Murray, JuliaThe Notorious Lady MayHRJun-1978
12Lang, FrancesStranger at the GateHRJun-1978
13Stewart, JudithThe Laird’s French BrideHROct-1978
14Montague, LisaLady of DarknessHROct-1978
15Herbert, JuliaPrisoner of the HaremHROct-1978
16Hope, MargaretThe Queen’s CaptainHRMay-1979
17Luellen, ValentinaGambler’s PrizeHRMay-1979
18Meyrick, PollyThe Damask RoseHRJun-1979
19Ormsby, PatriciaJoannaHRJun-1979
20Grey, BelindaThe Passionate PuritanHRJul-1979
21Grey, ShirleyThe Crescent MoonHRJul-1979
22Wilby, JaneMan of ConsequenceHRAug-1979
23Bennetts, PamelaDear Lover EnglandHRAug-1979
24Dean, DinahFlight from the EagleHRSep-1979
25Rome, MargaretMaid of the BorderHRSep-1979
26Hulme, AnnA Poor RelationHROct-1979
27Veronese, GinaThe Serpent’s ToothHROct-1979
28Ormsby, PatriciaSet to PartnersHRNov-1979
29Grey, BelindaLoom of LoveHRNov-1979
30Hope, MargaretHostage Most RoyalHRDec-1979
31Luellen, ValentinaA Pride of MacDonaldsHRDec-1979
32Murray, JuliaWed for a WagerHRJan-1980
33Herbert, JuliaBond-WomanHRJan-1980
34Luellen, ValentinaThe CountessHRFeb-1980
35Grey, BelindaSweet Wind of MorningHRFeb-1980
36Ormsby, PatriciaHeir PresumptiveHRMar-1990
37Montague, LisaThe Emperor’s JewelHRMar-1980
38Buchan, KateBlack FoxHRApr-1980
39Edgeworth, AnnRunaway MaidHRNov-1980
40Stafford, LeeFountains of ParadiseHRMay-1980
41Cresswell, JasmineThe Abducted HeiressHRMay-1980
42Hope, MargaretThe Shadow QueenHRJun-1980
43Murray, JuliaRosamundHRJun-1980
44Grey, BelindaMoon of Laughing FlameHRJul-1980
45Dean, DinahThe Ice KingHRJul-1980
46Veronese, GinaMariettaHRAug-1980
47Constant, JanThe Rebel and the RedcoatHRAug-1980
48Gayle, EmmaCousin CarolineHRSep-1980
49Mason, LoisAbigail’s QuestHRSep-1980
50Turner, JudyFollow the DrumHROct-1980
51Madden, AnneStolen InheritanceHROct-1980
52Ormsby, PatriciaThe Elusive MarriageHRNov-1980
53Luellen, ValentinaMaria ElenaHRNov-1980
54Buchan, KateSatan’s MountainHRDec-1980
55May, HelenDuel of LoveHRDec-1980
56Laffeaty, ChristinaCount Antonov’s HeirHRJan-1981
57Martin, CarolineCaptain BlackHRJan-1981
58Grey, BelindaMeeting at ScutariHRFeb-1981
59Edgeworth, AnnThe Devil’s AngelHRFeb-1981
60Madden, AnneCromwell’s CaptainHRMar-1981
61Veronese, GinaHouse of SatanHRMar-1981
62Cresswell, JasmineTarrisbroke HallHRApr-1981
63Laffeaty, ChristinaZulu SunsetHRApr-1981
64Reeve, ElaineLady in the Lion’s DenHRMay-1981
65James, ChristineUnwilling BetrothalHRMay-1981
66Murray, JuliaA Perfect MatchHRJun-1981
67Gayle, EmmaFrenchman’s HarvestHRJun-1981
68Ormsby, PatriciaLysander’s LadyHRJul-1981
69Luellen, ValentinaCastle of the MistHRJul-1981
70Holland, MargotLady of StarlightHRAug-1981
71Orwig, SaraCamillaHRAug-1981
72Eastvale, MargaretChange of HeartHRSep-1981
73Pemberton, MargaretLion of LanguedocHRSep-1981
74Meyrick, PollyThe Reluctant MatchHROct-1981
75Grey, BelindaGlen of FrostHROct-1981
76Buchan, KateThe Flame StoneHRNov-1981
77Turner, JudyA Gift for PamelaHRNov-1981
78Stewart, IsobelStranger in the GlenHRDec-1981
79Grey, BelindaDaughter of IsisHRDec-1981
80Martin, CarolineMan With a FalconHRJan-1982
81Dean, DinahThe Eagle’s FateHRJan-1982
82Stuart, RobynBuccaneer’s LadyHRFeb-1982
83Hulme, AnnSummer HeiressHRFeb-1982
84Luellen, ValentinaMoonshadowHRMar-1982
85May, HelenChance of LoveHRMar-1982
86Constant, JanMackenzie’s WomanHRApr-1982
87Turner, JudySheridaHRApr-1982
88Cresswell, JasmineThe Blackwood BrideHR1982
89Montague, LisaFortune’s FollyHRMay-1982
90Holland, MargotBlack MarquisHRMay-1982

Harlequin Regency

Harlequin briefly published traditional Regency romances. These books had great covers. Eva Rutland, one of the first black authors of romance, wrote for them.

Harlequin Historical – First Series

Harlequin would again try their hands at the mainstream historical genre in 1986. This time the books had numbers. However, Harlequin scrapped the line after only a little more than a dozen editions in 1987.

1Dunbar, IngaRose RoyaleJul-1986
2Luellen, ValentinaThe Passionate PirateJul-1986
3Dean, DinahThe Country CousinsAug-1986
4Edmonds, JanetCount Sergei’s PrideAug-1986
5Acaster, LindaHostage of the HeartSep-1986
6Cresswell, JasmineThe Moreton ScandalSep-1986
7Cooper, BarbaraFortune’s KissOct-1986
8Luellen, ValentinaWhere the Heart LeadsNov-1986
9Armstrong, Evelyn StewartThe KeepsakeDec-1986
10Hulme, AnnThe Garden of the Azure DragonDec-1986
11Buchan, KateBuccaneer BrideJan-1987
12Pyatt, RosinaThe Marquess and Miss YorkeJan-1987
13Miles, DeborahSweet Mary AnneFeb-1987
14Roberts, IreneMoonpearlFeb-1987
harlequin historical

The New Harlequin Historical Romances

The series was revamped a year later. This is the current iteration of the Harlequin Historicals. Kristin James’ (aka Candace Camp) wrote the first book under the new numbering system, Satan’s Angel. These differed from the earlier historicals as there was a greater effort in finding quality writers. The covers were more appealing. Artists like Pino, George H. Jones, Judy York, and Max Ginsburg created artwork for the line.

harlequin historical

Nora Roberts, Heather Graham, Susan Johnson, Kathleen Eagle, Cassie EdwardsLouisa 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. The cover design was altered to look less like a category line. In 1998, the Historicals were revamped again and they stopped numbering altogether in the 2010s.

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In the New Millennium

Harlequin still publishes Historicals, although most readers purchase them as e-books. The stories are decidedly not bodice ripper or even old-school in nature. Characters often have modern mindsets. Perhaps due to the 300-page limit, the books do not usually range 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, fin-de-siecle, and just about any other age in between, you can find a romance in that setting.

The Covers

1 thought on “Harlequin Historicals

  1. Mary Anne Landers

    Thanks, Jacqueline. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or what, but right now I’m reading a romance from one of the long-ago series you mentioned. “Madelon” by Valentina Luellen, Masquerade Historical #9, 1978. Originally published in the UK by Robert Hale & Company, 1970.

    Am I enjoying it? Yes! So far so good.

    Also, I clicked your link for the current Harlequin Historical series at FictionDB. If we include titles scheduled for upcoming publications, this line numbers a whopping 1771 books. Surely a record for a hist rom series!

    Finally, I love the gallery of cover art. Which do I like best? I can’t pick just one! There are so many outstanding examples by outstanding illustrators.


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