Playboy was more than a magazine featuring naked women that, depending on your age, your father, grandfather, or great-grandfather looked at. They also published tawdry pulp-fiction, as well as some genuinely good westerns, horror, science fiction, fantasy, and romance from the 1960s to 1980s.
After Avon’s overwhelming success with sexually-explicit historical romances, Playboy was quick to cash in on the market. While Avon was selective in choosing which author to publish, Playboy couldn’t churn the books out fast enough, regardless of quality. Barbara Bonham’s first book, Proud Passion, sold well over a half a million copies when it was published in 1976.
Playboy Press upped the ante in raunchy content and bosomy clinch covers. While many of their writers soared high only to fall long and hard, they introduced authors like Susan Johnson, Sheila Holland (aka Mills and Boon/Harlequin superstar Charlotte Lamb) Stephanie Blake, Barbara Riefe, and most notably, Roberta Gellis who were quite successful. Gellis’s medieval romances, including her Roselynde Chronicles series, are seriously fine works of historical fiction.
Playboy Press was sold to Berkley-Jove in 1982 and ultimately folded in 1984.