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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The History of the Romance Novel

     Though love and romance have long been a part of the literary world, the romance novel as we know it today originated in the early twentieth century in England. The publishing firm of Mills & Boon, established in 1908, brought out the work of such authors as Agatha Christie and Jack London--and also published romantic fiction. The firm soon realized that its hardcover romances, sold mostly to libraries, were more in demand than many of its regular titles. As the years passed, romantic fiction outstripped other book sales by even greater margins, and eventually the firm dropped other types of books in order to concentrate on publishing romantic novels.

     In the late 1950s, the success of Mills & Boon romances was noted by a Canadian publishing company, Harlequin Books, which began publishing Mills & Boon books in North America as Harlequin Romances. The two firms merged in the early 1970s, with Mills & Boon becoming a branch office of Harlequin. Harlequin began setting up independent publishing offices around the world and started to publish romances in translation. In 1981, the firms became a division of the Torstar Corporation, a Canadian communications company.

     For a number of years, Mills & Boon continued to be the sole acquiring editorial office, buying books from British authors. Though it began publishing American author Janet Dailey in the 1970s, Mills & Boon didn't truly open up to other American authors until the early 1980s.

Leigh Michaels, On Writing Romance, 2007

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