The Sensual, Successful World of Harlequin Romance Novels

| 4/22/2009 5:09:34 PM

Harlequin cover BesiegedIn the May issue of The Walrus, Don Gillmor explores the continuing rise of the world’s thriving (or is it throbbing?) center of romance: Harlequin Enterprises, which has shipped more than five and a half billion bodice-rippers during its 60-year tenure.

The piece is a great read, filled with lots of interesting analysis and history—in the 1970s, a new president zeroed in on the romance-novel audience and went to hilarious lengths to get Harlequin novels into women’s hands—and, ultimately, it seems that the company has succeeded because of its adherence to its own tried-and-true formula. Gillmor describes “editorial guidelines for each series that lay out the theme, the profiles of the hero and heroine, the acceptable amount of sex, and the number of words.”Harlequin cover Once a Cowboy

The specs for the Desire series describe the hero as powerful and wealthy, “an alpha male with a sense of arrogance and entitlement. While he may be harsh and direct, he is never physically cruel.” The heroine, on the other hand, is “complex and flawed. She is strong-willed and smart though capable of making terrible mistakes when it comes to matters of the heart.” Other series are described as being “grounded in reality” or “heartwarming” or “what it means to be American,” or focus on “breathtakingly charismatic alpha-heroes who are tamed by spirited independent heroines.”

Gillmor also takes a brave trip to a Harlequin cover audition—the publisher “shoots 120 covers a month,” he writes—to take in an array of firefighters, carefully managed body hair, and Fabio-esque manes. (Check out the Walrus' highly entertaining gallery of Harlequin cover images.)

Source: The Walrus

Images courtesy of The Walrus, a 2009 Utne Independent Press Award nominee for best writing.

Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

Facebook Instagram Twitter

click me