Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Eric and Reading Groups

Eric's at Romancing the Blog today and he's got an idea he'd like to discuss:
what if someone, or a group of someones, put together lists of romance novels, grouped by theme or genre or some such way, and wrote up introductory essays and discussion questions for each? It wouldn’t be easy to choose the texts, and Lord knows there would be dust-ups over who’s in, who’s out, and the rest. But last month a group of librarians published a well-received guide to “core authors” in romance. It’s aimed at colleagues who want to build a collection, and also at curious readers. Maybe that could be a place to start?

I know there have been some wonderful individual programs at libraries around the country. Kelly Watson posted a great column on them a week or so ago, with links to the finalists and winners of the RWA’s “Libraries Love Romance” contest. Those have been developed locally, though–and what makes the Nextbook program so successful, simply as a promotion, seems to be its “off-the-shelf” structure. All any library has to do is find someone to lead the conversation.
In the light of the long comments thread which resulted from Sarah's attempt to provide an even shorter selection of romance novels for her classes, and in which the relative absence of romances by African-American authors was raised as an issue, I feel I should observe that the RUSQ Core Collections list is rather lacking in AA authors and AA romances. I may have missed some names, but as far as I can tell, there aren't any on the main list. There is a mention of AA romances, and one AA author, in the introduction to the section on contemporary romances:
Contemporary romances also reflect the society in which they are written. [...] Today, many contemporary romances focus on families, well-rounded lives, and deeply connected circles of friends (which often extend into series). African-American writers and characters also have an adaptive home in contemporary romance today, as do inspirational romance writers and their fans. And no consideration of contemporary romance would be complete without a nod to the importance and influence of category romances, such as the Harlequin Presents line. Writers such as Brenda Jackson, Kathleen Eagle, Carly Phillips, Penny Jordan, Lynne Graham, and Helen Bianchin all write contemporary romances that cover a range of approaches and represent the varying styles of writers in this subgenre.
The librarians who put together the list were limited in space, so they obviously had to leave out a huge number of books and sub-genres. The inspirational romance sub-genre is only touched on in passing, as mentioned in the above quotation, which also contains one of the few references to category romances (one category romance is included in the more detailed list, in the paranormal section). As Eric says, "It wouldn’t be easy to choose the texts, and Lord knows there would be dust-ups over who’s in, who’s out, and the rest" but how would you feel about a structured programme for library-based romance discussion groups? Does your library already do something like this? If you've got any ideas, please let Eric know what you think.

On the topic of selectivity versus recognition of diversity, I was gratified to see that the latest article in The Telegraph about Mills & Boon, written by Glenda Cooper, draws on the work of jay Dixon and discusses the way the novels have changed throughout the decades:
The earliest heroes tend to be imperialist adventurers who, towards the end of the Edwardian era, still represented an ideal. The heroines are equally intrepid, with Dorothy Gale, in Louise Gerard's A Tropical Tangle (1911), going off to be a nurse in darkest Africa.

In the shattering aftermath of the First World War, a different type of hero emerges. The golden youths who died in the trenches were the brothers and fiancés of M&B authors, so vulnerable boy heroes populate the 1920s romances, while it is women themselves who are presented as sexually assertive.

In Denise Robins's Women Who Seek (1928), the heroine Eve pursues an adulterous relationship with her lover. M&B had no problem with extramarital sex until the more prudish 1950s.

As the Depression years take hold, heroes are father-figure types; passion comes a poor second to hunger. The heroines tend to have jobs - even after they get married, which was not common at the time.

As the Second World War begins to dominate storylines, there is a focus on women in uniform who display a markedly pragmatic attitude. [...]

Ironically, it was only when M&B ditched its other genres and focused on romance that female characters became less assertive. Alan Boon, son of founder Charles, who took over after the war, was an advocate of the alpha [m]ale concept [...]

It was in the 1960s and 1970s - as the women's movement gained impetus - that M&B developed its anti-feminist reputation. This was largely due to its star author, Violet Winspear [...]

In the 1980s and 1990s, when many of the battles of the women's movement had been won, M&B authors ushered in more sympatico New Men as heroes, and increasing numbers of career women - lawyers, journalists, petroleum engineers - as heroines.
This being both Mills & Boon's centenary year and very close to Valentine's Day, there have been a lot of articles in the press recently about romance novels. There's a list of many of them at Dear Author.

The illustration is by Carl Spitzweg, "the master of small-scale genre painting" (Milwaukee Art Museum) and depicts "Der Bücherwurm" (the Bookworm), who looks as though he's trying to make a selection from among all the books in his library. I found it at Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Thanks for the link to the Telegraph article. It's fascinating! I was especially interested in the information about the M&B novels of the teens and twenties.

  2. I was especially interested in the information about the M&B novels of the teens and twenties.

    If you click on this link to excerpts from jay Dixon's book, there are a few more details about them, Victoria. And there's a similar, but shorter excerpt here.

    I haven't come across any M&Bs from this period myself, but I had a quick look on abebooks and you can find some there. I can't resist posting this about Louise Gerard's The Golden Centipede, which one bookseller helpfully describes in considerable detail:

    Book Description: Methuen and Co London 1926, 1926. Vg (no dj, clean blue cloth with black titles and ruled black border front board, a little light patchy fading on spine, faint age browning free endpapers and ouside page edges lightly speckled, no marks or inscriptions, pages clean and unmarked) 12mo 282pp. Tenth edition (cheap form). Adventure story set in West Africa. Savages, cannibals, shooting irons.

    There's a little more about Louise Gerard's books here.

  3. I've two M&B from the end of the twenties, bought because my daughter shares the author's nane, and thought it would be fun to have a book with 'her' name on the cover.
    And I was surprised when I read them. In one the heroine has sex with her teenage lover, ends up giving birth aided by a medical student who is addicted to drugs, before falling in with a good-looking, well-born young man.
    In a modern book, you'd know that she'd end up with the well connected young man, but in actual fact she doesn't end up with him, or with the teenage lover who reappears as a celebrated opera singer - the hero is the medical student, now a sober doctor. (And, interestingly, while he knows that her baby survived the birth, she believes it died, and he doesn't tell her the truth.)

    There's a lot more to the story than that - it's a fairly melodramatic tale - but I remember being struck by how much freedom the author had - there didn't seem to be the same constraints on the story that there would have been when I read M&B fifty years later.

    Marianne McA

  4. Heh, heh,..."shootin' irons!" I haven't heard that term since the last time I watched Yosemite Sam go up [futilely] against Bugs.

  5. Smile when you say that, podner!

  6. The emphasis on Mills & Boon novels in academic criticism is a bit odd, at least for someone who grew up in the United States, because hardly any of them were around prior to the 1970s. When my family bought and read what they thought was "romance," they bought quite different things.

    Sorry to post as anonymous, but I don't have a google blogger account or a url, so it's the only way I can. My name is:

    Virginia DeMarce

    Romance, Best Sellers and Others, 1895-1914

    Taken in part from:

    Alice Payne Hackett, Fifty Years of Best Sellers 1895-1945 (New York: R.R. Bowker Co., 1945)


    The Bookman
    January 1915
    Chronicle and Comment (retrospective on the past 20 years of fiction)
    pp. 473-486.
    Which is available on-line at:,M1

    The following site has extensive analyses of some, but not all, best sellers:

    There are a lot of older romances now available as e-Books listed on this site, by title, but not chronologically:

    I would also like to acknowledge the online listing of the personal library of Edgar Rice Burroughs (of Tarzan fame), “collected from 1875 through 1950.”

    I was astonished by the eerie similarity of Burroughs’ collection to the books that were on the shelves in the house where I grew up (built in 1874 and occupied by my parents and grandparents in my early reading days of the 1940s and 1950s).

    Richard Harding Davis, The King's Jackal (available on-line) (“Ruritanian romance” set in the imaginary principality of Messina; pre-1895, but I can't bear to leave it out) See:

    5. Richard Harding Davis, The Princess Aline (Harper) (illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson) [“Ruritanian romance” set in the imaginary principality of Hohenwald] See:
    8. Anthony Hope, The Prisoner of Zenda (Holt) (published 1894 in England) [nom de plume for Anthony Hope Hawkins; Queen Flavia and Rudolf Rassendyll; no traditional HEA] See the Wikipedia article "Ruritanian Romances" at: and the following for biography: and
    = = = =
    Robert W. Chambers, The Red Republic: A Romance of the Commune (historical; Paris in 1871; his first novel came out in 1894 and he continued publishing until 1933; horror, science fiction, detectives, and adventure books, as well as both historical and contemporary romances]
    Allen Upward, The Prince of Balkistan (“Ruritanian romance”)
    Grace Livingston Hill, author of inspirationals, was already publishing at this date and continued to publish up to 1949. Many of her titles are still in print as of 2008.

    2. Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Lady of Quality (Scribner)
    = = = =
    Richard Harding Davis, Cinderella
    Anthony Hope, The Heart of Princess Osra [Ruritania, but set in the first half of the 18th century]

    1. Henryk Sienkiewicz, Quo Vadis (Little, Brown) (historical, ancient Rome and early Christianity, romance sub-plot)
    = = = =
    Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac [a play; many subsequent adaptations, including a 1923 Broadway production and 1950 film with Jose Ferrar; no HEA] See

    9. Anthony Hope, Simon Dale (Holt, published 1897)
    = = = =
    Anthony Hope, Rupert of Hentzau [“Ruritanian romance,” sequel to Prisoner of Zenda, set five years later. the villain plots against Flavia and Rudolf, no HEA, ends with hero and villain dead, Flavia ruling alone as regent]

    2. Charles Major, When Knighthood Was in Flower (Bowen-Merrill) [historical, Tudor era, focused on Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII, and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk]
    3. Winston Churchill, Richard Carvel (Macmillan) (historical, pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary Maryland, starting in the 1760s; rebel hero and Dorothy Manners from a loyalist family. Varina says: “It's a sprawling story, complete with evil machinations by the uncle and Dorothy's father, pirates, a harrowing visit to Vauxhall Gardens, and several sea battles, one involving pirates and the other involving John Paul Jones and the British navy.”) [not the prime minister]
    7. Paul Leicester Ford, Janice Meredith (Dodd, Mead) (historical, American Revolution setting)
    = = = =
    Richard Harding Davis, The Lion and the Unicorn
    Emma Orczy, The Emperor’s Candlesticks
    Gertrude Atherton, A Daughter of the Vine (reprint 1923; reprint 2007) (California pioneering family; the woman a victim of chronic, hereditary alcoholism; a deep love, but definitely no HEA)
    Harold MacGrath, Arms and the Woman (“Ruritanian romance” set in the imaginary Hohenphalia) [MacGrath’s first novel] See:
    Anthony Hope, The King’s Mirror
    John Oxenham,A Princess of Vascovy [“Ruritanian romance,” nom de plume of William A. Dunkerley]

    1. Mary Johnston, To Have and to Hold (Houghton Mifflin) (historical, colonial Virginia)
    10. Maurice Thompson, Alice of Old Vincennes (Bowen-Merrill) (historical, French settlement in Vincennes, Indiana, during the American Revolution)
    = = = =
    Amelia E. Barr, The Maid of Maiden Lane. See:
    Winston Spencer Churchill, Savrola: A Chronicle of the Revolution in Laurania [“Ruritanian romance,” yes, this was the later British prime minister, not the American novelist]

    1. Winston Churchill, The Crisis (Macmillan) (historical, Civil War in Missouri; Varina says, “takes place from the mid-1850's through April, 1865. The hero is Stephen Bryce, from a well-connected New England family, who moves to St. Louis, Missouri with his widowed mother to study law under an abolitionist judge, because following Stephen's father's death he needs to earn a living for himself and his mother. Stephen falls in love with Virginia Carvel, Richard and Dorothy's great-grand-daughter, who takes after her coquettish great-grandmother.]
    3. Bertha Runkle, The Helmet of Navarre (Century) (historical,16th century?)
    6. Elinor Glyn, The Visits of Elizabeth (John Lane) See
    7. Harold MacGrath, The Puppet Crown (Bowen-Merrill) (“Ruritanian romance” set in Corinthia, of which the capital was Bleiberg) See
    9. George Barr McCutcheon, Graustark: The Story of a Love Behind a Throne (Stone & Kimball) (available on Gutenberg Project) (“Ruritanian romance” set in Graustark, of which the capital was Edelweiss) See:; made into a stage play; also made into a silent movie in 1915; again into a 1925 silent movie with Norma Talmadge, see: and Graustark has its own Wikipedia entry, see:
    = = = =
    Baroness Orczy, In Mary’s Reign (historical, Mary I Tudor) [republished 1907 as The Tangled Skein]
    Amelia E. Barr, The Lion’s Whelp (historical, Cromwellian England)

    1. Owen Wister, The Virginian (Macmillan) (historical in which the romance plays out in slow motion, over a period of several years)
    3. Charles Major, Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (Macmillan)
    5. Mary Johnston, Audrey (Houghton Mifflin)
    = = = =
    Martha Morton, Her Lord and Master [also Broadway play 1902; movie 1921; Anglo-American marriage, heiress and English lord]
    Harold MacGrath, The Grey Cloak (swashbuckler)

    No obvious best-seller choices.
    Richard Harding Davis, The Bar Sinister
    Cyrus Townsend Brady, The Southerners (historical, Civil War, set in Mobile, Alabama; made into a silent movie 1914) See:

    1. Winston Churchill, The Crossing (Macmillan) (historical, early era of westward migration in the US; only minor romantic elements)
    3. Katherine Cecil Thurston, The Masquerader (Harper) [not really a romance, more a political novel]
    6. George Barr McCutcheon, Beverly of Graustark (Dodd, Mead) (illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy) (reprint 2006; available on Gutenberg Project; also available at [made into a 1926 movie with Marion Davies] See:
    = = = =
    Gene Stratton Porter, Freckles [appeared this year; major sales later in reprint, so did not make the best seller list; reprinted 1978, condensed, in Barbara Cartland’s Library of Love, and many other times]
    Arthur W. Marchmont, The Queen’s Advocate. See:

    5. George Barr McCutcheon, Nedra (Dodd, Mead)
    6. Katherine Cecil Thurston, The Gambler (Harper) [not really a romance, more of a political novel]
    = = = = = =
    C.N. and A.M. Williamson, The Princess Passes (Holt) (considered to be the first of the “automobile romances”)
    Emma Magdalena Rosalia Maria Josefa Barbara Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel (historical, romantic suspense/spy novel, Napoleonic era) [appeared as a play two years earlier, in 1903; not on the best seller lists. The Scarlet Pimpernel series continued until 1940, but the later books were less popular.] See:
    Harold MacGrath, The Princess Elopes (illustrated by Harrison Fisher; available on Gutenberg Project; also at and[not on the best seller lists; a "Ruritanian" romance set in the imaginary principality of Barscheit, adjacent to Doppelkinn] See:
    George Barr McCutcheon, The Day of the Dog: A Love Story
    Robert W. Chambers, The Reckoning (historical, colonial New York pre-American Revolution, Sir William Johnson and the Montour family) See: and
    Agnes and Egerton Castle, Rose of the World (available on; illustrated by Harrison Fisher and Clarence F. Underwood; made into a 1918 movie)

    1. Winston Churchill, Coniston (Macmillan) [really a contemporary political novel with minor romantic elements] See:
    2. Owen Wister, Lady Baltimore (Macmillan)
    3. Robert W. Chambers, The Fighting Chance (Appleton) [society drunk fights alcoholism, helped by the love of a woman who is not perfect herself]
    4. Meredith Nicholson, The House of a Thousand Candles (Bobbs-Merrill) See:
    5. George Barr McCutcheon, Jane Cable (Dodd, Mead)
    = = = = = =
    Baroness Orczy, I Will Repay (historical, French Revolution, no HEA)
    Baroness Orczy, A Son of the People (historical, set in Hungary)
    George Barr McCutcheon, Cowardice Court
    Elinor Glyn, Beyond the Rocks (also a1922 silent film with Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino)

    4. Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Shuttle (Stokes) (marriage of American heiress to British nobleman)
    7. George Barr McCutcheon, The Daughter of Anderson Crow (Dodd, Mead) See:
    8. Robert W. Chambers, The Younger Set (Appleton) (available on Gutenberg Project; contemporary, New York high society)
    10. Harold MacGrath, Half a Rogue (Bobbs-Merrill)
    = = = =
    Elinor Glyn, Three Weeks [did not make the US best seller list; about an exotic Balkan queen who seduces a young British aristocrat; no traditional HEA;
    Would you like to sin
    With Elinor Glyn
    On a tiger skin?
    Or would you prefer
    To err with her
    On some other fur?]
    Emma Orczy, Beau Brocade
    George Barr McCutcheon, The Purple Parasol
    Percy James Brebner, Princess Maritza [“Ruritanian romance” in Wallaria]

    3. John Fox, Jr., The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (Scribner) (feud in the Appalachian coal country, with romance elements) See:
    4. Harold MacGrath, The Lure of the Mask (Bobbs-Merrill) (contemporary in opera setting; the hero’s servant conveniently kills the heroine’s husband for betraying his daughter; made into a 1915 silent movie)
    9. George Barr McCutcheon, The Man from Brodney’s (Dodd, Mead)
    = = = =
    Emma Orczy, The Elusive Pimpernel (historical, Napoleonic era) [one of many sequels to The Scarlet Pimpernel]
    Henry DeVere Stacpoole, The Blue Lagoon [ambiguous ending; he wrote a lot of romances; this one was made into a movie in 1980; children stranded on a deserted island who mature]
    Jean Webster, When Patty Went to College (reprint 2007) (contemporary) [she was a niece of Mark Twain]
    Robert W. Chambers, The Firing Line (contemporary; US high society, with strong love interest)
    Cyrus Townsend Brady, The Adventures of Lady Susan (historical, late 18th century in Portsmouth, England; the heroine runs away from her husband, Lord Aldenford)
    George Barr McCutcheon, The Husbands of Edith
    [This is the year that Mills & Boon was founded in England; it was a general publishing firm at the time rather than specializing in romance; see McAleer, Passion’s Fortune.]

    2. Elinor Maccartney Lane, Katrine (Harper) See:
    6. George Barr McCutcheon, Truxton King: A Story of Graustark (Dodd, Mead) See:
    8. Harold MacGrath, The Goose Girl (Bobbs-Merrill) (available on Project Gutenberg) (historical, imaginary quasi-German principality of Ehrenstein, capital Dreiberg, in the mid-1900s with a switched-and-misplaced Princess Hildegarde, Gretchen, King Frederick of Jugendheit incognito as a vintner, and a dashing young American consul; made into a 1915 silent movie) See:
    = = = =
    Emma Orczy, The Nest of the Sparrowhawk (historical, 1657)
    Frances Foster Perry, Their Hearts’ Desire (contemporary)
    Grace Miller White, Tess of the Storm Country (reprint 2007) (illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy)
    Robert W. Chambers, The Danger Mark (Illustrated by A.B. Wenzell, New York, D. Appleton and Company; review in The Bookman, 1910, pp. 264-265; available online through The Gutenberg Project) [Geraldine Seagrave, through love, triumphs over a hereditary tendency to alcoholism; her brother marries an older woman, their former governess; made into a 1918 silent film]
    Cyrus Townsend Brady, The Ring and the Man: With Some Incidental Relation to the Woman (contemporary, hero turns from business to political reform, only to discover that the head of the ring against which he is fighting is the father of the girl he loves) (made into a silent film 1914)

    1. Florence Barclay, The Rosary (Putnam) [published 1909 in England.] See: and
    4. Katherine Cecil Thurston, Max (Russian princess flees arranged marriage)
    = = = =
    Harold MacGrath, A Splendid Hazard [adventurous treasure hunt; still available in reprint]
    Elinor Glyn, His Hour (English woman and Russian prince) (reprint in Barbara Cartland’s Library of Love)
    George Barr McCutcheon, The Butterfly Man
    George Barr McCutcheon, The Rose in the Ring
    Robert W. Chambers, Ailsa Page (historical; Civil War)

    1. Jeffery Farnol, The Broad Highway (Little, Brown) (historical) (reprint in Barbara Cartland’s Library of Love 1977)
    3. Harold Bell Wright, The Winning of Barbara Worth (Book Supply Co.) [Harold Bell Wright wrote what today would probably be classed as "inspirationals." Several made the best seller lists. Some of his books had very strong romance elements; others didn't.] See:
    5. Gene Stratton Porter, The Harvester (Doubleday, Page)
    10. Robert W. Chambers, The Common Law (Appleton) (illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson) [to marry, or to live in sin?]
    = = = =
    Charles Neville Buck, The Lighted Match [not on the best seller lists; American falls in love with a Spanish princess; generally in the Graustark mode; there were literally dozens of these McCutcheon imitators on the market]
    Jean Webster, Just Patty [contemporary, young girl matures, sequel to Patty Goes to College; intertwined stories, not much in the way of romance]
    Kathleen Norris started publishing in 1911 and continued into the 1940s; some people class her books as romance novels, but they honestly never seemed very romantic to me. See:

    4. Maria Thompson Daviess, The Melting of Molly (Bobbs-Merrill) See:
    = = = = = = =
    Robert W. Chambers, The Streets of Ascalon (illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson) [heroine in an abusive marriage; drug addiction]
    Adele Ferguson Knight, The Right to Reign, A romance of the Kingdom of Drecq (reprint 2007) (“Ruritanian romance”)

    3. Gene Stratton Porter, Laddie (Doubleday, Page)
    6. Jeffery Farnol, The Amateur Gentleman (Little, Brown) (reprint in Barbara Cartland’s Library of Love 1978)

    10. George Barr McCutcheon, The Prince of Graustark (Dodd, Mead)
    Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Lost Prince (many reprints) [set in the imaginary Balkan kingdom of Samavia; not much romance; often considered a children’s book]
    Note: for a perfectly deadpan satire, see:,M1
    Francis Edwards, “War Footing of the Imaginary Kingdoms,” The Bookman, 1915, pp. 20-23, with a map.
    = = = =
    Bertha Ruck, His Official Fiancee (reprint 1978 as No. 4 in Barbara Cartland’s Library of Love) [Ruck produced a lot of other titles, such as in Another Girl’s Shoes, The Unkissed Bride, etc.]
    Rex Stout, A Prize for Princes (“Ruritanian romance” set in Fasilica; author is the later creator of the Nero Wolfe mystery series; serialized in 1914 and reprinted as a book in the 1990s)

  7. Second installment.

    Virginia DeMarce

    Romance, Best Sellers and Others 1915-1945

    Taken in part from: Alice Payne Hackett, Fifty Years of Best Sellers 1895-1945 (New York: R.R. Bowker Co., 1945). I've added a lot of titles in addition to those that made the "top ten."

    Note that there were fewer romances reaching “top ten” status during this period than in the previous twenty years. To a considerable extent, this may be because mysteries (Mary Roberts Rinehart) and westerns (Zane Grey) were occupying more of the available space. However, American reading tastes also changed during the 1920s and 1930s.

    10. Henry Sydnor Harrison, Angela’s Business: A Modern Young Man’s Search for a “Womanly” Woman (Houghton Mifflin) [somewhat satirical; young man with a fatal attraction for women finds he prefers the modern emancipated girl who is his best friend to the traditional husband-hunting girl] See:'s+business&source=web&ots=8bSX4P3V9d&sig=5EIHuEIV78Uu7-WbGHNd_fHwTVI
    = = = = = =
    Ethel Powelson Hueston, Prudence of the Parsonage [first of an early "inspirational" series about the five daughters of a widowed Methodist minister]
    Margaret Widdemer, Rose Garden Husband [Widdemer started publishing in 1915, wrote some of the “Campfire Girls” YA series, shared the 1919 Pulitzer Prize for poetry with Carl Sandburg, and continued bringing out new titles to 1968; she’s largely remembered as a poet, as well as for popularizing the term “middlebrow” in a 1933 Saturday Review of Literature article; the Wikipedia entry is very incomplete, but there’s a much more complete entry on pp. 506-407 of Elizabeth A. Brennan, Elizabeth C. Clarage, eds., Who's Who of Pulitzer Prize Winners]
    Robert W. Chambers, Athalie [hero trapped in a bad marriage; the heroine is the “other woman” and there are paranormal elements]

    7. Ethel M. Dell, Bars of Iron (reprinted 1970s in Barbara Cartland’s Library of Love)
    9. Jean Webster, Dear Enemy (Century) [sequel to Daddy Long Legs, published 1912; the earlier novel is better known, but didn’t make the best seller list because of slower sales; social reform, child abuse, alcoholism, hereditary insanity confronted by a doctor and social worker; HEA]
    10. Kathleen Norris, The Heart of Rachael (Doubleday, Page)
    = = = =
    Ethel P. Hueston, Prudence Says So (Bobbs-Merrill) [“inspirational”; not a best-seller, but popular]
    Alice Duer Miller, Come Out of the Kitchen (movie as Spring in Park Lane, 1948)
    Bessie Marchant, A Princess of Servia

    9. Jeffery Farnol, The Definite Object (Little, Brown)
    10. Ethel M. Dell, The Hundredth Chance (Putnam) (reprinted 1970s in Barbara Cartland’s Library of Love)
    = = = = =
    Emma Orczy, Lord Tony’s Wife [a Scarlet Pimpernel sequel]
    Margaret Widdemer, Wishing Ring Man
    Temple Bailey, Mistress Anne
    Grace Miller White, The Secret of the Storm Country

    6. Ethel M. Dell, Greatheart (Putnam) (reprinted 1970s in Barbara Cartland’s Library of Love)
    9. Gene Stratton Porter, A Daughter of the Land (Doubleday, Page) See:
    = = = = =
    Peter B. Kyne, The Valley of the Giants (available on See:
    Temple Bailey, Contrary Mary [she wrote a lot of novels]

    7. Gene Stratton Porter, Dawn (Houghton Mifflin)
    10. Robert W. Chambers, In Secret (Doran) [dark romance; spy novel; alcoholism and other travails; reluctance to commit]
    = = = = = = = =
    Johnston McCulley, creation of Zorro as a character in a pulp magazine [historical, colonial Spanish California setting. Zorro has had staying power. Movies from 1920 with Douglas Fairbanks, remade 1940 with Tyrone Power, to 2005]. See

    2. Peter B. Kyne, Kindred of the Dust (Cosmopolitan Book Co.)
    9. Ethel M. Dell, The Lamp in the Desert (Putnam)
    = = = =
    Margaret Widdemer, I’ve Married Marjorie (available on Gutenberg Project)

    6. Edith Maude Hull, The Sheik (Small, Maynard) (reprinted 1970s in Barbara Cartland’s Library of Love) [nom de plume for Edith Maude Winstanley; literary ancestor of innumerable romantic sheiks, as well as her sequel, The Sons of the Sheik]
    8. Gene Stratton Porter, Her Father’s Daughter (Doubleday, Page)
    = = = =
    Alice Duer Miller, Manslaughter [romance, but with a long separation while the heroine is in prison; she continued writing into the 1940s; some of her novels were in verse]
    Georgette Heyer, The Black Moth [this was the year her first novel was published; it had a Georgian setting in 1751; she continued publishing until her death in 1974, but doesn't show on any of the best seller lists]
    Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouche [historical adventure, set in the French Revolution; not on the best seller lists, but stayed in print a long time and was made into a movie in 1952. "He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad."]
    Emma Orczy, The First Sir Percy
    Olive Wadsley, Almond-Blossom [Wadsley was a British author who wrote a lot of serials]
    Katherine B. Hamill, A Flower of Monterey: A Romance of the Californias

    4. Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Head of the House of Coombe (Stokes) [It’s sequel was Robin] See:
    10. Harold Bell Wright, Helen of the Old House (Appleton) (inspirational)
    = = = =
    Emma Orczy, The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel
    Rafael Sabatini, Captain Blood
    Emilie Baker Loring started publishing "sweet" romances in this year; continued publishing until 1972, some of the books being published posthumously, since Loring died in 1951. See

    9. Rafael Sabatini, The Sea-Hawk (Houghton Mifflin)
    = = = = = =
    Georgette Heyer, The Transformation of Philip Jettan (republished 1926 as Powder and Patch)

    9. Rafael Sabatini, Mistress Wilding (Houghton Mifflin)
    = = = =
    Ethel P. Hueston, Prudence's Daughter (Bobbs-Merrill) [not a best seller]
    Peter B. Kyne, The Enchanted Hill [usually classified as a western, but definitely romantic]

    3. Gene Stratton Porter, The Keeper of the Bees (Doubleday, Page)
    9. Rafael Sabatini, The Carolinian (Houghton Mifflin)
    = = = =
    Temple Bailey, The Dim Lantern
    Alice Duer Miller, The Reluctant Duchess
    Barbara Cartland, Jigsaw [not on the best seller lists; continued publishing into the 1990s with more than 700 books; never made the US best seller lists] See

    No obvious best seller choices although 2. Anita Loos, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Boni & Liveright) would come close to some 21st century “contemporaries” or “chick lit” in attitude, while 8. Edna Ferber’s Show Boat (Doubleday, Page) had romance elements while dealing with miscegenation and other social issues. See:
    = = = =
    Elswyth Thane, Riders of the Wind [her first novel; she continued publishing into the 1960s] See
    Margaret Widdemer, Gallant Lady
    Kathleen Norris, Hildegarde
    Georgette Heyer, These Old Shades
    L.M. Montgomery, The Blue Castle (reprint 1989) [Lucy Maude Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame; this was her first adult novel]

    3. Warwick Deeping, Doomsday (Knopf) [Deeping's first novel was Uther and Igaine in 1903; he continued publishing to 1947, plus there were four posthumous novels in the 1950s. Most of his work was not straight romance.]
    = = = =
    Emma Orczy, Sir Percy Hits Back
    Elinor Glyn, It (reprinted 1978 in Barbara Cartland’s Library of Love, somewhat abridged and expurgated) [made into a film with Jean Harlow; review by Dorothy Parker of New Yorker magazine: “She didn’t need It. She had Those.”]
    Faith Baldwin started publishing in the late 1920s and continued through the 1940s. Her novels were classified as romance, but most come closer to being what is now labeled as "women's fiction."

    No obvious best seller choices, although 9. Mazo de la Roche, Jalna, was the start of a prominent “saga” series.
    = = = = = =
    Georgette Heyer, The Masqueraders

    No obvious best seller choices.

    No obvious best seller choices, although 7. Hugh Walpole, Rogue Herries (Doubleday, Doran) was the start of a successful “saga” series.
    = = = = = =
    Georgette Heyer, Powder and Patch
    Frances Parkinson Keyes, Queen Anne's Lace [she continued to publish into the 1960s. Her novels contained romantic relationships, but many did not have the HEA of the romance genre novel]
    Denise Robins, Swing of Youth [continued to publish romances into the 1980s]
    Margaret Widdemer, Loyal Lover

    No obvious best seller choices.
    L.M. Montgomery, A Tangled Web (numerous reprints to 2001)
    Mills & Boon started publishing "category romances" in England. Note: I do not recall having seen these in US bookstores or public libraries until much, much later -- maybe the late 1960s or early 1970s? There were juvenile/YA nurse stories, etc., in US stores, but not really the same sort of thing as Jay Dixon describes in The Romance Fiction of Mills & Boon 1909-1990s.
    Two prominent 1930s M&B authors were
    Mary Burchell [nom de plume for Ida Cook; continued publishing for 50 years with “over 130 novels” per McAleer] See:
    Jan Tempest [also wrote as Fay Chandos, Theresa Charles, and Leslie Lance; was actually Irene Maude Swatridge and Charles John Swatridge] See:
    For more names see Joseph McAleer, Passion’s Fortune: The Story of Mills & Boon, pp. 64-76; his discussion of sales on pp. 62-64 indicates that these did not qualify as best sellers, although the fact that they were marketed mainly to English lending libraries meant that readership was much larger than sales. However, an average print run was about 8,000 copies, with the most popular ones increasing to about 14,500 copies (Denise Robins before she left this publisher); this contrasts with US best seller statistics of about 250,000 for the average “top ten” fiction title at the time.

    No obvious best seller choices.
    Georgette Heyer, Devil’s Cub

    No obvious best seller choices.

    No obvious best seller choices, since 1. Hervey Allen, Anthony Adverse (Farrar & Rinehart) was a historical epic that really had only minor romance elements.
    = = = = = =
    D.E. Stevenson, Miss Buncle's Book [Dorothy Emily Stevenson had published a couple of books before this one and continued to publish through the 1960s.] See:, which is a wonderful D.E. Stevenson site. There’s a good bibliography here: and a complete one here:
    Georgette Heyer, The Convenient Marriage
    Alice Duer Miller, Gowns by Roberta [largely written from the hero’s POV; American man falls in love with exiled Russian princess Stephanie in a Paris couture establishment; made into a 1935 movie, Roberta, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, music by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach (“Lovely to Look At,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “I Won’t Dance”); remade 1952 into a movie as Lovely to Look At]

    No obvious best seller choices.
    Georgette Heyer, Regency Buck [her first Regency novel]
    Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (detective novel, continues Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane)
    Robert W. Chambers, Love and the Lieutenant (historical; American Revolution)
    D.E. Stevenson, Smouldering Fire [dispute over child custody by divorced couple]
    D.E. Stevenson, Divorced from Reality [also in the US under the title Miss Dean’s Dilemma 1938; republished 1966, 1970, and 1979 as The Young Clementina; World War I, a Really Big Misunderstanding, caused by a wicked sister, and delayed HEA; Charlotte Dean’s POV, Garth Wisdon, his daughter Clementina Wisdon]

    1. Margaret Mitchell,Gone with the Wind (Macmillan) [not technically a romance novel, lacking the HEA; Regis calls it a “near miss.”] See:
    = = = =
    D.E. Stevenson, Miss Buncle Married
    Georgette Heyer, The Talisman Ring
    Alice Duer Miller, Wife vs. Secretary [screenplay?]

    9. Louis Bromfield, The Rains Came (Harper) [not usually considered a romance, but I certainly thought it was when I read it as a teenager] See:
    = = = =
    Dorothy L. Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon: A Love Story with Detective Intervals (Lord Peter and Harriet after their marriage)
    Elswyth Thane, Queen’s Folly (historical, Elizabethan era to the then-present)
    Georgette Heyer, An Infamous Army (historical, Napoleonic era)

    4. Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca (Doubleday, Doran) [often classified as gothic rather than romance; Regis calls it a “near miss.”] See:
    = = = =
    Zane Grey, Majesty's Rancho [So it was a western! Girls read it as a romance.]
    Margaret Widdemer, Hand on Her Shoulder
    D.E. Stevenson, Miss Bun, the Baker’s Daughter (reprint 1965 as The Baker’s Daughter; artist and “ordinary” girl)

    No obvious best seller choices.
    Helen MacInnes, Above Suspicion [her first title published; her works were spy novels that fall basically into the romantic suspense sub-genre. Her last book was published in 1984.]
    Elswyth Thane, Tryst (contemporary with ghost, paranormal, in a sense)
    Margaret Widdemer, She Knew Three Brothers
    D.E. Stevenson, Green Money (contemporary; guardian/ward theme, in a way, but not at all the “usual” outcome)

    No obvious best seller choices, since 3. Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver (Harcourt, Brace) really falls into the “women’s fiction” category.
    = = = = = =
    Inglis Clark Fletcher, Raleigh's Eden [historical, colonial North Carolina setting, with strong love story; Fletcher had several other historicals]
    Margaret Widdemer, Someday I’ll Find You
    D.E. Stevenson, The English Air (reprint 1972)
    D.E. Stevenson, Spring Magic
    Georgette Heyer, The Spanish Bride (historical, Napoleonic era)
    Elswyth Thane, Remember Today (contemporary)
    Philip Barry and Donald Ogden Stewart, The Philadelphia Story [okay, so it was a play and then a movie with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, not a novel, I know, I know, so shoot me; musical movie remake 1956, ex-husband turns up on the evening of a socialite’s remarriage, with Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, and Cole Porter’s “True Love” – it was the ultimate]

    No obvious best seller choices, although there were romance elements in 9. Edna Ferber, Saratoga Trunk (Doubleday) See:
    = = = = = =
    Anya Seton, My Theodosia (historical, American Revolutionary era, Aaron Burr and his wife, not really a romance)
    Eleanor Burford (aka Jean Plaidy aka Victoria Holt aka Philippa Carr aka Elbur Ford aka Kathleen Kellow aka Anna Percival aka Ellalice Tate) published her first novel; her career continued to her death in 1993. See:
    Elswyth Thane, From This Day Forward (contemporary; story of a marriage)
    Elswyth Thane, Remember Today (contemporary; heroine sacrifices career for love)
    Margaret Widdemer, Lover’s Alibi
    Georgette Heyer, Faro’s Daughter (regency)

    4. Rachel Field, And Now, Tomorrow (Macmillan) (rich, deaf heroine whose fiancé is having an affair with her sister, self-made doctor with experimental vaccine; made into a 1946 movie with Alan Ladd and Loretta Young)
    5. Elizabeth Pickett, Drivin’ Woman: A Tobacco Romance (Macmillan) (historical, set in Kentucky during the 50 years after the Civil War) [nom de plume for Elizabeth Pickett Chevalier]
    = = = = = =
    Agnes Sligh Turnbull, Day Must Dawn (historical, set in Pennsylvania in 1782)
    Margaret Widdemer, Angela Comes Home
    D.E. Stevenson, Crooked Adam (contemporary, romantic suspense/spy theme)

    8. Daphne du Maurier, Hungry Hill (Doubleday, Doran) [more gothic than romance]
    = = = =
    Elswyth Thane, Dawn's Early Light [first of the Williamsburg novels; American Revolution, Julian and Tibby, not a best-seller] This site has some lovely older covers for the series:
    Adelaide Humphries, Uncertain Glory [Humphries wrote "nurse romances" and continued publishing a sequence of them to at least 1980.]
    Maysie Greig, Professional Hero [Greig was Australian] See:
    D.E. Stevenson, Celia’s House (reprint 1972) [many echoes of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, with paranormal/ghost/reincarnation elements]
    D.E. Stevenson, The Two Mrs. Abbotts (reprint 1983) [the further adventures of Barbara Buncle]

    4. Kathleen Winsor, Forever Amber (Macmillan) [historical set in England during the Restoration of Charles II, 1660s; erotica rather than romance, really] See:
    8. Elizabeth Goudge, Green Dolphin Street (Coward-McCann) [historical, Victorian era, really delayed HEA] See:
    = = = =
    Elswyth Thane, Yankee Stranger [historical, second of the Williamsburg novels, Civil War; not a best-seller, but still in print 2008]
    Kay Boyle, Avalanche (romantic suspense/spy thriller)
    D.E. Stevenson, Listening Valley (contemporary; unusual in that heroine marries first to a much older man in his sixties who carefully brings her out of a troubled past, is widowed, and remarries equally happily to a RAF pilot her own age)
    Georgette Heyer, Friday’s Child (regency)

    [this year not included in Hackett’s book cited at the head of this entry, in spite of the title, but rather in Alice Payne Hackett, Seven Years of Best Sellers 1945-1951. Supplement to Fifty Years of Best Sellers 1895-1945 (New York: R.R. Bowker Co., 1952)]
    3. Thomas B. Costain, The Black Rose (Doubleday) (historical, medieval) See:
    8. Samuel Shellabarger, Captain from Castile (Little Brown) (historical)
    = = = =
    Paul Gallico, The Lonely (WWII contemporary, not on the best seller lists, but sold more than a million copies by 1972)
    Elswyth Thane, Ever After (historical, Spanish-American War)
    Maysie Greig, Heartbreak for Two
    Margaret Widdemer, Constancia Herself (contemporary) [Constancia Hartt, socialite, engaged to a geneticist (read eugenics believer, with issues because of his older sister's runaway marriage and his continuing responsibility for a nephew with hereditary syphilis), finds out almost on the eve of her wedding that she was adopted, and her heritage might be "unsound." At the same time, the best man fell in love with her at first sight -- the only real coincidence in the book is that he is Gil Atlee from Atleesville, NJ, the town from which she was taken to the adoption agency. Thrown by everything, she makes a hasty war marriage with Gil. He's had a difficult childhood, but is a great guy in spite of that. Six months of stress and investigation of her background, during which she gets heavily involved with social work and grows up a lot, ensue before the HEA]
    Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, Gigi (historical, Paris in the Edwardian era; novella or short novel, ; 1944 in French; made into a 1951 Broadway play adapted by Anita Loos with Audrey Hepburn, and a 1958 movie musical with Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, and Maurice Chevalier, music by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe)
    Violet Needham, The Betrayer (“Ruritanian romance” set in Flavonia and Ornowitza) [possibly children’s literature, since The Emerald Crown (1940), also set in Flavonia, was]

    Things changed a lot in 1946 with the publication of Frank Yerby's The Foxes of Harrow. Shellabarger, Costain, and Yerby introduced a decade of really big, thick, sweeping, epic, historical adventure/romances.

  8. Third installment.

    Virginia DeMarce

    Romance, Best Sellers and Others, 1946-1979

    Partly taken from Alice Payne Hackett, Seven Years of Best Sellers 1945-1951. Supplement to Fifty Years of Best Sellers 1895-1945 (New York: R.R. Bowker Co., 1952)

    After 1951, the following site lists the best sellers, but not the publisher:

    Ten thousand thanks to Barbara Markov of the aarlist2, who went out to her storage shed and pored through her older keepers.

    See also:, At the Back Fence, April 1, 2000, Robin Uncapher and Anne Marble on “The Gothic Novel” or, otherwise, “Respectable Romance - Romance Novels before the Beefcake” (mostly limited to the 1960s). On this topic, see generally, Steve Lewis’ catalog of gothic paperbacks from the mid 1960s to the end of the 1970s at:

    1. Daphne du Maurier, The King’s General (Doubleday)
    3. Frances Parkinson Keyes, The River Road (Messner)
    6. Frank Yerby, The Foxes of Harrow (Dial Press) (historical) [Yerby continued publishing until 1985, but his big successes, with the most romantic elements, were in the period before 1960]
    = = = =
    Jan Westcott, The Border Lord
    Christine Weston, The Dark Wood
    Georgette Heyer, The Reluctant Widow (regency)
    D.E. Stevenson, The Four Graces (England during WWII, four daughters of a village clergyman; continuation of The Two Mrs. Abbotts)

    5. Frank Yerby, The Vixens (Dial Press) (historical)
    10. Samuel Shellabarger, Prince of Foxes (Little Brown) (historical, set in the Italian Renaissance)
    = = = =
    Iris Bromige, Chequered Pattern [continued publishing at least through 1980] See:
    Elswyth Thane, The Light Heart (before and after World War I)
    Frances Parkinson Keyes, Came a Cavalier (historical, World War I)

    3. Frances Parkinson Keyes, Dinner at Antoine’s (Messner) (contemporary)
    4. Agnes Sligh Turnbull, The Bishop’s Mantle (Macmillan) (inspirational, basically; not really a romance, but focused on the hero, an Episcopalian minister)
    6. Frank Yerby, The Golden Hawk (Dial Press) (historical)
    9. Elizabeth Goudge, Pilgrim’s Inn (Coward-McCann)
    = = = =
    Jan Westcott, Captain for Elizabeth (historical)
    Edison Marshall, Yankee Pasha: The Adventures of Jason Starbuck (historical) [he continued publishing into the 1960s]
    Elswyth Thane, Kissing Kin (not quite historical, 1930s)
    Nancy Wilson Ross, The Left Hand Is the Dreamer
    Margaret Widdemer, Lani (historical, set in Hawaii)
    Georgette Heyer, The Foundling (regency)
    Martha Cheavens, Crosswinds [okay, you probably don’t remember it or her, but she was my father’s cousin; you’re more likely to remember the 1941 movie with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne called Penny Serenade, which was an original script] See:

    7. Thomas B. Costain, High Towers (Doubleday)
    9. Frank Yerby, Pride’s Castle (Dial Press)
    = = = =
    Georgette Heyer, Arabella (regency)
    Leslie Turner White, Lord Johnnie (historical) [White published many other titles.]
    Zoé Oldenburg, The World Is Not Enough (historical, 12th century France, the marriage takes place at the beginning and the book traces the couple for the next thirty years; first in a trilogy that continued with The Cornerstone and Destiny of Fire)
    D.E. Stevenson, Vittoria Cottage (contemporary, set in Scotland; older couple, widow and widower, at the center)
    D.E. Stevenson, Young Mrs. Savage (contemporary)

    2. Frances Parkinson Keyes, Joy Street (Messner)
    6. Daphne du Maurier, The Parasites (Doubleday)
    7. Frank Yerby, Floodtide (Dial Press)
    8. Gwen Bristow, Jubilee Trail (Crowell) (a sort of western/romance; Bristow had been publishing novels since 1926 and continued until 1980)
    = = = =
    Janice Holt Giles, The Enduring Hills (basically “inspirational” as were her other numerous books; a mountain boy comes home; set in Kentucky) See: and
    Georgette Heyer, The Grand Sophy (regency)
    Upton Sinclair, Another Pamela, Or, Virtue Still Rewarded (HEA with social satire; specifically based upon Samuel Richardson’s 18th-century Pamela) See:,9171,812452-1,00.html - “Parody in Pink,” Time Magazine, 8 May 1950
    Thomas B. Costain, Son of a Hundred Kings
    Samuel Shellabarger, The King’s Cavalier
    Lawrence Schoonover, The Gentle Infidel (historical, culminating in the 1453 fall of Constantinople) [his first novel came out in 1948 and his last publication was in 1973; most were historicals that focused on actual individuals who lived in the past rather than romance]
    Elizabeth Boatwright Coker, Daughter of Strangers [continued publishing until 1981]
    Elswyth Thane, Melody (contemporary)
    Margaret Widdemer, Red Cloak Flying (historical). See for bibliography:
    D.E. Stevenson, Music in the Hills (contemporary, set in Scotland)

    5. Frank Yerby, A Woman Called Fancy (Dial Press) (historical)
    = = = =
    Nevil Shute, A Town Like Alice (contemporary, World War II in Australia)
    Irving Stone, The President’s Lady (historical, US pre-Civil War, Andrew and Rachel Jackson)
    Dale van Every, The Captive Witch (historical, Kentucky in the 1780s)
    Elswyth Thane, This Was Tomorrow (1930s, contemporary)
    Georgette Heyer, The Quiet Gentleman (regency)
    Margaret Widdemer, Lady of the Mohawks (historical; Molly Brant and Sir William Johnson, pre-Revolutionary New York, Native American)
    Edison Marshall, The Viking (reprint 1973; historical; made into a movie with Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, and Vivien Leigh)
    D.E. Stevenson, Shoulder the Sky: A Story of Winter in the Hills (contemporary, set in Scotland; also published as Winter and Rough Weather)

    4. Daphne du Maurier, My Cousin Rachel (gothic)
    5. Frances Parkinson Keys, Steamboat Gothic (historical)
    8. Agnes Sligh Turnbull, The Gown of Glory (inspirational)
    9. Frank Yerby, The Saracen Blade (historical)
    = = = = = =
    Margaret Widdemer, Prince in Buckskin: A Story of Joseph Brant at Lake George (historical; American Revolution era, Native American)

    3. Annemarie Selinko, Desiree (historical, Napoleonic era; originally published in 1951)
    9. Samuel Shellabarger, Lord Vanity (historical)
    = = = = = =
    Frank Yerby, The Devil’s Laughter (historical)
    Elizabeth Boatwright Coker, India Allan
    Elswyth Thane, The Lost General (reprint 1976) (contemporary, post World War II, beta hero)
    Georgette Heyer, Cotillion (regency)
    D.E. Stevenson, Five Windows (contemporary)

    2. Daphne du Maurier, Mary Anne (gothic)
    4. Frances Parkinson Keyes, The Royal Box (contemporary)
    10. Frank Yerby, Benton’s Row (historical)
    = = = = = =
    Anya Seton, Katherine (historical, medieval, John of Gaunt)
    Georgette Heyer, The Toll-Gate (regency)
    Frank Yerby, Bride of Liberty (historical)
    Mary Stewart, Madam, Will You Talk (romantic suspense) [reissued in 2003; she continued publishing until 1997]
    Jan Cox Speas, Bride of the McHugh (historical)
    Margaret Widdemer, The Golden Wildcat (historical)
    D.E. Stevenson, Charlotte Fairlie (contemporary; later republished as Blow the Wind Southerly; later as The Enchanted Isle)
    Elswyth Thane, Letter to a Stranger (contemporary) (reprint 1974)

    9. Thomas B. Costain, The Tontine (historical)
    = = = = = =
    F. Van Wyck Mason, Captain Judas (historical, not much of a romance)
    Georgette Heyer, Bath Tangle (regency)
    Hannah Closs, The Silent Tarn (historical, Albigensian era, third of a trilogy; the first two were High are the Mountains and Deep are the Valleys)
    Phyllis A. Whitney, The Quicksilver Pool (reprint 1973) (romantic suspense) [she continued publishing until 1993; died 2008 at age 104; her work fell almost entirely into the mystery/romantic suspense field and is not included on this list]

    No obvious best seller choices, but there was:
    3. Grace Metalious, Peyton Place [not a romance, but lots of sexual activity; significant in regard to what could be published]
    = = = = = =
    Jan Cox Speas, My Lord Monleigh
    Georgette Heyer, Sprig Muslin (regency)
    Vardis Fisher, Pemmican: A Novel of the Hudson’s Bay Company (historical)
    Helen Rucker, Cargo of Brides (historical, 19th century Seattle)
    D.E. Stevenson, Summerhills (contemporary)
    Sylvia Thorpe, The Golden Panther (historical, restoration Caribbean)

    5. Frances Parkinson Keyes, Blue Camellia
    7. Daphne du Maurier, The Scapegoat (gothic)
    9. Thomas B. Costain, Below the Salt (historical, medieval)
    = = = =
    Mary Stewart, Thunder on the Right (romantic suspense)
    Egan O’Neil aka Elizabeth Linington, The Anglophile
    Elswyth Thane, Homing (World War II)
    Georgette Heyer, April Lady (regency)
    Georgette Heyer, Sylvester, Or The Wicked Uncle (regency)
    Mary Kay Simmons, Flight from Riversedge [continued publishing at least to 1980]
    Rosamond Marshall, Captain Ironhand
    Agnes Sligh Turnbull, The Golden Journey (essentially an “inspirational”)
    D.E. Stevenson, The Tall Stranger
    Harlequin Enterprises started distributing Mills & Boon English “nurse book” category romances in Canada; these were in paperback format.

    1. Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago
    3. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita [not a romance, but significant in regard to what could be published]
    8. Anya Seton, The Winthrop Woman (historical)
    10. Frances Parkinson Keyes, Victorine (almost contemporary)
    = = = = = =
    Georgette Heyer, Venetia (regency) [on the AAR list of 100 top romances, the only title on it written between Jane Eyre in 1847 and the 1980s; my personal favorite of all Heyer’s books]
    H.E. Bates, The Darling Buds of May [romance in it, but not quite a romance]
    Mary Stewart, Nine Coaches Waiting (romantic suspense)

    No obvious best seller choices, but there was 5. D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover [printed privately in 1928; first public printing, along with the 1961 US publication of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer (first published in Paris in 1934) and John Cleland’s Fanny Hill (written 1748), after 1959 court victory]
    = = = =
    Alice Chetwynd Ley, The Jewelled Snuffbox (reprint 1974) [she continued publishing until 1989]
    Georgette Heyer, The Unknown Ajax (regency)
    Zoé Oldenburg, Massacre at Montsegur (historical, medieval, Albigensians)

    No obvious best seller choices.
    Victoria Holt, Mistress of Mellyn (gothic)
    Sergeanne Golon, Angelique (historical, 17th century) [eight subsequent novels in the series]
    Margaret Widdemer, Buckskin Baronet (historical, colonial New York)
    Alice Chetwynd Ley, The Georgian Rake (reprint 1974)

    No obvious best seller choices.
    Mary Stewart, The Ivy Tree (romantic suspense)
    Georgette Heyer, A Civil Contract [disputed at the time as to whether or not it was a romance]
    Dorothy Dunnett, first volume of the Lymond Chronicles (historical, medieval)
    Jan Cox Speas, My Love, My Enemy (historical, War of 1812)
    Natalie Anderson Scott, The Golden Trollop
    Alice Chetwynd Ley, The Guinea Stamp (reprint 1979 as The Courting of Joanna)
    D.E. Stevenson, Bel Lamington (contemporary; a different take on the boss/secretary theme)
    Note: Violet Winspear started publishing for Mills & Boon in England; would continue into the 1980s.

    No obvious best seller choices.
    Mary Stewart, The Moonspinners (romantic suspense)
    Georgette Heyer, The Nonesuch (regency)
    Molly Costain Haycraft, Reluctant Queen (historical, another go at Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon) [she continued to write similar historicals into the mid 1970s; she also wrote non-fiction biographies of royal women]

    No obvious best seller choices, but there was:
    Mary McCarthy, The Group [not a romance, but those of us who read it never thought about sex scenes in quite the same way again]
    = = = = = = =
    Georgette Heyer, False Colours (regency)
    Mary Elgin, Visibility Nil (sort of gothic contemporary) [reissued 1965 as The Man from the Mist; nom de plume for Dorothy Mary Stewart]
    Jan Cox Speas, The Growing Season
    Victoria Holt, Bride of Pendorric (gothic)
    D.E. Stevenson, The Blue Sapphire (contemporary)

    9. Mary Stewart, This Rough Magic
    = = = = = =
    Roberta Gellis, Knight’s Honor (historical, medieval England after the death of Henry I)
    Jane Aiken Hodge, Maulever Hall (historical romantic suspense/gothic) [continued to publish through 2003, many books with regency settings, including four excellent nonfiction works that included biographies of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer]
    Glenna Finley, A Tycoon for Ann
    Delphine Lyons, House of Four Windows [pseudonym of Evelyn E. Smith, several more titles to 1970]
    Christina Laffeaty, Island of Storm [continued publishing through 1991]
    Mills & Boon started printing paperback novels in Britain.

    No obvious best seller choices.
    Mary Stewart, Airs Above the Ground (contemporary, romantic suspense)
    Roberta Gellis, Bond of Blood (historical, medieval)
    Georgette Heyer, Frederica (regency)
    Irving Stone, Those Who Love (historical, John and Abigail Adams, Revolutionary and early federal era)

    No obvious best seller choices.
    Mary Elgin, Highland Masquerade (sort of gothic contemporary) [originally Return to Glenshael; reissued 1973]
    Agnes Sligh Turnbull, The Wedding Bargain (contemporary; marriage of convenience)
    Alice Chetwynd Ley, Master of Liversedge (reprint 1977 as The Master and the Maiden)
    D.E. Stevenson, The House on the Cliff (contemporary, rather extreme example of the sturdy virtues of rural life and woolen stockings as compared to the decadence of London and nylons – sort of the English equivalent of Zane Grey’s comparison of the valorous west to the decadent east, as far as myth-making goes)
    Georgette Heyer, Black Sheep (regency)

    5. Catherine Marshall, Christy (an “inspirational,” sort of)
    9. Mary Stewart, The Gabriel Hounds (romantic suspense)
    = = = = = =
    Mary Elgin, The Wood and the Trees (reprint 1976) (contemporary with flashbacks to World War II; homosexuality, adultery, hero and heroine in their forties, remarriage for both complicated by adult and near-adult children)
    Alice Chetwynd Ley, The Clandestine Betrothal (regency)
    Ruth Freeman Solomon, The Candlesticks and the Cross (historical, tsarist Russia)
    Barbara Michaels, The Master of Blacktower (very gothic in tone) [pen name of Barbara Mertz, who is also Elizabeth Peters of Jacqueline Kirby (begun 1972), Vicki Bliss (begun 1973), and Amelia Peabody (begun 1975) fame, still publishing under the Michaels name in 1998] See bibliography at:
    Agnes Sligh Turnbull, Gown of Glory (essentially an “inspirational”)
    Jane Aiken Hodge, Here Comes a Candle (gothic/historical, War of 1812,Washington, DC; reissued 1972 as The Master of Penrose]
    Rosamunde Pilcher, Sleeping Tiger [first book published under her own name; English girl, age 20, goes to Spain to seek possible father]
    Isabelle Holland, Cecily [first novel; she continued publishing to 1999] See:
    Anne Stevenson, Ralph Dacre (romantic suspense)

    3. Helen MacInnes, The Salzburg Connection (romantic suspense, spy thriller)
    = = = =
    Betty Neels, Sister Peters in Amsterdam [her first Harlequin/M&B novel; continued publishing for the next 30+ years]
    Elizabeth Peters, The Jackal’s Head
    Margaret Widdemer, The Red Castle Women (gothic; Victorian era, New York’s Hudson River)
    Georgette Heyer, Cousin Kate (regency)

    No obvious best seller choices.
    Daphne du Maurier, The House on the Strand (gothic)
    Elizabeth Peters, The Camelot Caper
    Alice Chetwynd Ley, The Toast of the Town
    Anne Stevenson, A Relative Stranger (romantic suspense/gothic)

    1. Erich Segal, Love Story (no HEA]
    4. Mary Stewart, The Crystal Cave (romantic suspense)
    8. Victoria Holt, The Secret Woman (gothic)
    = = = =
    Janet Louise Roberts, The Jewels of Terror [continued publishing at least to 1980; aka Janette Radcliffe]
    Alice Chetwynd Ley, Letters for a Spy (reprint 1977 as The Sentimental Spy)
    Georgette Heyer, Charity Girl (regency)
    Anne Stevenson, Flash of Splendour (romantic suspense)
    Pocket Books started distributing Harlequin/Mills&Boon in the US.

    6. Helen MacInnes, Message from Malaga (romantic suspense)
    = = = = = =
    Susan Howatch, Penmarric
    Clare Darcy, Georgina (regency) [continued to publish until 1981, all titles had given names of the heroines]
    Elsie Lee, The Diplomatic Lover (contemporary) [topic of discussion in Janice Radway’s Reading the Romance; Lee was listed in the second edition of Twentieth Century Romance and Historical Writers, but omitted in the third edition; nom de plume for Elsie Lee Sheridan (1912, 1987)] See:
    Madeline Brent, Tregaron’s Daughter (gothic historical, Victorian) [pseudonym of Peter O’Donnell, creator of Modesty Blaise; per Elizabeth Sleeman, International Who's Who of Authors and Writers 2004, p. 419]
    Evelyn Berckman, A Finger to Her Lips (historical/gothic, divorced adulterous duchess disguises herself to retrieve her child) [Berckman, d. 1978, had published as early as 1940, regularly since 1955, mostly detective fiction] See: and
    Ruth Freeman Solomon, The Eagle and the Dove
    Alice Chetwynd Ley, A Season at Brighton
    Harlequin Enterprises bought Mills & Boon.

    = = = = = =
    No obvious best seller choices.
    Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Flame and the Flower (historical) [inserted as a landmark; I didn’t read it then and still haven’t]
    Frances Murray, The Dear Colleague (historical, 1850s, marriage of convenience, family Scottish/English, diplomatic service in France) [nom de plume for Rosemary Booth, b. 1928, Glasgow, Scotland, per Elizabeth Sleeman, International Who’s Who of Authors and Writers 2004, p. 64]
    Elsie Lee, The Passions of Medora Graeme (contemporary)
    Elizabeth Peters, The Seventh Sinner
    Georgette Heyer, A Lady of Quality (regency)
    Anne Stevenson, A Game of Statues (romantic suspense)

    6. Mary Stewart, The Hollow Hills (romantic suspense)
    = = = = = =
    Elizabeth Peters, Borrower of the Night
    Elsie Lee, Second Season (regency)
    Elsie Lee, The Wicked Guardian (historical)
    Clare Darcy, Lydia (regency)
    Madeline Brent, Moonraker’s Bride (historical, Victorian)
    William Goldman, The Princess Bride [greatly debated as to whether or not the book was romance, but the 1987 movie sure was; included because my teenaged granddaughters insist that “it is too a romance”]

    No obvious best seller choices.
    Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, The Wolf and the Dove [inserted as a landmark; I didn’t read it then and still haven’t]
    Clare Darcy, Lydia (regency)
    Frances Parkinson Keyes, Lady Blanche Farm
    Anne Stevenson, The French Inheritance (romantic suspense)
    Rosemary Rogers, Sweet Savage Love [inserted as a landmark; I didn’t read it then and still haven’t]
    Rosemary Rogers, The Wildest Heart [inserted as a landmark; I didn’t read it then and still haven’t]

    No obvious best seller choices.
    Frances Murray, The Heroine’s Sister (historical, Venice in 1868)
    Elsie Lee, An Eligible Connection (regency)
    Elizabeth Peters, Crocodile on the Sand Bank (historical/mystery, Amelia Peabody debuts; England and Egypt)
    Harlequin Books purchased their first title by a US author, Janet Dailey; at this time 70% of the firm’s sales were in the US.

    No obvious best seller choices.
    Elsie Lee, Prior Betrothal (regency)
    Elizabeth Peters, Legend in Green Velvet (reprint 2002) (contemporary/mystery, Scotland)
    Madeleine Brent, Kirkby’s Changeling (historical, Victorian; US title was Stranger at Wildings)
    Jane Aiken Hodge, Judas Flowering (historical, American Revolution, Savannah, GA)
    Sheila Bishop, A Speaking Likeness (regency)

    No obvious best seller choices.
    Elsie Lee, The Nabob’s Widow (regency)
    Laurie McBain, Moonstruck Madness (historical, 18th century England, female Robin Hood as highwayman)

    No obvious best seller choices.
    Madeleine Brent, Merlin’s Keep (historical, Victorian)
    Patricia Veryan, The Lord and the Gypsy [her first novel; continued publishing until 2002]
    Celeste De Blasis, The Proud Breed (historical, colonial California)
    Anne Stevenson, Coil of Serpents (romantic suspense)

    7. Mary Stewart, The Last Enchantment (romantic suspense)
    = = = = = =
    Madeleine Brent, The Capricorn Stone
    Anne Stevenson, Mask of Treason (romantic suspense) See:
    Harlequin rejects a submission from Nora Roberts on the grounds that they already have their US author.

    Founding of Romance Writers of America (RWA)
    Silhouette starts publication from Simon & Schuster.

    As a kind of end note, from 1977 through 1980, Bantam brought out “Barbara Cartland’s Library of Love,” as condensed – and greatly expurgated and bowdlerized – paperback versions of what they considered important romance novels from earlier in the 20th century. I’m listing them here:

    1. E.M. Hull, The Sheik (1977) [Edith Maude Hull]
    2. Elinor Glyn, His Hour (1977)
    3. Ethel M. Dell, The Knave of Diamonds (1913) (1980) (reprint Dodo Press 2007] [Ethel May Dell)
    4. Ian Hay, A Safety Match (1911) (1977) [numerous other reprints; pen name of John Hay Beith] See:
    5. Ethel M. Dell, The Hundredth chance (1917) (1977) (reprint of original, Kessinger Publishing 2004)
    6. Elinor Glyn, The Reason Why (1977)
    7. Ethel M. Dell, The Way of an Eagle (1915) (1977?)
    8. Elinor Glyn, The Vicissitudes of Evangeline (1977)
    9. Ethel M. Dell, The Bars of Iron (1916) (1977)
    10. Elinor Glyn, Man and Maid (1977)
    11. E.M. Hull, The Sons of the Sheik (1977)
    12. Elinor Glyn, Six Days (1978) [sequel to Three Weeks, which is not in the “Library of Love”)
    13. Pamela Wynne, Rainbow in the Spray (1929) (1978) [pseudonym of Winifred Mary Scott]
    14. Elinor Glyn, Great Moment (1980)
    15. Ethel M. Dell, Greatheart (1978) (reprint Dodo Press 2005)
    16. Jeffrey Farnol, The Broad Highway (1978)
    18. Ethel M. Dell, Charles Rex (1922) (1978) (reprint Dodo Press 2007)
    19. Pamela Wynne, Ashes of Desire (1926) (1978)
    20. Elinor Glyn, the Price of Things (1978)
    21. Ethel M. Dell, Tetherstones (1928) (1978)
    22. Jeffrey Farnol, The Amateur Gentleman (1978)
    23. Bertha Ruck, His Official Fiancee (1978)
    24. E.M. Hull, The Lion Tamer (1978)
    25. Elinor Glyn, It (1978)
    26. Gene Stratton Porter, Freckles (1904) (1978) [the only American author on the list?)
    unnumbered, Vere Lockwood, Ramazan the Rajah (1979, 1984)
    unnumbered, Vere Lockwood, Son of the Turk (1930) (1980)
    unnumbered, Pamela Wynne, Leave It to Love (1979)

    Except for Ian Hay, Pamela Wynne, and Vere Lockwood, all of these authors were already on the lists from 1895-1945, though not all the titles.

    = = = = = = = = = =

    For more books, mostly from the 1970s through the 1990s, but with some overview of the history of the romance genre, see:
    Kristin Ramsdell, Romance Fiction: A Guide to the Genre (Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1999).
    Ramsdell has a rather more expansive definition of “romance” than the one used by RWA or Pamela Regis.

    Aruna Vasudevan, ed., Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers. Third Edition (St. James Press, 1994) 890 pages.
    [The First (1982), Twentieth-Century Romance and Gothic Writers, ed. James Vinson and D.L. Kirkpatrick, and Second (1990), Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, ed. Lesley Henderson, editions were prefaced By Kay Mussell.]

    From Library Journal
    [2nd edition] While studies of romance fiction have proliferated in recent years, this is much more comprehensive than Melinda Helfer and others' Romance Reader's Handbook (LJ 11/15/89) ; Mary June Kay's The Romantic Spirit ( MJK Enterprises, 1982); Eileen Fallon's Words of Love (LJ 2/1/84); and Kristin Ramsdell's Happily Ever After (Libraries Unlimited, 1987). There is no such coverage of historical novels available. Despite some limitations (lack of selection criteria and of a subject index), this guide is probably the most valuable resource of its kind for any collection, public or academic. It is highly recommended.
    - M. Janet Simmons, Duluth P.L., Minn.
    Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

  9. There's a lot more to the story than that - it's a fairly melodramatic tale - but I remember being struck by how much freedom the author had - there didn't seem to be the same constraints on the story that there would have been when I read M&B fifty years later.

    Marianne, I've just come across something which confirms this impression of yours, in Paul Grescoe's The Merchants of Venus:

    Many of those romances in the 1930s differed from the more formulaic ones that followed. As Alan Boon points out, "the authors would have subsidiary plots and descriptions of scenery which now our authors don't have time for; they just have to get the guy and the girl together and go through 192 pages."
    John adds, "In a curious way, they were more permissive then and dealt with things that we wouldn't deal with today. There was much more divorce." More everything, it seemed: Louise Gerard's 1934 novel,
    Strange Paths, has a hero who trots around in women's clothing for much of the book. (45-46)

    And thanks for the very comprehensive list, Virginia. Re

    The emphasis on Mills & Boon novels in academic criticism is a bit odd, at least for someone who grew up in the United States, because hardly any of them were around prior to the 1970s.

    I think there are a variety of different reasons why Harlequin Mills & Boon gets so much attention:

    1) as you say, it was and is particularly important in the UK, Australia and other markets outside the US and Canada, where its books have been sold for far longer and/or where single-title romances are far rarer than they are in the US and Canada.

    2) Not all academics have looked at Harlequins (there's been quite a bit written about Gothics, for example, and Radway's sample of readers didn't buy Harlequins). But I have the impression that by the time more academics started to investigate the romance genre, in the 1980s, Harlequin had a very dominant position within the sector and huge brand recognition.

    3) Harlequin/M&Bs are marketed in a particular way which confirms some people's pre-existing prejudices about romance fiction being "formulaic" and homogeneous.

    4) Harlequin M&B is a huge company and really does dominate the current romance publishing scene (and has done so for decades):

    Harlequin Enterprises, owned by Torstar Corp., publisher of the Toronto Star, is the world's largest publisher of romance and women's literature.

    The Toronto-based company sold more than 131 million books in 26 languages in 2006.
    (CBS News)

    As far as I know, no other publisher both specialises in romance to the same extent as Harlequin and has its global reach. And in terms of the analysis of popular culture, even a starting date of 1970 can seem quite venerable. Mills & Boon, of course, is 100 years old this year.

    And re this comment (which I think was also made by you, Virginia) over at Romancing the Blog: "Of course, if I’d ever wanted to read literary criticism, I wouldn’t have become a historian instead", I feel I should mention that a lot of the academics who've written about romances have not been literary critics: they've included economists, historians, psychologists, feminist scholars, sociologists etc. In fact, from my perspective as a literary critic, I think there's been remarkably little proper literary criticism done of romance novels.

  10. In regard to this:

    "And re this comment (which I think was also made by you, Virginia) over at Romancing the Blog: 'Of course, if I’d ever wanted to read literary criticism, I wouldn’t have become a historian instead', I feel I should mention that a lot of the academics who've written about romances have not been literary critics: they've included economists, historians, psychologists, feminist scholars, sociologists etc. In fact, from my perspective as a literary critic, I think there's been remarkably little proper literary criticism done of romance novels."

    True enough. At the moment I wrote it, however, I was suffering my way through Where's Love Gone; Transformations in the Romance Genre (Paradoxa: Studies in World Literary Genres, Vol. 3, No. 1-2, 1997).

    The truth is that for the past six weeks or so, while playing with putting those lists together, I've been procrastinating something else that I'm supposed to do in the real world. I'm 67 and retired, but still have various projects on hand.

    In the above volume of Paradoxa, I enjoyed the interviews with the various writers and also the article by Gabriel Linke from the University of Jena on "Contemporary Mass Market Romances as National and International Culture." Lynn Coddington's article was also interesting. However, I found quite a few of the theoretical articles to be pretty heavy going ;-)


  11. As an added note in passing, this poll of 2,000 persons commissioned by UKTV is interesting for its choices as the "greatest love stories of all time":

    Of course, the focus was on dramatizations. Even so, I doubt that 2,000 Americans would have chosen Ondaatje's the english Patient, Laurents' The Way We Were, or Kingsley Amis' Take a Girl Like You. Most of us don't read Far from the Madding Crowd or Daniel Deronda for the romance factor, either.

    However, like the Americans who bought the books on the lists I posted, most of the UKTV-polled certainly don't limit their choices in romance to books that meet the eight "criteria" for a romance novel in Pamela Regis' A Natural History of the Romance Novel. They don't even insist on a HEA ending, any more than US readers between 1895 and 1980 did.

    I was also interested in the inclusion of My Fair Lady. It was a romance, of course, although George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion was not. For a real study of popular taste in romances, there's a need to go beyond the book format. Sigmund Romberg's The Student Prince certainly had as much influence as any book published the same year.