Harlequin’s Trailblazing History

Harlequin was founded in 1949 in Winnipeg, Canada, by Richard H. G. Bonnycastle, a former Arctic explorer with the Hudson’s Bay Company. It started as a paperback reprinting company that published a few romance titles among an assortment of westerns, classics, detective stories and other books.

In the decade that followed, Harlequin discovered an untapped market for romance novels, defined a winning style of happily-ever-after love story and began trailblazing an internationally successful path in romance publishing.

Progressive and innovative from the start, Harlequin revolutionized the industry in the 1970s by distributing books in supermarkets and department stores where women shopped. It invented the series romance model, making a set number of new books available to devoted readers every month. When it opened its first overseas offices in the mid-1970s, its popularity spread around the globe.

By the 1990s, Harlequin had become synonymous with romance novels, grown its presence into a score of successful subgenre lines—from historical to contemporary, sweetly romantic to passionate—and its books were available in more than 100 countries and 30 languages. Now it looked to move beyond romance novels and expand into more genres of fiction.

In 1994, Harlequin introduced MIRA Books, its first mainstream commercial fiction imprint, to offer readers a variety of genres from more complex romances to paranormals and thrillers. It was soon joined by Love Inspired (1998), HQN Books (2004), Harlequin TEEN for young adult readers (2009, now called Inkyard Press), and Carina Press (2010), a digital-first adult fiction imprint for contemporary, paranormal, mystery and LGBTQ+ fiction.

With the more recent introduction of Park Row Books, Graydon House and Hanover Square Press, Harlequin has seven trade imprints that publish across a wide variety of genres, from mainstream literary fiction and book club fiction to literary suspense and narrative nonfiction.

Multiple #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestseller placements and a growing number of films and TV movies adapted from its novels have all served to help transform the company from the dominant romance publisher into a leading publisher of books for a wide range of readers and tastes.

Want to dive deeper into Harlequin’s history? Visit our 70th Anniversary page to learn more!

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Comment ( 1 )
  1. Lynne Marshall
    May 9, 2019 at 10:15 am
    Reply

    Don’t forget MAry Bonnycastle (his wife)and Ruth Palmour (his head editor) They were the ones to discover the well written library romances and bring them to his attention.!

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