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The Browne Pop Culture Library at Bowling Green State U Reviews Harlequin Covers

On April 23rd, the Browne Pop Culture Library at the Bowling Green University @ BGSU‏ @BGSU_PopCultLib did a #RomanceHistory thread on Twitter, reviewing how Harlequin Romance covers had changed at the venerable line between numbers 1000 (1966), 2000 (1976) and 3000 (1989)

The cover for number 1000, "A Girl Named Smith" (1966) by Jane Arbor is sort of the proto-Harlequin cover for the line's early years. Heroine in the forefront, hero in the background. If they're ever closer, it still feels like two different pictures. #RomanceHistory

Ten years later, number 2000 is Essie Summers' "Not by Appointment" (1976) and it doesn't look like much has changed. But by now, the market is starting to shift. It's the era of Woodiwiss and Rogers- the chaste cover was falling out of favor... #RomanceHistory

...and so a change starts to come. Here's an example- "The Time and The Loving" (1978) shows the hero and heroine embracing (though not kissing), which also becomes a trend on some of the Harlequin reprints. #RomanceHistory

By 1981 and titles like "The All-the-Way Man", we finally get full head-tilt and almost-kisses on the cover, though the content remains relatively chaste. This was a pretty dramatic shift for Harlequin- what drove the change? #RomanceHistory

Well, not to sound like a broken record, but it was Vivian Stephens. Stephens resuscitated Dell's moribund Candlelight line, adding Ecstasy to its name in 1980. The line was an instant hit, with more heat, mature heroines, and no fear of skin on the cover. #RomanceHistory

Candlelight Ecstasy and the rise of Silhouette led Harlequin to launch its Presents line as competition, but they also updated the Romance covers with more embraces (and the occasional beard). #RomanceHistory

The cover for number 3000, "The Last Moon Flower" (1989) is actually really unusual, because it features a shirtless man. This is incredibly rare for Harlequin Romance, and in fact we haven't seen another from this era. #RomanceHistory

In the 1990s, Harlequin Romance moves away from the embrace almost entirely, towards smiling couples in some everyday situation. And near the end of the 20th century, we see the shift to photographed covers, like this one for "Substitute Father (2000). #RomanceHistory

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