In 1972, Avon Books published “The Flame and the Flower,” by Kathleen Woodiwiss — a hefty historical romance that traded chastity for steamy sex scenes. It arrived in the thick of the sexual revolution, and readers loved it: It was an instant bestseller that’s credited with birthing the modern romance genre.Here, a dozen people — authors, editors, agents, cover artists and one mononymous male model — recount how the modern romance industry came together and took off.

Source: Romance novels are big business. Here’s how the genre took off. – The Washington Post

2 Comments

  1. That’s a fascinating article that brings up a lot of interesting points. However, I have to disagree with the assessment the early clinch covers were directed solely at the male gaze. Certainly there were covers that had women practically bursting out of their dresses, but how can they forget the Robert McGinnis naked man phase that began in 1980 with Johanna Lindsey’s Fires of Winter? Each Lindsey cover was more graphic than the next. The original A Gentle Feuding cover had the hero’s backside completely nude (that version was never published in America). Tender is the Storm was so controversial that bookstores were supplied with stickers to cover the hero’s behind and groin area.

    Let’s face it, romance covers have always been a bit salacious, from the very beginning to the naked men’s torso phase of today. Covers have always been controversial. That’s why some readers prefer step-covers or the privacy of their e-readers. Personally, I love the variety of it all: from painted to digital, step-backs or clinch, with a couple or with the hero or the heroine alone. The only ones I’m not fond of in the historical genre are the newer illustrated types, which, in my estimation, are better suited for contemporaries or light hearted rom-coms.


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