Thursday, December 1, 2022

#GIVEAWAY The Harlequin Story - 10th Annual Ho Ho Ho Harlequin Holiday Extravaganza

10th Annual

Welcome to my 10th Annual Ho Ho Ho Harlequin Holiday Extravaganza. This year my blog partner Sophia Rose and I will be reviewing 11 Harlequin Holiday titles and our sponsor Harlequin Publishing is offering 2 fantastic #Giveaways that are open through the event. So sit back learn about some really wonderful Christmas stories and enter to win a prize or two.

Today as a thank you to our sponsor I'll be sharing the Harlequin story
#Giveaway #1
$25.00 Amazon Gift Card
US & Canada Only
Please use Rafflecopter form below to enter
Good Luck!


#Giveaway #2 is for one print copy each of
Snowed In for Christmas by Sarah Morgan
All is Bright by RaeAnn Thayne
& Home Sweet Christmas by Susan Mallery
Please use Rafflecopter form below to enter
Good luck!


Our History


When Richard H. G. Bonnycastle, a former Arctic explorer with the Hudson Bay Company, launched Harlequin Books in Winnipeg in 1948, he had little interest in building a publishing empire around romance novels. Early in its history, Harlequin published inexpensive reprints of detective stories, cookbooks, westerns, and a smattering of tragic love stories.

When Bonnycastle’s wife, Mary, took on editorial duties in the 1950s, she focused on the vast untapped market of female readers in Canada who loved reading British romance novels. She discovered that her favorite novels were published by a British firm called Mills & Boon, which had been publishing romances since 1908. She contacted the firm and asked to acquire paperback rights to some of its romances.

Under Mary Bonnycastle’s guidance, Harlequin purged any potentially racy content from the Mills & Boon books and established a template for its own editions. The plot often involved a chance meeting in an interesting setting, a courtship that allowed both parties to overcome personal obstacles, and a happy denouement, almost inevitably involving marriage.

The formula worked. From Harlequin’s first reprint of a Mills & Boon romance, Anne Vinton’s The Hospital in Buwambo, there was a ready audience for chaste love stories that took place in exotic or historical settings.


Lawrence Heisey, a former soap salesman who had been appointed president of Harlequin in 1971, revolutionized romance publishing by distributing Harlequin romances to supermarkets and department stores, where they would be right at the fingertips of Canadian and American homemakers. The company often gave away one book as a free gift with the purchase of household items such as kitchen cleaners or napkins, hoping that shoppers would become hooked and buy the rest of the series.

By 1975, Harlequin had purchased British romance publisher Mills & Boon, and seventy percent of its sales came from outside of Canada.

Despite an early resistance to explicit sex scenes, Harlequin’s winning plot formula and marketing strategies fostered the company’s spread across the globe. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Harlequin employees gave away more than 720,000 books at border checkpoints across the Eastern Bloc. Just two years later, Harlequin had sold seven million romance novels in Hungary alone and reached $10 million in sales in the Czech Republic in 1992. By 1995, it had released 550,000 copies of its titles in Mandarin Chinese, paving the way for the opening of offices across the world, from Tokyo to Mumbai.


By the 1990s, Harlequin had become synonymous with romance novels, grown the category into a score of successful subgenre lines—from the historical to the contemporary and the sweetly romantic to the sensually passionate—opened offices around the world and seen its books made available in more than 100 countries and over 30 languages. Now the publisher looked to move beyond romance novels and expand the breadth of its editorial into all genres of fiction for women.

In 1994 Harlequin launched MIRA Books, its first mainstream commercial fiction imprint. MIRA offered readers thrillers, suspense novels, small town dramas, macabre paranormals and more complex, involved romances. In addition to acquiring existing authors from other publishing houses, MIRA allowed the publisher the opportunity to lift authors who had honed their craft and build sizeable followings in Harlequin’s category romance lines and give them the canvas to expand their vision and stretch their wings in a trade program. MIRA’s ability to create bestselling novels and franchises also made the imprint very attractive to debut authors.

Four years later, MIRA Books was joined by Love Inspired, an inspirational fiction imprint, as Harlequin moved beyond the mainstream and into niche markets. In 2004 Harlequin launched HQN Books, its bestseller romance trade program, allowing the publisher to introduce its top romance authors to mainstream audiences. In 2009, two more imprints were established—Harlequin TEEN, capturing the imagination of young adult readers and Carina Press, a digital-first adult fiction imprint that allowed the publisher to explore subgenres of traditional genres and push beyond conventional boundaries.

In 2016, Harlequin continued its expansion of trade publishing by launching two new imprints—Park Row Books, which is dedicated to publishing voice-driven and thought-provoking books across a variety of genres, from mainstream literary fiction and book club fiction to literary suspense and narrative nonfiction, and Graydon House Books, a select hardcover and trade paperback imprint showcasing commercial women's fiction with a relationship element woven through. In 2017 Hanover Square Press was launched to publish compelling, original fiction and narrative nonfiction, including crime, thrillers, high-concept fiction, history, journalism and memoir.

Harlequin has scaled fresh heights with its new imprints. Multiple #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestseller placements, overseas triumphs, films and television shows 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.
Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

At Harlequin, we are committed to publishing diverse and inclusive voices so that readers see themselves reflected in the books we publish. We work to foster a culture of respect, openness, support and belonging where our employees, authors and publishing partners feel welcome to express and reflect the voices, experiences and thoughts of a diverse society.

As a publisher and as an employer, we embrace a broad definition of diversity and we aim to include people of all ethnicities, races, genders, sexual orientations, ages, classes, religions, national origins and disabilities. As an employer partner of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion and Pride at Work Canada, Harlequin employees have access to resources and training to further support being an open, accepting and welcoming place to work and to publish.

We are proud to publish talented and bestselling authors representing many backgrounds, communities and cultures. Harlequin offers a broad range of content - including romance fiction across subgenres, psychological thrillers, crime novels and speculative fiction, young adult novels, commercial literary fiction and narrative nonfiction - enabling authors with diverse perspectives to share their stories. We publish inclusive romance stories with LGBTQ+ characters in imprints across our publishing program, including Carina Press, Carina Adores, several Harlequin Series imprints, and Inkyard Press to name a few.

We welcome all authors to the Harlequin community and are actively working to further broaden diversity and representation in our publishing programs. We reach out to authors by calling for submissions for Harlequin’s Romance Includes You Mentorship. We organize #RomanceIncludesYou pitch events and participate in external pitch events that connect editors with writers in marginalized communities. We accept unagented romance story submissions and encourage authors in underrepresented communities to include #RomanceIncludesYou with their story submission to quickly bring these submissions to our editors’ attention. We have established a scholarship program through four writing programs in Canada and the United States to foster diverse voices and emerging talent.

We further extend our outreach through involvement with writer’s conferences, events and festivals that promote diversity in publishing, including:The Festival of Literary Diversity
Romance Slam Jam
Black Writers Weekend
One Love Reader and Author Reunion
Building Relationships Around Books
Christian Book Lovers Retreat
Toronto Romance Writers
Black Ink Charleston
DVCon and #dvpit
Chicago-North Romance Writers Spring Fling
Black Pens Writing Retreat
Black Readers Conference

We act on promotional opportunities to amplify diverse voices and stories, and work to ensure that book promotions are inclusive so that readers see themselves reflected in the books we publish.

As we work to publish more stories by authors in underrepresented communities, we recognize the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and the need for greater representation in publishing by Black authors. We are working to acquire and further promote stories by Black authors in several ways:We welcomed proposals directly from unagented Black authors in 2020 for certain Harlequin fiction and YA imprints. We requested more than 50 manuscripts and are publishing eight of these titles, including two notable debuts that became major book club picks. (Normally our fiction imprints accept agented submissions only.)
We welcome story submissions by Black romance writers and invite them to submit unagented manuscripts for Harlequin’s romance lines through anytime.
Editors participate in online pitch events showcasing the work of Black authors, such as #PitBLK, #dvpit and other events supporting marginalized and underrepresented voices.
We feature romance stories with Black characters on and support this promotion with online advertising campaigns.
We have hosted events with Black-owned and Latin-owned bookstores to raise awareness of stories by authors in underrepresented communities, and we plan to do more.

With input from employees, initiatives have been developed to remove barriers and better attract and retain a diverse workforce, including offering paid internship positions for new graduates interested in working in publishing. Anti-racism training and education is provided to employees to raise awareness and further build an open and inclusive culture for our staff, authors and partners.

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  1. I started reading Harlequin holiday novels and other Harlequin books in my late teens…many moons ago!

  2. I started reading romances in 1986. My first book was Forgiving by LaVyrle Spencer. I was hooked. I discovered Harlequin categories shortly thereafter. So I would say 1986 was my first year reading Harlequin Christmas stories. Sandra Brown, Nora Roberts, Betty Neels, Debbie Macomber, Penny Jordan, Linda Howard…
    I vividly remember Linda Howard’s Bluebird Winter.

    1. OMG I Loved all of Linda Howard's HQN books and have followed her thereafter. Happy Holidays

  3. I started reading them in my 20's.

  4. I can remember swiping mom's Harlequin novels from her beside bookshelf and reading by flashlight as a teen. LOL

  5. I started reading Harlequin when my mom brought over a huge box of books that she had read. There must have been 75 books in the box. I started going to the library to get the books after that.

    1. wow your love of reading is understandable Mary. Happy Holidays

  6. Well, I didn't like to read growing up so it wasn't until I was 30 before I started getting in to reading. I think my first Harlequin books were Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series. My first holiday read was several years ago and I believe it was Tiffany Reisz's Men at Work series! My favorite Harlequin holiday book is The Mistletoe Melody by Jennifer Snow. It's so good!

    1. Elizabeth, I too wasn't a reader growing up and only started reading in my 40s and when my husband was diagnosed with cancer is when I started reading Harlequin because I needed HEA only

  7. I LOVE this history post. I don't remember when I read my first Harlequin Holiday read. It definitely several years ago.

    1. Thanks Kim I loved it when I read it and wondered how many people actually knew how Harlequin started

  8. I enjoy getting Harlequin's story. I'm not even sure which book was my first, but I did start reading Harlequins as a teen.

    1. Yes I can see you reading them early Sophia Rose I know you loved reading even back then

  9. I am fairly new to romance, I started reading this genre after my retirement, which coincided with the introduction of Covid to our world. I love the escapism of these books, and the ability to embrace hope.

    1. Beautifully put Leslie and so true. I remember when my husband was going through cancer treatment an HEA was a must for me so Harlequin saved my sanity and kept me reading. Happy Holidays!