Awesome Vintage Covers from Harlequin!

I was pleasantly surprised to find a stunning vintage calendar in my mailbox the other day from Harlequin.  Celebrating 60 years in the business, they compiled some of their covers in a glorious depiction of what those early days in publishing looked like.


Harlequin has made strides in the roles and relevance woman have played for the past 60 years.  The covers are a reflection of the times and they depict the marvelous advances women have made over the past six decades. 


My biggest “oh wow” moment came when I read the subtitles for some of these books.   In the above cover titled Anna, the subtitle reads: “She lived like a wicked little animal.”  Anneke De Lange 1952


Or “Men cast a net for her” in Virgin with Butterflies.  Tom Powers, 1949


And “The private affairs of not-so-private secretaries” in Nine to Five. Harvey Smith, 1952


Color me naïve, but I had no idea that these early books started out with such flair!  I also noticed that men wrote the majority of the books depicted the calendar!  That’s another “oh wow” moment. 


Fun facts:


The books sold for 35 to 50 cents. 

Harlequin sells over 4 books every second.

1 in every 6 books sold in North America is Harlequin/Silhouette

More than 1/3 of American females have read a Harlequin book at some time in their life.

Harlequin publishes in 107 countries and 29 languages


I believe great covers sell the book.  I’m sure back in those early days, these covers were controversial, the cutting edge in bookselling.  I love a good cover, while I’m not a fan of sexy “clench” covers, I do like to see a man and woman interacting on the book.  And for westerns, I love a “man only” cover. 


What kind of cover attracts you the most?  What stops you in your tracks when you’re passing by a shelf of books?  Do any of you have one of those “old” Harlequin books hanging around? 


In the spirit of the Christmas holiday, post a comment today and I’ll pick two readers to win a copy of Do Not Disturb Until Christmas (one of my favorite covers). 


Suite Reading and Happy Trails!








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46 thoughts on “Awesome Vintage Covers from Harlequin!”

  1. aren’t those older covers amazing!!! I love covers that have scenery on them, bold colors, muted colors almost anything. Covers are a work of art in and of themselves. A farm scene, a trail or winding lane leading to a farm house are covers I like. Perhaps a waterfall even.

  2. Did you notice that the authors were mostly males: Tom, James, Harvey, Dale. Finally, Elizabeth.
    I do have several of the books that look like the bottom one.
    I still tend to favor the books with real people on the covers. I still like the embracing scene. I also like the handsome male chests. The woman don’t have to be voluptuous.
    I like catchy titles…a few have stopped me in my tracks were I had to read what it was about.
    I recently bought your book “Five Star Cowboy”. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. Happy Holidays!

  3. I love the title “You’re lonely when you’re dead.”! That really makes me wonder what the book was about. And how different the book would be with that title today!;)

    For my own covers I prefer no people (although there is one with the silhouette of a couple). I like something though that relates to the story.

    I may pick up a book because of the cover–but I’m more likely to pick because of title or author rather than picture. 🙂

  4. It’s so much easier to say which kind of covers don’t attract me: it’s those covers where you don’t see people’s heads.

  5. Charlene! Those covers are so cool. They’re very hot and the tag lines are too. I’m frankly amazed considering how old they are.
    Only the last one, Island Hospital, starts to resemble something I’ve seen before.
    I suppose covers have an impact to some readers but to me, I read almost exclusively by author.

    I have authors I love and I’m looking for that. Which isn’t to say I never step outside my favs but I don’t shop for them. I find them somehow or get them at the library, then maybe I’m influenced. And when I get these unknown authors sometimes I’m really hooked and start wanting everything she’s written.
    And I start talking…wow, have you ever read… whoever.
    So, remember this when you’re giving free copies. If others read like me, getting a new author into someone’s hands might really lead to something bigger.

  6. Ack, Minna, you really don’t like books without people. Uh-oh..all my books so far have no people. I requested that.

    Barbour (my publisher) says we need to abandon that, though. They want people and say people sell better. So I said okay.

    I guess that’s right.

  7. I’ve had a few covers with no people, or people in the way back, background and I have to say they disappointed me. For a romance, I like to see people and yes, I even LOVE a headless hero or heroine, because then my imagination takes hold!

    Mary – I’d love to see your next covers with people on them! I thought that Island Hospital too, looked like more what we think a romance cover should be.

  8. Hey, books without people are ok, it’s those covers where they show only the torso… Ick! Makes me think of the guilliotines.

  9. Mary – I love your Clueless Cowboy cover and title!! But I also liked your boots covers. I read somewhere that covers with SHOES of any type sell well and those boots on your covers were great!!

    Minna- oh how funny! I never thought of guilliotines when looking at those torso covers!

  10. Hi Laurie G – I enjoy a handsome man’s chest too. Oh, I hope you enjoy Five Star Cowboy. Trent Tyler is a hottee!

    RobynL- I have a waterfall in the back cover of my Feb book, but I wish they’d put it on the front. It’s a book set in Hawaii, but you really can’t tell too much from the front cover. They certainly didn’t take my “tropical” suggestions for that book!

  11. Cool post, Charlene!! Love the calender 🙂 My hubby was vera happy to find it in the mail. He hasn’t been so fond of my last two covers *ggg* and is and is hoping Harlequin will go back to the vintage pin-up girl artwork 😉

    Personally, it’s not people on covers that attract me, but scenery covers. My favorite cover of alltime is LL Miller’s One Wish that has this nightime scenery and a big moon reflecting on a valley—just breathtaking 😀

  12. Hi Stacey – It’s funny how tastes are so different. I happen to LOVE your covers. I like the Maverick Wild cover, Bride of Shadow Canyon and your latest one with the bare-chested hero! Mine were so tame, even though my heroes were sexy. I did like Bodine’s Bounty cover, though the hero looked more like a boy, but it had a beautiful horse. Which, BTW, I love animals on covers, especially horses! 🙂

  13. Neat post, Charlene. I have the calendar, too. What great old covers. I never realized those old Harlequins were so racy. The ones I remember growing up were the sweet, sort of Barbara Cartland variety. What fun to see these!

  14. It’s so amazing to see all those old covers! I think your cover is simply beautiful! I think Harlequin really does a great job these days with the covers. I like all different covers, but I do seem to be drawn to the ones with more striking colors. I’m more likely to pick up a new-to-me author’s book if the bold colors or a stunning image catch my eye. With my favorite authors, I would probably buy their books even if they just had a picture of the Aflac duck on the cover lol.

  15. Charlene, what a wonderful Christmas present! That calendar is amazing. I’m envious.

    I don’t have any old Harlequin books but I do have several by other publishers.

    1942 copy of “Rainbow at Dusk” by Emilie Loring
    1945 copy of “Burned Fingers” by Kathleen Norris
    1970 copy of “The House of Deadly Night” (a nurse/doctor romance) by Iris Barry
    1964 copy of “Lady in the Mist” by Theresa Charles (orginal title was Nurse Alice in Love)

    These old titles kill me. I seriously doubt if I’d give a romance titled “Burned Fingers” a second glance nowadays. Don’t know what the publishers were thinking.

    I love the cover and title of “Do Not Distub Until Christmas!” That hooks a reader. I’m going to have to find me a copy. I love Christmas stories. This one looks sexy and very HOT! 🙂

  16. Hi Elizabeth – Wasn’t it a treat to get that calendar? I sat outside on my porch and marveled over those old covers. Then I got the Mills and Boon book, don’t know if they sent to everyone. But it’s pretty neat to see how the covers changed from year to year. Some of the old artwork was pretty grainy and simplistic.

    Thanks for the kind words on my Christmas book!

  17. Waving hello to Teresa and Zara.

    Aflac the Duck? That made me laugh! If I love an author, I agree, doesn’t matter what the cover looks like. But if I’m searching for something new, then I’ll admit, the cover and back blurb do influence my choice!

  18. Hi Linda,
    Yep, those old titles are very odd. But then, we get some like, The Pregnant Heiress’s Ultra Secret Baby Surprise, (I made that up), so I can’t be too critical. 🙂
    I wish I had some of the very old books. I would cherish them. And I’d love to see what the stories were like.
    Whenever my hubby and I watch old classics, like Wanted, Dead or Alive, or 77 Sunset Strip – remember those? We are so surprised at the lack of plot and action. At the time, we thought they were soooo exciting. Now, it’s like, when is SOMETHING going to happen?
    I wonder if those older books are like that?

  19. Covers that have vivid colors catch my eye. A sexy guy on the cover is nice and I am ok with clench covers. Covers that don’t include the characters but depict a theme or scenery work for me too. The only covers I don’t really care for are those that are cartoony.

  20. I just got mine in the mail yesterday, Charlene, and won’t have a chance to read it for a few days. So thanks for the great summary! I never knew some of these facts, such as men writing for them! Gotta admit, those covers sure look crazy.

    Great blog!

  21. Oh, and for Westerns, I love a lone man on the cover, too! I have to get some variety, though, so sometimes there’s a couple of them on the cover. HH does a fantastic job!

  22. Charlene,

    Yes, most of the older books read so slow because they take forever to get to the action. Mostly they have a long story set up and flowing description (with far too many adjectives) of the scenery seems to go on forever. It’s like the book’s atmosphere is a character in its own right. Very boring to read.

    Here’s the first paragraph of “Lady in the Mist.” It’s actually not too bad I guess.

    “I used to think of a lighthouse as a sentinel, grim in its outward appearance, perhaps, but performing a wholly admirable function. Now I wonder if I shall ever see one without a reminiscent shudder. Its sudden, dazzling, blink-blink-blink must always bring back the terrifying moment when I first saw that dark, sinister figure caught in the glare, like a weird, formidable insect pinned to the old wall.”

  23. Hi CrystalB – Oh, I remember when some of the publishing houses used Cartoony covers. I didn’t care for them either and I don’t think they sold well. They aren’t really doing them too much anymore.

  24. Kate – Yes, I haven’t read the Mills and Boon book either, but I have looked at all the pictures. 🙂 I like a sexy looking man only cover too. I think the HH cover have never been better.

  25. Hi Linda,
    Boy, I’d be dead if I had to write with so much description. The paragraph wasn’t bad and actually did instill vivid images, but I don’t enjoy reading with a lot of description and I don’t write that way. Sure glad, editors employ all different types of writers. We all have our own style. Thank Goodness!

  26. What a fun post. I had not idea of most of your facts but all those books sold are amazing. I know I have contributed my fair share. I like a cover that tells me a little bit about the story so I like to see the hero and heroine on the cover but not in some silly pose.

  27. Hi, Charlene,

    I have several (40 or 50 – LOL) of the early HQ
    Presents books and 10 -15 of the early Mills &
    Boon issues. I, at one time, had all the Presents
    but gave away quite a few. It was either them or
    Honey! LOL!

    Pat Cochran

  28. Wow Pat! That’s great. Hang onto those titles. I wish I had some of those. You can really get hooked!

    Hi Maureen – I agree, no silly poses! But sometimes, we get them anyway!

  29. Oh I am late getting to the junction today. One of those Errands Days including getting our elderly Lab to the vet. So I am so happy to be here and to read such a fun post, Charlene.

    IMO the titles are pretty racy for the time period! In my mom’s old house I found a few oldsters but from the early 80’s or so. Nothing like this.

    I like guys-alone covers. I guess because I could never look like the girls they pick LOL. And sometimes an evocative people-less scene does do it for me.

    And I loved Five Star Cowboy and how it leads into Do Not Disturb. I wanna live at that resort!


  30. How funny, Charlene! Those covers are eye-catching 😉 They do look dated in comparison, but I imagine that our current covers will in the future, too! Of course sometimes a “look” enjoys a revival, just like with clothing… Not sure those wide-eyed pin-up girl types will though!

  31. Kerry Allyne was my favourite author out of my Aunt’s collection of romance and presents books. Coral Cay, Dark Memories, and Mixed feelings were memorable ones.

  32. Loved the post! I think I have a copy of Island Hospital around here somewhere. I think that it is the cover that first draws me in but I quickly look to the back to see what the book is about before I will buy it. If it is by one of my favorite authors, and all of the Fillies are quickly joining that list, I buy it no matter what is on the cover.

  33. I do have some of those books hanging around 🙂 I like to keep all my books and have quite a collection. I used to go to flea markets and look only for old books. It’s amazing how much they’ve changed over the year lol.

  34. I’m back after a quick lunch and shopping with dear hubby. We are soooo far behind as we’ve both been sick for a few weeks. Now, we’re trying to catch up between work and other obligations.

    It great to come back here and see so many of your posts. Waving hello 🙂 to Minna, Connie, Deidre, Jeanne, Tanya, Dina, LJ and Fedora.

    I think most of us were shocked to see how racy these first novels were! I do love anything vintage though, so I’ll be happy to put my new calendar up for 2009.

    LJ – you remember the titles of those books you read! Bravo. I can hardly remember my own titles!

    Connie – fun that you have Island Hospital somewhere!

    Tanya – you and me both! A classy resort with stables, wild horses, lakes, art galleries, the best of everything … I do have an imagination when it comes to luxury!

  35. Hi Charlene! What an interesting post! I loved seeing these old Harlequin covers. Your cover for Do Not Disturb Until Christmas is gorgeous! I’m not too particular about the covers. The author and what the book is about is what really draws me in. The only kind of cover that turns me off is a cartoon cover.

  36. Hi Charlene! Loved seeing these old covers! It’s amazing how much the books have changed over the years. I like covers that show the hero and the heroine or ones with stunning scenery. Those always catch my eye.

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