The Merchants of Venus: Inside Harlequin and the Empire of Romance

Publication year

Allen Allentuck (reviewing the book in Quill and Quire) felt that:

The scope of The Merchants of Venus is astonishing: it contains a history of paperback publishing, an analysis of romantic fiction, examinations of book distribution systems around the world, biographies of numerous publishing bigwigs like Richard Snyder of Simon & Schuster, and, of course, a chronicle of the growth of Harlequin.

It is primarily a business/publishing history of Harlequin as a company and although I've listed some authors discussed, Grescoe writes at much greater length about Harlequin executives. Kathleen Gilles Seidel in "Half-Risen Venus," Para.doxa 3.1-2 (1997): 250-252 raises some issues about Grescoe's sources. Seidel, who mentions that "the first six of my ten books were published by Harlequin" (251), acknowledges that Grescoe has "written a lively account" (250) but feels

Grescoe often seems unaware of when he is talking about Harlequin/Silhouette and when he is talking about the romance community in general. Many writers he interviewed have written for other companies as well, and often only extremely careful reading - or independent knowledge - reveals that he has slid into discussing their work with the other companies. [...]

Grescoe didn't do his homework. His information about contract disputes comes primarily from PANdora's Box, a relatively recent Romance Writers of America newsletter for published authors. He is, therefore, unaware of many older, far more significant problems. Relying heavily on interviews with several Harlequin executives and former editors, he has little context for questioning their versions. He allows to stand, for example, Brian Hickey, president and CEO of Harlequin, taking "credit totally" for the Tyler "continuity series," books by different authors about the same group of people. An informed observer surely would have given considerable credit to three Bantam authors - Kay Hooper, Iris Johansen, and Fayrene Preston - whose books about the Delaney brothers were the first such series. Immediately following the staggering success of the Bantam books (and before the Tyler authors were approached ) Harlequin editors called groups of their own established authors and contracted them to write connected books within the existing lines. Grescoe seems to know none of this. (251)

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