The Global Boom in Bodice-Rippers

Torstar's Harlequin, publisher of steamy novels, remains a hot spot in a tepid industry

Romance novels, an inexpensive escape for women, are helping some publishers hide from the worst of the recession. Frequently an impulse purchase, mass-market paperback romances, often bought on the run at drugstores and supermarkets, cost $4.75 to $5.99--a bargain when hardcover editions are typically $25 or more. Trade romances, which cost up to $14, are still a relatively good buy. The bodice rippers piled up nearly $1.4 billion in sales last year, the largest share of the consumer book market. More than 1 out of 4 books sold is a romance.

Harlequin Enterprises, the Toronto-based company that is the world's largest...

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