In defence of Mills and Boon

I can’t remember when I began my romance (ha!) with the romance novel but for many years, serious and geeky occupation notwithstanding, I have been addicted to them. Many mock, but I’m very open about this and I will defend them as decent reading material to the death (or at least to the cliffhanger before a hero rides to my rescue). I’ve heard (I wish I could remember where so I could cite it!) them referred to as vitamins – a shot to the arm. They revitalise me, I feel relaxed and energised after a stint with a respectable bodice ripper (the heroine is always respectable. She would most likely never refer to her butt cheeks on a blog). I still clearly remember the day I submitted my MSc thesis – exhausted and euphoric I drove to a TradeMe seller’s house and picked up a box of 25 Mills and Boon’s from the 70s, at 50c a book. I spent a week at home in bed reading until I was ready to face the world again. It cemented what I anticipate will be a lifelong relationship.

Unfairly maligned on a regular basis by people who feel that such frivolous reading matter is beneath them, they are easy prey for reading snobs.

I love the very specific tone of the genre. The writers tread a thin line of trying to make the heroine both relatable and aspirational – they have to make her stand out in a genre where heroines are a dime a dozen. You want to be her, but you also feel like you have a shot at being her (if only), so rather than a twinge of jealousy, readers are supportive. As I am not restricted in my romance reading material to the past few decades, I’ve noticed that the heroines have moved with the times – the female leads are stronger, the heroes have a gentle side (one often only we are privy to). A romance novel provides the comfort of the fact that I know how it will end but the enjoyment of the twists and turns the plot can take along the way. Criticise if you will, but there’s something to be said for that!

All the sub-genres are worth a try – medical, sexy, historical are but a few – I guarantee that after a couple of trials, most people would find one that they enjoy.

I’m going to run a feature (primarily for myself, seeing as I have no readers!) where I do a book review for each romance novel I read. I read quite a few so it feels like an opportunity to hone my critiquing skills and my writing skills. They won’t be particularly new on the market, most will definitely be several years old, but the process is the same for all of them so I may as well! I’d love to know one day I managed to convert at least one person to loving them as much as I do!

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