“ Publisher: Mills and Boon. „
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I can't believe I'm writing this review because any street cred I had has probably disappeared now!!! lol Mills And Boon isn't the sort of book I'd choose to read but a few years ago when I was still in school we did a topic about romance novels and how they fit into the modern world.
I read 10 of them in the space of about 3 months and you don't need to list the titles individually because they take on one of 2 formats and that's it.
There's always a heroine and a leading man, he doesn't always come into the book until quite a way in so you don't get as much chance to get to know him as you do the woman character in the book.
Either the heroine will realise she loves the man but obstacles come up to spoil their budding relationship or they will both love one another from the very first chapter but not suprisingly those same obstacles will come up and hinder things.
I hated how needy the women were in the books and it's this thing that stopped me reading them after I'm finished my coursework. The books are full of mad stereotypes that don't work today, the women are all beautiful and have personal tragedies to cope with and the men are all strong and can deal with any situation that comes up.
The stories aren't even that interesting I don't think because once you've flicked through one Mills And Boon book you might as well say you've read them all. It's romantic fiction so the main part of the book is going to be about love with all the hearts and flowers that come with it.
It tells it's own story that in my local charity shop books are all priced at 99p each, but the piles of Mills And Boon books in the shop are always 25p!!!
Sod it, gimme a good Dean Koontz or Richard Laymon any day. Romance has it's place but there aren't enough sick bags in the world to get me reading any more of these pathetically predicatable stories!
My first memory of Mills and Boon books came from visiting my Grandmother in hospital and hearing a nurse joke that those books were the cause of her heart problems! As I grew older my Grandfather donated the books to me, not knowing much about them I set about reading some of them. I gradually discovered that there is a brilliance about the Mills and Boon books. This brilliance comes from their simplicity. They are the ultimate in escapism! I generally find that I can read a book within 3 hours and that makes them the perfect bed time read. I don't know if it's just me but I find it hard to read a complicated book at night and Mills and Boon offers the perfect alternative.
There are a variety of Mills and Boon novels. Within the brand you can find medical, historical, paranormal romances plus many more. They sell these books individually and as subscriptions. For each type of romance you can sign up to a subscription that is slightly cheaper than buying each book individually, they will then send you a selection of about 5 books each month from that collection. The individual books are available to buy in stores from about £5 each.
The books generally follow a simple formula and you can guarantee a happy ending (which is definitely a plus point; it makes them perfect for times when you need cheering up!). Mills and Boon use a wide range of authors to write their novels some are used more than others, all their writing styles are different so you may find that you like some authors work more than others. I would highly recommend reading Mills and Boon if you like romance, even if they are considered something to be ashamed of!
This is a slightly odd one for me to review (I am more reviewing Mills & Boon in general rather than their website, although I did have a sneaky peak and it seems like a pretty well organised site) as I am a man, and this kind of literature is aimed pretty much exclusively at women. I am an English Literature student and am doing a course on Medieval Romance texts, comparing them to modern day romances. As a result, I was given 4 M&B books to read, two "Romance", one "Blaze" and one "Modern".
I had to pick them up from my tutor's office in town and on the walk back to the car I actually felt quite ashamed to be seen with these; I ended up concealing them within my jacket and cursing myself for not bringing a bag to hide them in. However, I am not the only one to feel this way - when our tutor asked the class if anyone had ever read any of them (just for the record, there are 3 boys and 12 girls in the class), 2 of the girls put their hands up, and looked ashamed, and since then more of them have admitted to having read some before, but didn't want to say so in front of the class.
Mills and Boon, for those who don't know, are publishers of short Romance literature, the kind you see on the bottom shelf of Tesco's book section with titles like "Abducted by the Greek Billionaire" or "Desert Prince, Defiant Virgin" (which is one I had to read). They are partnered with Harlequin, which is the American equivalent, and they are HUUUGE. Seriously. They sell hundreds of millions of these books each year, it is a billion dollar industry.
Why, then, when they are so widespread, does everyone feel so ashamed about reading them? Pierre Bourdieu, a sociologist, makes a very convincing argument - within any kind of field (politics, literature, economy etc.) there is a form of power involved. For the economic field it is money, for political it is political power etc. However, literature, being an "art", has an unusual type of power - intellectual prestige. Reading a Booker Prize winner is far more prestigious than a M&B novel. Think about it - when you go into Starbucks, are you more likely to see people reading Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" or Jessica Hart's (a M&B author) "Last Minute Proposal"? You would feel lessened being observed reading such a book with such a low level of prestige, so shame and embarrassment keeps people from admitting it.
So, when I sat down to read my books, I tried to keep an open mind and to treat them as a text like any other, rather than something filthy or dirty. From a literary perspective, the books are never going to win any prizes. They are formulaic and clichéd, and due to their short length (I'd guess around 20,000 words or so each - hardly anything) they have little time for any real plot development or pyschological depth.
However, the point of these texts is not to provide you with a blissful reading experience; i.e. something that uplifts you and challenges you and changes the way you think. They are designed to keep you well within (from a Bathesian perspective) your pleasure zone, to comfort and reassure you. Even the language does this - it is full of clichés simply so that you are presented with something that is easy to read and immediately understandable. They always have a happy ending, and seem to follow a basic plot line of boy meets girl, boy and girl are very different, they fall in love/ have sex, they are separated, they have a joyful reunion.
This formulaic nature is not a bad thing - it is escapist fantasy as it allows the reader to indulge in a comforting text where you can empathise with the character. The characters are very broadly drawn as a result: the men are always desribed in a very masculine way, and the women in a very feminine way, but not too many precise details are given which leaves them as largely blank canvasses onto which you can project your own images - you and your lover, for example, or you and someone you fancy.
Also, it is important to remember just how important these books were in the liberation of women. Jane Radway, among other critics of popular fiction, makes a big deal of the fact that when these started becoming popular in the seventies, their frank and reasonably explicit depictions of sex were a liberating force for many women, who before had no idea that they could enjoy sex. It sounds weird, I know, in this post "Sex and the City" world, but it is important to remember that marital rape was only outlawed for the first time in the States in 1983. These books were among the first to depict women outside of the stereotypical gender roles they were otherwise assigned; showing powerful, sexually experienced women who made men change for them, rather than the other way around.
M&B publishes these books within sub-genres so that you know what you are getting - there is "historical", the oldest form of their romance novels, often described as bodice-ripper material; "blaze", which is far more explicitly sexual, "romance", where the sex is downplayed in favour of the passionate build-up, and "modern", where there is a blend of sex and international affairs, often involving billionaires (it should be noted that according to M&B not only is there a billionaire around every corner, but that they are all tall, dark and handsome). There are more varieties but having not read them I won't comment on them.
To sum up, there is nothing wrong with reading these books and nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, they are not great literature, but so what? We all need to indulge in a little fantasy from time to time, and I imagine that reading a book like this is a very relaxing, indulgent and pleasurable way for a woman to spend the afternoon. Perhaps a good comparison would be that these are the female equivalent of what computer games are to men - a chance to spend some time with yourself, indulge in some fantasy and harmless fun. Whilst they will never win the Booker Prize I have read a lot of Booker Prize winners and nominees that I thought were terrible; and these books, although short and lacking in depth, at least were an entertaining read.
Popular romance novels.