I’ve always joked that I’d quite like to write a Mills and Boon story- mainly because it would be quite out of my comfort zone and would challenge me to think differently about what I read AND write. However, I realised that I’d never read a M&B book- indeed, I hadn’t read much romance in the last few years (a depressive phase at university was accompanied by many Jackie Collins novels.) It’s not to say I dislike romance- I loved the Point Romance books as a young teenager- it’s just my interests had veered off a bit. When I was offered the chance to read a M&B book, I took it. I was asked what sort of thing I’d like and I chose to read something from their huge Regency collection: after all, I live in Brighton.
The first of these stories- A Lady Risks All- actually starts out in Brighton (which is good, because I recognise places and bad, because I recognise that the house that has a huge garden wouldn’t have had it at the time the book’s set.) The story begins with a line about a man knowing how to handle his stick (knowing wink), followed by a line about a man having a fine crack (his shot being so good it makes the SNOOKER balls crack. Mind out of the gutter, please!) and then opens up into a tale about Mercedes, the daughter of a famous billiards-is billiards the same as snooker? I’m going to assume… yes? It’s all about playing with balls anyway…- who is tasked with watching, training and, of course, seducing her father’s new protege who is the second son of a minor aristocrat. Along the way, she is desperate to prove her own prowess on the pool table and fly in the face of social niceties. All the while having a jolly old time in the sack with the protege that ultimately ends well, despite a few moments of mild peril.
The second story- A Lady Dares- is loosely linked in that Elise, the heroine, has met Mercedes. And although the story shares some of the same blueprint: disgraced son of a minor aristocrat, feisty female lead who will go to great lengths to get what she wants. In this case, it’s getting inside the pants of the hunky boat builder/disgraced second son who sort of reminded me of Poldark a bit AND building the final yacht designed by her father who has died in mysterious circumstances. Cue saucy scenes in parks, on boats and a series of terrifying encounters with some very dodgy men out for revenge/a new shipyard/fancy yacht.
I bloody loved the whole thing. I don’t even care what you think about it.
The thing is, there’s a huge snobbishness about these books, probably because they’re primarily read by women. But they offer an escape from a dreary world. Yes, they can border on formulaic, but so does lots of fiction- there’s no such thing as an untold story, after all .The familiar is comforting. It’s fun, it’s reassuring and that’s never a bad thing. And these are not damsels in distress, but women determined to make their own way in the world, take what they want and, ultimately, to damn the consequences. They’re not always perfect feminist role models, but then who is? They’re interesting characters to read about and I enjoyed their company for a brief while.