Mills & Boon: 30,000 kisses and steamier than ever

Fri Feb 8, 2008 8:02am EST
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By Peter Graff

LONDON (Reuters) - Girls: you may have one tucked secretly in your handbag. Boys: you may have stumbled on a stack of them in your girlfriend's closet. Go ahead. Don't be shy.

How about this one? "Loving Evangeline" by Linda Howard: "She could feel the heavy arousal and hunger that tightened his lean, powerful frame. He was going to take her."

Now, pretend you don't want to read on! After all, someone is buying one of these books every five seconds.

A lot has changed for women in the last hundred years. But for romance publisher Mills & Boon, founded a century ago in London, it still takes precisely the same qualities to sweep them off their feet.

"The locations are irresistible, the heroes are exciting," said Clare Sommerfield, the publisher's marketing manager. "It's got to be from the heart and you've got to feel it. Otherwise the readers can spot it."

Founded at a time when women in Britain could not vote and few could work outside the home, Mills & Boon now publishes 60 romance novels a month by a stable of 1,300 writers, nearly all women. It has more than a million readers in Britain alone.

Since it merged with the North American romance publisher Harlequin in the 1970s, its books are published in 94 countries, translated into more than two dozen languages, including Japanese manga comic strip versions with drawings in pink ink.

The publishers estimate they have printed more than 30,000 kisses. And every story -- whether the hero is a Greek billionaire, a surgeon single father of three or an incorrigible 19th century English rake -- has a happy ending.   Continued...

<p>A woman poses for the camera with a Mills &amp; Boon novel, in London February 7, 2008. REUTERS/John Voos</p>