Saturday, February 02, 2008

Paradise Road

At the Independent, a great short history of 100 years of Mills & Boon novels (curiously unbylined, in the online edition--this must be an oversight, I will be happy to edit this post to restore full credit to the author!):
The sea-change in the company's post-war fortunes was its decision to split its titles into genres, and to package and market them accordingly. "Before that," said Karin, "we just trusted the readers to know which kind of books they liked. Now, the mass market for romance is fragmented, and it's a matter of managing multiple niches." They rely on readers' advice, but rather more on the instincts of their authors, who invariably began life as M&B readers. Of the 12 niche imprints, "Modern" always features jet-set luxury, "Romance" deals in the now-traditional sheikhs, ranchers, billionaires and tanned Europeans (their titles are hilariously interchangeable: The Spaniard's Captive Bride, The Italian Billionaire's Pregnant Bride, Wedded at the Italian's Convenience and my favourite, The Sheikh's Convenient Virgin). "Historical" is love accessorised by ruffs, doublets and mob caps. "Medical" is basically Holby City with more heaving bosoms. The "Blaze" imprint promises readers fairly explicit smut, even going so far as oral sex (with ice cubes) and hot lesbian action. "I was on the team that worked on that," said Lesley Stone, a senior editor. "It was a spinoff from the Temptation series in 1995, which was light and flirty and fresh, and everyone liked the extra sex, so Blaze became a series by itself. Just like a TV spinoff." Did the readers actually say, "We'd like some soft porn, please?" Lesley looked aghast. "It's not soft porn. They just wanted it to be more realistic. People do go on holiday and they do have flings. They'll have sex, but it would still end up as a committed relationship, and it's still character-driven so it's still a romance."

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