Thursday, Jun 30, 2022

My Love Story With Mills & Boon

'They say that the years chisel away the love, eroding it a little at a time. In my case, it was different...For me, the colour of romance is a lime yellow with flecks of green, the colour of the Indian parrot.'

Books for sale at street side market stall near Flora Fountain Shutterstock

I am a die-hard romantic. I see romance in everything - even in the most challenging of situations. This engagement with the romantic versions of even mundane things has changed so much in me. Actually, this is kind of meditative as bad situations for me are not black or grey, they are colourful. This helps to take the hard edge off challenging situations. I build “thought” situations in my head and navigate through the lanes and by-lanes of the problem using colours that come to my mind. For me, the colour of romance is lime yellow with flecks of green, the colour of the Indian parrot.

Romance sneaked its way into my life in my teenage years when I first met the “tall, dark, handsome and rich” hero in the Mills & Boon books. Since the time when I met him in the pages of that first book, his charm has never faded. As I grew into the books the TDHR hero became my constant companion. Mills & Boon books hold a special place in my life, it is treasured in one of the recesses in my heart and kept warm. The love stories from these books have transcended my teenage years, marriage and a teenaged child. It is entwined in my heart sending its toasty warmth through every beat of my heart.

They say that the years chisel away the love, eroding it a little at a time. Not in my case. Despite the intervening years since I first picked up an M&B book my love for them continues to grow. I have been chided and laughed at for my intense relationship with the M&B books. Every teenage girl, at some point in her school life, gets introduced to these books. They were an integral part of my growing up days, a friend during the long months of summer break. They were days when my mom was on the warpath announcing that I was dreaming my life away. I would hide them in my school textbooks and pretend to be studying, while in reality, I was reading them.

During my college days, I could read them openly but the fun of reading them clandestinely was more fun. These romance books were at the centre of many disagreements between my mom and me. Over the years, I have been questioned on my reasons for reading them. “Yours is a love marriage and you have a husband, so why do you still read books meant for collegians?” they question. Romance has no age. The green-tinged yellow, the colour of my love, continues to be as strong as it was in my teenage years.

Every M&B book follows a set formula. The female lead is stereotypical – a damsel in distress, short of money, often unemployed or in secondary jobs, is a virgin and submissive to the hero in every way. She is witty and high on integrity. She rarely told untruths and felt no malice towards anyone. She was not manipulative.

The heroes of these books were the opposite. They were rude, aggressive, arrogant rich billionaires. They held top jobs and were celebrities in their fields. These opposites – the female lead and the hero – made these books an interesting read. What really caught my fancy was the witty repartees between the two. Though there have been many variations to these books over the years, it is the traditional love story that I prefer. Though these books have faced severe criticism from feminists for the portrayal of their heroines, I have realized that these inputs don’t matter when I curl up with my favourite book.

Mills & Boon is the romance imprint of British publisher Harlequin UK Limited. It was founded in 1908 by Gerald Rusgrove Mills and Charles Boon. Over 100 novels are released each month. Mills & Boon books were initially sold through weekly two-penny libraries.

(The cover of a Mills and Boon novel | Image credit: )

Though the plots are repetitive, the happy ending an inevitability, the simplicity of the writing style, as a fan of these books I love the predictability. Reading these books and the elaborate descriptions of everything has developed my sense of observation. I remember people through the tiniest of details - fragrances, the colour of clothes, length of nails, the colour of the eyes, hair and its length, the type of buttons on their clothes etc. My friends laugh at me for these associations but that’s the way I am.

The raddi shops have been my best source of supply. Many of them have an amazing collection. You can buy the book second-hand or pick up the book, read it and return it back to the raddi shop for a nominal charge. My personal collection of M&B books is vast and I never share them. Every time I see a new M&B paperback my heart races, my pulses quicken and there’s a heady rush to my head. Only after the start reading the book do I feel calm. That’s the power of the passion I feel for these books. Though I am a voracious reader across topics, the M&B book is like the dessert at the end of the meal. A chapter a day keeps the romance alive. I have told all those who matter that, when I die, they must throw an M&B book into the cremation fire. For, it is the essence of this romance I want to take with me to the beyond.