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My dirty little secret

It all started rather harmless. When my friend Monique* handed me a tattered, pink paperback, I was a tad bit surprised by the cover. The photograph of a girl and a boy in a tight embrace, apparently joyful smooching away, made my cheeks burn with embarrassment. And desire. Desire to open the book and plunge right into the story of love, pre-pubertal lust and longing.

Monique was trouble. The kind of girl teachers would tell your parents about and urge them to make you stay away from. The kind of girl I looked up to, watching in awe when she was easily chatting to boys, when she was talking back to teachers or when she was smoothly and catlike roaming around the school’s playground.

Something told me that the books Monique seemed so obsessed with were better not discussed with my mother, who pestered me with her great old tomes à la Brothers Karamazov or The Buddenbrooks.

Thus my faiblesse for romantic novels was born and nurtured in secret.

About 50 pink paperbacks later, I bought fewer and fewer of the pink little booklets. Slowly but steadily, they disappeared from underneath mattresses, from secret drawers and out of dusty old tomes. Fortunately, I had outgrown this saucy stage of adolescence and started to discover the pleasures of more subtle literature.

The story could have ended here.

Who would have thought that, out of all things, my love for coffee would reignite the flame of my secret love affair?

A few weeks ago, Starbucks (whom I already owe the completion of my master’s thesis, the finalisation of a couple of work assignments and more recently, the survival of seemingly endless nights and days with a screaming baby) invited me to an ‘Evening of Escapism’. They had teamed up with Mills & Boon and invited a handful of bloggers to a creative writing evening.

The drinks were flowing, and so were laughter, words and writing. I met author Heidi Rice, who writes ‘Sexy, Sassy, Sophisticated Romance’, and who is just great to get to know. On my way home I skimmed through my goodie bag. And there it was: after almost 20 years of ‘abstinence’ I was holding a romance novel in my hands. Ok, I actually let it drop back into the bag like a hot potato. If the cover back then made me blush a little, this one had me go bright red in no time. And the title didn’t help either.

I finally got to read ‘Unfinished Business With the Duke’ on my recent trip to Stockholm. Once I was hooked on the story (i.e. right away), I stopped caring about the nosy and bemused views I received from co-travellers. Thanks to Heidi’s vivid descriptions of the physical aspects of her characters I was sporting a healthy and youthful glow throughout my journey.

Romance novels and me – finally reunited. I don’t think I am going to go as mad about them as I once was, but I am certainly going to nourish my guilty pleasure once in a while. And maybe one day, I am going to make the attempt to write one myself. Because romance, my dear friends, is not dead.

*No, I didn’t make that name up. It’s not my fault that she’s got the name of a 1980’s late night Superchannel-starlet.

29 Comments

  1. ‘Hehe’ you’ve really made me smile.
    Can you believe I’ve never read one although I did go through a Jackie Collins phase many many years ago.
    Perhaps you should do what my Step Mum does and keep them for holidays.
    Would love to see you write one, if you read my latest post (new blog, you can get to it from my old blog) perhaps I should too ; )
    Damn you, I actually have the urge to read one now xx

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  3. Do they still write things like “Her heart pounded like a runaway train as she felt his manhood pressed up against her hot thighs”?

    Now your little secret is out, we shall all wait for your first novel to see what saucy little story line you have tucked away!

  4. haha i remember reading those! maybe i should read one for old times sake 🙂

  5. ha ha , i too used to read mills and boon in secret when i was pre-teenager. only my grandmother knew of this secret as she was the one lending me the books! how fab that you were reunited with one of them – i may pop down to oxfam to have a look, for old times sake. the evening sounded lovely too! xx

  6. That sounds like SO much fun. I read a few Mills & Boon as a teenager, and quite a lot of Georgette Heyer – I always thought I might write one, but I believe it’s a lot harder than it looks!

  7. I never got into romance novels! I’ve read Jackie Collins and I love the scandals but romance…? lol! Maybe one day!

  8. I always liked jilly cooper, jackie colins and a few ‘naughty’ books that i found in my mothers side table lol!!

  9. I have not read a Mills & Boon in years. I feel I must now though. Not M&B, but I do remember reading the Thorn Birds (aged 13) and getting to pages 315/316 – go on and look it up yourself if you must – and finding myself needing a bath. I won’t tell you what happenend in the bath.

  10. wow! thanks for sharing your addiction to heaving bosoms, throbbing manhoods and quivering palaces of pleasure….I will look at you in a whole new light now

  11. Very funny. I had a really grumpy sour faced A Level English teacher who apparently wrote Mills & Boon books. To look at her you’d have never have thought it!

  12. melinda says

    No, I’ve never read one. I’m happy when I have time to read something more substantial…

  13. I haven’t read one of those in years. Am I missing anything? I just picked up a Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. So far it is funny. T he author has a nice style of writing.

  14. I used to borrow Mills & Boon from the library when I was 12. I used to use my mum’s and dad’s tickets, too, so I could get 12 at a time every Friday evening, to devour over the ensuing weekend. They formed my education in all things sexual, as well as romantic, before I discovered the real thing was a little different a couple of years later.

    Sadly, I can’t read them anymore, as I find the writing just too stilted, though I’m sure there are some fantastic individuals writing for Mills & Boon, that I just haven’t come across. I do love a bit of chicklit, though, which many feel is but a step away from the Mills & Boon.

  15. So that’s what you’ve been reading! I see! Are you going to attempt to write one? I bet they’re harder than they seem. So to speak.

  16. I’ve never read a whole Mills and Boon but I ado admit to picking them up in second hand shops and really wanting to take one home. Romance is actually very hard to write, whenever I try I give up because I think it all sounds so cliched- but sometimes you want a cliche and a man in breeches.

  17. Hee Hee.. I used to take these out of the public library by the truckload when I was a teen.. a love struck one at that! They were fab and I fully admit that if one were to fall into my possession for my forthcoming holiday then I would have to read it! xx

  18. I came across my first Mills & Boon book at a holiday cottage on the Isle of Wight last summer – I loved it!!!

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