When I was eleven, my neighbour Aunty Rose initiated me to the world of romance in the form of Mills and Boons. She had a whole wall collection of M&B’s. So I went from reading Enid Blyton’s Mellory Towers and St Claire to Betty Neeels, Charlotte Lamb and Anne Matter. In the beginning, she forbade me to choose my own books, as she deemed some to be too explicit for tweens (although we were never called that then.) As I grew older and with spare cash from Granny and Aunts (never mom), I would buy second hand M&Bs from Saints at Cathay cinema.
Saints moved to Bras Basah and I followed them there as an adult. A fellow M&B reader I met recommended Australian writer Miranda Lee and I stuck with her for a few years.
Now, I can hardly find any M&B or Harlequins in any bookshops, much less the library. Borders started carrying the Little Black Dress series a few years ago but I’ve never read them. So when I discover this book at the library, it was a chance to find out how romance paperbacks have changed over the decades.
This novel is set in London. Daisy is an assitant to the editor in a publishing firm, responsible for reading the slush-pile rejected by the editors, and hoping to discover the next Harry Porter books. A meek and gentle woman, she waits in vain for Miles to commit to their relationship. The atmosphere in her office is dull in the gender way. The men fall into one of three catagories: a) gorgeous but married, b) friendly but gay, and c) charming but approaching octogenarianism.
An intern, Elliot, appears one day and created a buzz. He is young and single and attracted the attention of most of the women there, except Daisy who is still pinning for Miles.
Things start heating up for Daisy when she discovers a manuscript. The author, Will, is as mysterious as the storyline. She finds herself sharing many similarities to the story.
The modern romance has all the gadgets needed to help the heroine capture her man – emails, text in addition to phone. Daisy spends her time analysing the emails and text from Miles and Wills – how many kisses (xxx) under the name; was the mail/text replied immediately; if it’s abrupt, is he angry?
I enjoyed the book as it gives an insight to how a publishing company works, and what happens to the manuscripts upon reaching the publisher. The romance is secondary, and I mean that in the book. There is hardly any romantic overtures, until the last chapter. You don’t even get to read about the man she ends up with until chapter four, and they only share a kiss at the end, although she is implied to be already sleeping with another man.
So, that’s how new romance paperbacks are nowadays: the book is clean but the heroine is not; the man is not powerful, tall dark or handsome. In fact, on paper, his competition fares better and that’s why it is so difficult to make a choice between the heart and the brain.
At least it’s more realistic than the M&B’s I’ve read and enjoyed.