- Mills & Boon
Mills & Boon is a British publisher of romance novels. It was founded in 1908, and was independent until its purchase in 1971 by Harlequin Enterprises with whom the company had had a long informal partnership. It has a number of imprints which between them account for about three-quarters of the romance paperbacks published in Britain.
Mills & Boon was founded by Gerald Rusgrove Mills (3 January 1877 - 1928) and Charles Boon (1877 - 2 December 1943) in 1908 as a general fiction publisher, although their first book was, prophetically, a romance. It was not until the 1930s that the company began to concentrate specifically on romances. The company was purchased on October 1, 1971, by Harlequin Enterprises of Canada, their North American distributor.
From the very beginning, Mills & Boon published in a form and at a price that was within the reach of a wide readership. In the 1930s the company noted the rapid rise of commercial libraries and the growing appetite for escapism during the Depression years. The favourite genre was romance and the company decided to concentrate on hardback romances, a policy which became increasingly successful. Mills & Boon books were initially sold through weekly two-penny libraries and their distinctive brown binding led them to become known as "the books in brown".
With the decline of lending libraries in the late 1950s, the company's most profitable move was to realise that there would remain a strong market for romance novels, but that sales would depend on readers having easy access to reasonably priced books. As a result Mills & Boon romance became widely available from newsagents across the country.
Their books are sold through a combination of subscription and retail sales. For example, in any given month they publish eight novels in their Modern line; 6 of those are available on the retail market, and all eight are available to buy directly from the company both on and offline. Mills & Boon encourage readers to subscribe to their favorite lines, whose books will then be delivered to their home.
One distinctive feature of both Mills & Boon and Harlequin (in the US) is the length of time their books are available to buy. They publish a set number of books each month which are sent to subscribers and displayed on stands in bookshops. At the end of the month, any unsold copies in the shops are withdrawn and pulped. Titles are available to buy direct from Mills & Boon for 3 months or until they are sold out, whichever is sooner. Again, any remaining books are disposed of. Fans looking for particular books after this time must find them second-hand.
Mills & Boon has over 3 million regular readers in the UK annually. Romantic fiction constitutes the largest section of the adult paperback fiction market and Harlequin Mills & Boon publishes series fiction, promotional titles, gift packs and single titles under different brands and imprints: Mills & Boon, and Mira.
In addition to special releases, Mills & Boon currently publish ten series, most with several titles published monthly. These are all identifiable by a series title (and sometimes sub-series title) as well as a color border (which differs depending on the country the title is published in):
- Modern : Focus on being glamorous and 'sophisticated' passionate romance. Titles feature intense relationships, often very sexual, often reflecting shared feelings, desires and dreams within the couple.
- Modern Heat : Younger, flirty, more fun than Modern.
- Cherish: Warm and emotional novels that focus on capturing the feeling of falling in love.
- Blaze: Very sexual. Featuring couples in contemporary romantic relationships as they embark on sexual adventures and fantasy journeys.
- By Request: Revived romantic novels from modern or romance.
- Medical: Contemporary romances set against the background of the medical profession.
- Historical: Romance set in a specific historical time and place, for example 1920s New York.
- Desire: Daring provocative and sensual love stories, also known as "Desire 2 in 1".
- Special Moments: Compelling romances packed with emotion, tackling sensitive issues while embracing the romantic ideal that love can conquer all.
- Intrigue: Romance suspense at its best: Danger, deception and desire.
The company has been criticised for repeating plots, the inevitability of their happy endings, and a simple writing style, while fans have cited predictability as a key reason for reading.
Some critics have claimed that the genre promotes misogyny and the sexual submission of women to men, pointing particularly to the comments by one of Mills & Boon writers, Violet Winspear in 1970, that all her heroes had to be "capable of rape".
The books are highly branded and are often in a separate section of bookshops and libraries from the other paperback fiction and romance novels. Common themes are rich, ennobled and initially unattainable males (often of Mediterranean—especially Greek—origin), the desire of a character to have a baby (with this being thwarted by infertility or an unsympathetic husband), and the breakup and mending of a relationship.
2008 marked Mills & Boon's Centenary in the publishing world and was marked by a number of events and exhibitions. In November 2008, BBC Four celebrated the anniversary by broadcasting a 90-minute drama Consuming Passion written by Emma Frost.
(2000) Makes any time special
(2004) Live the emotion
- Harlequin Enterprises Ltd
- Passion's Fortune: The Story of Mills & Boon (Joseph McAleer, OUP) ISBN 0-19-820455-8
- The Romance Fiction of Mills & Boon, 1909-1990s (Jay Dixon, UCL Press) ISBN 1857282671
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