For better or worse, I grew up reading Mills and Boon books I’d nicked from my mum’s bedroom.
Those romance novels were iconic back in the day, with their cover illustrations featuring muscular Fabio type fellas, posing before a permanent wind-machine, long hair in the artificial breeze. Ripped muscles peeking from even more ripped shirts. Buxom women cowering at their feet.
And the stories were hokey, let’s face it. Soap opera-quality scripts about pushy gents and reluctant ladies, that we all skimmed through to get to the sex scenes. Which consisted of very flowery language like “her pulsing lady garden opened like a flower in bloom” and a fade to black before the good stuff.
And the dialogue! Lines like: “‘My dear woman, I haven’t been so long without a woman that I shall go beserk and ravish you the instant I get my hands on your body. I merely wished to braille you – I thought we had got to know one another well enough for that.” (This is in fact, a real line from The Passionate Sinner by Violet Winspear. Probably not her real name).
But now the romance monolith is back, with what's very much being packaged as a Fifty Shades Of Grey inspired series called Mills and Boon: DARE. In capitals.
The steamy, fleshy, black and white covers definitely imply there's going to be saucier, potentially BDSM, action. There's mostly not, but it's implied.
The DARE book I devoured in one short sitting was Legal Seduction by Lisa Childs. The plot presents the very Christian Grey-ish "powerhouse lawyer" Simon Kramer, making late-night office moves on his executive assistant Bette Monroe. He has just two weeks to seduce her, because she's quit and given her notice. That's also the plot to Sexual Harassment: The Novel. But I digress.
Bette is of course a repressed preacher's daughter. We know this because it's repeated about 15 times. She's trying to con Simon, and he's trying to con her, and they are both doing that by having lots and lots of sex. Naturally in the middle of all that atop-desk and wheely-chair shagging, they fall madly in love and have to deny they have fallen in love, until they don't. Standard stuff really.