On Mills&Boon Novels and Gay Secondary Characters

I spent the morning re-reading several of my Mills&Boon novels. I started my Mills&Boon collection six years ago during my eight-month stay in Galway, Ireland (west coast= rain, rain, rain, more rain, and oh yes, rain).

Galway Cathedral
It was my friend Ann, who got me hooked on Mills&Boon novels. One thing I will always remember about Ann (apart from getting me hooked on M&B books) is something that happened when we went to the Arran Islands by ferry. I suddenly felt really, really sick, and when we finally reached dry land, Ann (whose family originally came from Kenia and whose skin is very dark) told my in a voice full of wonder: “You know, you’re the first white person I’ve seen going really white.” *ggg* Ann was a dear friend, and I was so sad when her exchange programme ended after only one semester. Unfortunately we lost contact after a while, but whenever I’m standing in front of my Mills&Boon shelf I’m always reminded of Ann. :O)

What I like so much about M&B novels is that they’re so short you can read them in about 2 hours (they’re like small chocolates, really); you don’t have to wait too long for the happy ending (and your own happy sigh); they are, in a way, slightly old-fashioned; and they’ve just got the best brooding, moody, harsh Italian alpha-heroes, who are so beautiful to watch falling in love against their will. (Of course, sometimes you wish the heroine would just hit the hero over his dense head, but well, you can get over that).

Yet I somehow liked the books better when they were printed on thinner paper and were slimmer. And when they used the painted covers! I really, really loved those. Among my favourite “old” M&B covers are those for Penny Jordan’s LOVER BY DECEPTION (1999), Sandra Field’s UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL! (1998) and Kate Walker’s THE TEMPTATION GAME (1998).

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So, spent the morning and half of the afternoon reading. Then I finally wrote down that scene I plotted while I was invigilating that exam on Monday. I really blame it all on the LOVE LETTER team: the March issue of the magazine contained an article on gay secondary characters in romance (prominently featuring THE LILY BRAND and comments by its author *smile*). One thing the article mentioned was that while there are now a number of (heterosexual) romances with unvillainous gay secondary characters and some of them even in a happy relationship, you usually still don’t see anything beyond a mere kiss (it’s a bit different in erotic romances, e.g. think of the threesome in Emma Holly’s “The Love Slave” in SECRETS Vol. 4!). “Gosh,” I thought, “they’re right. We can’t have that …” (I blame reading too much Terry Pratchett for this streak of subversiveness!) (Isn’t it cool when you can always blame other people? *ggg*)

So, as I said, it’s the LoveLetter team who is to blame for the scene I wrote today (not part of BEWITCHED, but of a new novella) — it’s not a sex scene (that would be pushing the envelope a bit too far, I guess), even though it is certainly sexually charged. But it is mainly about emotional intimacy, which I consider to be the more powerful and the closer to the heart. It starts with:

Barefoot and otherwise equally stark-naked, Trevor Augustus Sherard, the youngest son of the Earl of Harborough, sauntered across the room to the window and lifted the drapes to peek outside. “Marvellous day.”

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