50 shades of Mills & Boon

Rather disconcertingly, the boys bought me a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey in England. Mr JB, of course, put them up to it, suggesting Mum might like to read a book during the relaxing break in Phuket. How considerate of him.

Brownie asked me what it was about. I said I wasn’t sure, but that I think it’s about a man and a woman who don’t like each other, but secretly they do, and it’s probably very silly.

Three chapters in, and that’s a pretty good review. Problem is, I’ll never know if it’s anything more than that because I just can’t read any further. I’d had enough by the end of chapter two, but forced myself to read five more pages just in case. Just in case what, I’m not sure – perhaps more story and structure, I guess.

Rewind a number of years, to when I took a freelance writing unit as part of my degree, and as part of our cursory glance over money-making writing ventures, the ‘romance’ genre was right up there. We were told not to titter and be high-falutin’ about writing, but to observe the strict style and conventions, and if we had the desire it could be a good option to pursue.

As part of my research *ahem* I went to Kmart (that’s where you get them) and, looking confident and not at all embarrassed, I started perusing the Mills & Boon shelves. What an awakening! I had no idea there were so many categories: Blaze, Blush, Desire, Historical, Intrigue, Medical, Nocturne, and the list goes on.

I decided to stay away from Medical and Historical, because doctors and nurses and heaving bosoms were never my thing, and thought I’d buy a couple of the more, um, contemporary categories. Well! They were a bit racy. So I read a couple more just to check for consistency. They were consistent all right.

And then I got caught up with other things, and my M&B were tucked away into the Writing box where they remain to this day. But lesson learnt: writing romance novels is not to be sneezed at, whether into a delicate lacy kerchief, something all together more sheer, or just in the altogether. Respec to the authors.

Which brings me to the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. In all seriousness, this is what I thought I knew about the books; that an English (?)  housewife/home writer (whatever) had been writing stories online and getting a good following, and they sorta went viral, were a little bit saucy, a bookseller/publisher picked up on the demand, and – kaboom – massive sales and she’s set for life. Even if I’m wrong in part or all of that, good for her. It’s every writer’s dream.

What I didn’t know, and have subsequently found out, is really it’s Mills & Boon, but just bigger and longer. And now I feel robbed, because I didn’t want to read a bloody Mills & Boon on my holiday, and it was too late to get a refund when I finally sat down with it by the pool in Phuket three days ago.

And oh, if thou doth protest too much at this assessment, have a look at the top two news items from this Bookseller page.

None of this, though, appeared to be bothering the woman of a certain age, three pool lounges down from me. Mr JB noticed she was reading the same book. She seemed to be sticking at it. Good for her too. I wish I could say I’ll have what she’s having, because clearly I’m not.

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Then there’s the Fifty Shades of Grey for Blokes doing the rounds:

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