Romance is dead: Sex sells

One of the ironies of The Press Christchurch Writers’ Festival was that the star guest, Robert Fisk, works for the main sponsor’s opposition. Tony O’Reilly, who owns The Independent that Fisk writes for, also owns Australian Provincial Newspapers, which in turn owns The New Zealand Herald, The Star in Christchurch and most of New Zealand’s commercial radio stations. Anyway, it’s The Independent you’ve got to thank for this post.

The Independent has reported that Mills and Boon, the venerable romance fiction publishers who have reached 100 years in the business, have turned the heat up a notch. Gone are the days of emotional attachment between hero and heroine – from 2009 in the UK (and already in the US) it’s “sex for enjoyment” as their marketing director put it, in a series called Spice.

It is part of a continuing pattern for the Mills and Boon books – once upon a time they published sports and craft titles, before moving into escapist romances. They’ve been getting gradually more explicit ever since. All this begs the question: If Mills and Boon books have got progressively raunchier, does the audience, ah, keep pace?

One thing’s for sure: the title writers will have a field day… if they weren’t already!

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