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8 Clichés in Every Mills & Boon

Priya has been previously shortlisted for the Margaret and Reg Turnill Writing Competition (2020) and the Val Wood Prize (2020).

What is Mills & Boon?

I am aware that some may not have heard of Mills & Boon, so before we go into the article, here is a short introduction to what it is.

Mills and Boon often referred to as M&B, is a publishing house which only caters to the romance genre. It was founded in 1908 by publisher Gerald Rusgrove Mills and Charles Boon. In its early days, Mills & Boon was not an exclusive publisher of romantic fiction. The firm published several high-quality educational non-fiction titles. In 1928 after Mills' unexpected death, Boon remade the company as a single-genre publishing house, publishing only romantic fiction. In 1971, the publisher was bought by the Canadian company Harlequin Enterprises.

Modern Mills & Boon novels, over one hundred of which are released each month, cover a wide range of possible romantic subgenres, varying in explicitness, setting and style, although retaining a comforting familiarity that meets reader expectations. Mills & Boon currently publish several imprints. Including- Blaze, Historical, Intrigue, Modern and Desire to name a few. The most explicit Mills and Boon imprint is Spice

Love Mills & Boon! They're fluffy and lighthearted but some cliches need to given a decent burial.

Love Mills & Boon! They're fluffy and lighthearted but some cliches need to given a decent burial.

8 Clichés in Every Mills & Boon

1. Lead Hero is a Chauvinistic A**hole: The lead hero is infuriatingly chauvinistic. He makes it a habit to dictate what his girlfriend/mistress/wife should wear, who she is allowed to meet and what she is allowed to do. Which basically is nothing more than sitting pretty at home.

2. Skin Complexion: The lead hero is always tanned. The lead heroine is always pale. My, my. It's 2017 already.

3. Word Count in Titles: As far as titles are concerned, plenty of Mills & Boon novels have anywhere from two to four words. For instance, The Cruelest Lie, Mission Make Over . I have never chanced upon a book which has one word for a title.

4. The Bank Account: Now and then we have an impoverished cowboy but the lead hero is usually very wealthy.

5. Age Difference: The lead hero is older than the heroine. Usually by a substantial amount - 10-12 years. How in the world does a 35 year old man relate to 22 year old woman?

6. Damsel in Distress: The heroine always needs 'saving'.

7. Plot Summary: The perfect formula to write a M&B novel. Girl meets Guy. Girl needs Guy's help. Guy will only help if he can bed her. Guy and the girl will get separated. Reconciliation. And then the inevitable ending that all M&Bs seem to have: marriage.

8. Epilogue: Marriage! Honeymoon! Babymoon!

Let's explore these points in detail:

1. Lead Hero is a Chauvinistic A**hole

I have read enough M&Bs to ascertain that. The lead hero is possessive and that's putting it mildly. Many loyal readers would disagree with me, surely by putting forth their own arguments. But I would still insist that any guy who ‘orders’ a girl to dress up in a particular way, wear colours he likes and even disallow her from spending time with her male friend, is a Grade A Chauvinistic A**hole all the while having uncontrolled freedom about what he wants to do. I think that this is the first step to an unhealthy relationship where a person tries to dominate his/her partner.

2. Skin Complexion

The hero is always, always tanned and the heroine is always, always pale. This is something which is true in all the M&Bs that I have read so far. And I have read quite a few. This comparison is usually made when they are both lying together on the bed. It’s the girl who is awed by how tanned her lover is, and how pale she is in comparison. That is just her contemplation. And you also have the author mentioning it like some 3000 times throughout the book. WE GET IT!!! Paleness is taken as the very criterion of beauty and so to people like us – who aren’t pale; --- we are basically told off that we are not feminine enough.

Most of the M&B titles go something like, Inexperienced Mistress, Greek Tycoon or Greek Tycoon and Pregnant Wife....just giving an example. While the book is usually written well in concise language; thoughtful and well-reasoned (most of the time), I can’t quite say the same about the imagination that has been put in to come up with the suitable title. I’ll just rattle off another few names, and let you decide for yourself: Ruthlessly Bedded, Forcibly Married; Ruthless Magnet, Convenient Wife....there are a couple of other titles which don’t necessarily have four words. But beware, if they are not four words, then they’ll be three words or two, but still quite flowery and extravagant. Like: The Cruellest Lie, Mission Make Over....and lots more.

4. The Bank Account

How is it that the hero is always super-duper rich? These books have linked a romantic notion that only a wealthy guy can be worthy of being a hero in a Mills & Boon novel. Perhaps there are books with a poor guy in the lead but I’m still waiting for that. So far, it’s the rich guys who get the girl.

5. Age Difference

Ever read a Mills & Boon where the heroine is older than the hero? Neither have I. Most heroes fall in the age category of 30-35, are super successful, masters in the art of seduction and like I’ve already mentioned, uncharacteristically attractive.

6. Damsel in Distress

This point is actually a funny observation. These books for some reason don’t follow the usual trope of mutual attraction – meeting in the bar, going out on dates, falling in love and getting married. These books always create a situation in which the girl needs the guy’s help, some way or the other, and that’s about how they fall in love.

7. Plot Summary

Marriage. Baby. And more babies.

Marriage. Baby. And more babies.

I can actually generalize the plot of all M&Bs ever written. The story goes like: Girl meets Guy. Girl needs Guy's help. Guy will only help if he can bed her. Guy and the girl will get separated. Reconciliation. And then the inevitable ending that all M&Bs seem to have: marriage.

You can notice that most characters are depthless, supercilious and unrealistic. All in all, whatever I say, or what anyone says for that matter, these books make an incredibly good light read and, make expectations of a relationship sore up high past those fluffy white clouds.

8. Epilogue

Most books provide an epilogue in which 9/10 narrates about either the marriage or the honeymoon. If not that, then it’ll be something like the girl is pregnant or the couple in down with their first child, get the idea. Like a cherry on the cake as if the cake wasn’t sweet enough.

Suggested Alternative

Cliché Alternative

Lead Hero is a Chauvinistic A**hole

Make him a considerate man. Make both characters equal.

Skin Complexion

Make both of them white.

Word Count in Titles

Use one word to encompass your story.

The Bank Account

For a change, both of them are wealthy.

Damsel in Distress

Lead heroine is with the hero because she wants to be with him. Not because of unavoidable circumstances.

Plot Summary

No, I quite like the formula.


They are travelling to a new country together.

Comment for Me!

Comments are always welcomed.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Could you, the writer of this article, please suggest a historical romance which you liked?

Answer: I don’t often read historical romance. I have an affinity to contemporary romance novels. However, from the few that I’ve read, I’m quite fond of Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me.

© 2015 Priya Barua

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