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Well it’s so exciting having my first ever Mills and Boon chapter on a website. And I’ve had some feedback! I’ve had some really encouraging comments from people who I don’t know, which is great because obviously I forced it down the throats of all my poor friends and family who have had to listen to me wittering on about it for ages and been ‘asked’ to vote. Two of my lovely friends who have fantastic book blogs novelinsights and savidgereads have mentioned it which is much appreciated by me. 

But it also got me thinking about how despite it’s evident popularity (millions of people around the world read this stuff; hundreds of first chapters have been entered into the competition alone -they accept manuscripts unsolicited all year round; there are hundreds of comments) M&B is not cool. It’s sort of underground. I mean, have you ever seen someone reading an M&B on a tube or bus or park bench? I have never seen it and yet there are millions of people around the world reading them clearly under the covers, in the wardrobe, hurriedly looking over their shoulders on a quite street, guiltily behind the bikesheds with a cigarette languishing unsmoked between their fingers.

Hands up, when I commuted into London I did initially hide my M&Bs behind an old school book cover but I started to not care and wear my romance badge with pride. I began to tell people about my guilty secret. I was and am still aware that people instantly assume I have at least ten cats (and then they surreptitiously lean in to check if I smell of cat wee), watch Cash in the Attic on V+ and go to bed alone wearing home-knitted, organic wool bedsocks with a glass of sherry. It outrages me because only some of that is true….No but really, there was an article a couple of years ago about how people who read M&B have unrealistic expectations about their partners and generally it could be inferred that any M&B readers must be foolish, naive and silly. My then (and not now) partner told me about this as if to justify him spending every waking hour playing football or on a golf course (no, that is an outright lie; he spent a lot of time playing PlayStation too). Just because we read romance fiction doesn’t mean we’re stupid.

So to finally ramble to the culmination of my musings:  it feels like somehow in that simple gesture my lovely friends are putting a stake in the ground; are subverting some kind of unwritten rule about literature and the arts. They both acknowledge it might not be to their regular readers’ tastes but suggest it nonetheless. Both my friends are proper book-a-holics who follow Man Booker and have a book group. I think it really speaks volumes (sorry I couldn’t help myself) about their genuine commitment to books, unabashed, no snobbery. Because, let’s be honest, the world of literature and the arts generally does have some pretentiousness about it. I mean, I love latitude festival, it was great again this year – a complete feast of the senses, mind and spirit (I’ve just summed up my point in that comment haven’t I?) but some of the promo in the brochure is utterly ridiculous meaningless nonsense (I tried to find my favourite example in the online listings but failed sorry!). Which is why when I go to Latitude, I just sit and wait for Robin Ince’s book club in the literary tent everyday. He pokes fun at everything because nothing is above censure and I enjoyed his M&B ribbing lots for that very reason. Well let’s hope the new branding and the competition gives M&B some edge. Anyway I’ll get off my high horse (a nice cross-reference with the horse themed M&B if I do say so myself).

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