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Balder dash


Getting lost in the land of romance

When I was gifted a pile of books recently, I was rather pleased since I’m quite the bookworm. On closer inspection, the pictures on their front covers sported well built, good looking men entwined with voluptuous looking, but scantily clad females. The titles were alluring and seductive sounding. “Whaat?” I thought incredulously, “Romance novels!” I couldn’t help having a good old giggle, remembering how when we were teenagers, my friends would be drooling over Mills and Boon stories, also very romantic ones.

I preferred something more realistic! One of my friends whose dad was very strict with her, would beg, borrow or steal Mills and Boons from all of us, since she wasn’t allowed to read them at home. Then she would place it in a textbook and read it through the day. Our classes were large, about 40 of us; so the teacher would be perched on a rostrum in front and would only see a girl studiously reading her text. Once married, she promptly built up a massive collection of Mills and Boon.

So, I must tell you, although I still feel like giggling at the heaving bosoms, the piercing, steely glances and the breathtaking sighs, I’m actually reading through them. The sheer absurdity and complexity of the plots are quite amazing. The thing is, I think this type of story targets the female segment of the market, and what better way to forget about the normal, humdrum, day to day activities than lose themselves in a fantasy world of romance and excitement.

Fantastic tales

Normally these books have a happy ending (of course!). Just to illustrate how fantastic a tale they spin, let me give you examples of some I have just read. The first one had this wealthy widower in his 80s who had four daughters who were just waiting for him to die so they could grab his fortune. So just to get even with them, he marries this young divorcee.

So there are murder attempts, they try to kidnap her little daughter and scare her, and of course there’s lots of hot sex! Very conveniently, there is an Adonis at hand, who is only a companion to an old, rich lady. Neither of the two older people object to the younger couple having fun, in a physical relationship. Now can you understand why I want to giggle?

The other one I have started is about this half French, absolutely beautiful female orphan, who is offered as payment by her wicked uncle — who is an English Lord — to another young, handsome, eligible nobleman to pay off a gambling debt.

She runs away disguised as a boy and finds work in the kitchen of the Prince Regent. At her uncle’s house, she has learnt how to cook superbly from the French chef there. Then she is suspected of trying to murder someone by putting poison in a pudding, (ha ha) runs away again, is set upon by some louts, and is rescued by, guess whom? The handsome Lord, of course! He discovers she’s a woman in the rescue attempt, what fun, and then employs her to be his pastry chef, since she’s so bewitching! Hee hee! I think you know how it ends.

True life romance

My Mills and Boon pal told me that she read a true life romance, about a couple who were courting each other the parents didn’t approve.  So they went their separate ways. When the lady’s husband died, someone told her that they knew where her first love lived. So they met, rekindled their romance and got married, even though they live in two different continents. They were both approaching 80! How romantic is that?

Medieval romance was expressed in the form of ballads. Generally, there was a chivalrous hero involved, seeking adventure, who fought and slayed various monsters, to win the affection of a particular lady. Wow!

Then we had the Victorian adaptation to romance novels by Jane Austen that became extremely popular. The most popular of her books is probably Pride And Prejudice. Hot on her heels were the Bronte sisters, Charlotte’s Jane Eyre and Emily’s Wuthering Heights. After the suffragette movement, women became more liberated and a more independent protagonist emerged. With the advent of the paperback novel which was mass produced, these were even more widespread.

I know there are lots of romantic movies, so you get the visual aspect too, but somehow there’s nothing quite like curling up and getting lost in oblivion to your surroundings with a book!

— Honky Tonk Woman









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