My friend bought me this Mills & Boon cover art magnet. Dunno what a Mills & Boon is? You're not alone. There's a whole world out there that you're missing! Or several, if you want to get technical. They're the leading UK publisher of women's romances, owned by Harlequin, one of the leading North American publishers of women's romances.
When I got this magnet, I immediately went online to see if I could find the title of the book that surely went along with it, but to no avail. I did, however, end up buying The Art of Romance: Mills & Boon and Harlequin Cover Designs, which gives an excellent overview of their romance covers, going all the way back to their early days of 1908.
Like, early days, when they were Jack London's UK publisher. Seriously. Jack London. Yes. That Jack London.
Since those days, M&B and Harlequin have published thousands of romances and romance series all around the world. According to that anniversary book, there's an M&B book sold in the UK every three seconds!
The really fascinating thing about flipping through these covers and titles is that you actually can see the change in romance reading culture over the century. From noir mysteries to wartime stories about women in the WAF, or doctors and nurses, or MINOs (Marriages In Name Only), or sheikhs and their captive brides, to all the brides, babies and cowboys of today, you can't really tell if they're driving the market, or if the market is driving the content. It's probably a little bit of both, honestly.
One thing's for sure, I'm totally headed to the nearest book store in London in June, so that I can pick up a few choice titles. Mind you, they won't be as great as Take Me! Break Me!
Or Brittle Bondage.
Or Grace Before Meat.
Or Pardon my Body.
But, I'm sure they'll be almost as good.