Bill Purdue column: Love is in the air for book readers

In spite of the weather, February 2012 is a very good month for lovers. First there was Valentine’s Day and this year there’s 29th February, the day on which ladies can propose to gentlemen.

So romance is definitely in the air. Romantic novels have of course always been popular, though judging by the latest list of most borrowed books in public libraries, not quite so popular at the moment. Crime thrillers by Lee Child, James Patterson and the like dominate the top 10.

However, romance is never going to go out of fashion, so the success of perhaps the longest lived publisher of romantic novels, Mills n Boon, is guaranteed for many years to come.

Mills n Boon have been around since 1908. Their original intention was to publish a wide variety of books, but by the 1930s the company was specialising in romances. Today they are as popular as ever, and now their novels are available in ebook format too.

Mills n Boon publish around a hundred ebooks a month, more than in print. In fact their sales statistics are mind boggling: Mills & Boon has 200 authors in the UK alone and 1200 authors worldwide. They sell 130 million titles each year, in 26 languages and 109 countries. In the UK, a Mills & Boon book is bought every four seconds.

When I worked in public libraries, Mills n Boon books and to a lesser extent Collins Romances were part of the ‘bread and butter’ for library issue figures, the number of books borrowed per week.

Some readers would read only Mills and Boon romances and some would only read Mills n Boon novels by certain authors.

Nowadays Mills n Boon romances are still as popular in libraries. Nottinghamshire Libraries buy 64 sets of titles per month made up of multiples of 10 different series, such as ‘Cherish’, ‘Intrigue’, ‘Desire’ as well as the traditional historical and doctor/nurse series.

I’m told that the red covers are the more sexy ones (I haven’t checked myself you understand!). All these books are circulated around the county’s libraries on a rota basis, so that every library gets a changing selection.

The libraries also have other types of paperback romances, such as those featuring Afro-Caribbean characters.

Supernatural and time travelling romance seems very popular at the moment, so look out for lots of vampires, Vikings and Scotsmen in kilts, along with the old favourites - cowboys, doctors and millionaires! All tastes are catered for.

If you would like to try writing a romance novel yourself, you may be interested to know that Kate Walker, a writer of romances for 25 years, will be running a workshop entitled ‘Writing Romantic Fiction’ at the Nottingham Mechanics Institute on Saturday 19th May.

For a booking form go click here. You can also find out more about Kate { |by clicking here|Kate Walker}