The Romantic Case Study

Warning: This post is long, rambling commentary of how romantic books are packaged, old and modern. If reading about this genre is beneath you, feel free to skip it. πŸ˜‰

I have watched hundreds of movies in past few months. Yes hundred, it’s not an exaggeration. I have read several books as well. But I read and watch more than I write. And I feel I must remedy that. In coming days, I will do my best to write about what I am reading and writing.

I was reading The Blind Assassin and The Clockwork Orange, both somewhat profound books. But the books didn’t seem to suit my tired state of mind, so I began looking for a fast read thriller, mystery or romance instead of a literary classic.I remembered A Reader’s Digest list had recommended Nora Roberts’ Chesapeake Bay – Quinn Brother series. I remember I had searched and downloaded the books from Internet. (Yeah, I am biggest beneficiary of pirated ebooks. I don’t ever download anything else from Internet. Just ebooks.) And then had promptly forgotten about Nora Roberts. (You see I am big on hoarding books/ebooks than reading them. )

Until now. I have never read a Nora Roberts, though am aware she is a prolific romantic book author. I started reading the books.Β  I can’t say I was tremendously pleased with the book, but it didn’t disappoint me. It had its downsides, but it was right fodder for my frazzled brain.

The First MB I read at age of 14

The First MB I read at age of 14

Reading these books reminded me of my teen days, when I would read MBs in one sitting, hiding in my textbooks. For the uninitiated, MBs stand for Mills and Boons, a popular women’s romantic fiction churning factory. The word MB is also an entry in Oxford Dictionary meaning ”a romantic book.”. Today it is a trend to snobbishly, disdainfully look down upon MBs and so called β€˜chick-lits’. But I must be truthful to admit that whatever today I am professionally, it is because I read those MBs, outside my parents’ knowledge. Surprised!

I presented a case study of an MB plot in a seminar. My then professor suggested a change of stream; she said I must take β€œsomething to do with writing and creativity.” It was one decision that changed my life. Β Today I make my living designing training programs and that I could write played a very important part in it.

I went back to the case study of an old MB plot I presented while at college after I read Nora Roberts. Here’s the gist of a typical MB plot:

Female lead character, as expected, is beautiful, dainty girl; mostly a virgin, this latter fact is very crucial. I will come to that later.

Our leading man is tall, dark, handsome man with caveman tactics and usually a pukka womaniser. This womaniser factor is very much important to create tense chemistry and conflict in the novel. Virgin lady and a womaniser. TheΒ  leading man is rich, he has to be. It’s ok if leading lady just manages to scrape through, all that matters is required of her to be compassionate and virtuous.

Usually either one of character thinks other as immoral. Better if our womaniser leading man looks down upon the lady. So he punishes her by kissing. (Punishment is always fierce kisses, which often leads to more) He takes her to bed only because he wants to take her out of his system (since she is so desirable). He is no doubt disgusted with himself that he wants her even though he hates her. Of course, he discovers in bed that lady is virgin. He instantly feels regretful, protective while lady is hurt because she thinks he regrets making love to her. Blah.

Leading lady may seem to have a boyfriend other than our leading man, but this character is mostly appendage. He is either a bad boy; brother or even gay. Or he is just a mistake and female lead feels some sort of guilt about hurting him. It will be revealed later woman hadn’t slept with him. Coast clear for leading man.

There may be maneuvered situations thrown in where it is required that leading man and lady pose as a couple. (You get the drift; they will eventually fall in love in real.)

Since man was womanizer in past, there are many not-so-virtuous, spiteful women throwing themselves at him. So leading lady is confused, but she has her pride and takes off becoming bad woman in his eyes rather than admitting love. There might be separation or may be book starts after old flames are meeting again. Nothing better than their secret baby that father will discover much later.

Setting is important. Every MB is set in an exotic, romantic place. Popular ones are Caribbean, Arab, Rome, Itlay, Venice, New Zealand, Scotland, cruises, ranches. It’s an opportunity to write about exotic food and any weird local customs that enhance the plot. πŸ˜‰

Characters are contrasting too: doctor and nurse; nanny and the master; air hostess and air baron; clerk and tycoon; orphan and rich ranch owner; sometimes distant cousins and royal blood too are thrown in. Description of both male and female beauty is important. Even though woman may not be aware of her beauty, man is always aware that he is no less than demigod. Love making scenes are written, without any real sleaze. They are just there to tell how both swoon, moan and passionately fit each other. (Sometimes, some passionate writers make an exception.)

After a period of estrangement and misunderstandings, lovers make up and marry. I love you’s are said first time only on last pages of book and they are absolute. It is understood they live happily after.

(You bet I presented all of above with details, charming examples to elderly, scholarly ladies and gentleman. They were rolling with laughter by end of my presentation.)

In contrast, Nora Roberts did not have any character that was appendage. She could afford to. It was book with three sequels. She developed characters well, since she could use them as lead and support characters in next books. Chesapeake Bay series is a book set in small town of St. Christopher. Since it is a shore-based town, it is scenic. (Lot of nature writing gets intermingled in the plot. πŸ˜‰Β  ) It’s a story of three Quinn brothers who have been adopted by a loving, childless couple (Ray and Stella Quinn) who made them their own. Each of them has been abused (not necessarily sexually) as a child before they are adopted my their new parents. As adults of course they are fine male specimens with distinct characteristics. One is flamboyant, womaniser and car racer; other is brooding waterman; sophisticated, chic ad man and youngest one is a painter. As you notice, only one of them was a womaniser. (He too will be domesticated in next three books.)

Together three brothers are thrown unwillingly in a situation where they have to take care of their younger brother, the fourth child (who grows up to be a painter) their father has adopted.

Each of the four books is love story of one Quinn brother. None of their woman is virgin, but of course three of them have one (just one if you notice) past failed relationship. All women make their own living, some very successfully. Most of them have dysfunctional family or family flawed in some other way. Each one is in emotional turmoil, and fall for equally turmoil-ed Quinn brothers. All of them have spunk, especially one called Anna Spinelli.

All male scenes have been written with curse words. It’s understood they will have bad language and box each other (not very violently though ever) when sorting their differences. And whenever they talk, they try to be tough.

Love making scenes are of course there, only steamier. They are worthy enough to be included as lessons in sex-scene writing classes. Virginity is non-issue. Trust is big one. And second being history of abuse in men, which fills them with doubts on and off. Therefore, their parents’ ghosts come down to show them the way. No kidding, I said ghosts. Though to her credit, Nora has attempted to make it less ridiculous as possible.

There are subplots of course, requiring the family to brave the crisis together. This subplot involves safekeeping of fourth Quinn brother and is often conflicting factor between the romantic. Of course, couples align in the end. They marry. (Too quickly, if you ask me.) First book β€œSea Swept” is the best, while subplot is at its lamest in the fourth book.

Book certainly gets predictable when family members turn into mutual admiration society. Such dialogues are irritating. Most enjoyable and well written bits are those that have family bickering, tinged with love. Since it was a series, there was a lot of repetition for the benefit of readers who pick up books in middle. However, though written on lines of prolific, new age romance has moved away from virginity at least, but exotic and hot passionate element of it remains the same. πŸ˜‰

It was nice down the memory lane. I dedicate this post to my dear friend Hypermom who openly declares to succumbing to MBs every now and then. And I can be magnanimous to share part tribute with Vee who once large-heartedly confessed to me he knows many men who read MBs hiding in closet. πŸ˜‰ yeah, now you get the drift and reach of these novellas.

49 Responses to “The Romantic Case Study”

  1. 1 Vikas Gupta August 9, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    I read only half of it and still commenting. I read you shifted to Pune! I have yet to read an MB!

    • 2 Poonam August 10, 2009 at 12:47 pm

      Yes, I moved. πŸ™‚ Thanks for visiting, I had forgtton blogs during my disconnect. I visited your blog, and loved some things there. Unfortunately, my fragile Internet connection gave up when I was writing comment. Those posters were creative, and your blog is a fast become one stop corner for JNU.

    • 3 Vikas Gupta August 10, 2009 at 12:55 pm

      Yes, I am writing more on the campus now; there are many undocumented aspects. Unfortunately I am only writing the nice aspects presently! The place has many ills too. I will soon celebrate Independence day for the first time in teh campus and will document it; JNUites get up late you know!

      Am writing two posts within 24 hours on free books/articls – a boon for students/scholars ; will leave a link here. You may be knowing them given your inclination to innocent piracy! πŸ˜‰

  2. 4 Indyeah August 9, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Helloooo let me sigh for sometime in happiness πŸ™‚
    you know the craze I have for em πŸ˜€

    Nora Roberts? I have her entire collection πŸ˜€
    oh damn!! look at the looks I am getting :mrgreen:

    PS:- WHy is the font so TEENY WEENY?
    I can barely see what I am writing

    • 5 Poonam August 10, 2009 at 12:52 pm

      Really, do you have Northern Lights by her? A reader’s Digest list recommended that too. As part of best beach reads. Have you read it?

      And I have done nothing to font yaar. Try cntrl + click if it helps. As Vikas says, I cant really fix it. But dnt write any less than Indyeah comments (which mean long comments answering every part) because f font. I forbid. πŸ™‚

      Did you read my case study of MB plot?

    • 6 Indyeah August 11, 2009 at 10:35 pm

      haan re!I read it πŸ˜€ me coming right back πŸ˜€

  3. 7 Indyeah August 9, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    font sahi karo coz I cant see anything…its touch and go while submitting the comment πŸ˜›

  4. 10 Reema August 9, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    I havent read an MB yet not because that genre is beneath me but because I dont like romantic novels or movies. I am a suspense/mystery/adventure kind of reader and viewer. πŸ™‚

  5. 12 Vimmuuu August 9, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    heyyy, see I skipped !!! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ But it felt great commenting in your blog after a looong time !!

    Ohh btw, if you didnt know, I have a blog too !!! πŸ˜‰

    • 13 Smita August 9, 2009 at 11:57 pm

      Oh God! Some people I tell you!

    • 14 Poonam August 10, 2009 at 12:56 pm

      Yeah, I know you ahve a blog. Thanks for reminding me I will be there. And because you have not read a MB, this was a chance to get yourself enlightened. As some people would say, you dnt know what you are missing πŸ˜‰ Just kidding of course.

  6. 15 Smita August 9, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Gee! Reminds me of the pair of MB’s lurking in my book shelf (and am not ashamed of them) lemme go read one of them NOW! will be back tomorrow with a proper comment πŸ˜‰

  7. 17 Hypermom August 10, 2009 at 12:05 am

    If my “confession” led you to finding time to write again-I wish I had done it weeks ago πŸ™‚

    Your synopsis was great-I’ll share mine too!

    • 18 Poonam August 10, 2009 at 1:07 pm

      Nah, I have always known that you love to read MBs. You have always stated that with pride. πŸ˜€

      By a quirk of fate, I was led to read purely romantic fiction, it made me think of old MBs I had read during my schooling. I have read all ancient MBs with virginal women and alpha males, I really don’t know how modern ones come along thought I have 16 original ebooks of MB. If you want I will email them to you as well. πŸ™‚

      And please do share your synopsis, I would love to read it. πŸ™‚

  8. 19 Destination Infinity August 10, 2009 at 12:37 am

    I have always wondered what is there in those M&B series of books, though I never read one. Now I have an idea. Actually the generalization was quite good… it can be done only by an expert! I am now reading non-fiction books and that explains why I read one book in 3 months!! I don’t know how people manage to read so many books in a single month.

    Destination Infinity

    • 20 Poonam August 10, 2009 at 1:12 pm

      Destination Infinity:

      I am an reluctant expert, I became an expert right at school. I read this first MB, without knowing it was a MB. And as a child, I was embarrassed. I have pegged my age to be 14, it culd be younger when I read it. But now I know why these books work, they are best sort of mindless escapism. πŸ™‚

      I am a fast reader anyway. I can easily read 4 books a month. If I am at it, I can finish big books like Blind Assassin in a week. Only current work schedule is such there isn’t time to take out for these. 😦

      But then again you finish a non fiction in 3 months, I am sure you bsorb it well as perhaps its intended to be. Don’t worry about prolific readers (because we forget even plots in short period), as long as whatever you read is satisfying.

  9. 21 sulz August 10, 2009 at 5:57 am

    loved this post! i enjoy reading chick lit but haven’t picked up a romance book in a long time. if it comes recommended i might. πŸ˜€

    • 22 Poonam August 10, 2009 at 1:13 pm

      Glad you liked it, half my readership (read men) skipped it. πŸ˜€ And I wanted to tell you don;t worry about small goof ups at work, we all do and hate ourselves for making mistakes. But to err is humans. Just take it easy, girl. πŸ™‚

  10. 23 Ava August 10, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Ahh.. I read a batch of M&Bs long while back and cottoned on to their predicatable plot line. It was just like a masala hindi film. Milna, Bichadna, phir milna. The predictable story probably does not tax the reader much. And the different ‘ingredients’ provide entertainment. In fact I have read some pretty good historical romance novels. Alas, I never kept a record of them, and the name has been forgotten.

    • 24 Poonam August 10, 2009 at 1:16 pm

      Ava, I feel like wailing, why dont yuo remember those historical romances. I am very interested in historic novels and romance. Please pata karo na, yaad karo kaun se the and tell me.

      And your comment on MBs is pretty apt. πŸ˜‰

      P.S: Do read a book reading journal, you can you have a book blog. Create a separate page. And thank you for that award, I will be acknowledging it soon on my space. Thanks again!

    • 25 Indyeah August 11, 2009 at 10:37 pm

      πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ this reminds me to add one more line (s) to my comment that I am writing πŸ˜€ the names of good authors πŸ˜€
      see? I told ya I have become an expert πŸ˜‰

  11. 26 Smita August 10, 2009 at 9:40 am

    I read my first MB in Banasthali during my grad days!!! I remember girls used to die for a new book and “those” pages were earmarked and passed on πŸ˜€

    You know What I used to love the most in an MB?? Towards the end when the lovers would sit and talk about “what they had really meant meant when they had done that in past” or rather

    “I fell in love with you the moment I saw you but I was amazed by the intensity of my emotions towards you and I didn’t want to give in & that’s why I was so cruel to you.”

    They would meet, fall in love & hide it, they will fight, they will make love, they will show they regret it, they will part, they will cry, they will miss each other & they will meet again all in 120 pages!!! Isn’t that amazing πŸ˜€

    As I said in my last comment I have dug out a MB and trust me enjoying it thoroughly!!! It is one of those Italian romance where the hubby is dead and cousin is behind the girls life because she has the heir apparent with her and we know where it is leading πŸ˜€

    I love MB’s. Period!!!! They take u take a romantic dreamworld where everything get straightened and life is always a happy ending πŸ™‚

    Am yet to read a Nora Roberts!!!! Lets see when I do that!!!

    Phew!!! That’s a very long comment by my standards πŸ™‚ and I can still write more on MB’s. Am waiting for the day when we meet and can talk about books, books & books πŸ™‚

    • 27 Poonam August 10, 2009 at 1:23 pm

      Hehehe I was laughing along at your comment. I am sure you are enjoying your current book.

      You used to earmark pages and pass along! hahaha You know I once lent a MB to guy at school and then while returning the book, he embarrasseldy says, its sleazy. I too flushed with embarrassment, now of course if anything like that happens I wont.

      yes, your last man quote is apt. He hated himself fro loving so he was angry and usually they all fell in love at first sight. πŸ˜‰

      Read Northern Lights by Nora Roberts if you want. Again Reader’s Digest list recommends it. The same list had Time Traveller’s Wife too.

      And take a breather and come back to write more about MBs. I too can hear more about it, since it was part of golden childhood period.

  12. 28 sakhi August 10, 2009 at 10:51 am

    i still like to read M & B now and then, but I prefer silhoute better… atleast it has SOME story.. hee..hee… but then i don’t read this genre coz of stories πŸ˜‰ :mrgreen:

    • 29 Poonam August 10, 2009 at 1:26 pm

      Honestly, I can’t really distinguish brand of MBs. 😦 As I mentioned in post, MB is an entry in Oxford dictionary that means a romantic book.

      And I have read mostly ancient MBs like one I included in post, while at school. I am not sure my synopsis of plot would meet modern requirements? What do say since you would know better. I have to still read those books from Harlequin we shared, I skimmed through one, it was pretty tame in chemistry though it was laced with technological innovations!!

  13. 30 Arpit August 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    oh is it all about the mills and boons??
    because i read the warning and i prefer to skip this one ( if you allow without any offense ) because i dont like romantic novels.
    i just dropped in for saying THANKS for showing so much of belief in me! πŸ˜›
    i am glad i landed up making a blog otherwise i would have missed on the wisdom of so many people ! πŸ˜›

    • 31 Poonam August 13, 2009 at 11:39 pm

      Ha feel free to skip. But don’t treat them like plague since you do want to be a writer eventually. You could actually read a couple to check the writing style.

      And I am glad too that you blog. πŸ™‚

  14. 32 vishesh unni raghunathan August 10, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Have heard about MB … Nora roberts? Sounds interesting , can do with some thing like that ..have been reading a lot of serious books.. πŸ˜› Have to find it in some library…but ya I don’t like romance novels, they tend to bore me πŸ™‚

  15. 33 Solilo August 11, 2009 at 3:14 am

    Being a hardcore romantic that I am, somehow M & B never fascinated me. I wrote about it here too long back. But what M & B couldn’t do Sidney Sheldon did for totally different reasons ahem…. πŸ˜‰

    Romance for me was Barbara Cartland. She was and still is Queen of Romance.

    Nora Roberts to me is more of a mystery novelist than romantic because all her novels end with revelation. I don’t pick her books often so without fail I caught up with Lifetime channel when they ran Nora Roberts 2009 collection and I had recorded all and watched it later. There were Northern Lights, Midnight Bayou, High Noon and Tribute. I like the mystery elements in her novels may be because I love thrillers.

  16. 34 Liju Philip August 11, 2009 at 5:52 am

    What a coincidence, i watched Clockwork Orange movie a few days back. Wasnt as impressed as it was made out to be. Maybe all the hype went to my head.

    Anyway, romantic novels/books? I stay far far away from them. I cant take mushy romantic movies itself. Such books are far from my imagination.

  17. 36 shraddha@theselfloveproject August 11, 2009 at 11:55 am

    okay i hope no one reads it..

    i stil read mills and boons while travelling etc…LOL!

    when i was pregnant with twins…i was put on bed rest for 7 weeks…all i did was yahoo chatting and read mills and boons…i was in the hospital at the time and nurses used to laugh at me…

  18. 37 Vee August 12, 2009 at 2:06 am

    I still maintain the same… Many of my male friends have read and I too have… It’s just I got bored and stopped, but never maligned those books snobbishly….Like Movies/Serial/Drama/, If i watch I say I watch, if I like I say I like, If I don’t I say I don’t but never malign then as substandard stuff…..

    And when you say I wish to write as much as I read and watch, I wish it doesn’t happen…. Reading and Watching me zada time lagao than writing….. πŸ˜‰

  19. 38 lostworld August 12, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I’m visiting first-time.

    This was nicely written, had to leave behind a comment !! I have read only 2 M&B’s till date & found them both exact replicas of each other (save the locale & origins of the protagonists) πŸ˜€

    “.. Punishment is always fierce kisses .. ” Hahaha πŸ™‚ So true!


  20. 39 aniruddha pathak August 12, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    I loved reading this post..generally i stay away from posts about books..but this was good πŸ™‚

  21. 42 sakhi August 13, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Because of your post i read two Harlequins in a row :mrgreen: and one of it was a “silhoute” … the file name is “babayb” [the ones we shared!]

    it has everything and some more “sizzle” πŸ˜‰ the author knows how to write a love scene…

    • 43 Poonam August 13, 2009 at 11:42 pm

      Thanks, Sakhi, I will try to check that one out as soon as possible. I haven’t read the batch, its ironic considering the pace with which I shared those with many people. You too pass on! πŸ™‚

  22. 44 Shefaly August 17, 2009 at 9:12 pm


    I have never read a M&B in my life but my best friend from college used to read them like they were prescribed by the doctor and the mom of my best friend from school has ALL of them. So I am reliably informed that these novels continue in the same vein and as if that weren’t enough, India gets its very own, customised, localised content. See:

    Oh joy!

  23. 45 sakthi August 17, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Hi i read your post its very nice and wonderful…
    so i add u in my bolg list and can u add me in your blog list…

  24. 46 Poonam Sharma August 23, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Yeah, that is the irony of it. You read only two and become an expert. πŸ˜€

  25. 47 Priyanka September 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm


    Read your blog for the first time!

    This is soo true:) I read my first MB when I was 12-13 not knowing what it was and was embarrassed.

    Now I have monthly tie up with the vendor and on weekends I can read 3-4 MB’s. Its great stress buster but whatever said the old MB’s were much better written than the new ones!!

  26. 48 tikulicious January 25, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Someone gave me two MBs as my 16th birthday present. I managed to read it somehow and decided never to touch it again for the rest of my life. Somehow it did not interest me. My friends thought there was something wrong with me πŸ™‚ and I let them believe it. lol maybe I got it at the wrong time. will pick one now πŸ˜‰

    • 49 Poonam Sharma January 25, 2010 at 3:01 pm

      Tikuli, thanks for your comment.

      Don’t pick up the modern day MBs, they are mostly trashy. If you must, then buy the older versions of MB. They are delightful and entertaining. Do a round of second hand bookshops, you might find some treasure there. πŸ™‚

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