Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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Mills & Boon to seduce readers with sari and salwar

The Mills & Boon romances have always been in India. Teens loved to soak in them, as did slightly elderly women past that magical age when men wooed them. While young girls, and not quite boys, read and fantasised about tall, dark and handsome men taking delicate, pretty damsels in their arms before crushing their lips with hungry, somewhat rough, kisses, the oldies could well just sigh and wish, and wish.

Now for the sari and salwar
Mills & Boon love stories were invariably set in exotic places and happened between rich, arrogant guys and poor helpless girls. Passion struck on railway coaches as they steamed through a moonlit Spanish night. Love came on a rainy Saturday evening, drawing a doctor to his nurse in a secluded Cape Town hospital. Lust emerged from the swimming pool of a French chateau, with a proud baron man gazing at a young angelic woman dive into the water naked.

Now Harlequin Mills and Boon, a fiction company founded in 1908 by Gerald Mills and Charles Boon, has decided to change its locales from European or South African cities and villages to the expanses of India. It could be a sari-clad woman, her breasts lifted seductively by the tight-fitting blouse, clutching a notebook and rushing away from the dashing hunk of a CEO, the haughtiness of manhood and money clearly writ on his face.

Andrew J. Go, director of the publishing company, has said that the first book with Indian characters and settings will be out in the stores by this fall. To be authored by the popular Penny Jordan, the book will be priced at Rs 99 or a pound and twenty-five pence.

Jordanís story will happen in a fictional Indian State and her hero will be the maharajaís (who else) brother and property baron. Of course, he would be muscular, but fair, and handsome, yet charming and sensitive. Indian women are no longer looking for Adonis. They want men who are caring and considerate. Yes, of course they want men who could give them a great time in bed.

Romances still work very well in India. There is so much love in Indian films, songs, mythology and religion. But not enough in modern Indian writings. Karthika, Chief Editor of HarperCollins in India, says that somehow love has not been a strong point in Indian English writing. But who knows, Jordan and others may get Indians attracted to romantic fiction whose characters may well be that salwar-kameez-clad girl down your street in Mumbai or the smart IT professional with enough money to flash.

(Webposted February 25 2008)