Mills and Boon, famous for producing romantic fiction for women, are now going to start producing books for men with tough heroes and a nice lot of action.
Well, all I can say is that this column is way ahead of them. It was five years ago that we started our own publishing imprint, Mills and Bang, which put out novels designed to appeal to both men AND women by combining the best of war and love in a new genre called military romance. So don't bother with the monosexual productions of Mills and Boon when you can get offerings from Mills and Bang's autumn list to satisfy both men and women, such as the following new best-sellers...
Colonel Ivor Grady knew more about bomb disposal than any man alive, though not more than his fiery star pupil Sergeant Sheila Stayforth, the headstrong lass who swore she would never talk to Grady again after not getting 100% in her final exam. But when news came through that there was an unexploded terrorist bomb in the House of Commons itself, it was Colonel Ivor Grady they sent for. And when Colonel Grady found himself baffled by the device someone had set ticking in the Labour Members' Loo, it was Sheila he sent for. Together, in the unlikely surroundings of a left wing men's lavatory, the two of them find love while talking through the problems of how to defuse a Czech wiring system. Tragically, the bomb does go off, but happily it leaves them unscathed and only removes thirty or forty Labour backbenchers surplus to requirements.
"What the devil's this?" roared Captain Lewis Armstrong, poking at the objects on his plate. "Fried sheep turds?"
"No, sir," said the mess sergeant. "Chicken livers done in sherry sauce, sir."
"And who presumed to cook this abomination?"
"I did," said a quiet voice. "Any objections?"
Captain Lewis Armstrong looked up in to the most devastating pair of grey-blue eyes he had ever seen, clear with a hint of laughter. They belonged to Iris Whitely, the new regimental chef who was determined to sweep away the old fuddy duddy eating habits and put some new flavours on those old moustaches. It was to be a long struggle, she knew. But the day she saw Captain Armstrong going back for seconds of polenta - and ticking off young Lieutenant Paley for not trying some - she realised that she would one day soon be feasting off Captain Armstrong's captive heart.
The title gives the clue - we are in Joanna Trollope country here, but with a twist that she could never have imagined. For the story is not of two families, but of two regiments, cruelly forced to merge by government defence cuts.
Thus it is that young Lieutenant Alan Yarrow of the Northern Rifles suddenly finds himself commanded by the grim, growling figure of Colonel Struther of the Scottish Bombardiers. And what makes it worse is that they are both in love with the same woman, Pipe Majorette Jenny McTavish. Their tangled love skein comes to a dramatic climax at the Edinburgh Tattoo when Jenny's pipe band is kidnapped by a crazed Scottish Nationalist gang and both Alan and the grim Colonel demand the right to rescue her ....
"And what shall I call you," said Teddy Barker, mockingly. " Shall I call you Sir? Or Ma'am? Or would you prefer to be called Ms Major?"
Captain Teddy Barker was by no means pleased to be put under the command of a woman on a danger mission to rescue thirteen blockheads who had got themselves captured by Nigerian rebels. He was even less pleased to find that it was under the command of Major Norma Lafayette, the redheaded firebrand who had once won the regimental shooting competition he had expected to win.
"Call me what you damned well like, Barker," she said coolly, "as long as you do what I tell you, and remember that our mission is a bit more important than your own petty prejudices."
Barker flushed angrily. But in the days to come he was to appreciate more and more her powers of leadership, and to call her Sir without irony. How he finally came to call her Mrs Barker is a tale that will keep you on the edge of your Kleenex box.
Wed Oct 4 2000
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