Oh goddess, it’s so embarrassing. I hate reading these things. But, following a workshop on the challenges of writing for Mills & Boon, there are several of them on book mountain. I’m perfectly prepared to believe that writing formulaic romance requires considerable skill and discipline. The second Mills & Boon I’ve read since the workshop has provided little evidence.
It’s ok. It’s way better than the first. There is description as well as inner monologue and there is a pleasing symmetry in the protagonists journey which makes the patriarchy marginally easier to swallow. It has Goths; not quite Vikings but close enough. Other than that, it has little to commend it.
It did make me think about the dynamic of love stories, though. Protagonist 1 meets Protagonist 2 and finds them horrible/infuriating yet attractive. Protag 2 feels the same. Yet, they can’t just enjoy each other. No, instead they must be convinced that it would be wrong to love each other and very angry about what they are feeling. Why? What sort of relationships are like that? Not healthy ones, for sure. Mixing love up with shame and anger is not a cocktail I want to drink. But there’d be no story if there were no conflict, would there? If the conflict were external, it would become a different type of story like a quest or an adventure. To keep it a romance the conflict must be internal, fueled by misunderstanding and insecurity. And that’s why they follow this pattern. If they don’t, it’s not a story. So, I learned something from reading Virgin Slave, Barbarian King by Louise Allen.
My non-fiction was more edifying. I read the Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus and it was life-changing. The main essay is Camus’ thoughts on how one can respond to the absurdity of a godless world. Surprisingly uplifting.