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INTRODUCTION

WHAT IS ROMANCE IN THE MODERN AGE?

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Floating balloon

Once upon a time, two people met, they fell in love, married and lived happily ever after. Or that is how the story of romance traditionally used to begin and end.

Today, the rules of relationships are very different. Finding the perfect partner, living with them and staying together is a more complex achievement than ever before.

In this digital age, the definition of romance and what being romantic means is no longer clear, leaving men and women confused about how to demonstrate that they love someone.

Valentine’s Day may still be marked in every lover’s diary, with the £1.6bn that Britons spend on gifts and treats reflecting their generosity as lovers. But many are unsure whether to say it with cards and flowers. Or just a text.

Our research, which asked 2,000 men and women their views on romance, revealed that nearly 6 in 10 people are confused by what is considered to be ‘romantic’ in the 21st century, though over three quarters would like more romance in their lives.

Our findings demonstrate that passion is still very much alive in Britain.

Which is why Mills & Boon, the leading romantic fiction publishers, have written this definitive guide to the art of romance.

We have identified the gestures Britons consider to be most romantic in this today’s world — from holding hands to sharing an umbrella, these expressions of adoration are celebrated by our authors, who explain why they matter so much.

Mills & Boon is confident this guide will make it easier for reluctant romantics to be successful in finding love and happiness. The byword for passionate entertainment, our best-selling books have always kept pace with changing social attitudes and values.

The plots always reflect the realities of life for women today, their changing values and lifestyles — and the obstacles they must first overcome before finding lasting love.

We hope our guide makes it a little easier to navigate the rules of romance — from finding your ideal mate to adding some sparkle and adventure to a relationship that is long overdue a makeover.

Happy reading.

Lisa Milton,
Mills & Boon
Executive Publisher

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TOP 20

ROMANTIC GESTURES

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Diamond rings or luxury getaways may be essential ingredients for Hollywood movie romance… but what people really treasure are simple and caring acts of kindness, according to our findings.

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TOP 20

ROMANTIC GESTURES

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20

 

Sharing an umbrella

Getting close as the rain pours down is the perfect way to enjoy time with someone special in your life. It used to be that a young woman couldn’t be out with a man who wasn’t a member of her family. However, if it rained, young couples could share an umbrella without reproach. Imagine how many rainy days were used to steal a moment together or a kiss.

Just because we are now in the twenty-first century, it doesn’t mean we still can’t have that stolen romantic moment. Next time it rains and you are out with your someone special, put up the umbrella and get close.

Rachael Thomas
writes for Mills & Boon Modern series

 

19

 

Giving your partner a foot massage

Our feet take the brunt of our busy lives. By the end of the day they’ll be telling you that they’re not happy about it.

A foot massage is a selfless act guaranteed to give your partner a lift. Ask casually if they would like a foot rub, cosy up on the sofa, pull their foot into your lap. Be sensitive to your partner’s reactions and ask what feels good. Relationships are all about communication, and this is a five-star learning opportunity.

Be fully prepared for your partner to want to reciprocate. Or to be snoring on the sofa within five minutes.

Ellie Darkins
writes for Mills & Boon True Love series

18

Bringing home your partner’s favourite takeaway meal

The moment I knew that I had married the right person, was the day they walked into the house after work, took one look at me, and said: “You’re hungry. I’ll go fetch fish and chips.”

Bringing home a favourite takeaway is about more than just providing dinner. It can be an acknowledgment that your partner has had a hard day, and a way to show them you want to make it better.

How best to go about it depends on your partner. Ensure you know their favourite dishes. You might want to call ahead to suggest takeaway to your partner. But if you know that there’s no food in the fridge, then a surprise takeaway could turn a bad day around in a heartbeat.

Most importantly, put away mobile phones, turn off the telly, and enjoy the meal together, talking about your day and reconnecting. It’s the together part that really counts.

Sophie Pembroke
writes for Mills & Boon True Love series

17

Checking your partner got home ok after a night out

Honestly, this one is less romantic gesture, more required for you to get a good nights sleep! But checking that your other half made it home safely does more than just reassure you so you can drop off peacefully.

It shows your partner that you're thinking of them, even when you're apart, and that you care about their safety.

Just a quick text message or call to check in can feel like a warm, loving hug after a night out. It only takes a moment, but it means a lot. Plus you won't wake up worrying in the middle of the night. It's a win all round!

Sophie Pembroke
writes for Mills & Boon True Love series

16

 

Letting your partner choose the movie you watch

Letting your partner choose the movie is a wonderful gift! Whether it’s a trip to the cinema or a night in front of the TV, getting agreement on what to watch can be tricky. Arguments over the remote control are one of the biggest everyday causes of friction.

It may seem trivial and unnecessary when we step back to look at it, but it does point to deeper issues. Firstly, watching something enjoyable can be a great way to relax. Secondly, the definition of ‘something enjoyable’ is entirely subjective. Action, horror, and romantic films all have their place, but some people love them, others detest them. So for anyone to hand over the remote control is a selfless act of devotion!

Catherine Tinley
writes for Mills & Boon Historical series

 

15

 

Waiting to watch the next episode of your favourite TV series

A couple who box sets together stays together. At least that’s the way it works in my household. But to sneak in some episodes of The Missing when your partner is out? That’s breaking the sacred pact of experiencing something together.

Being on that same heart-pumping, nail-biting, roller coaster journey is half the magic. The best way to prove you know a boxset shared is a show of deep affection is to make the actual viewing an event.

There should be special snacks. Maybe a bottle of fizz or hot chocolate. Jimjams. Onesies. Duvets on the sofa. As a true sign of how much this shared experience means to you, gaze into one another’s eyes then simultaneously turn off your telephones. That’s right. You’re going to watch the shows without interruption. Lights down and enjoy.

Annie O'Neil
writes for Mills & Boon Medical series

14

 

Waiting up for your partner to get home

It might be that you live together, but you arrive home late. Very late. Your partner is half asleep but rouses instantly as you stumble into the bedroom, trying to be quiet despite bumping into the bedside table and the bookshelf. ‘Nice night? Was the journey home ok?’ and as soon as you answer they fall into the deep sleep they haven’t allowed themselves until you are safely back.

Or if it’s early days, it could be a text as you get back. Checking in, checking that you’re safe, telling you again that they’ve had a good time shows you’re in their thoughts after the date has ended. It’s a two-way gesture. A tiny gesture that means everything.

Jessica Gilmore
writes for Mills & Boon True Love series

 

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Reminding your partner of a happy memory together

In the first flush of love, it seems that all your memories are romantic ones, but as life goes on and that endorphin rush of new love fades, you’ll begin to collect moments along the way that aren’t all that romantic.

That’s good, ultimately, because eventually you’ll want to remove the rose-tinted specs and let your other half know the real you. The beautiful thing, ultimately, about happy memories – whether they be funny, dopey, exciting, romantic or anything in between – is that they are something you share. It’s like a private joke, that only the two of you understand.

A precious moment that is unique to your relationship. So when you remind your partner of a happy memory, what you’re really doing is showing them one of the many, many reasons why you’re still in love.

Heidi Rice
writes for Mills & Boon Modern series

12

Organising a spontaneous date night

Remember those heady days when you could do whatever took your fancy on a whim? Before all those grown up responsibilities? Me too.

Which is why organising a spontaneous date night has to be one of the top romantic gestures of all time. Spontaneity can add a real zing of excitement to the night because your loved one won’t have time to worry about logistical details.

Who’s looking after the kids or how you’re getting to the venue and back – it’ll all be magically taken care of.

It’s good to remember too, that if your partner has gone to the trouble of organising one for you, to make sure you allow yourself to go with the flow. Pushing aside your to-do list for the night is healthy, both for you personally and for your relationship. So sit back, relax and enjoy yourselves.

Christy McKellen
writes for Mills & Boon True Love series

11

Running a bath for your partner after they’ve had a long day

Modern life can be stressful and sometimes we all have the day from hell. The only immediate cure for such a day is a good vent to your significant other, a large glass of wine and the soothing properties of a long, hot soak in a bubble bath.

There is something about a nice bath that immediately calms you. Perhaps it’s the heat of the water or the perfumed smell of the bath oil.

But whatever it is, it’s pure bliss. Not having to run that bath yourself is positively sinful.

That enormous chilled glass of Chardonnay is pressed into your hand, you vent as they push you up the stairs and then sigh when presented with a hot, fragrant tub of pure Heaven.

Virginia Heath
writes for Mills & Boon Historical series

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Writing a love letter

Is there anything more romantic than to receive a love letter? The heartbeat of excitement to see the envelope or folded sheet of paper with your name written on it…

So what makes a great love letter? Authenticity. It has to be heartfelt and it has to be personal. However, love letters don’t have to be essays of spilled emotion. They can be short and sweet too, a quick postit-note with ‘I Love You’ secretly popped into a lunch box or left on a pillow. They can be funny, a limerick or ode, they can be erotic; they can be anything you want them to be.

I still have the first love letter I received from my partner. They wrote it on a tiny sheet of paper and made a miniature envelope to put it into. I’ve kept it all these years because every time I open that miniature envelope and un-crease the tiny sheet of paper, I’m transported back to the time we first got together and I remember all the things about them that I fell in love with.

Michelle Smart
writes for Mills & Boon Modern series

 

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Cooking a homemade meal from scratch

Firstly, cooking skills are seriously romantic, full stop. There’s a reason why the motto ‘the way to his heart is through his stomach’ used to be a thing.

Cooking a meal from scratch has always been a sign that you’re willing to go that extra mile to prove how much someone means to you. But these days – thank you, feminism – it’s not just the way to his heart, it’s the way to her heart too. If, like me, you have the benefit of a guy who is a brilliant pasta cook there’s nothing more romantic than watching him rustle up a perfect concoction of herbs, garlic, chilli and tomato on a Saturday night at home… But frankly, even if you’re not a culinary genius, making the effort to feed someone you love is a fairly elemental way to prove how much they mean to you.

Heidi Rice
writes for Mills & Boon Modern series

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Breakfast in bed

When you’re snuggled up next to your partner, do you sometimes feel as if there are at least ten other people in bed with you? Oh, the tyranny of social media! Why are they checking their phone, instead of checking out you? One way of curing this obsession is by bringing them breakfast in bed.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Pastries and coffee or hot, buttered toast work just fine. Hand-chopped fruit salad embraces your inner Zen – and a glass of Buck’s fizz means you won’t be going anywhere any time soon. Comfort food or fancy food – they’re all the same - as long as it’s served by your own fair hand, and shared amidst the rumple of the duvet. Breakfast in bed provides what’s so often lacking in our shiny, busy world... Time and intimacy. It’s the ultimate romantic gesture.

Best of all – there’s absolutely no dress code!

Sharon Kendrick
writes for Mills & Boon Modern series

 

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A candlelit dinner

Modern life is full of distractions. Emails and social media notifications pinging in at all times, digital assistants listening to our every word, just waiting for a chance to be useful.

Fridges that tell us when to shop and a connected home trying to anticipate our every desire. Which is wonderful for productivity, but less so for romance. So to take a night off, turn off the lights, switch off the phones and tablets and light a few candles to give your relationship the attention it deserves.

Though if hours in the kitchen are going to leave you sweaty rather than seductive, then there are plenty of alternatives. Chill something fizzy and make sure the table looks inviting. Most importantly, sit down together, unplug, and take the time to talk and listen to one another.

Ellie Darkins
writes for Mills & Boon True Love series

06

Planning a spontaneous trip away

Who hasn’t dreamt of being whisked away to some wildly romantic destination, with no idea where you’re going until you get on the plane? Planning a trip away for your partner is a grand gesture – and that’s what makes it so romantic.

Obviously, this is one you can go all out with – find the fanciest, priciest destination, book the swankiest hotel… but it’s important to note that you don’t have to. What makes this gesture romantic has nothing to do with money. It’s all to do with thoughtfulness, time and effort – and knowing your partner.

When planning a trip away, think about what your partner enjoys most – is it eating seafood on the coast, or solitude in the mountains, or buzzy city breaks?

Plan your destination around their favourite things, and perhaps organise one superspecial activity while you’re there – one great meal, a theatre show, a moonlit boat trip... a memory in the making. And for maximum impact, you have to take care of all the details. Pack their case, organise the babysitter… whatever it takes. Then pick them up, smile, and say something like, “Let’s escape for the weekend. Just you and me. I’ve got the perfect place…”

Sophie Pembroke
writes for Mills & Boon True Love series

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Giving flowers to your partner

Unless you have some serious asthma issues, receiving a surprise bunch of flowers is right up there with wandering hand in hand through the cobbled streets of Paris.

A handpicked posy, an opulent armful proving they really did listen when you mentioned a deep-seeded love of neon-coloured gerbera daisies, or a single solitary rose. Whatever you receive (or give) shows you want to bring beauty into your loved one’s life. And, more importantly, that you have taken time out of your chaotic day to not only think about them, but to show them that you care.

The winning bunch? The surprise bouquet, AKA, the ‘Just Because You’re Wonderful’ flowers. It doesn’t have to be huge. It doesn’t have to be expensive. They can show up at work. They can show up in front of your face when you knock on the door. Finding them on the doorstep after a particularly romantic date isn’t half bad either.

Let’s face it. Flowers are pure, unadulterated, romance.

Annie O’Neil
writes for Mills & Boon Medical series

04

 

A romantic walk

A romantic walk is a perfect opportunity to spend quality time with the one you love. It should be in an idyllic setting – beautiful countryside is best. Did you know that being in green environments directly promotes positive mental health?

We are meant to spend at least some of our time among trees, and grass, and the sounds and smells of the natural world. Walking allows you to chat, to hold hands, to kiss... we don’t do enough of it these days.

So go on, get up off the couch, put your screens away, and go for a walk.

Catherine Tinley
writes for Mills & Boon Historical series

 

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Buying a surprise gift

The gift is in the giving. It really is. And in the world of gift-giving, it’s those unexpected, unpredicted gestures that steal centre stage.

Imagining their face when they open it, the recognition, the light in their eyes, the smile broadening across their face as they reach for you. The kiss. Pulling back and sharing a smile that tells them, ‘I did this for you because it makes me happy. And that makes me happier than anything else.’

Does the cost matter? Not at all. The gift for you is knowing they’re going to love it. There’s nothing you expect in return, other than love. Beautiful things may make your other half happy, of course, but nothing makes them happier than knowing you’ve been thinking about them. And why? Just a crazy little thing called love.

Bella Frances
writes for Mills & Boon Modern series

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Having a cuddle

Do you remember the days in school when the most incredible thing was cuddling up to the person you fancied the pants off? How full of angst and restrained (or not) passion and that ‘pinch-me-I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening’ it all was?

As adults, a cuddle can be many things – comfort, reassurance, silent support. But we don’t luxuriate in it the way we did when we were younger. Perhaps because we don’t have the time, or we have kids of our own and we’re too busy worrying about who they’re cuddling.

There are a million reasons we don’t relish the cuddle just for being that special moment that it is. Live in the moment of being in the arms of the person you care for... pinch yourself, because it is happening.

So go for it. Settle down on that sofa, get comfy (because you’re not going to move for a while), lean your head on their chest in that perfect angle, place your hand on their heart. And enjoy the most spectacular cuddle.

Pippa Roscoe
writes for Mills & Boon Modern series

 

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Holding hands

Really what could be more sweet, more tender, more human, more universal or more life-affirming than holding hands. It always makes my heart sing to see couples holding hands in public because it says in the simplest and most subtle and yet demonstrative way, we two are one.

We care about each other, we’re a unit, we matter. Love matters. Seriously, what could be more romantic than that? I should add that because my hands are always cold and my partner has beyond brilliant circulation, it’s also a magnificent way to keep my fingers warm in the wintertime when I forget my gloves (but don’t tell them that).

Heidi Rice
writes for Mills & Boon Modern series

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TOP 10

PASSION KILLERS

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49%

1. Mobile phone ADDICTION

including having the phone on the table at dinner

28%

7. LAZINESS

26%

8. Being MEAN with money

30%

5. Criticising YOU

 

30%

6. Talking with your mouth FULL

 

31%

4. Drinking TOO MUCH alcohol

33%

3. Being RUDE
to those
around you

 

22%

9. ONE-SIDED conversation

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21%

10. Talking about your EX

45%

2. Personal HYGIENE issues

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TOP 5

RELATIONSHIP DILEMMAS

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Every couple faces challenges when they begin a new romance or as one develops. From introducing your new love interest to friends, to choosing when to declare your undying love, here are the top dilemmas highlighted by our research:

5

When to ask for an invite to a wedding for your partner

 

4

When to ask about going on our first holiday together

 

3

When to introduce a new partner to a friend

 

2

When to say
I LOVE YOU
and who says it first

1

When to introduce your partner to your family

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A GUIDE TO

COMMUNICATION AND ROMANCE

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How well lovers interact is one of the greatest predictors of them staying together. Face-to-face communication and letter-writing has all but been replaced by emails, emojis and texting in the modern age. Knowing what to use and when to use it when it comes to communication can be a minefield in the romance department, so one of our writers has drawn up a guide to the essentials:

For me the most important part of communication? Eye contact. There’s a reason romance writers make that first moment of eye contact zing and zap with chemistry. It’s honest, immediate and intense. And a little hard to achieve when someone is flicking their gaze to WhatsApp-ing. But it’s also the moment when you know that you are their sole focus. Not the business meeting, or the family drama, or the friend that wants to catch up, or the emails that need to be deleted. You (or they) are the most important thing right at that moment and there is nothing better than that.

And yes, there are times when being there in person isn’t feasible. So text, call, Face Time, carrier pigeon. Just to say that I’m thinking of you. Because getting in touch to tell someone we love how we feel is something we often forget to do in our busy lives, yet something we all appreciate.

But if you are having to use digital means to get in touch then a few thoughts for you . . .

  • Use emojis wisely. There’s nothing romantic about a digital prawn, aubergine or the one of the guy sword fighting, you could try, but honestly? Probably not.
  • Email is a tricky one because that just screams I’m-firing-this-off-between-mylast-meeting-and-my-next-meeting-because-I-don’t-have-time-to-pee-letalone-tell-you-I’m-looking-forward-to-seeing-you-soon. And there’s nothing, nothing, worse than an outlook calendar invite to your date. (And yes, that has actually happened to me.)
  • Skype can be fun – but just remember a camera sees more than just you. So do tidy that room. Do make sure you’re alone in the house. Do make sure that your partner isn’t actually in the middle of a business meeting when you’re in the bath...

However you chose to let that special person know you’re thinking of them, do it. Life is short, and beautiful and magical, and these moments are ways of sharing that with the one you love.

Pippa Roscoe
writes for Mills & Boon Modern

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ABOUT

Mills & Boon

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Written for women by women, Mills & Boon fiction has enthralled and inspired millions worldwide for more than a century. Their novels are regarded as the authority on romance writing, providing much-needed escapism while constantly adapting over the decades to reflect lives of women.

1908
Dashing young entrepreneurs Gerald Mills and Charles Boon launch a general fiction publisher with just £1,000
1909
125 authors are signed in the first year, including P.G. Wodehouse, best known for his comic creations Jeeves and Wooster
1930s
Mills & Boon continues to set new sales records, selling escapism to women, with the brightly coloured covers becoming a trademark for the brand
1940
Mills & Boon books are allowed to be printed during WWII, when paper was rationed, to boost women’s moral
1958
Mills & Boon cause a global romance revolution by exporting medical romances to Canadian publisher Harlequin
1971
Mills & Boon and Harlequin merge, Mills & Boon sales continue to grow. Readers can now have the books delivered directly to their door. The book club is still going strong today
1982
A Mills & Boon book is added to a time capsule in the grounds of Castle Howard, Yorkshire, marking the BBC’s 60th anniversary
1989
The Berlin Wall comes down and 750,000 free copies of Mills & Boon books are handed to women in East Germany
1997
The Oxford English Dictionary includes ‘Mills & Boon’, meaning ‘romantic story book’
2000s
Mills & Boon was one of the first publishers to embrace ebooks, offering over 17,000 backlist titles and all of its front list in digital
2008
Mills & Boon marks its centenary, and Stella Duffy’s BBC documentary ‘How to Write a Mills & Boon’ proves it’s not so easy…
2018
Mills & Boon launches their first major brand refresh in over a decade.
2018
Sexy new series DARE launches...
Romance fiction was worth £45.3m overall last year (Nielsen UK Books and Consumers Survey to 31st August 17),
60% of this value came from eBooks and 36% from print books.
Romance books also represent 10% of Adult Fiction purchases and 6% of Adult Fiction spend.
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About

AUTHORS

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Experts in romance, our Mills & Boon authors offering words of wisdom when it comes to affairs of the heart are:

Annie O’Neil – @AnnieONeilBooks

Author of 15 books for the Medical series (and running a farm in between writing romances), Annie’s new novel, Reunited With Her Parisian Surgeon, is out on 25th January 2018.

Bella Frances – @Ellefran

While also working in education, Bella has written for Mills & Boon Modern series since 2014, with her most recent novel being The Consequence She Cannot Deny.

Catherine Tinley – @CatherineTinley

Catherine writes witty, heartwarming Regency love stories for Mills & Boon. Her latest Historical Mills & Boon romance, The Captain’s Disgraced Lady, is out now.

Christy McKellen – @ChristyMcKellen

Formerly a radio producer, Christy now spends her time writing romance for True Love and brand-new series DARE. Her new book A Contract, A Wedding, A Wife? is out in March.

Ellie Darkins – @elliedarkins

Writing for the True Love series since 2014, Ellie’s most recent book is Conveniently Engaged to the Boss.

Heidi Rice – @HeidiRomRice

Heidi began her career as a film journalist, writing her first novel in 2007. She now writes for Mills & Boon Modern, with her next book, Captive At Her Enemy’s Command, out in March.

Jessica Gilmore – @yrosered

Jessica writes for the True Love series, creating deeply emotional romances with a hint of humour and a welcome splash of sunshine. Her new book, Baby Surprise for the Spanish Billionaire, is out on 8th February 2018.

Michelle Smart – @chellebellwrite

With 20 Mills & Boon Modern books under her belt, Michelle is a romance expert! Her new book A Bride At His Bidding, is out on 25th January 2018.

Pippa Roscoe – @PippaRoscoe

Pippa knows all about writing a perfect Mills & Boon romance, because she used to edit them! Now an author herself, Pippa’s new book in the Modern series, Conquering His Virgin Queen is released in February 2018.

Rachael Thomas – @rachaeldthomas

A dairy farmer by day, Rachael has written 14 books for the Modern series to date, the newest being Hired To Wear The Sheikh’s Ring.

Sharon Kendrick – @Sharon_Kendrick

Sharon has written over 100 Mills & Boon novels, and her sexy, contemporary stories for the Modern series pack a powerful emotional punch. Her new book, Bound to the Sicilian’s Bed, is out on 8th February 2018.

Sophie Pembroke – @Sophie_Pembroke

Also a Young Adult author, Sophie writes for the True Love series. Her new book Island Fling to Forever, is out in March.

Virginia Heath – @VirginiaHeath_

A former history teacher, Virginia writes witty, fast-paced Historical romances filled with feisty heroines and mouthwatering heroes. Her new book, A Warriner to Tempt Her, is out now.

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MILLS &  BOON’S
NEW RANGE OF BOOKS

New look books from Mills & Boon

Mills & Boon have refreshed the brand for 2018, including the launch of sexy new series DARE

New look books from Mills & Boon