the first gentleman in Europe, but after that Beau Brummel set out the rules for a gentleman’s behaviour, which everyone stuck to until recently. He said “A gentleman is never rude unintentionally,” which I think is very true.’
Unfortunately, she laments, our nation seems to be somewhat lacking in the requisites nowadays: ‘Gentlemen should be charming and well mannered, which we used to be in England and aren’t any more. If a gentleman gives his word he never breaks it. Tell me someone nowadays who keeps his word. Apart from the Stock Exchange — if they say something they stick to it.’ Well, yes, unless they happen to be inadvertently banged up in Wormwood Scrubs at the time, but let’s not quibble.
If you think the criteria for gentlemen are tough, consider the Cartland Doctrine for women: ‘Ladies should be sweet, feminine, charming, compassionate, and allow their husbands to be master in their house. It is they who evoke in a man the real love that is both spiritual and physical, and it is the woman in a marriage who stands for Morality, Compassion, Sympathy and Love.’
It’s a formula that seems rather more suited to mass-audience fiction than influencing social
trends. Certainly it hasn’t enjoyed such enormous success on the small screen. The BBC showed one adaptation before ﬂogging the series to the relative wilderness of Sky. Seemingly in the era when Portrait of a Marriage is the public taste in \ upper-class love stories ‘very romantic films with nobody rolling around on beds or anything like that’ are unlikely to have quite the same impact.
Dame Barbara’s world, obviously a welcome escape for her many readers, is a rose-tinged paradise , where doves coo, heroes never whip out a packet of three and say ‘How about it?’ and ladies blush demurely and don’t drink pints of bitter. It’s a long journey from reality, but isn’t romance all about unattainable fantasy anyway? Dame Barbara, in her ninetieth year, will go on churning out the fantasies at the rate of 23 a year, and in her own words, asking her readers to: ‘Let me transmit this wonderful fire, Even a little through my heart and mind, Bringing the perfect love we all desire, To those who seek, yet blindly cannot find.’
Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
For Dame Barbara’s ideas on the Food Of Love, see Food section. "‘ Yes, seriously, in I 931.
Power dressing and executive lunches may be the stuii oi glitzy ‘shopplng and screwing’ novels, but Clndereilas are still trying on slippers and tinding Princes in the traditional Mills and Boon romances. These highly successiul publishers give their writers an open briet: ‘All we ask is that it have a happy ending and not be longerthan 192 pages’.
Since space does not allow tor the complex plots and sub-plots at American blockbusters, writers are asked to stick to basics. A simple and successiul iormula Mills and Boon suggest is Conilict, Crisis, Resolution. The Conilict should normally take place within the relationship, the Crisis can be a problem at work or an event which throws the lovers apart and the Resolution, ol course, brings them storming back into each others’ arms.
All that is diiierent in Worldwide, the series Mills and Boon started running in 1982 to tempt back those bookshop browsers who were reaching up a shell higher lor something steamier. Worldwide books should be at least twice as long as the traditional romances, and a whole lot glitzter. There can be a variety oi sub-plots involving jealousy, betrayal, revenge, divorce and children from previous marriages. Characters in Worldwide novels have enemies, oiten ior uniair reasons. The sex is more graphic and boys-next-door are certainly right out.
The central couple is also likely to be a little older (traditionally our heroine was in her early twenties and her Man a iew years older). The here must be charismatic, although he need not necessarily be at the top at his protession. Re is still, needless to say, ‘ likely to be more assertive and more
ilnanclally successiul than his female opposhe.
When it comes down to it, herd-luck stories— even when Cinderella’s a iemous model — are still the stuit oi romantic novels. There's nothing like a sordid past to keep skeletons tumbling out at cupboards all the way through a Still-page plot. A recent Worldwide novel, Beyond the Rainbow, tells the story at a woman who tells in love with the surgeon who had given her the nose-job she needed to become a successiul model. In the past she had been raped by heriather who then committed suicide and now she is looking tor the love she never had as a child. . . lwon’t tell you what happens
at the end. (Miranda France)
The List 8— 21 February 19917