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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Modern boost for Mills and Boon
Author Helen Fielding
Helen Fielding: Credited with starting the chick lit trend
Mills and Boon - famed for decades of romantic literature - has announced its intention to branch out into the world of chick lit.

The books' publisher Harlequin said it was bringing out a new brand of contemporary women's fiction called Red Dress Ink.

Aimed at women aged between 18 and 34, the new line in books will feature professional women rather than Mills and Boon's romantic heroines.

Bridget Jones Diary c
Bridget Jones's Diary continues to be a success

Harlequin is following a trend in female fiction started by Helen Fielding, who wrote the phenomenally successful Bridget Jones's Diary.

The popularity of chick lit has shown no signs of slowing, and author Jenny Colgan has already had the film rights to her first three books bought.

Harlequin's senior product manager, Gemma Clutterbuck, said: "Our series business continues to be a global priority but young women today also demand longer, witty and irreverent novels.

"They want to see their own lives, in all the messy detail, reflected in fiction today."

Author Beryl Bainbridge
Beryl Bainbridge: Denounced the genre
The heroines will also have problems with relationships and not always end up with Mr Right.

But chick lit has also attracted its fair share of criticism, most notably from the Booker-shortlisted author Beryl Bainbridge who described it as "froth".

But Colgan hit back, saying: "Young women aren't stupid. We do actually know the difference between literature and popular fiction."

For the past 70 years, Mills and Boon books have become synonymous with the formulaic genre of romantic fiction.

The novels characteristically feature love stories between tall dark heroes and beautiful languishing heroines.

'Temptation'

The traditional Mills and Boon novels still enjoy annual global sales of 175 million copies with 13 million sold in the UK alone.

The books are published in 26 languages and have an estimated global readership of 50 million.

More than 800 new titles hit the stands each month with names such as Temptation, Desire, Whirlpool Of Passion, The Sweetest Trap and Christmas Rose.

But when the new millennium came, the company began to implement changes, of which the Red Dress Ink is the latest.

The first was the dropping of the old-fashioned illustrated covers from the Mills and Boon output on all but its historical novels.

They were replaced with more fashionable photographs on the front and back of books.

See also:

01 Feb 02 | South Asia
Indian romantics to revive love letters
14 Feb 99 | Valentine
The accidental patron
14 Mar 02 | Arts
Colgan's chick lit success
10 May 99 | Entertainment
Writers slated for 'Bridget Jones' novels
14 Feb 02 | Arts
Publishing for love's sake
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