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Mills & Boon to publish raunchy porn

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AFTER 100 years of feminine ladies kissing manly men on faraway islands, Mills & Boon is launching its first line of explicit erotica -- essentially book porn.

The British publisher's new imprint, Spice -- already in North America -- will be available here next year. It marks a sharp departure from Mills & Boon traditions: even in the 1970s, unmarried couples were not permitted to have sex between the covers of its books.

A raunchier series launched in 2001 featured whipped cream and handcuffs, but only "in the context of an enduring emotional relationship".

No more. The Spice paperbacks will be "more about sex for enjoyment," says Claire Somerville, Mills & Boon's marketing director. "It doesn't have to be linked to an emotional connection between the heroes and heroines."

Good news, no doubt, for Breezy Malone, the heroine of the Spice line's Spies, Lies and Naked Thighs, who will swap her archaeologist's trowel for the leather corset of a covert FBI sex agent and set out to seduce the terrorist behind her incarceration in a prison in the Middle East.

Since Gerald Mills and Charles Boon founded the company with £1,000 in 1908, the temperature between the pages of their 35 million titles has grown progressively hotter. Spice, though, marks a departure from the house rule that emotional, rather than physical, contortions should form the heart of the story.

"We started off as a general publisher, big on sport and craft books," says Ms Somerville. "It was in the 1920s and '30s that they realised people wanted to escape the hardship of the times, and that what women wanted was light fiction.

"Much later, in the Fifties and Sixties, some of the writers wanted to break out and depict society in a more realistic way. One writer [Jan Tempest] was told to edit out an illegitimate character. Divorce and illegitimacy were unacceptable for the Irish market, which was very big for us."

It was not until 1963 that sex scenes between married couples were included for the first time. By the 1970s, this had been extended to unmarried couples.

Masturbation makes its first appearance in 1973, at the hands of the lonely heroine Suzy Walker. A watershed moment came in 1982 with the publisher's first oral sex scene: "There are other places to kiss," the hero darkly informs the heroine of Antigua Kiss.

The market for erotica has grown hugely in recent years. Partly in response to Virgin Books' Black Lace series, first published in 1993, Mills & Boon launched its Blaze imprint seven years ago. "Pretty much anything goes," said Ms Somerville, "but all in the context of the enduring relationship."


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