Since two dashing young entrepreneurs – Gerald Mills and Charles Boon – launched the company in 1908 with just a modest £1,000, millions of women across the globe have been entranced by their books, reaching into their handbags or to their bookshelves to spend a few hours transported into a fantasy world of intrigue, danger, passion and romance.
Such is the strength of the brand that in 1982, a Mills & Boon book was added to a time capsule in the grounds of Castle Howard, Yorkshire, to mark the 60th anniversary of the BBC. The capsule contained ‘vital clues of life in 1982 of generations to come’. Also, in 1997 the Oxford English Dictionary added ‘Mills & Boon’ to its esteemed canon – meaning, ‘romantic story book’.
Mills & Boon’s army of dedicated readers know that once they pick a brightly coloured paperback, they will be taken on an easy, thrilling read – with a guaranteed happy ending. Alan Boon, one of the masterminds behind the stylised romances, once declared that the books “could take the place of Valium” – because they are so well known for their restorative quality.
So how did the company grow to into such an epic success story?