Thursday, September 11, 2014

Time Out Thursday - Musings of a Superfan

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks here at the Pink Heart Society, and we’ve been introduced to a number of new columnists.  Today is the turn of Ali Williams, new PHS editor and columnist, to talk romance… 

I’ve been a romance superfan for as long as I can remember.  It goes back to sneakily reading a Mills & Boon Christmas collection of my grandmother’s when my mum wasn’t looking and has culminated recently in my own blog and a regular spot on Mills & Boon Socialise.

So when I was approached by the PHS team and invited to become part of this incredible romance community, I bit their hand off.

The PHS is the combination of everything I love doing in my spare time.  By day I work in the education sector in Central London, balancing data analysis with marketing and events, but romance novels are a large part of what I do to unwind.

Whether devouring the latest romance on my Kindle whilst I’m commuting into work, or curling up on the sofa whilst my fiancé watches the football or the F1, category romance is a fairly large part of my week.

What do I read?  Pretty much everything.  I’ll flit from emotional depth to sexy sass, from historical heart to pure scorching heat.

And then there’s the online community.  Blogs, personal websites, Twitter…category romance is blessed in its e-presence.

But there is a difference, writing a column as a reader as opposed to a writer.  My understanding of the writing industry is from an outsider’s view, and the intricacies of the publishing process isn’t something I’ve had to struggle through first-hand.  But I do understand the importance of the perceptions of romance.

I’ve given up on counting the number of conversations where people degrade romance, and indeed me for reading it.  There’re the “they’re all the same” comments, and the “they’re all badly written” asides.  I’ve even been told that as a feminist I should find them offensive.

I challenge every single one of these statements.

I love the different styles of writing and the different characters.  I’m continually surprised by the twists on different plots and refreshing and exciting ways in which writers approach classic tropes.  And as a feminist, I think that there’s a hell of a lot to celebrate in a genre that’s dominated by strong and intelligent female writers.

So I do spend a fair amount of time arguing this – online and in person.

I’m proud to be a part of such a rich and vibrant community – and particularly proud to be a part of the PHS relaunch, where these and other conversations are happening. 

Are you a long time romance reader? How did you get started? Do you read on the train or bus, when the kids are in bed or when you're immersed in a bubble bath? What's your favourite kind of romance? Have you had any comments from friends or family about your reading tastes? Let us know in the comments!

Ali Williams grew up in Croydon and spent her teenage years in a convent girls' school. She then fled to university where she discovered champagne cocktails, a capella singing and erotica.

These days she blogs about perceptions of romance, chick lit and women in society and spends an extraordinary amount of time coercing male friends to pose with her favourite Mills & Boon books to the bemusement of the Twittersphere.

Genre reporter for chick lit and erotica at For Books' Sake and guest blogger for Mills & Boon, she defies you to slam romance novels within her hearing!  

To see what's she up to or reading, you can follow Ali on Twitter.


  1. Love this Ali! I started reading Mills & Boon when I was fourteen! Our neighbor would get just about every one every month and give them to us in garbage bags! Guess that's where the love began.. :) So great to have you here!

    1. My mum found me reading a book at my grandmother's once and then it disappeared. When I first started blogging, I made it my mission to find and buy a copy of that very edition!! Carole Mortimer, Betty Neels and Jo Leigh!!

      And thank you so much - I'm super psyched about joining such a great team!!

  2. What a delightful column and addition to the PHS. Thanks, Ali, for being such a staunch defender of romance!

    I was introduced to romance by a friend's mom in junior high--she was cleaning out her attic and had several bags of Mills & Boon romances and a few Cherry Ames books. She knew I was already a voracious reader and asked if I wanted to read them. Free books? Yep! I devoured most of them that first summer I got them.

    1. Oh Julie, I'm blushing!! No problem at all. When I first started writing, about a year ago, I wrote a long piece for For Books' Sake called Busting the Mills & Boon Myth. (

      Free books are always a good way to grab readers. When M&B had their 100 Year Anniversary celebrations and released 12 free ebooks, I set about passing them on to as many people as I could... It's amazing how people will branch out when the book they're reading is free...

  3. I've always loved reading romance in all its many varieties. I started as an historical romance nut, but these days I prefer a sassy contemporary - although I find myself drifting back to Georgette Heyer all the time. Now that I'm writing romance as well, I'm more than thrilled - I'm proud and happy and feel like I'm living a dream. So far, the reactions of my friends, family and ex-colleagues from the corporate world have been delight and awe. Long may that continue!

    1. I'm a massive fan of Georgette Heyer!! Have you come across the audiobook copies, read by Richard Armitage?! My favourite's Venetia, mainly because Dameral is just so darn delicious!!

      And we're all delighted that you're writing romance too. :D

    2. I've heard about the audios and Venetia is one of my all-time faves, along with Frederica and Friday's Child and Sylvester - and probably another 10! Richard Armitage reading Venetia sounds like heaven.

    3. Oh it is!! His Dameral is simply divine!! :P I've a soft spot for any of her books that make the Shakespeare references: Sprig Muslin and The Unknown Ajax being two of the best - as well as Venetia of course!!