One stifling summer day in the early 1990s, I opened the glove box of my boyfriend’s mother’s car and it exploded with paperback Mills & Boons. I didn’t take a photo, but I’d finished reading one of the novels before we’d reached the beach.
Earlier this year, looking for sunscreen in a supermarket in Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesvos, I spotted editions of Mills & Boon novels by Australian writer, Melanie Milburne, on a paperback spinner. I took lots of photos on my smartphone. These ‘shelfies’ – a little blurry, backlit, and shot at awkward angles – are now filed on my computer in the folder of images I’m collecting for the next time I teach the undergraduate unit ‘Popular Genres’ at the University of Tasmania. I wish I had a photograph of the books bursting from the glovebox in outer suburban Melbourne!
Together these images raise fascinating questions about Mills & Boon novels as objects – personal and public, local and global, collected and on the move. My colleague Jodi McAlister and I have been talking for years about new ways to approach the study of popular romance fiction. This summer, together with Kurt Temple and Kathleen Williams, we’re launching a new project at the University of Tasmania which thinks about the questions raised by the images above – and we need your help!
Over the next three months we’re asking social media users to help us gather data about the lives and afterlives of paperback romance novels. Participating is easy:
1) Find one of the books on our list.
2) Take a photograph of the book where you find it (context is important to our research).
3) Share your “shelfie” one of our three social media streams with a description of where you found the book. You can post it to our Summer of Romance Facebook page, or on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #loveyourshelfie.
For more information, please visit our website. If you have any questions about the project and how to participate, feel free to leave them in the comments here: or you can ask us via any of our three social media platforms!
Lisa Fletcher is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Tasmania. She is the author of Historical Romance Fiction: Heterosexuality and Performativity (2008) and the editor of Popular Fiction and Spatiality: Reading Genre Settings (2016). Her current research focuses on Australian popular fiction in the twenty-first century.