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A rose between the beer vats

Khalil took the sound as a request, and soon his mouth was on hers, hot and vibrant, firm and needing. Strong, despite that terrible wound he carried.

A bit racy for first thing on a Monday morning you might be thinking, especially as I haven’t had my cornflakes yet! Well, I’ll tell you, I had to trawl through quite a lot of stuff that was a bit too steamy to use before I landed on that passage. It comes from a book called Falling For Her Reluctant Sheikh and is the usual fare served up in the romantic fiction genre popularised by the publishers Mills and Boon renowned for providing enjoyment to shall we say ladies of a certain age.

Currently I’m working on Seven Dials, an area just north of Covent Garden. During the 18th and 19th century this was not a very nice place to live, squalid, unsanitary slums, bursting with people all trying to scrape by using any means available to do so. Some of the accounts I’ve read paint a very bleak picture of day to day life. You can be drawn into thinking that everyone was drunk, dishonest and devious, a large percentage possibly were, but there were some beacons of hope shining out into the darkness.

Seven Dials (47 Castle Street in red)

One such was Charles Boon who in the 1870s lived at number 47 Castle Street, now known as Shelton Street in Seven Dials. Charles was an uneducated man who worked in the nearby Woodyard Brewery as a general labourer. He had a wife and six children to support and life was tough for the Boon Household despite both Charles and his wife bringing in a wage.

Their eldest son, also called Charles helped his mother at home assembling match boxes until the age of nine, when he probably would have entered into his Father’s workplace to undertake menial tasks, the few pennies he would have earnt would have made a difference to the Boon household budget. However Charles Boon senior was enlightened enough to understand that education was a valuable commodity and so Charles junior was sent to school instead, where he learnt to read and write and by all accounts started to excel in his studies

All good things they say must come to an end, and in the case of Charles junior’s education it came to a very sudden end. One evening his father returned home from work and complained of feeling unwell, within two days he was dead. Charles, now twelve years old was left as the main bread winner in the family and as such his schooling would have to be given up and employment found to support his mother and five siblings. To begin he took odd jobs in the brewery to support his family, but later he worked in a bookshop and a circulating library, which gave him insights into the sales and distribution of books. In 1893 Boon joined Methuen & Co., a London publishing house, as an office boy and warehouse clerk. Eventually he rose to become the general manager of the firm. While at Methuen, Boon met Gerald Mills, who was also working in the same firm.

Gerald Mills and Charles Boon established their own publishing house in 1908 and Mills & Boon were started with an initial investment of £1000. The company was planned as a diversified publisher, publishing both fiction and nonfiction works. It was a profitable business. Boons forte was finding up and coming authors to sign to the house, one of his most famous coups was to sign the American novelist Jack London before any of the competition had any idea of who he was. However, in the mid 1920s the company’s fortunes declined due to intense competition from established bigger publishing houses. Gerald Mills, died in 1928 which was a devastating blow to the company. However, in 1930, Boon restyled the business and made it into what it is known for today, romantic fiction.

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