Their Own Worst Enemies: Women Writers of Women's Fiction

Pluto Press
Publication year

Chapter 1 is "Reader, I Married Him: The Novels of Daphne du Maurier and Mary Stewart"

Chapter 4 is "Two for the Price of One: The Novels of Mills & Boon"


My aim in this book is to consider the particular kinds of story that encourage women to create what seem to them to be acceptable selves. I shall argue that, contrary to popular belief, it is not so much male writers who have described women in terms of stereotypical behaviour patterns, but some of the most popular women writers of the twentieth century. I shall also argue that these stereotypical patterns derive largely from the two most popular literary traditions of the nineteenth century: the Gothic/Romantic and the fairytale. (1)


Mills & Boon novels can at best be described as escapist; they offer all the challenge of a warm bath or a box of chocolates. At worst they offer a distorted picture of the world in which personal independence matters far less than yielding to a man's desires, and, more perniciously, in which those men are discovered to have concealed beneath their manly chests sensitive and considerate impulses which magically transform their manifest appearance as tyrants into latent carers and lovers. (94)

Works in this collection