PBS documentary explores the world of romance novels

PBS documentary 'Guilty Pleasures' looks at the romance novel – one of the most popular literary genres on the planet.

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    Once every four seconds, somewhere in this world, someone is buying a romance novel.
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A new documentary airing on PBS will examine the universe of romance novels – a genre so beloved that one is sold every four seconds somewhere on the planet – by talking to those who write them, love them, and (in one case) poses for them.

While they’ve made headlines recently with E L James’ phenomenally popular trilogy “50 Shades of Grey,” romance novels have been a booming industry for decades and are unique in the fact that most of them are produced by two companies (which have ties to one another), the publishing company Harlequin in the U.S. and Mills & Boon in Britain. The documentary “Guilty Pleasures” originates in Britain.

The documentary focuses on are three devoted romance novel readers: women from different corners of the globe who are major fans of the books. Shirley is a British mother who is married but turns to the romance novels to find excitement she feels is lacking in her own relationship, while Indian Shumita married her husband young, but is now separated from him. Japanese wife Hiroko yearns for the fantasies depicted in the novels.

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“Guilty Pleasures” also follows romance author Gill Sanderson, a British citizen whose real name is Roger and who takes pride in his craft as a romance writer, and a model named Stephen who has appeared on more than 200 covers released by Mills & Boon and Harlequin but wants a relationship of his own.

The movie will premiere on PBS on July 12 on the series “POV.”

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.

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