Mills & Boon launches multi-platform digital project

Paperback romance maven Mills & Boon isn’t a literary brand you would normally associate with formal or technological innovation – unless your sole exposure to the books is listening to your gran unconsciously recite passages she’s read from them as she drifts in and out of sleep in her armchair, in which case they might come across as automatic writing sprung straight from Barbara Cartland’s id – but it seems to be looking to change that with the launch of a new multi-platform venture. The Chatsfield centres around a fictional London hotel, telling multiple stories through a central website and across social media, e-mail, YouTube, blogs and even text messages.

Visitors to the website are greeted with slick design that comes across less as bodice-ripper than as Pitchfork cover story, with objects moving in and out of frame as they scroll through ‘a world of style, spectacle & scandal’. Four characters invite readers to enter their narratives: Jessie Loe, executive assistant, offers a chance to ‘see what it’s really like at The Chatsfield’; Daniel Northman, mixologist and bar manager, can make you ‘the perfect Chatsfield cocktail’; chambermaid Ally ‘will escort you to where I work’ (which, frankly, seems like the least attractive offer of the four); and Adam Brightman, who doesn’t immediately specify what he does but is probably insufferable because he has the presidential suite and ‘whatever else I want’, invites you to party. For anyone who can’t be bothered chasing these storylines over a period of months and across various outlets, there is also a ‘Quickbook‘ option offering eight complete Chatsfield ebooks, as well as a free prologue and a collection of 15 short stories.

Tim Cooper, md of Mills & Boon’s parent company Harlequin UK, says: ‘Women are engaging evermore with on-going characters and wanting to interact and learn more about them and are consuming content in different formats across different platforms. So I looked to create an intersection between our series publishing programme and other media […] The genesis for this project was to evolve the Mills & Boon series model around the female consumer of today. Could we best utilise the resources at hand (our authors/brand and team) to tell great stories in ways that would engage and entertain women?’ Regardless of how much they actually achieve of the latter sentence, full credit for trying, especially with such a resolutely unhip brand.


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