Romance embraces rugby in new book series

LONDON (Reuters) - Argentine billionaire Alejandro D’Arienzo is blessed with a dark, brooding beauty. He is gorgeous and ruthless, his lips curl into sneers of savage, cynical amusement and he inspires “sparked stars of pleasure” in English heiress Tamsin Calthorpe.

A copy of a Mills and Boon book with a rugby union theme is seen in this undated handout photograph received in London, March 16, 2009. REUTERS/Harlequin Mills and Boon Ltd/Handout

D’Arienzo is also a superb flyhalf who guides the Barbarians to a famous victory over England in the second of eight Mills & Boon romances with a rugby union theme being published monthly this year.

“It is that alpha male, that witty, sardonic, powerful man that people will very much warm to,” India Grey, author of “At the Argentinean Billionaire’s Bidding,” said in a telephone interview.

“The problems are always resolved, that’s what people like about it, what has made it so successful over the last 100 years.

“Fitting that into the rugby setting and rugby heroes was actually quite easy because sportsmen have to have those qualities of focus and drive and ambition and strength that we have been putting into our heroes for years anyway. So it wasn’t so much of a leap to fit it into a rugby setting.”

The series is the result of a collaboration with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) during the centenary of the British firm last year. Mills & Boon are the world’s most successful publishers of romance novels, selling one book every three seconds in the United Kingdom.

“It was probably about this time last year that the Mills & Boon publicity agents approached us by telephone and said would you talk to us,” said RFU marketing and licensing manager Jane Barron.

“We obviously said yes. After the first meeting we were completely on board.

“The proposal was to do an eight-book deal, featuring England rugby and using England branding and a promotional deal. So it’s basically a rights deal.”


Mills & Boon series editor Jenny Hutton said the firm had wanted to collaborate with a sport.

“It’s worked really well for us, it’s opened a new arena. We are always looking for men who have got integrity and are driven by passion and commitment and that’s very good in rugby,” she said.

“We wanted to catch on to the fact that it was becoming a bit more glamorous. The stories were put together after we spoke to the RFU and then we got the authors involved when it was all sorted and agreed.

“When the books were written we went through them to check for rugby terminology and then Jane had a look through and checked that it was all okay.”

Grey said she had been given an Argentine hero and a heroine who had been asked to redesign the England rugby strip.

“I was also asked to take the action back to Argentina,” she said. “It’s like working backwards, to start off with the location then work out how they got there.

“It was an interesting variation on how it normally works. It was good fun to do.”


The RFU spotted an error in Grey’s original draft, in which D’Arienzo played for the Pumas after representing England.

“The RFU came back and said if he had played for England there was no way he would be playing for Argentina,” she said.

“So we had to get round that so I had him back in England as part of Barbarians’ team. It was detail like that that was really important to get right.”

Grey’s parents were Scotland rugby supporters and she said she was five or six when she went to her first international at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield. Jean-Pierre Rives, the glamorous French flanker with the long blond hair and the permanently bloodied face, was an early hero.

“My first crushes weren’t on pop stars, they were on rugby players,” she said. “We spent a lot of seasons going up to Murrayfield for rugby matches.”

After a series of misunderstandings on two continents, which give D’Arienzo much scope to employ his sardonic smile, the Argentine billionaire and the English heiress are finally united and Tamsin Calthorpe becomes Tamsin D’Arienzo.

“You really wouldn’t expect the events of a Mills & Boon novel to take place in real life,” Grey admitted. “But the thing that makes them work, whether it’s the rugby books or not, is it has to be possible, the facts that have to be there, the situations may be fantastic but they have to be really, really grounded in reality.

“In romance you have a man and a woman and some sort of conflict that is keeping them apart that they have to resolve before they have a happy ever-after. In Mills & Boon there is always a happy ending, they always get together.”

Editing by Clare Fallon