[...] "When it comes to romantic fiction, the clue's in the name; the genre is fiction not fact, and while romance may be the wonderful foundation for a novel, it's not in itself a sufficiently strong foundation for running a lifelong relationship. But I do wonder how many of our clients truly realise that."
Women who read romance novels can "suspend rationality" in favour of romanticism, Miss Quilliam said, including "not using protection with a new man because she wants to be swept up by the moment as a heroine would" or being persuaded to give up contraception a few months into a relationship.
"It might mean terminating a pregnancy (or continuing with one) against all her moral codes because that same man asks her to... or judging that if romance has died then so has love, and that rather than working at her relationship she should be hitching her star to a new romance."
Living the life of a romantic heroine can also have serious sexual health implications, Miss Quilliam said. "To be blunt, we [sexual health professionals] like condoms - for protection and for contraception - and they don't."
Even though modern Mills & Boon heroines have jobs and the heroes can be sensitive, the books still contain "a deep strand of escapism, perfectionism and idealisation... clearly these messages run totally counter to those we try to promote".
Miss Quilliam's article was published by the BMJ on behalf of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Read more