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Chick lit out, matron lit in

London, Sept. 18: A new generation of romantic heroines are as likely to ascribe their hot flushes to the menopause as to the proximity of a tall, dark handsome stranger.

Publishers on both sides of the Atlantic are abandoning “chick lit” in favour of a new breed of romance reflecting the experiences of the older woman.

Mills & Boon, the world’s biggest publisher of romantic fiction, and the British company Transita are among those targeting readers no longer interested in tales of young love.

The new books, which have already been dubbed “grey lit” or “matron lit”, all have heroines in their mid-forties and early fifties. A typical story reads: bereavement or divorce; its aftermath; the chance discovery of new love in the most unlikely of circumstances; happy ending.

Dozens of books with titles such as Forgotten Dreams and The Me I Used To Be are being churned out by publishers keen to cash in on the grey pound.

Jenny Haddon, the president of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, said: “Women in their mid-forties and early fifties have now become the target audience. Not only do they have the time to read books they also have the necessary disposable income.

“It is no longer the case that women quit their jobs and then spend the last part of their lives tending their gardens.”

The Oxford-based publisher Transita has produced 14 books in six months for older women readers. Nikki Read, its managing editor, said that making the romantic heroine older had been welcomed by many authors.

“Until now women authors have had to write about women much younger than themselves,” she said. “Many have found that quite difficult. Now writers say ‘thank God’ when we ask them to write about women who are 45-plus.”

Jilly Cooper, the bestselling author of Riders and Class, has included a romance involving two 80-year-olds in her forthcoming book Wicked. She said: “In the last book I had two 50-year-olds falling in love but I thought I would go a little further this time.

“You are never too old for love after all, and I think trying to appeal to an older audience is a very good idea.”

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