|Written by||Emma Frost|
|Directed by||Dan Zeff|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Running time||90 minutes|
|Original channel||BBC Four|
|Original release||2 November 2008|
Consuming Passion is a 2008 British drama which features three interwoven stories celebrating the centenary of the publishing house Mills and Boon. Each of the stories concerns a central female character who is somehow connected with the publisher. It was shown for the first time on BBC Four at 9:00 p.m. on Sunday 2 November 2008, and starred Emilia Fox, Jodie Whittaker, Olivia Colman and Daniel Mays. It was written by Emma Frost and directed by Dan Zeff.
It begins with a disclaimer: Some of the following is based on fact ... the rest is romantic fiction.
The first thread revolves around the establishment of Mills & Boon itself, and the relationship between Charles Boon (Daniel Mays) and his wife Mary (Jodie Whittaker). Despite the youthful idealism that saw him establish the company with his friend and win his wife's love, and the nature of the stories he oversees from hopeful authors, Charles is himself ironically blind to Mary's repeated attempts to inject passion into their relationship. This constant inability to realise—or at least acknowledge—the emotional needs of his wife or to consider her and their son as significant in their own right is a constant plot point, finally leading to a confrontation between husband & wife following Mills's death from cancer at the end of the 20s. This in turn results in the epiphany that, along with an infusion of cash from a longtime employee who replaces Mills as a partner in the business, transforms the company into a single genre publishing house focusing on populist romance novels from the female perspective.
The second moves to 1974 and follows the fictitious Janet Bottomley (Olivia Colman), a dowdy typist who lives with her mother and is an avid fan of Mills & Boon stories. When her mother has to go into hospital for a hip replacement, she becomes infatuated with the arrogant surgeon handling the case. At first this inspires her to write a manuscript translating the infatuation into a hospital romance, but as she continues to write she begins to stalk him, culminating in an embarrassing confrontation at his birthday party. Soon afterwards however, she receives the welcome news that Mills & Boon have accepted her manuscript. Even more welcome is the astonishing amount the book will earn her, allowing her to quit her job to write full time under the name Raquel Pretty.
The third involves the fictitious Kirstie (Emilia Fox), a 30-something university English lecturer in 2008 teaching a unit on modern romance using the output of Mills & Boon. Jake (O.T. Fagbenle), a university student in his early 20s acting on his long distance infatuation with her enrolls in the unit and soon begins forcefully courting her. Initially confused and repelled, Kirstie soon realises that he displays passion for her and for life that she can no longer find with her current partner Nick with whom she is about to purchase a house. Challenged by Jake in and out of class, she finds herself giving into her desires and has an affair with him which she eventually confesses to Nick. Ironically, her partner's desire to "get through this" spells the end of that relationship as Kirstie walks out due to the same lack of passion that led to the affair. Following a confrontation in class during which Jake sums up the prevalence of heroines seeking rape/forceful sex from their suitors in many modern romance stories as an excuse for women to have passion without the responsibility of guilt, she commits herself and the two become a couple for however long the passion lasts.