A Season Beyond a Kiss
Move over, Cassie Edwards. You’ve got competition.
I know that Kathleen Woodiwiss is famous for a distinctive way of writing, so I’d better come clean now. It’s a style that I find nearly unreadable. This is my first Woodiwiss book. The unparalleled purple prose had me squirming like nothing else I’ve read. But, even Woodiwiss fans will probably find this book extremely dull. Woodiwiss’s writing style may have stayed the same since the seventies, but it’s hard to believe that this author gained her fame and reputation, on stories that are this boring.
A Season Beyond a Kiss is the last book in the trilogy that began with The Flame and the Flower and continued with The Elusive Flame. If, like me, you haven’t read the first two books, this story is going to be confusing because a lot of it seems to have been told elsewhere. A Season Beyond a Kiss is the story of Raelynn and Jeff Birmingham. Raelynn is the teenage bride of Jeff Birmingham, a shipping magnate who lives on a plantation near Charleston. As the story opens, the virgin bride, Raelynn awakens in sexual frustration. By the second page we learn why:
“If not for the intrusion of a predacious blackguard, who, with his hired rabble, forced his way into the plantation house on her wedding night, and the barrier she had personally set between her bridegroom and herself a day later after hearing a young wench accuse him of siring her unborn child, Raelynn had no doubt she would be sharing not only her husband’s bed, but all the pleasures to be found in matrimony.”
Okay, I hope you got that, because that’s the plot. On the couple’s wedding night the Raelynn and Jeff, apparently in the act of consummating the marriage, were interrupted by a group of thugs. Raelynn was taken out to a shed and told that Jeff was about to become the father of a baby born to a serving girl, Nell. Raelynn becomes so upset with Jeff that she throws him out of the bedroom for the next three weeks.
Wouldn’t this have made a great opening? Apparently Woodiwiss didn’t think so because she leaves it out and starts A Season Beyond a Kiss with the teen-age Raelynn finally giving in and having sex with her thirty-plus year old husband. Sexual tension? How can you have tension when the problems are all told in flashbacks? Note to romance editors: sex between strangers in the first chapter of a book is dull.
Woodiwiss just loves adjectives. Nothing, not the smallest detail goes without a modifier and it makes the book excruciating. This is just the kind of book that morning talk show hosts like to use when the make fun of romances. “She trembled, fully conscious of the manly blade that would rend her virgin’s flesh.” Now when is the last time you used the word “rend” in a sentence?
After Raelynn gives in to his “manly appeal” (Woodiwiss loves that word) the couple are happy for quite a long time. They are, in fact, happy for hundreds of mind-deadening pages. They go shopping; they make love. They go riding; they make love. They take a bath. Well, you get the idea. Raelynn has little talks with the house servants. In one of these chats she advises the slave butler all about the practice of indentured servitude and that there are as many white people as black people in America who are enslaved. The implication is that blacks and whites did not have things all that different.
The butler takes a moment to consider his pity for these poor white people and thanks heaven that he has a good safe home. At this point the book went from astoundingly stupid to astoundingly offensive.
Then Nell, the trampy pregnant serving girl, is murdered. Raelynn suspects the culprit is Jeff and so, being the teenager she is, she has a tantrum and locks him out of the bedroom. For the rest of the book, these two argue, make love and so on. Neither Raelynn nor Jeff has a personality. Both are defined by their gorgeous bodies. She is “his young bride.” He is “manly.”
If you are curious about this book I strongly advise you use your library. The $14.00 price is a crime. I haven’t read a book this dull since a diplomatic history professor insisted that I read the autobiography of Herbert Hoover.
Come back Mr. President. All is forgiven!