The Flame and the Flower
Grade : A

Avon refers to Kathleen E. Woodiwiss as “The Goddess of Romance” for good reason. Her groundbreaking historical romance, The Flame & the Flower, is a cherished keeper – one that resides prominently on many all-time favorite romance lists, including mine – despite the fact our beloved genre has come a long way since this novel was first published.

Woodiwiss’s entertaining page-turner begins in the English countryside of 1799; then takes the reader first to London and then to Charleston, with a full range of human emotions and exciting adventures. This book delivers something for everyone – a Cinderella story with a twist (deceit, a gross misunderstanding, and a forced wedding), a stormy North Atlantic sea crossing (in more ways than one), miscommunications and powerful sexual tension, a Snow White story (who’s the fairest of them all) with all the dangers the green-eyed monster can manifest, a murder mystery, and a life of sensuous, passionate love. Fantastic! It’s no wonder this is the book that influenced so many of us to become romance writers, too.

After two years of unending toil for a callow uncle and a malicious aunt, Heather Simmons, an orphaned beauty, jumps at the chance for a teaching position at a finishing school in London. The offer comes from her aunt’s brother William, who makes the arrangements. Upon arrival late at night at his shop, Heather fears for her innocence. As she struggles with William to protect herself, he falls on a knife and passes out. Heather, thinking him mortally wounded, flees. Dazed and lost, sure she’s being followed, Heather runs until her legs give out. She bravely surrenders to the two seamen she’s sure must have been following her. Instead of being brought before a port reeve, Heather finds herself delivered into the arms of a virile and dangerous stranger.

Upon docking in London, dashing American sea captain Brandon Birmingham, sends his men out to secure his evening’s entertainment, with emphasis on cleanliness and comeliness. George and Dickie spot Heather, convince her to accompany them, and bring her aboard the Fleetwood. Smitten, Brandon is determined to keep his exquisite prize.

The hero and heroine are richly drawn. At the beginning, Heather seems as pluckless as her uncle, frail and in need of protection. She berates herself for being a coward. Yet the reader sees more in Heather than she sees in herself. Heather grows throughout the novel as love gives her greater strength and believable courage. She has pride and doesn’t let Brandon get away with intimidating her. She has a strong moral streak and deals honorably with herself and others.

At first, Brandon seems conceited, stubborn, pompous. Yet the reader learns quickly he’s a take-charge, caring man. He admits his mistakes and tries to correct them. He struggles with his pride and the new emotions Heather engenders in him, is generous to those in need, and is protective, compassionate, and loyal to those he loves.

The secondary characters are beautifully drawn as well. We see them clearly in our mind’s eye, each one contributing strong threads to the tapestry of trust and love cementing Heather’s and Brandon’s relationship. Since reading Woodiwiss causes glomming, let me tell you that The Flame & the Flower introduces Brandon’s brother, Jeff, another worthy hero whose personal story begins in Three Weddings & a Kiss (an anthology piece) and is continued in Married at Midnight (another anthology piece).

This year, celebrate 25 years of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. Read The Flame & the Flower and fall in love with Heather and Brandon all over again. This October, its sequel, The Elusive Flame, will be released. Ah, life is good.

Buy it at Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes and Noble/Kobo

Reviewed by Guest Reviewer

Grade: A

Book Type: Historical Romance

Sensuality: Hot

Review Date : August 25, 1998

Publication Date: 1972

Review Tags: DIKlassic

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