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Guest Review: The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss

If you haven’t read this post yet, please do so. The following is a guest review. No, sorry, discursive thought summary on The Flame and The Flower by our new guest reviewer, AJH.

Kickin’ It Old School: The Flame and the Flower

I thought I knew where I was with F&F from the final sentence of the very first paragraph:

The thatched cottage stood between spindly yews and, with shutters open and door ajar, it seemed to stare as if aghast at some off-color jest. (p.1)

Omg, I thought to myself, this is such a hardcore bodice ripper, even the buildings have their virtue threatened. But, truthfully, dear reader, I was not prepared.

The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen WoodiwissYou probably all know, inside out and back to front, the basic plot of this book but here goes nothing: Heather is a beautiful and virtuous maiden who lives with her Evil Aunt and Hopeless Uncle. Evil Aunt arbitrarily decides to sell her into prostitution. Heather flees the first of many would-be rapists, only to be mistaken for prostitute anyway by two dudes who have been dispatched by the hero, Captain Brandon Birmingham, who is looking to acquire a ho into whom he can place his penis. As it does not seem to cross Heather’s mind at any point to say “um, I’m not a prostitute”, Brandon deflowers her and subsequently decides she is such a good penis repository that he will keep her. Heather runs back to her Evil Aunt, who mistreats her for a while until it becomes apparent Heather is with child. Captain Brandon is pressured into marrying her, which makes him throw – what we manly men call – a total strop. The newly married couple go shopping and have a lot of baths, and a lot of arguments, and eventually set sail for America. In America, there is an Evil Ex and an Evil Cripple, and they fall in love. I mean, Heather and Brandon fall in love. Not the Evil Ex and the Evil Cripple, though they would probably get on well together. There are also some murders, but not of anybody we cared about. The end.

I will not lie: I spent a lot of this book confused and slightly worried, which had less to do with the plot (implausibility does not trouble me – I like books about dragons, remember) than the behaviour of all the people in it. Even the apparently nice ones. Especially the apparently nice ones. Thankfully, I was able to navigate who were supposed to be the good guys because morality in F&F seems largely determined by body shape.

Our heroine, Heather, is thin and righteous and, we soon discover, possesses a couple of super-powers: the first of which is the ability to make all men instantly want to rape her and the second is the ability to make all women instantly hate her. I feel these were an unfortunate choice and she should have held out for super-speed or invisibility. I found it rather difficult to get a handle on her, not because she’s devoid of character, but because she goes through such a lot over the course of the book (this poor woman is semi-violated more than most people sneeze) that she’s constantly in flux. ‘Terrified of being raped’ and ‘escaping from a rapist’ are not exactly what you’d call a personality. I could be reading it wrong, but I think the ‘true’ Heather is supposed to emerge in the second half of the book when she finally has a home and some security. She becomes very wifely, at this stage, in what I personally found a discomfortingly Stepford way but I think there’s enough textual evidence in there to suggest that this always what she wanted, and who she was, and she hasn’t just been brainwashed by Brandon’s, err, mighty wang.

Unfortunately, this was also the point at which I completely lost touch with Heather. In a weird way it reminded me a lot of Richardson’s Pamela. Despite the fact Mr B is always spying on her bosom, Pamela is kind of cool in the first half of the book (spirited, resourceful under siege, protective of her bosom) but, once she’s tamed Mr B into marriage, she becomes this picture-perfect pattern of virtue and is, therefore, a bit of a bore. Heather is nearly always a picture-perfect pattern of virtue but, before she gets shipped off to America with Brandon, she’s quite sympathetic. She’s not exactly over-endowed in the brain department but I thought her fears and anxieties were depicted plausibly, and – without going crazy-spunky about it – she does display some degree of resourcefulness in escaping from Brandon. And, now I think about it, she takes out Rapist #1 armed only with a small knife for peeling fruit. Which is totally Brian Blessed awesome. Respect, Heather, respect. Whereas in America she sits around sewing and being pregnant.

The other thing I found a bit hard to navigate was the fact Heather seems to go actively dangerously nuts in Brandon’s presence. Maybe I’m just an incurable romantic but I was under the impression that a lover should, y’know, bring out the best in you. There were several occasions when her behaviour genuinely made ‘do not date, do not date’ sirens start howling in my head.

The first warning sign occurs when Heather and Brandon are sleeping in a tavern, not long after their … what’s the Regency equivalent of a shotgun wedding? Flintlock wedding. Some men break into the room with the aim of kidnapping Heather. Brandon is so very very manly that he confronts the interlopers stark bollock naked and forces them to jump out of a second storey window, from whence sounds of their breaking limbs and obvious pain drift up from the street. Now, I agree that these are not good men but they are clearly poor and uneducated (you can tell because they have common people accents and I think one of them might be fat) and probably have only limited ways to make a living. And, presumably, even fewer now they can’t walk. I’m not condoning kidnapping as a trade for the lower classes but I do feel making random members of the public, no matter how morally dubious, auto-defenestrate at whim crosses the line from self-protection to sadism. Not our Heather though. She greets Brandon’s display of rampant psychosis with “a soft ripple of musical laughter” (p. 141).

Then there’s the occasion when they’re on a ship halfway between England and America and Heather casually asks if she can have cream in her coffee. Brandon, I think entirely fairly, derides her for this hilarious and blatant display of utter stupid, by asking “Do you think we’ll find a herd of cows in the middle of the North Atlantic?” Whereupon Heather immediately bursts into tears and runs from the room. I felt, at that moment, I was sharing a Dude Look with Brandon. I mean, seriously, Heather, get a grip. This man was raping you a few chapters back, and now you’re crying because he was slightly verbally mean? What’s wrong with you?

The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen WoodiwissHowever, for me, the final nail in the coffin of my sympathy for Heather came in America, where she enacts one of the most masterfully passive aggressive manoeuvres I’ve ever witnessed, in life or fiction. She is like the Napoleon of manipulation. I didn’t know whether to applaud her or run away screaming, or applaud while running away screaming. Basically, she decides she going to make Brandon a Christmas present but, instead of using the abundant amount of money he owns and everybody keeps telling her she has the right to use, she sells some old dresses and uses the proceeds to knit him a cock sock (or some other hand-made garment, I forget the details). He is, of course, delighted with the gift when she presents it to him at Christmas, mistaking it for a gesture of genuine affection rather than the Woman Trap it blatantly is. The truth soon comes out and there is A Scene. I can’t tell whether this is genuinely meant to demonstrate Heather’s honesty and integrity in not wanting to take Brandon’s wealth for granted or if we are meant to think he brought it on himself for being a git to her earlier. To be fair, if I was married to Brandon at this point, I would have no faith in his human decency either but there’s just something so subtle and sinister about the Gift Trick that it scared the living hell out of me. And there’s no doubt that Heather knows exactly what she’s doing: “She sipped her tea daintily and lifted her nose with a slightly injured air. ‘Sir, I understood quite well,’ she needled, “that your money was not mine to spend.” (p. 291). Ye gods. Get out Brandon, get out now.

Speaking of Brandon, I found him as difficult as Heather, if not more so. I have just enough basic understanding of the genre to be able to recognise him as your Greater Spotted Alpha. Uber-virile, super-manly, over-bearing, possessive, obsessive and protective. But he’s also kind of a wankbucket and I don’t know to what extent that’s a side-effect of Alphadom or if it’s just him. Personally, I think can tell a lot about a person if there first act is to rape someone and that’s not the least sympathetic thing they do. To be honest, it’s probably a lot more understandable than some his later actions, because it’s just about attributable to an error of judgement, and Brandon is clearly a bear of very little brain.

What really threw me, however, was his behaviour afterwards. Once he’s comprehensively established that Heather was a virgin, she’s not a prostitute and she’s definitely not willing, he enthusiastically goes onto to rape her two more times. Seriously, dude. What gives? If I squint at it funny I can just about get my head round the first time. I mean, yes, I like to think most of us would take “no, no, please stop” as, y’know, indication that stopping would be a good idea right now but Brandon comes from the Mr Collins school of emotional intelligence and his blood seems to flow in one direction only. But why on earth does he keep on raping? (aaaand that sounds like a breakaway pop hit waiting to happen). And how are we meant to feel about it? To commit rape once may be considered unfortunate, twice looks like carelessness.

To be fair (I can’t believe I’m writing that sentence in this context), once they’re married, Brandon stops sleeping non-consensually with his wife. But I found his sexual behaviour reprehensible throughout: his justification for his two additional rapes is that Heather is so hot she deserves it (she was wearing a see-through gown as well, which I assume is the 1800s equivalent of a short skirt) and he basically stops raping her because he’s annoyed he’s been forced into marrying her and wants to punish her. Which just goes to show how messed up this man is. Yet, despite having instigated the whole no-more-raping rule, he whinges constantly throughout the first year of marriage that it’s her fault that he’s got nowhere to put his wang. Take some responsibility for your own penis, man!

I was genuinely having problems interpreting Brandon as any sort of fantasy figure until I realised how much time he spends taking Heather shopping and then it all clicked into place. For a fellow who impregnates women by looking at them and pushes bad guys out of windows, he’s remarkably – hilariously – metrosexual. When these two aren’t bathing or fighting, they’re out buying dresses. It’s like the Pretty Woman Rodeo Drive scene but, err, longer and duller. Well, duller for me. Don’t get me wrong, I like frocks but as an end product not as a process. You would probably have to be Julia Roberts to get me to voluntarily go clothes shopping with you but Brandon is totally into it.

Everything he selected she more than agreed with, and those discarded she had prayed would be. His sense of color astounded her. The man was gifted. She had to admit he chose better than she. (p. 160)

Dear me. He rapes virgins, defenestrates villains and can match a gown to a woman’s eyes at forty paces. What a guy.

Although Brandon and I did not get on (and since I wouldn’t go shopping with him we probably wouldn’t be a good match anyway), he does possess one trait that I found borderline endearing. Yes, that’s one, count ‘em, one. Whenever he’s having an internal monologue moment, he has an utterly bizarre habit of slipping into some kind of cod-Shakespearean dialect:

“Heather, this tiny purple flower from the moors, has dined upon my heart and now it grows within her and I have no more a heart to share. But my heart, thou hast betrayed me deep. You have closed all doors but one and that I slammed in anger.” (p. 311)

Now, I’m not very good at articulating my feelings either, so I sympathise but … whut? A small purple flower is eating your heart? And Heather has taken all the hearts? And there are doors in the hearts that are being slammed? Now, Brandon, sweetie, I may be going out on a limb here but … you’re unhappy about something aren’t you?

Oh bless him.

The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen WoodiwissSo, where does this leave us? Well. I had fun reading it, he damns with faint praise but – however important it may be in the development of the genre, or however much secret affection it may garner in the small, carnivorous purple flowers of readers’ hearts – I can’t say it did much for me. It’s exuberant, I’ll give it that. I was genuinely pretty shocked when I looked up from my Kindle, having followed Heather from an aghast country shack, through about six attempted rapes, via kidnapping, pregnancy and marriage, to discover I was barely 15% of the way through the book. I mean, 150 pages of a fantasy novel and you’re probably still in the prologue. So stuff really does happen in this thing. Stuff by the bucket load. So much stuff, I was pretty exhausted by the sheer stuff of the stuff. But I think the main problem, for me, was that I found Heather and Brandon both incomprehensible and largely unlikeable. It was borderline impossible to invest in the actual romance bit of the book, when the nicest thing I could think to say about them was: well, they probably deserve each other. Often followed by: God, I’m glad I’m not dating either of them.

I was somewhat discomforted by both the actual rape and the prevalence of rape, but that’s a personal rather than a universal judgement. I’m just squeamish and hand-wringy, ignore me. And, for a book written for women (right?), I found Heather’s second super-power a bit disconcerting. Nearly every other female character she meets is actively vile to her, for no apparent reason, but I suppose it keeps the focus on Brandon as a source of physical and emotional support. Also, I was quite disappointed to learn the term bodice ripper is a misnomer. Not a single bodice is ripped over the course of this novel. Not one. Just the occasional lightly torn chemise. But I guess chemise-wrecker doesn’t sound as cool.

On the other hand, personal reactions and confusions aside, I can sort of see what F&F was doing, or trying to do, and why it’s important. I guess there’s an extent to which we can see Heather and Brandon’s sexual relationship as … well … what’s the opposite of a metaphor? A literalisation of gendered power dynamics. Brandon can initially take what he wants, with no consequences, but eventually Heather is able to channel his desire down more socially and personally acceptable channels within the context of marriage. You could even go so far as to argue that Heather and Brandon reciprocally violate each other. Brandon, of course, literally, but then Heather (albeit inadvertently) blackmails him into marrying her, thus emasculating him and denying him the power of choice, just as he did when he raped her. Of course, this all takes as read a view of relationships in which women want marriage and security and men want sex and, err, sex, and the two must be traded from across the gender battlefield. But, Heather gets to have sexy fun times too, and on her own terms. Equally, it’s very clear that she wants the life she eventually fashions with Brandon. And, I think, perhaps that’s the important thing. Heather goes from having no choices, to being in a position to have everything she wants. And I guess that’s a decent fantasy for anybody, in the 1970s or not.

Everything I learned about life and love from reading The Flame & The Flower: to truly win a woman’s heart, throw some dudes out of a window, if you inadvertently have non-consensual sex with someone you might as well get a few more rapes in since the damage is done, fat people are evil, hair is remarkably emotionally expressive, boobs want to be free and should not be oppressed by clothing, nobody wore any underwear in the 1800s.

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Guest Reviewer

93 Comments

  1. Dabney
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 08:18:36

    This is a great review. Thanks.

    I already hated this book but your review has given me a clearer sense of why it is so awful.

  2. Lil
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 08:23:04

    Thank you so much for this review? essay? commentary? It began my day with laughter.

    I have never read The Flame and the Flower, and have no plan to do so, but I love reading reviews like this one. For that alone I must be grateful to Ms Woodiwiss.

  3. theo
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 08:27:03

    I enjoyed your review very much. I’ve *cough* never read this one. I must be one of the few who hasn’t, she was such a popular author. Still is an often recommended one. But you picked a doozie to start with. I do love Rose in Winter. It’s not without its faults, and there are some spots where it lags badly, but overall, it is for me at least, a wonderful read. And it was my first Woodiwiss. I haven’t been able to make it past the first two chapters of any of her other books though. Either the language puts me off or the head-shaking events, but I just can’t get very far before I set it down and don’t look back. I was under the impression though that most of her books do reflect the same basic bodice-ripping story lines, just set in different eras.

  4. Nina Lewis
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 08:29:04

    I laughed out loud several times while reading this review – it pinpoints the idiocies of this infamous novel so well! To be fair to Ms Woodiwiss, Heather is – of the ones I’ve met – by far the wettest of her heroines (and I don’t mean ‘wet’ in a good way; more in the way Edmund Blackadder uses it: “That woman is wetter than a fish’s wet bits.”). Both Shanna and Erin (from A Rose in Winter) have rather more spunk, as well as a solidly average IQ. Both these novels also have recognisable plots that do not revolve solely around the heroine’s rapability. Shanna was my introduction to the romance genre, and even then, aged 11, I thought that she is a total bee-yatch, and Ruark (“Rrrrrrrawwwwrk!”) Beauchamp is an idiot for pursuing her. But there, the man – although a bit of a clever dick in other ways – thinks with his schlong. As they do. But if you must read Woodiwiss (and I think Shanna and A Rose in Winter are worth reading), avoid F&F.

  5. Ruthie
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 08:33:15

    Delighted to have AJH’s new voice in the convo. I’ve never read this book, but your comments resonate with my experience of the one Woodiwiss book I did read, particularly in re heroine’s unfortunate superpower, the division of the world into good hot people and evil fat people, and the random senseless deaths of characters we’re not to care about.

    First question: who are you on Twitter?

    Looking forward to the next guest post. :-)

  6. mewofford
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 08:47:39

    I read the book and enjoyed it. BUT – I enjoyed this review, expose, commentary(?) just as much. Thank you!

    BTW, my favorite Woodiwiss novel has always been The Wolf and The Dove. I’d love to see read your take on that one!

  7. Lynnd
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 08:49:16

    Brilliant! This made my day.

    I recently tried to reread F & F and some of the other Woodiwiss books and for me they have not stood the test of time for all of the reasons you gave. I expect that it was a ground-breaker in its day because the other romance being published was just so bad. I would love to have your thoughts on Barbara Cartland.

  8. Dabney
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 08:52:51

    @Lynnd: I think I read every single Dame Cartland book when I was in ninth grade. I’ve never picked one up again but I feel sure they would drive me crazy now. My recollection is a lot of text for very little payoff. I think I’ll go and find one and see if I’m right.

  9. Ann
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 08:57:45

    AJH, I believe you have just become one of my favorite reviewers.

  10. Lisa
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 09:00:06

    Fantastic review of a vile book….I thoroughly enjoyed this and thanks for saving me from a bad read

  11. Marianne McA
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 09:00:19

    I’ve never read it either – but I so enjoyed the review. Thank you.

    (I have read ‘Lord of Scoundrels’, though I’m one of the minority who doesn’t like it, so I’ll look forward to that review in due course.)

  12. Isobel Carr
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 09:01:45

    Fantastic review. Pretty sure I shall have nightmares about carnivorous purple flowers.

  13. Mom on the Run
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 09:18:28

    I read this book so many times that it fell apart. I adored Brandon and Heather. Adored. However, I was 14, and since my book has fallen apart it’s obviously been awhile since I read it. However, after reading a lot of reviews done from the perspective of the 21st century reader, I think I’ll just leave it in my memory as something that made my adolescent heart sing. Now can we talk about Rosemary Rogers and Wicked Loving Lies? O.M.G. That made a big impression on my 14 year old brain and may still be hidden between the mattress and box springs in my old room at my parents’ house.

    And a funny sidenote–we were just discussing this book at Bunco a week or so ago. So it lives as a beautiful and beloved thing…in our memories anyway.

  14. carmen webster buxton
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 09:20:47

    Thank you for reading this book so I don’t have to! If DA had little buttons that said “Did you find this review helpful?” I would be clicking Yes. And if they had one that said, “Did you find this review entertaining?” I would be clicking Yes, yes, yes!

  15. tangodiva
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 09:24:03

    Oh dear, @Mom on the Run:, I read Wicked Loving Lies at age 12. At my grandma’s house. Yes, we need to have someone review that one! (On topic, I never read FaF, but am a fan of Rose in Winter. And Shanna bored me).

  16. Karenmc
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 09:29:30

    Splendid. That original cover up at the top of the page is what shows up for my Facebook Historical Romance “Like,” and I haven’t found a way to change it to something less reprehensible. This review motivates me to try harder.

  17. Violetta Vane
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 09:30:24

    I snuck a copy of The Wolf and The Dove when I was 13. I ended up reading the whole thing, but I was so horrified by it I never touched another romance for a couple decades. And I liked reading Stephen King and Clive Barker. There was just so much rape.

  18. Lynn S.
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 09:38:48

    Regarding the carnivorous Heather quote from the book, heather actually is a tiny purple flower, so I’ll assume our heroine, along with being a flower of femininity, is of the small-hands variety. Our heroine has taken his heart for her own and, well, with him being such a total douche to her, he doesn’t think he stands a chance of gaining her heart in return. And he won’t ever stand a chance with another, never ever again, since she probably won’t be handing his heart back to him, being the maneater that she is.

    He’s deep y’all. Deeply deep. Anyone else have a more creative interpretation of all this inner turmoil?

  19. Ros
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 09:40:33

    @Dabney: The main problem with Barbara Cartland that I find on re-reads (and, to be fair, on first reads) is her idiosyncratic punctuation and the need to begin a new paragraph for every single sentence. It renders her work virtually unreadable to me. The plots and characters are also ludicrous, but the prose is what kills it for me.

  20. Sandy James
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 10:03:54

    Kathleen Woodiwiss is the author who introduced me to romance. The Flame and the Flower was always my favorite, and I’d read and re-read it through my young adult years. Sure, it’s flawed by today’s standard–okay…by any standards–when it comes to Brandon’s reprehensible behavior. The worst thing he does IMHO is force Heather the second time. And why I’m willing to “forgive” that is sometimes beyond me…

    But if I read the book today, I have to shed the cloak of wisdom I’ve acquired over my forty-nine years of life and simply enjoy it as a tale of a stupid, arrogant man and an awkward, rather silly girl (reminds me of Bella). And I do still enjoy it.

    Woodiwiss has been replaced by Julie Garwood as my “go to” author for historicals, but she and this book will always have a place in my heart.

  21. pamelia
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 10:19:35

    Well, I have a deep abiding affection for this book as it was the first romance I ever read — I found it in the book-drawer at our cottage when I was 12 and away I went! I’ve re-read it a few times (although not in the last decade) and it sure isn’t a non-problematic book, but I have NEVER put it in the “Awfulest Romace Novels Evarrrr” pile like I did with “Whitney My Love”!
    I like to consider it in it’s historical perspective of those way back in 1972 days when “good girls” weren’t allowed to desire sex, so in order for a “good girl” to give it up outside of marriage she had to be unwilling. Free pass! As far as Woodiwiss goes I much prefer “Shanna” and “The Wolf and the Dove” and “A Rose In Winter” and even the impossibly convoluted Gone With The Wind/Rebecca mashup that is “Ashes in the Wind”
    No one writes that purple prose like KW anymore — and thank God for that, but you never forget your first romance novel!

  22. MarieC
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 10:32:50

    I could not stop giggling when I was reading this review!

    I still love this book, as well as Rose in Winter, Wolf and Dove, and Ashes in the Wind. I first read it in my teens, with rereads every few years.

    BTW, seeing how much you ‘enjoyed’ this one, will you be willing to read and critique the subsequent Birmingham family stories (The Kiss (novella), Beyond the Kiss (novella), The Elusive Flame, Season Beyond a Kiss)?

  23. Lynne Connolly
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 10:37:53

    Totally Awesome review. I’ve never actually made it past the first third of the book, although I have skimmed it. Does that count?
    But I have to confess that I discovered Angelique when I was 13, and the books totally corrupted me. I bet they’re pretty mild by today’s standards, but Angelique spent a whole series of novels getting raped in far-flung corners of the world and having men fall at her feet all over the shop.
    Next, I’d suggest “The Windflower” (unless I’ve missed it and you’ve done it already, in which case can somebody direct me there?

  24. Darlene Marshall
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 10:42:22

    Loved this book when I was 17, now, some decades and accumulated life wisdom later, I’m enjoying your review of the classics. I agree with @Pamelia though. I’d put Whitney, My Love and most of Rosemary Rogers’ books into the “Heroes I’d most like to Beat With a Large Stick” category before I’d put The Flame and The Flower there.

    I liked The Wolf and the Dove, which I read first, a lot more, though I lusted after Heather’s ice blue wedding dress when I first read The Flame and the Flower.

  25. John
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 10:45:52

    I actually enjoy Woodiwiss, but all of the things you point out are true and speak to why her books are awful…even when I like them.

    TF&TF is a personal favorite because it’s like a really weird version of Gone with the Wind with less things going on, yet a lot of words anyway. The Wolf and the Dove is more action-y with the time period, but it still has periods where you’re like WTF is up with this. You’ll either like TW&TD more or find it to be a long read – which I did. Still worth it for the genre history and its place as a favorite for people, but really not the best thing to read when you cringe at a rape scene in the first fifty pages.

    Speaking of which, is it just me, or does Woodiwiss love putting the cringe-worthy rape in the first fifty pages? Even if the rest of the book is fine, those fifty seem to have Teh Rape.

  26. Meoskop
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 10:52:13

    Wasn’t there some sort of sequel to TF&TF? I was always a The Wolf & The Dove girl in the Woodiwiss line, but I vaguely recall
    Heather popping up again. Maybe I’m confusing it with a Laurie McBain.

  27. Darlynne
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 11:04:29

    I enjoyed this review/discursive thought summary so much and I loved the book, way back in the day when it was first published: The dressing room scene where Heather and Brandon are trading insults, he accuses her of being mendacious (I had to look it up and, hey, Heather knows a big word!), her gold chain necklace smacks him in the face and they’re off.

    I could be embarrassed to admit how much of F&F my YA self memorized, but why waste the energy? Instead, I’ll wait to be really embarrassed if I pulled that scene from another book entirely.

    One thing to keep in mind when we look back at these books: this is all we/I had. The idea that we could read something so explicit (insert baffled, contemporary laughter here) was groundbreaking. Yes, the earth moved, for many of us. Certainly we recognized overwrought writing when it stabbed us in the eyes, but sweet jeebus, it was awesome then.

    I’ve not read them since, primarily because I don’t want The Wolf and the Dove to disintegrate before me (and what an outstanding cast of secondary characters that book had), but feel free to plow through (ha!) Shanna. Because any book that contains lines such as “when the scales of blindness were lifted from my eyes” deserves to be roasted.

    Thank you, AJH, I hope to see more of you, in a literary sense.

  28. Amy
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 11:05:41

    Great Review! This is why I don’t read older genre books. The rapey-ness of plots, the asshat heroes and virginal heroines are things that make me cringe. Unfortunately, although much of the genre has outgrown the previous three, much of the genre also features heroines who don’t have any female relations except for being enemies.

    As a side note, I’d suggest reading something published within the last year or so next.

  29. Lammie
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 11:16:20

    I read this book when it came out when I was about 14. I loved it and re-read it many times. Your review had me laughing out loud! I tried to read it again a few years ago and I found it a miserable experience. Was it because I was so young and inexperienced that I wasn’t bothered by the rape, and everything was ok because she was a virgin when he “deflowered” her and then married her? Maybe this book can only be really appreciated by a 14 year old, in the 1970s. As a 50 year old, it makes me wince.

  30. Valarie P
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 11:20:21

    I used to adore Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, and A Flame and the Flower was one of my favorites along with A Rose in Winter, and Ashes in the Wind, and I re-read, and re-read, and re-read those books back in the day. That said however, I haven’t read any of them in at least 20+ years because I just know in my heart they won’t hold up to my memories of them, and after reading your review, I now know EXACTLY why I have chosen to never re-read them.

    This was a fabulous post and makes me glad I haven’t re-read any of KEW’s books. I never want to throw them across the room and I know I would reading them today, as all of her heroes were complete tools, and yes, there was a lot of raping being done. As readers we would never forgive the hero for it in the books we read today but, back then we completely forgave him even if we didn’t like what he did. These books will stay in my “fond memory” pile never to see the light of day again.

  31. cleo
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 11:53:54

    Brandon can initially take what he wants, with no consequences, but eventually Heather is able to channel his desire down more socially and personally acceptable channels within the context of marriage. You could even go so far as to argue that Heather and Brandon reciprocally violate each other. Brandon, of course, literally, but then Heather (albeit inadvertently) blackmails him into marrying her, thus emasculating him and denying him the power of choice, just as he did when he raped her.

    This is really interesting. I’m tempted to say that this is why men should read and talk about romance, because that’s something I missed.

  32. theo
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 11:57:15

    Maybe at almost 60, that’s why I still love RIW though. There is no rape in the book. There is some pawing here and there, definitely not in the first 50 pages though the ‘thought’ is certainly there, but no rape. Erienne comes to her husband willingly though not for love at the time (hard to explain without giving things away) but I think that’s why I do still read it occasionally. Her husband actually respects her wishes, though it kills him, and waits for her timing. Of course, there’s a lot more and like I said, I haven’t read her others, but there isn’t a rape to be found in RIW. Rather refreshing for the time.

  33. Sandy James
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 12:22:11

    @Meoskop: The sequel was The Elusive Flame. It’s a good story, but a little over-the-top ending that’s right out of Home Alone.

  34. JoanneF
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 13:02:57

    I remember Shanna being excitedly being passed around by my part-time coworkers answering phones for Sears catalog when I was 16. It was my first really juicy romance after sneaking my mother’s Cartland’s, Hill’s, and Harlequins. After that I read every Woodiwiss book. My fave, by far, is “A Rose in Winter.” They certainly don’t age well though, and I’m glad the genre has evolved considerably from those days. However, for sheer WTF-ery, you can’t beat those old-skool bodice rippers, which can be fun on occasion. If you thought the hero of TF&TF was bad, try “Devil’s Embrace” by Catherine Coulter – the original, not revamped version. That hero’s (and everyone else’s) loins were totally out of control. He made Brandon look like a choirboy.

  35. SAO
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 13:11:25

    The review was hilarious. This was my least favorite Woodiwiss, and I barely remembered it until you refreshed my memory. I was okay with the rape because it wasn’t painful and was about as real to me as your dragons were to you, but the thing I couldn’t stand was the insta-pregnancy. No time to enjoy sex when you’re stuck with morning sickness! How can anyone call this fantasy or wish fulfillment?

  36. EGS
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 13:40:43

    I pretty much refuse to read any romances written between 1970-1990. Rape does not a romance make – ever.

  37. AJH
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 14:29:53

    @Dabney:

    My pleasure … I think :P

  38. AJH
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 14:32:50

    @Lil:

    I’m not sure what it is – a article not otherwise specified :) (ANOS) I really did enjoy writing it though, so I’m glad to have amused.

    I … err … I think NOT reading F&F is definitely the sane and healthy way forward.

  39. AJH
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 14:38:07

    @theo:

    Thank you :) I’m really glad to hear people enjoyed it. Although I found it, err, not so great I didn’t want to just barge into the genre being all ‘this is terrible, what is wrong with you’ :P I mean if you look at any genre there are always books like that, with very few redeeming features, that are nevertheless important. *cough* Conan *cough*

    I should probably take a look at Rose at Winter, since this clearly wasn’t the best introduction to Kathleen Woodwiss. I think we should probably spend some time apart first, though, to get some distance on each other ;)

    F&F kicks off (pre assaulted hut) with some truly execrable poetry which doesn’t help endear it either…

  40. Jen G.
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 15:23:25

    I picked this up at a used bookstore a couple of years ago and keep thinking I’m going to read it, since it is the book so many people cite as getting them to read romance. I think this review suffices. Hilarious! I look forward to reading future reviews by you!

  41. Catherine M
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 17:10:46

    This book was advertised as being full of towering passion when mostly it was full of tears, recriminations, sniping, and general pissiness.

  42. Jean Marie Ward
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 17:23:01

    ROFLOL I laughed so hard I scared the cat. Thank you, AJH, this review made my whole Friday.

  43. Kelly L.
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 17:36:47

    I’ve never read this one but I have read A Rose in Winter, and I distinctly remember Erienne getting almost-raped by pretty much every male in the story every five minutes, and not one but two scenes dwelling on how Erienne and the local mean girl looked almost exactly alike EXCEPT! Erienne was thinner but with bigger lady pillows.

  44. theo
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 17:51:54

    @Kelly L.: No, she was pawed a lot by the OLD men her father was trying to marry her off to in order to cover his debts, but that occurred at the beginning of the story. Yes, she’s actively pursued by the idiot land baron, but he never really gets his hands on her. And once she’s again threatened at an inn. But again, there is no rape and I guess I’m old enough to consider getting somewhat mauled a big difference to being ‘almost raped.’ For me, almost raped is the skirt around the head and the peen at the door and it never gets close to that once.

    But! That’s me and my ‘old’ ideas, so maybe the new way of looking at things is different.

  45. Charming
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 18:25:23

    Thanks for a hilarious review of a book I read avidly at 12, but was embarrassed by liking even then.

    Honestly, I would not recommend you read any more 70s bodice rippers, including Rose in Winter. You notice how everyone in this thread with anything good to say about F&F read it first as a teenager? There is a reason for that. You’ve done your duty in reading the most famous one, and now deserve to read much better books.

  46. AJH
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 19:34:41

    @Nina Lewis:

    I am so glad to hear you enjoyed reading – and that I made you laugh. Ms Woodiwiss made me laugh too – I just fear not always intentionally :)

    Also you get all the points in the world for the Blackadder quote – Heather is supremely, even superlatively soggy. I tried really hard to like her, since it seemed a bit unfair to hold not being annoyingly feisty against her, but I genuinely struggled – especially once she turned all Stepford in America.

    A few people have mentioned A Rose in Winter so I think I should probably have a look at this at some point, since it would be nice for me to have something genuinely (as opposed to squint sideways and try hard) positive to say about Woodiwiss.

    Also a hero called Rrrrrawwwwrk … can’t really do better than that :)

  47. Dabney
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 20:37:31

    @Charming: Well, I am a bit unsure why first liking something as a teenager means that still liking it as an adult implies poor judgement. Is that what you’re saying? For me, there are books I loved as a teen I now disavow. There are others, however, that still enchant me.

  48. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 20:55:36

    @Charming:

    Honestly, I would not recommend you read any more 70s bodice rippers, including Rose in Winter. You notice how everyone in this thread with anything good to say about F&F read it first as a teenager? There is a reason for that. You’ve done your duty in reading the most famous one, and now deserve to read much better books.

    Ah, bless yer precious little heart.

  49. Meoskop
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 22:14:52

    @SandyJames – thanks! I thought there was. This review took me back to the days of matching my nail polish to the cover of Ashes In The Wind, which right there is a why it’s called a misspent youth.

  50. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 08:53:25

    @mewofford:

    That is very sporting of you – I know it can often be a little disconcerting when you like something and somebody tramples all over it :)

    I feel I should probably try another Woodiwiss at some point – since several people have observed that her most famous is far from her best. But I should probably get some distance, and branch out a bit, and then come back. I think someone suggested A Rose in Winter? But I’m certainly happy to take a crack at The Wolf & The Dove.

    I am slightly wary about X & Y configurations though.

    The Pea & The Ironing Board!

  51. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 08:56:16

    @Lynnd:

    Oh, thank you :)

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a Merchant Ivory adaption of at least one Barbara Cartland novel – does that count? I even think it might have starred a very very young, very very rabbit-eyed Helena Bonham Carter!

    And I can remember nothing about it. Except the hero was worried about going insane which made him act like a loon and treat everyone badly. Good plan, Sir, good plan.

  52. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 08:57:20

    @Dabney:

    The few BC books I’ve laid eyes on have always looked to be about the same size and volume as your average Mr Man book…

  53. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 09:05:10

    @Ann:

    Awww, thank you :) Give me time, I’m sure I’ll start grating soon enough ;)

  54. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 09:06:29

    @Lisa:

    Thank you :)

    I feel very slightly guilty … but, no, I do not think I could honestly recommend F&F. I think if you read it at the right time you’d probably retain affection but … otherwise … it’s ‘a no from me, Simon’ ;)

  55. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 09:10:37

    @Marianne McA:

    Gosh, I shouldn’t spoiler my own review :P Haha. I did really like LoS actually – but then everything is coloured by context and I had just finished F&F so somebody could have come running up to me being all ‘hey, check out this dead cat in a bag’ and I might have been OH WOW.

    There were things I found difficult about it (*cough* Dain *cough*) – but there was also a lot I really really liked so I came out, on balance, on Side Yay.

  56. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 09:11:50

    @Isobel Carr:

    Welcome to my world ;)

    (In true romantic hero fashion I may never trust a woman again. ALL THEY WANT IS TO EAT YOUR HEART WITH THEIR FLOWERS!)

  57. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 09:14:42

    @Mom on the Run:

    I have books like that. I was talking a few comment threads back about the Dragon Lance series which I thought were like … yeesh … beyond the bee knees of awesome, like the whole bee, that’s how good I thought these things were.

    And then I tried to re-read them and there was CRINGE.

    They were so dreadful. And all I’d succeeded doing was ruining my own warm memories.

    So, yes, I definitely think there are some texts best valued as part of growing up, rather than dragged with you into adult life. It doesn’t reduce their value. In fact, it preserves it :)

  58. Karen
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 09:18:38

    @Darlynne: Yes, back in the 70’s, we were lucky to have maybe 5 romance novels a month to purchase and they were Avon books. Now there are 100’s of books to choose from. The Wolf & the Dove was/is my favorite.

  59. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 09:18:39

    @carmen webster buxton:

    Hee hee, thank you :) Maybe I should go work for Amazon ;)

  60. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 09:34:15

    @tangodiva:

    Wicked … Loving … Lies … has to be the LEAST ROMANTIC title I could imagine. What’s next?

    Wicked Loving Divorce?
    Mischievous Affectionate Infidelity?

  61. theo
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 09:42:35

    @AJH:

    Just so you know, I didn’t even read Woodiwiss until about 7 years ago which may be again why the only one I’ve enjoyed is RIW. The others…yeesh…

    Then again, I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s on Victoria Holt whom I also revisit from time to time but my expectations for them have changed over the years. Maybe if I’d read Woodiwiss at that time, I’d feel differently about RIW as well, but I don’t think so. However, I might have made it through her others then. ;o)

  62. Kate L
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 09:54:17

    @AJH you’ve expressed interest in continuing this long-look-back approach to reading romance, but I, for one, would love to hear your take on the Sylvia Day/Maya Banks romances and others deeply ensconced along side that hugely popular trio of books that-shall-not-be-named. If Woodiwiss represents a significant touchstone for that era, wouldn’t these books similarly have a certain significance to the 14-yr-olds of today, sneaking late-night reads of these authors?

    How have male leads and female leads changed (or not) since the romances of the 7os? How have the power dynamics and negotiations changed?

  63. yotaArmai
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 13:04:16

    Auto-defenestration roflcopterasaurus!

  64. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 18:27:42

    @Karenmc:

    Haha, my e-book version actually has a fairly sensible cover of a woman in a vaguely period red dress and cloak sitting on a totally non-period piece of garden furniture.

    My copy of LoS is an honest to good retro-tech paperback though and that … oh dear me. It’s incredibly pink and it depicts a shirtless man with a mullet lying on top of a woman in a skimpy white dress – who is either deceased or incredibly bored with whatever he’s doing to her.

    In either case, he really should have got off her…

  65. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 18:31:17

    @Violetta Vane:

    I have moved away from Clive Barker but I owe the fellow a debt of gratitude for writing the closest thing to a non-binary gendered character I’d ever encountered at that time in my life. Though sadly attempts to re-visit Imajica in later life have not gone well.

    I have no idea how I would have responded to F&F if I’d read it as a teenager.

  66. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 18:35:55

    @Lynn S.:

    So what you’re saying … Brandon believes that love is some kind of heart-based economic exchange … and basically he should have kept the receipt?

    Gosh, you’re right. I haven’t been doing the man justice. He’s clearly a profound thinker.

    ;)

  67. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 18:49:00

    @Sandy James:

    The second (and third) times Brandon just steamed cheerfully ahead with a bit of non-consensual action completely threw me, but I agree that’s definitely the objectively ‘worst’ of his behaviour. The rest of the time he’s just a bit of a twonk, and Heather is no better so I’d be quite happy to concede they make a perfect couple. Also ultimately there’s a massive gap between fiction and reality (wow … and this year’s Stating The Obvious Prize goes to the man in the fine fedora…) … I just mean that in fiction you have the luxury of being able to relax your moral standards and let go of ‘realism’ in the name of fantasy. And that all comes down to personal choices and personal contexts. So what I’m saying in a slightly incoherent way, is that I can totally see why you’d choose to forgive Brandon and get on with the book :) It’s just part and parcel of the suspension of disbelief I think – and has nothing to do with how you’d ‘really’ react to the same person / situation in real life.

    And now you mention it, Heather IS very like Bella. And Brandon has a touch of the Edwards.

    Just be careful your heart doesn’t get eaten while you’re keeping F&F in there ;)

  68. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 18:58:56

    @pamelia:

    I would never dispute the personal value of any book – there are tonnes of novels absolutely ensconced in my heart that I’m sure would be utterly problematic if I pulled them out (of my heart … whut?) and stuck them under a microscope instead.

    And, yes, I agree – it benefits a lot from context. It struck me as being pretty straightforwardly on a trajectory from The Sheik – which, again, (I think?) finds the liberty to express and explore the reality of female desire through fantasies of non-consent.

    However, I thought F&F was a little different from this because, noticeably, Heather does not really have wink-wink-nudge-nudge non-consensual sex with Brandon. He actually just rapes her. Three times. And when she does get to enjoy sex it’s ONLY within the context of being married.

    Again, just a few random ideas – I thought it was interesting. It may be way off base though :)

    I’ve had a few people suggest I should try A Rose In Winter – I guess it’s the least I can do after laying into F&F :)

  69. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 19:01:39

    @MarieC:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed :)

    And, oh no, do I have to? I think the Birmingham family and I would be best off parting ways ;) Also I cringe to imagine the Father-Son Talk. “Now, listen here, m’boy, there comes a time in a man’s life when you’ll want to do something to a woman and she’ll say no. Pay no attention. It’ll be fiiiine.”

    I also find it hilarious he’s called Birmingham… not exactly an edifying town to be named after :P

  70. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 19:06:30

    @Lynne Connolly:

    I think it counts. Please tell me it counts because I have to confess I skimmed some of the shopping and bathing – and if it doesn’t count then I’ll have to read the book again and I don’t wanna!

    I think I have vague memories of a friend of mine talking about Angelique but I can’t really remember anything specific.

    F&F is the first review/article/column/ramble I’ve written and Lord of Scoundrels is next but I’m compiling a list and I’ll certainly add The Windflower to it.

    (A cursory Googling tells me this has PIRATES in it. HOLD ME BACK!)

  71. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 19:09:04

    @Darlene Marshall:

    Nobody has suggested I read Whitney My Love – from what people have said, this seems like a good thing :)

    I will confess that, exhausted from all the virtual shopping, Heather’s wedding dress entirely passed me by :P

  72. AJH
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 19:20:09

    @John:

    Quality, I find, is often disconnected from enjoyment – and it’s entirely right that it should be :)

    I don’t know – I think you have to get out of racism bed pretty early in the day to be MORE racist than Gone With the Wind and yet F&F was right there :) And, despite being massively problematic, I do have a lot of really sheepish affection for GWTW so it’s not a comparison I’d make lightly – though I can see why, if I liked F&F more, I might make it :) Or, now I think about, maybe I only like GWTW because of the film, which is wonderful :)

    I’ve only read this one (so far … though people are suggesting I try A Rose In Winter) so I can’t really evaluate cringe-factor. Perhaps some kind of graph/page count graph is in order here ;)

    Perhaps poor Ms Woodiwiss was simply writing what she thought was expected of her, sitting at her desk, thinking sadly to herself: “Alas, I should really put another cringe-making rape scene in here… the publishers do insist…”

    Or … actually … maybe thinking about it more sensibly for a moment, perhaps it was a genuinely way of exploring sex and female desire as both disempowering and empowering, healthy and unhealthy.

  73. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 08:47:34

    @Meoskop:

    There have been mentions of a Birmingham Dynasty… but frankly I am taking this opportunity ruuuuuun away :)

  74. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 08:56:59

    @Darlynne:

    Thank you for the kind words :) And life is far too short to be embarrassed over what you liked as a teenager. Or for that matter what you like now. (I am passionately devoted to Gossip Girl, so there, but shhhh, don’t tell anyone).

    Y’know, Heather & Brandon fight so much over so many pointless things, that I genuinely cannot remember the gold necklace scene. That is not necessarily an indicator it’s not in this book, but I think I would have really enjoyed anything that involved Brandon getting smacked in the face.

    And I can imagine, actually, the impact it would have had in the day. I mean, we’re all sick of talking about 50 Shades of Argh but I genuinely think it’s doing something very similar for a 21st century audience. I remember over-hearing a couple of women talking about it in my workplace (I wasn’t creeping, they were just giggling very loudly) and I guess we just take things for granted when they’re familiar to us – but, from the way they were talking, it genuinely seemed as though it had never previously occurred to them that there were books out there, written for women, with high sexual content.

    At that stage the quality/content of the book becomes significantly less relevant than the impact it has on people.

    Scales of blindness lifted – heeee!

    And, yes, be very afraid, you aren’t getting rid of my easily :)

  75. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 08:59:59

    @Amy:

    Thank you, Amy :) Glad you enjoyed. My next book is Lord of Scoundrels, which is late 90s I think, but I’ve just read Angel’s Blood and I’m 16% of the way through Dragon Actually so I’m easing very slowly in the 21st century (in this … as in so many things :P).

    To be fair, I haven’t encountered many heroes with friends either – they maybe have one designated dudebro or actualbro. I wonder why that is? Is it to keep the relationship between hero and heroine centralised, do you think?

  76. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:09:20

    @Lammie:

    Thank you :) I’m so glad you enjoyed – writing the review-thingy and reading everyone’s comments has been a wonderful consolation for having read the book ;)

    To be briefly serious, I think there’s a kind of blessedness that comes from engaging in texts without the, hmm, empathy and fears of an adult… I’ll tell you a embarrassing story. I saw Finding Nemo in a cinema full of children and their attached adults, with my God-daughter, Kathryn, and my partner at the time – and, God, I *cried*. The opening sequence. I actually cried – grown man, in this cinema, weeping his heart out. But the sheer idea of it was beyond horrifying to me – I mean, losing your wife and all your little family EVEN IF YOU ARE A FISH?! And, looking up from shame-soggy tissue, I glanced round the cinema and none of those children gave a damn. They were all just ‘oooh fish!” Even Kathryn who is incredibly precocious (I’m biased, I’m allowed to be) was basically fine. And she was like: “what’s the matter with you, AJ you’re embarrassing me.”

    And I thought about this for ages – and finally I concluded that when you’re a child so much of children’s literature & etc. cheerily dispenses with parents that it’s kind of everyday for them. Also so few children really understand the depth and despair of grief (thank God) that they can take stuff like this in their stride. Whereas for an adult, the opening of Finding Nemo is beyond traumatic because you truly understand what it would mean and how it might feel.

    I do have a point. I promise. I think that, as a 14 year old, you’re in no real position to understand rape or what it means – even if you have a vague notion of the concept. So it’s entirely understandable that you’d basically just take as the book presents it: kind of unpleasant at the time but not really a big deal (Heather actually cracks a joke about it at one point, I was like ‘honey, you are so Stockholm!’)

  77. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:18:33

    @Valarie P:

    Thank you for the kind words – and I can genuinely see why and how the books would find a place in your heart. I have books like that, though mainly they are terrible fantasy novels, and I have learned – to my cost – that revisiting is rarely a good idea. Though it is wonderful when you watch or read something that has snuggly childhood/adolescent memories attached to it and discover it is still AWESOME (*coughs* Dogtanian *coughs*).

    Flames and flowers … ashes in the wind … for somebody who writes about love Ms Woodiwsis does have a peculiar fascination with the ephemeral. I thought The Flame & The Flower was peculiar enough, quite frankly. Um – those two things, do not go together. In fact, I once accidentally set a bowl of potpourri on fire at my Grandmother’s house and it was really not a good occasion. Especially not for the potpourri. Though my Grandmother wasn’t thrilled either.

    Also everything comes down to context – what’s textually forgivable and what isn’t comes down to what is the ‘norm’ at the time. And it sounds like… that kind of hero behaviour was pretty common in the romances of the 1970s.

  78. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:20:42

    @cleo:

    Thank you – I wasn’t sure it held up, to be honest. I was just desperately trying to find a perspective that read something out of the rape scene beyond ‘oh no, don’t do that, mate’. Though, now I think a bit more about it, Brandon does use a lot of … quite sexualised language when he’s talking about the marriage. I don’t have my copy on me but it’s something like ‘I don’t like being forced … it goes against my grain.’ So I think it’s probably arguable at the very least :)

  79. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:22:06

    @theo:

    Dear me … I think it’s saying something, y’know, when we’re describing NOT having non-consensual sex with the heroine as ‘refreshing’ ;)

  80. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:26:41

    @JoanneF:

    That really does remind me of the way the women in my workplace have responded to 50 Shades of Grey actually… Hopefully in 40 years time, somebody will be looking back on it and pointing out it has aged really badly :)

    Devil’s Embrace, eh? Well … I will add it to my list although somewhere near the bottom because I feel I should read something that people unabashedly like :) Also, I’m a bit tired of wankbucket heroes and I’ve only done two of them!

    Out of control loins, incidentally, looks hilarious in my head.

    (And I misread it, at first, as out of control of LIONS. And I was like, wait, this man has out of control lions and Joanne is presenting that as a bad thing..)

  81. Caro
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:28:00

    Thanks much for the review and the laughs, AJH.

    When I encountered F&F in my teens, I’d been an avid reader for years. I’d been thru the horse stage and the hobbit stage and the nancy drew stage. But when I got to F&F, then to Rosemary Rogers…well, I believe that’s when I woke up to the fact that there were books being written for women specifically. Books that actually described the dirty deed my mother could never bring herself to talk to me about. Books that were dramatic and emotional and all about the relationship between a man and a woman. I wasn’t a purist at that point and couldn’t be bothered with being indignant about rape. There were too many other amazing things about these books for a teenage girl.

    I won’t ever read Ashes in the Wind or the Wolf and the Dove or any of the other hundreds and hundreds of books I went thru when I found romance. But I will always remember them with fondness. They helped me grow up.

  82. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:28:44

    @SAO:

    Oh yes, the insta-pregnancy (just add rape and stir for five minutes) made me roll my eyes a bit. I put it down to Brandon being So Very Virile. He probably impregnates virgins just by walking past them.

  83. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:42:52

    @EGS:

    I can’t believe I’m about to write this but … I guess it’s a personal taste thing? I mean, romance is a big genre, there’s space for a lot of preferences in there – I guess the key there is choice, to either say ‘x is absolutely not acceptable to me’ or ‘I’m kind of okay about x but, please, drop the y’ :)

  84. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:45:55

    @Jen G.:

    I confess, I have significantly more fun with the review, reading the comments and talking to people than I got out of reading the book … so that’s probably for the best ;)

  85. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:46:41

    @Catherine M:

    *dies*

    You should write straplines!

  86. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:47:24

    @Jean Marie Ward:

    I’m not mad keen on cats so I feel my work here is done ;)

  87. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:48:20

    @Kelly L.:

    That’s how we know she’s a superior womanperson…

    Also please don’t say that, people are telling A Rose In Winter is better!

  88. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:51:05

    Charming:

    Bless you! And thank you. But it’s okay – on the horizon are Lord of Scoundrels (yay), Angel’s Blood (woot!) and Dragon Actually, all of which are MUCH MUCH better :)

    (There’s some kind of service medal for this, right? Reading F&F in the line of duty?)

  89. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 10:00:09

    @Kate L:

    Hehe, I feel like I’m doing my romance GCSEs :)

    “These novels have many themes…”

    I would certainly be interested in taking a look at Sylvia Day/Maya Banks – though, like I say, my attempt to read 50 Shades of Grey was not … err … a happy occasion :)

  90. AJH
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 10:04:38

    @Caro:

    Very much my pleasure :)

    And thank you for the comment – it’s always lovely to hear about people’s personal reactions to books, and the way they touch and change lives.

    And you can talk about problems and sillinesses until the cows come home but, ultimately, it’s the relationship between texts and inviduals that truly the important thing :)

  91. Lynn S.
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 13:15:50

    @AJH: Since she stole it, I doubt there were any receipts involved. Poor guy, I’ve heard that that Hearts to Let has always been a stickler for written proof.

  92. AJH
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 05:07:54

    @Lynn S.:

    Hee hee. So he should have insured his heart properly against theft by crazy wenches?

  93. Tina
    Feb 03, 2014 @ 19:55:47

    I think this book is great and there should be a movie.

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