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REVIEW: The Windflower by Laura London

Devon Knows How They Make It So Creamy – The Windflower

(Apologies if this title makes no sense to you – go here and be illuminated)

If The Windflower was a person, it would be this person:

MPDG

And, you know, what’s particularly excruciating about that?  Every instinct I possess was screaming at me to get the hell away from the manic pixie dream girl but, God help me, I kind of somehow ended up liking the damn book.  Not liking it would have felt like spitting in the eye of a kitten.

The heroine of The Windflower is, I shit you not, one Merry Wilding (yes, that is actually her actual name, but I personally prefer to think of her as Rainbow Sparkles). She’s a sheltered, gentle-hearted eighteen year old who initially possesses that grossly overrate,d and previously discussed, superpower of making all men everywhere instantly want to rape her. However, like a particularly deadly Pokémon, she quickly evolves the far more effective ability of making all men everywhere instantly want to protect her.  Even ships full of hardened, ruthless pirates.  Because that’s just how superlatively wuvely she is.

The Windflower by Laura LondonI honestly had no idea how to respond to her. With all my heart, I wanted to hate her but it just wasn’t worth the effort. It would have felt like hating candyfloss (this may be a theme).  Even though she does stuff like this:

[Merry] snatched up the silver-seeded head of a thistle.  She held it before her, flourished a hand over it, and said in an important voice, “This, my dear, brother is a crystal ball.” (p. 15)

Oh God, I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

To be briefly serious, Rainbow was, in some ways, not completely uninteresting, though whimsical innocence rings a bit one-note as a personality goes (although, let’s be fair here, definitely an advancement on Good Hair).  She starts the novel in one place, literally and figuratively, and ends it in quite another, and I felt there was a genuine sense of development there.  It was intriguing to watch the lessons about virtue and femininity taught to a gently-raised young woman collide with the harsh truths and realities of life – and I think it’s just about arguable that Rainbow manages to adapt and grow and, eventually, thrive without sacrificing too much of herself or her ideals.

She is, however, very young when the novel opens and, frankly, acts it – partly due to upbringing, partly due to historical period and partly, I uncharitably suspect, because the authors find her just darling. But considering she is presented, and seen by pretty much everyone, as a sexual object I found it personally unappealing. I’m honestly not that into eighteen year olds in general (nothing against them, by the way, it’s just, given I am not eighteen, it’s on the borderline of not okay) but eighteen year olds who act like they’re fourteen?  Eeew, no, I’ll leave that to Humbert Humbert. But I do recognise The Windflower is essentially a bildungsroman for Rainbow, and the novel makes it quite explicit that the book shows us only one segment of a much greater arc:

At age eighteen Merry Wilding was not so talented. Most men would have been happy to stare at her by the hour; only the kind ones would be equally content to listen to her talk; that would come later in life.

Maybe I’m letting the side down, but I genuinely can’t imagine a situation in which I’d be happy to spend hours ogling a woman if I wasn’t also happy to talk to her. It’d be creepy for her and boring as hell for me.  That said, I think I kinda liked this little paragraph. One of the (probably quite obvious) ideas I am coming slowly towards is that the romance we see on the page has to function successfully as microcosmic representation of a potential lifetime in order to make the HEA plausible to me.  I think The Windflower has been the only book I’ve read so far to address that idea directly. But, then again, I’m not entirely sure whether that’s really a good thing. I mean most of the romances I’ve particularly enjoyed have addressed the same concept indirectly by, y’know, presenting characters in whose on-going happiness I was able to believe. But, given the massive disparity in power and experience between the hero and heroine in The Windflower, I appreciated this acknowledgement of future growth.

Of course, it does also mean that we’re stuck with Rainbow at a time in her life when even the book admits her only remotely redeeming quality is that she’s easy on the eye. And, uh, I don’t know quite what to make of that. She spends most of her time being vulnerable, threatened and literally naked – and I was quite confused about how I was supposed to be responding to her. Under no circumstances did I want to be her, or be in her position, and she’s so desperately fragile and out of her depth that trying to fancy her felt borderline immoral (even on top of the “you are basically a child” thing).  There were so many loving descriptions of her bare, shivering flesh and her delicate blue-veined eyelids that I felt I was kind of being invited to get off on her helplessness but, uh, no thanks.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d normally be extremely enthusiastic about getting off on someone’s helplessness (um … that sounds bad) but this just felt icky to me. It’s not even about consent (wow … that sounds bad too) it’s about the way her genuine distress is sexualised by the narrative and the way that pity for her plight is always tinged with titillation.  I can entirely see why being, ahem, brutally captured by very clean, sophisticated and attractive pirates would be anybody’s fantasy but if that is the fantasy being explored here, I personally found the very real threat of gang rape a bit of a mood killer.  Threats to Rainbow are, with the exception of the hero, clearly meant to be taken seriously but, at the same time, she is so very much presented an object of desire, even and, perhaps, especially, in extremis, that it just left me in a hopeless mire of who is this for, and I was completely unable to find a comfortable space of identification.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about the hero. I think my reactions to this aspect of the book are probably best described in dialogue:

Me: Okay, Windflower, you’ve lumbered me with a whimsical 18 year old with breasts instead of a personality, I kind of need you to work with me now.

Book: ”He was tall enough to have to stoop as he entered and he had black, heavy-lidded, deep-set eyes … intense and sleepy at the same time.  The face was impassive … with heavy cheekbones and a broad brow … His long hair was midnight black, thick and unruly … and the same hue as his silk shirt.”

Me: OMFG, Windflower, maybe we can be friends after all.  I just love a man who chooses his shirts to match his hair.

Book: Hee! Sparkle! I’m just teasing you, he’s not the hero.

Me: Oh, right. Bugger.  Well, fine, if you can squander that on a secondary character, I can’t wait to see what you can do with the hero. What have you got for me, Windflower?

Book: ”The younger of two [had] nothing of youth in his coldly Scandinavian face, with hard, milk-blue eyes and lips that looked as though they had never known a smile. His hair was dead straight, almost white … and so long that it touched his hips … Merry saw pale stripes on the … skin of his naked back that she shudderingly realised had been inflicted with a whip.”

Me: Okay, pederasty not my thing, but since Merry is, like, 12 I guess I can go with this tigerish, deliciously abused young man.  Come on Windflower, let’s dance this dance.

Book: Hee! Sparkle!  He’s not the hero either, doofus.

Me: You’re kind of worrying me now, Windflower.  If Johnny Depp isn’t the hero, and Jailbait Sephiroth isn’t the hero either, who does that leave?

Book: A twonk called Devon! Yay!

Me:

Devon

Okay, look, to be fair to Devoncakes, he’s not that bad. He’s not devoid of self-irony, and full of cute, wry observations about why it’s not good practice to rape women when they’re suffering from seasickness, and he actually goes around  dressed like he’s a pirate at a fancy dress party, which I personally found hilarious and endearing:

Hips down, he was encased in denim trousers that revealed more  of his lean musculature than Merry knew was good for her to see. Hips up, he was bare, discounting an open leather vest… (p. 202)

He’s also got an impressive line in sexytalk:

“Devon, what do you mean to do?”

Cradling her in his arms, his mouth on the hollow below her ear, he said, “Fill you with honey, love.” (P. 176)

I’m assuming what he means by “honey” in this context is … his dick.

Actually, since we’re on the subject of Devon’s, err, honey, The Windflower has some of the most bewilderingly written, err, erotic scenes I think I’ve ever read.  I know I keep saying I don’t like to pick things apart at the sentence level and I’ve proceeded to do precisely that two weeks in a row but …

Under the press of his body, Merry ached in colors … she tingled every hue in the prism.  The world was a collection of sweet and vivid light beams, and she was one of them, and mindless, a spinning miscellany of liquid cells. (p. 155)

You what?  Look, I’m not really criticising here, I have no idea how it would feel to be kissed senseless against my will by a lavishly beautiful pirate dude (though feel free to apply at this address) but what does any of this mean? What is a spinning miscellany of liquid cells? And what has that got to do with the sweet and vivid light beams?  And the tingling prism? Is that a euphemism for what Anna Steele prefers to call merely down there?  Oh, come back Brandon Birmingham and your carnivorous purple flowers, your internal coherence is greatly missed.

Anyway, I think I could have handled Devoncakes better (oooh la la) if the book hadn’t been in such a wild tizzy to convince me he was a deep and complex man, as opposed to the vacuous underwear model he so clearly is.  The amazing intricacies of Devon’s character are constantly exposited but never actually demonstrated, unless you count his wavering commitment to raping the heroine.  To Devon’s credit, he manages to restrain himself on this score but I honestly found the attitude to, well, rape a bit odd.  It seems so perpetually imminent – like an asthma attack or something.  There are multiple occasions on which Devoncakes nobly summons other people to take Rainbow out of his vicinity in order to prevent him having non-consensual sex with her.  But is … is it really that difficult?  Does it actually require third party intervention?  I mean, I know I’m not stranded on a pirate ship, and I know pirates are not renowned for their polite ways and moral rectitude, but it seems to be less of an ethical qualm for Devon than the fact he’s genuinely unable to control his manly raping urge.  That just confuses the heck out of me. Raping someone is not a natural progression from fancying them. It’s not even on the same trajectory.

His attitude to Rainbow is, in general, a bit strange.  The book has already established that, at this stage in her life, the girl has some breasts and that’s pretty much it, so it was slightly hard for me to understand why an apparently subtle and complicated man like Devon would go from wanting to rape her to being deeply in love.  To be honest, I couldn’t really see why he wanted to rape her either.  I’d have thrown her overboard. All right, all right, I’m being unfair here to both of them. Rainbow is not quite that hopeless and they do have a sort of Catherine Morland / Henry Tilney dynamic going on, which I can see is not without its charms. But, personally, I’ve always hated that sort of experience versus innocence, corruption versus purity, intelligence versus sweetness thang.  Of course, Northanger Abbey is an ironic deconstruction of those ideas, but The Windflower is just a portrayal, and reinforcement, of them.  I do understand why it might be someone else’s fantasy, it’s just totally not mine. I kind of feel romantic partners are not cheeses, you shouldn’t have to put them aside until they mature properly to be worth, um, eating.

Plotwise, The Windflower has some relatively complicated stuff going on, set vaguely against the backdrop of the Second War of Independence. Rainbow, who has already entangled herself with the colonists’ cause, ends up being randomly captured by pirates from the cabin of a dude against whom Devoncakes  just happens to have a personal vendetta. Then everything becomes about Merry: she makes a few infuriatingly inept escape attempts, most of which result in her looking vulnerable and being naked, eventually gets stranded on a desert island, then she gets Malaria and it eventually transpires that she was being taken to England in the first place in order to marry some Duke who is none other than … Devon. I call deus ex bullshit. And, frankly, that’s all I can be bothered to say about Rainbow and Devoncakes because they are pretty much the least interesting bit of The Windflower.

My response to this book somewhat confuses me. I was quite frustrated by it a lot of the time, often laughing at it, which is never a good sign, and pretty much permanently poised on the brink of throwing it out the window. But I never did. Truthfully, I laughed with it, just as much as I laughed at it and, even though it drove me crazy, there’s no denying I was completely invested in it. Despite the fact The Windflower is, frankly, batshit to say nothing of absolutely covered in kittens and sparkles and rape, it’s also kind of … weirdly harmless. Even charming. It’s written with such a genuine sense of delight, it’s hard not to feel delighted back.  Not enjoying this book was … just beyond me, somehow, so I gave up and went with it, and let my tingling cells dissolve into a spinning liquid miscellany of being quite entertained.

And then there was Cat, who stole the book and – uh – kind of my heart as well. I’m starting to vaguely understand why people write fanfic because I think perhaps one reason I couldn’t warm to Rainbow or Devoncakes was because I was desperately trying to read another book, which may or may not have been The Kinky Pirate Adventures of Johnny Depp and Jailbait Sephiroth. Also, even though Rainbow is an oblivious little muffin most of the time anyway, she’s particularly oblivious and muffin-like when it comes to Cat, so I couldn’t quite forgive her.  Rand Morgan delivers her into Cat’s care when she’s first taken aboard and he spends the whole book basically running himself ragged over her – trying to stop Devoncakes raping her, curing her malaria, trying to educate her into the business of Having A Fucking Clue For God’s Sake. And she basically doesn’t notice. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely did not want to Rainbow to end up with Cat (get away from her, Cat, she’s whimsical with dandelions) and it’s clear he loves her (rather than being in love with her) but there’s a particularly grim scene where she incites him to kiss her because Devon has left her all of a fluster. Yes, Merry, good plan, great plan. Make the sexually abused ex-prostitute, adolescent pirate boy kiss you. Please don’t do that.  I think I hate you now.

I was, in general, pretty pissed off by the way The Windflower treated Cat, though I think this fed into larger problems with the portrayal of Rand Morgan.  I found Rand’s character a bit difficult because, on the page, he’s wildly hot and fascinating, but his general behaviour seems to reflect ideas about personal growth and wellbeing that I find so utterly obnoxious and infuriating it makes me want to eat my own toenails.  I know he was meant to be a strange, manipulative character, but he came across like some kind of reverse Iago: motiveless benevolence. Essentially he controls most of the action of the book, for what turn out to be obscurely compassionate reasons, but he basically brings about happy endings by Taking People Out of Their Comfort Zone. The book even ends with him going off to find some other kid to do similar shit to. Oh, it makes me so angry. I loathe people like that.  I’m sure Rand is meant to be a morally ambiguous figure, as he’s genuinely frightening and alludes often to all the rapin’ he’s done in the past, but I also think we’re genuinely meant to buy into the idea that, in his mysterious way, he’s a force for good. Sorry, but if you genuinely believe the best way to help someone else is to strip them of agency and play cheap psychological games with them, you’re not morally good, or morally evil, you’re just a wanker. And that does not make for an engaging character.

I didn’t mind him toying about with Rainbow and Devoncakes because I didn’t give a toss about them, but his treatment of Cat made me want to climb the walls. Again, there are times when the book seems fairly clear that Rand’s behaviour is  a steaming pile of not okay (like when he makes Cat feel its his fault if Rainbow dies of her stupid malaria) but since Cat ends up in a relatively happy place at the end of the novel, and is clearly somewhat functional in ways he wasn’t when Rand found him, I was left with the sense that The Windflower was overall in favour of sexually abused adolescents being ruthlessly forced to feel things at the whim of someone else, rather than being permitted to come to terms with their experiences and emotions in their own goddamn time, in their way own goddamn way.

Also I felt the portrayal of Rand was just kind of cowardly across the board. The man runs a ship largely crewed by hot dudes and is so clearly bisexual, yet The Windflower kept doing the hokey-cokey on this one, approaching the bisexual event horizon and then freaking out about it. I know you probably weren’t allowed bisexuals in the 1980s but I’d rather not be teased with them. Either have the courage of your bisexual convictions, or stop pissing about.  And I know this probably seems a bit inconsistent, as I’ve already said Rand is a wanker, so the B Team probably would want him anyway, but I’ll take hot, morally dubious, slightly wankerish bisexual over all the other fat, evil bisexuals I’ve met in this genre so far. I was similarly irritated that his complicated, messy, incredibly dodgy and yet oddly affectionate relationship with Cat was later revealed to be, to a degree, a fiction invented for the boy’s protection.  Oh come on, Windflower, for God’s sake, just own it: they’re blatantly having wickedly hot, borderline abusive sex all the damn time. I don’t have to see it on the page but don’t run away from it screaming.

Something I did, like, however was the fact that Cat’s happy ending was more of a beginning really. He unites with his family and they send him off to Oxford and into his future.  One of the … problems isn’t quite the right word here … but difficult things about the conventions of the romance genre, as I have seen them in action, is the way  love takes primacy over absolutely everything else.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, these books are romances after all, love is simply the chosen focus (like dragons in fantasy, or galactic politics in sci-fi). It is the journey, it is the end of the journey, it is the reward and the solution. But, of course, there are some situations where love is not, and cannot, and should not, be the outcome for a particular character – Cat, being one such, where even thinking in terms of ‘solutions’ is  deeply wrong. Emotionally, however, it was a little bit difficult to come to terms with because, as I’ve grown accustomed to reading romances, I’ve also accepted the idea that – in these books – love is always the best possible ending for anybody. However, putting that aside, I found it unexpectedly pleasing and affirming that The Windflower does not turn from the possibility that HEA can, and should, mean different things for different people.

Everything I learned about life & love from reading The Windflower: I may be a pederast. Pirate captains should concentrate on plundering not psychology. Men get moral virtue points for not raping women. Unicorns are symbols of overwhelming virility. And so are rutabagas.

41 Comments

  1. Kati
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 12:25:55

    *beady eyes* Don’t you disparage my Rand Morgan. He is awesome (even if he is a terrible human being).

    No really…as it says in my bio here at Dear Author, The Windflower is my all time favorite romance. And yes, yes, everything you said above is true. And yet, each and every time I read it, I’m carried away. It might be sentimentality, it might be questionable taste, it might be that I’ve been reading romance for so long. But this book works for me on every single level.

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  2. Anne
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 12:27:11

    Wow. um…just…wow.
    That sounds horrifying. I am so sorry you had to go through the experience of reading that. Was that one of the RECOMMENDED books on your Giant List of Awesome? Because, um… wow.
    What’s on the roster for next week?

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  3. Jane Davitt
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 12:27:40

    I was introduced to this book about eight years ago on LJ and instantly tracked down a paperback because I was promised the most deliciously hot slashy goodness imaginable with Rand and Cat and OMG, yes. I seem to remember reading an article with the authors (Sharon and Tom Curtis) denying the Rand/Cat relationship existed but the scene I remember most from the book was Cat sitting naked in Rand’s cabin slowly brushing his long hair and it existed for me, heh.

    Now I’m heading to my library to dig out my copy.

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  4. Dabney
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 12:40:26

    @Anne: Better you than me. I didn’t like that book back when I liked that sort of book. I hated Merry.

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  5. KarenF
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 12:41:30

    It’s been 20+ years since I’ve read the Windflower (owing to my copy disappearing in a move and not being able to locate another copy), but I remember loving it and reading it over and over at the time. No idea if I would feel the same way now.

    But even after all these years, it’s Cat who stands out as my favorite character, and I always wondered how he was doing after the book ended.

    And Zooey D is totally the Merry character. If I ever do read the book again, I know she’ll be in my head.

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  6. theo
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 12:52:13

    The conversation between you and the book was laughable though I was able to keep from laughing, but the picture of the turtle is where I lost it. I really was trying to read this quietly at work, but the turtle did me in.

    I’ve never read this. I don’t want to ever read it now. But your review was once again, total entertainment! Thank you once again and I’m so looking forward to next weeks. You are my Friday highlight :)

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  7. Janine
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 12:59:09

    I couldn’t finish this book. I think I quit around the point when Merry got into a boat and sailed away to get the hell away from Devon. Sher read like a sixteen year old, not an eighteen year old, to me, though perhaps your fourteen is more accurate. And Devon read older than he was, too. I agree there was a Humbert Humbert vibe going there.

    Also, the stalking. That was tough for me. To be honest I recall thinking that I would have rather Devon raped Merry, rather than just kept prowling around her and stalking her like a cheetah playing with a cute rodent (say chipmunk). That would have at least snapped her out of whatever spell he had her under. Maybe she would have grown up some, and then I would have been reading a book about two adults.

    I did like Cat best (he was the only character I liked) and I wanted him with Merry if only so that she could be with someone her own age. This book was all kinds of wacky and bad, but I liked the Curtises’ other book (pubbed under their real names, Tom and Sharon Curtis), Sunshine and Shadow.

    Also, if you want to read a book with a better male former child prostitute in it, and one where he is actually a lead character, I recommend Laura Kinsale’s The Shadow and the Star.

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  8. Blossom
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 13:09:22

    I couldn’t stand the hero but I loved Cat. I thought Merrie and Cat should have wound up together. The hero was too much in the background for me to connect to him. The romance between the h/h just wasn’t believable enough. If it hadn’t been for Cat and Raven the book would have been a DNF for me. I just had to keep reading to find out what happened to Cat so I did finish the book.

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  9. Karenmc
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 13:11:22

    Indignant turtle: highlight of a long week for me.

    I’ve never found a copy of The Windflower, so haven’t read it; perhaps now I don’t want to. It seems to be a holy relic to a lot of readers, but after your review, other books in my TBR mountain look more promising. Thanks for taking one for the team.

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  10. Isobel Carr
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 13:12:18

    “Deus ex bullshit” is my new favorite term. Don’t even try to stop me from appropriating it.

    I would clearly never survive the fancy dress costume aspect of this novel. Every single clothing description left me guffawing in disbelief.

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  11. AJH
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 13:29:53

    @Kati:

    Look, I was fine with Morgan as an amoral, raping, pillaging, abusive, manipulative pederast. I liked him then. ;)

    But when I was told he was supposed to be a genuinely good guy who helped people, and should be encourage to unleash himself on other vulnerable young people, I lost it.

    I know I’ve snarked a fair bit here (I thought it was harmless since, y’know, the book is nearly 30 years old) but I did actually enjoy reading it, and I don’t feel bad about it in the slightest. I mean I question my taste … but I don’t feel bad about it :) It’s honestly exuberant and harmless, and I haven’t laughed so hard in a while, but at the book and with it. There’s a lot here that I found deeply problematic but I don’t think it actually impinged upon my pleasure. In some weird it almost … contributed to it? Like you’d be “oh Devoncakes has been at the rape juice again” and it’d seem … endearing somehow?

    So thank you for the rec – it was quite a ride.

    @Anne:

    Oh no, my tone has let me down. I was going for amused affection rather than active horror. I mean, yes, there’s lots wrong with this book and it’s undeniably Of Its Time, but there’s lots of wit and charm and enthusiasm here. And it’s a lavish smorgasbord of hot pirate dudes, which you have to admire.

    Also it’s just plain fun. Occasionally in a “oh that’s not right” way, but still :)

    I have no regrets!

    @Jane Davitt:

    I loved that scene, I thought it was so messed up and intimate and tender at the same time. It was very much the centrepiece of the entirely different book I was reading in my head.

    I don’t have much slash-sense usually but … Cat and Rand were just so clearly at it, it annoyed me that the book kept trying to pretend they weren’t. I mean, I didn’t need to see them having semi-dodgy dudesex but getting all moralistic about it struck me as weirdly hypocritical when Rand wanders around going “oh yes, I rape all the people, all the time.”

    Ohhh, the other thing I loved about Cat was the way the book tells you what his hair is like literally every time he comes on page. It’s almost up there with Wrath’s erection as a character in its own right.

    @KarenF:

    I suspect it’s one of those books that would retain its place in your heart if you read it at the right time. Yes, you can look at it with adult eyes (well, semi-adult eyes) and see a bunch of … really dubious stuff … but at the same time it’s just so charming, and breathless, and happy about itself. And there’s pirates, and adventures, and so much dude-kandy.

    Cat is heartbreaking and just kind of lovely – I was so caught up in him, I think it made me slightly impatient with the rest of the book. I was actually really happy with his arc. I liked that they didn’t so much end his story, as set him free. And I like to imagine him terrorising Oxford and eventually falling for some gentle scholar type, and being happy and savage amid the willows and golden spires.

    Aaaand that’s enough of my fantasies.

    @theo:

    That picture of the turtle, in general, cracks me up – I feel this crushing sense of guilt and shame just looking at it. It’s like it’s saying “you let me down, you let the romance genre down, but most of all you let yourself down.”

    I feel slightly bad about my snark because – even though there’s lots that’s just troublesome and awkward about the book – it’s genuinely really charming too. And I had a lot of fun reading it, and not solely in an alienated, laughing-at way. It’s engaging and funny, but, yes, very much of its time. And I guess it’s one of those things where you could say “well, yes, I could read this problematic book from 80s” or I could read something written last year that’s just as funny and engaging and doesn’t have all the issues.

    And thank you for the kind words – I’m glad you’re enjoying the reviews.

    @Janine:

    Is that the time she nearly drowns, the time she gets stranded on a desert island or the time she gets malaria :P She gets on a boat to get the hell away from Devoncakes pretty consistently, and also consistently incompetently. Also she is usually wet or naked when he comes to rescue her from her escape attempt.

    I might have exaggerated the Lolita vibe, but I was just quite prepared for the intensely virginised heroine and the intensely … uh … superior hero. And the book does go to a lot of trouble to try and convince that this will balance out in the long run, as Merry grows up, and I appreciate the effort, and obviously I’m not making generalised judgements about age disparity in relationships, but there’s something about the way they’re both presented that makes Merry seem very very young indeed. And since there’s seems to be a lot of innocence fetishisation going on as well, it all added up to a big pile of ick for me.

    You know, Cat makes exactly the same complaint in the final third of the book – he points out that if Devon had just got on with raping Merry, it wouldn’t have become this enormous deal, and she would have been able to get on with her life. And, again, not to make generalised comments about sexual abuse, but by that stage in the book – within that specific fictional context – I was like “Cat, I totally agree with you, you are so the best character in this whole thing.” And, God, it says something about The Windflower that we’re even discussing this. Obviously I don’t think, um, that should have happened to Merry – but the way the book structured itself around the rape/non-rape of Merry made it difficult to think about anything else. A bit like Clarissa.

    Cat was great – I can’t decide if that ruined or saved the book for me, really. I loved reading about him, but at the same time, he made me impatient and frustrated with everything else.

    And The Shadow & The Star is … breathtakingly good.

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  12. leslie
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 13:43:03

    OMFG! This book sounds horrific! I will not be reading the saga of Rainbow Sparkles, but I am very happy to have read your review.

    The sea turtle is priceless……thank you thank you…..I love these laughing Fridays!

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  13. Janine
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 13:47:30

    @AJH: I think it was the first time she sailed away — almost drowned if memory serves. It’s been over a decade since I read that part of the book. I wish I’d made it far enough to hear Cat share my opinion! But actually I really don’t. The Windflower was also very long and rather slow.

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  14. Tamar
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 13:54:15

    I was all of 21 when I first read this back in 1984 when it came out and absolutely loved it and it’s still an ocassional reread for me. But, my prayers were never answered for Cat to get his own book.

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  15. Tanya
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 14:11:07

    @Janine gives all the reasons I DNF this. After I found it for a dime at a UBS, I saved it for years. Then, when I tried to read it I hit a brick wall. And so, I sold it off for a nice chunk on half.com when I was unemployed. In the end, I thank “The Windflower” for helping me to eat that particular week.

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  16. Elyse
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 14:27:50

    This is the funniest review ever. I literally have tears in my eyes.

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  17. Janine
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 14:42:18

    @Tanya: If it helped feed you, then that’s worthwhile. Maybe I’ll try to dislike it a little less…

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  18. Lada
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 14:51:55

    LOL…indignant sea turtle was one of this weeks highlights! Also, the Zooey D heroine (as cute as she may be) is one I will be avoiding at all costs!

    I ended up reading The Windflower after loving the short story The Natural Child by Sharon and Tom Curtis. The book was almost a DNF for me and felt very dated by the time I read it and that was years ago. When I start wishing harm to someone who could easily have been named Rainbow Sparkles, I know that books isn’t for me.

    While the heroine of The Natural Child was also young and virginal and typically the kind of heroine I loathe, she didn’t grow up sheltered given that she was her aristocratic mother’s bastard and her mother was a progressive single parent. And I think the Curtis’ exuberant writing style may be easier to take in 98 pages. I’m pretty sure this story (in the anthology When You Wish ) is the last thing the Curtis’ ever published. At this point I’m sure you’d rather avoid anything by this author for a good long while but it’s worth checking out. Also worth reading in that anthology is the wonderful story by Elizabeth Elliot called Bewitched which is the only time I’ve ever run into a hero discovering a missing hymen and accepting it was because the heroine rode horses and not because she was obviously secretly a slut.

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  19. jmc
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 14:52:15

    After hearing raves about this book FOR YEARS, I paid a ridiculous amount for a used copy.

    After reading about half of it, I wanted my money and time back and enough bleach to erase the book from my memory. DNF. I’m not sure if I gave the book away or threw it away.

    Thanks for sharing the very funny review though :)

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  20. Angelia Sparrow
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 15:29:55

    This was one of my favorites when I was about 18…
    And yes, this “I was desperately trying to read another book, which may or may not have been The Kinky Pirate Adventures of Johnny Depp and Jailbait Sephiroth.” So much yes. One of my first ventures into sexy bisexuality and a formative incident in my own bisexuality.

    For me it was the wine sex scene that just SENT me. I fantasized about that. I fantasized about a man sexy enough to paint me with wine everywhere, lick it off, and then drink the wine he’d been dipping his fingers into. GUH!

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  21. Mary
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 15:33:15

    I have wanted to read this book for years after seeing it on all the best romance lists and because I read a short story in an anthology by the authors that I liked (I think the anthology was called When YouWish or something). But uhh now I’m a little uncertain about this because on one hand it sounds absolutely fabulous and on the other it sounds…infuriating.
    Also the heroine in the short story I read sounds kind of similar to the heroine in this one? Maybe?

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  22. Joy
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 15:50:16

    Oh, the turtle!! The everything, actually. I can’t even. Reading this review has been the highlight of my week. I keep going back to my favorite parts and laughing just as much every time I read them. Thanks for writing this fantastic review.

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  23. Little Red
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 16:17:04

    LOVE the turtle! And I’m inclined to agree with his/your assessment so I will be avoiding this book.

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  24. Ani Gonzalez
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 17:04:36

    I love, love, love The Windflower. It’s crazy, quirky and adorable (and, yes, Zooey Deschanel is perfect as Merry Wilding). The characters were vivid and the language was over-the-top in a Gilmore Girls logorrhea type of way. It makes you feel like the authors had a really good time writing it. It really is a wonderful book.

    I’m still waiting for the Cat book though.

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  25. Jennie
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 17:49:27

    I will cop to having read this and loved it back in the day. Maybe 20 years ago? (God, I’m old.) Sure, the power differential is squicky, and Merry is basically a Pomeranian, but you have to remember that so many romances back then featured big age differences, big power differentials, and heroines who were basically one step above a ficus in terms of brainpower.

    What made this book different, at least in my memory, was the charming writing style and the vivid secondary characters. Sure, Merry was a dodo, but she actually was, to me at least, a charming dodo. And I have always had a weakness for melodrama and sturm und drang, and the malaria and the escapes played into that.

    I do kind of wonder if I’d be able to read it today without throwing it against a wall.

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  26. Ducky
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 19:37:20

    This is one of the books people wanted me to read when I started reading romances and reading it certainly was quite the experience. I made it work for me by seeing everything to do with the twee heroine and her hero as a romance satire. What I love about the book is the Cat character – I always wanted a book about him and darn it! the Curtises/Laura London never wrote it.

    My favorite Curtis romance is “Lightning That Lingers” which is a category romance about an owl loving male stripper and the shy librarian he falls for – awesome book!

    Thank you for another great review!

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  27. msaggie
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 20:00:09

    AJH, thanks for another spot-on review – as I am in Australia, your reviews make good Saturday breakfast reading for me. Your opinions on The Windflower resonate with me – and in fact, a few years ago I did post about why I didn’t like this book on one of the AAR forums (link here) – http://likesbooks.com/boards/viewtopic.php?t=3359 – I thought I might have enjoyed it more if I had read it as a teenager. Many people who loved it read it when they were much younger. Pirate kidnap stories were the vogue for a while (I remember I really liked Rosemary Rogers’ Wicked Loving Lies, but haven’t re-read it in over 20 years, so don’t know if the older me will still like it so much!) I think one has to go for the ride on The Windflower, and forget about how annoying Merry and Devon are, or how some of the plotlines are really implausible. The secondary characters were much more interesting, but Cat’s long blonde hair swinging about really irked me (I kept thinking it would hamper any real-life fighting)

    And I note you liked Laura Kinsale’s The Shadow and the Star – will we be getting a review of that? (It’s one of my favourite books)

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  28. JAT
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 20:50:31

    Hey, isn’t that the turtle from this committee of disapproving animals?

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  29. JenM
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 22:17:46

    It’s been a long time since I’ve read this book. Not to date myself, but let’s just say I read it when it was first released. I think that in order to understand why so many of us have a powerful love for this book, you have to keep in mind that rape, or some kind of forced seduction was present in many of the romances we read, unless they were either category romances, or ones by Barbara Cartland or Georgette Heyer. Also, there was almost always a pretty significant power imbalance between the hero and the heroine in just about every romance. Therefore, I think we were kind of desensitized to those things.

    For me, the fact that Devon DIDN’T actually rape Merry even though he was constantly threatening to was kind of a big deal and was one reason I loved the book and thought at the time that it was terribly romantic. In addition, I well remember how sparkling and exuberant this book was. That was pretty representative of Sharon and Tom Curtis’s writing style. The excerpt you included above from the love scene just made me smile because it was so representative of them. I recently reread Lightning That Lingers (rereleased a year ago or so by Loveswept), and it’s still one of my favorite romances ever. Anyway, I’m glad you were able to enjoy the book, in spite of its problematic aspects. I love your reviews and it’s so much fun to see these books through the eyes of someone who is new to the genre.

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  30. Jayne
    Jun 15, 2013 @ 03:40:05

    Count me among those who read it years ago – after finding a 1/2 price copy in a used book store, yah! – who loved it despite its problems, which I don’t deny. But! I’ve never tried to reread it just because I’m afraid it wouldn’t hold up. I do love the cover though.

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  31. Kaetrin
    Jun 15, 2013 @ 03:41:03

    I haven’t read this. I DNF’d Lightning That Lingers last year so I don’t think The Windflower would work for me.

    Cat is the guy with the long blond hair and Rand Morgan is the black haired black eyed black shirted pirate captain? Do I have that right?

    Loved the turtle. :)

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  32. AJH
    Jun 15, 2013 @ 04:41:39

    @Blossom:

    Weirdly I quite liked some of the interactions between Rainbow and Devoncakes – the first time they meet, when she’s pretending to be pregnant with some pillows, for example is quite entertaining, because although she’s clearly out of her depth, they’re both rather amusing, and you can see a genuine chemistry there. And I do respect her for trying to shoot him with an antique crossbow but I think I was expecting there to be some equalisation of the dynamic somehow. And, to a degree, I think there was, but the equalisation was not “they learn to respect each other” so much as “he falls in wuv with her so it’s okay.” And that was … my fault, really, since wrong expectations are not a valid criticism of anything, but it just led to the sort Experience / Innocence (or if you prefer Condescension / Idiocy) vibe I’m not keen on.

    Cat though – oh bless, Cat.

    @Karenmc:

    Life is always better with an indignant turtle. I, honestly, can google for pictures of pissed off animals for … well … forever.
    I don’t feel I took one for the team, here. I know my review was bit “omfg what is this” but I genuinely enjoyed the book. There’s lots, err, problematic / of-its-timey about it, but it’s got a lot of joyous enthusiasm to it that makes it quite a pleasurable “omfg what is this” experience.

    I can definitely see if you read it at the right time in your life, you would fall in love with it.

    @Isobel Carr:

    Appropriate away, I would be honoured :)

    You see, I loved the fancy dress party aspect. I absolutely admire historical detailing and a deep sense of period. But I also don’t mind books that throw that stuff out of the window, as long as they do it in a knowing “these are just not my priorities, look a hot dude” sort of way.

    Tracking what Devoncakes was wearing today, and how his oft exposed abs were described, were two of my favourite Windflower activities.

    @leslie:

    I didn’t to communicate horror – it’s certainly, uh, an experience, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I enjoyed it, because I honestly did. I was confused a lot of the time, rolling my eyes very hard the rest, but I was also swept along and entertained so … I genuinely didn’t mean to trash it.

    @Janine:

    Weirdly, I never found it slow. There’s such a tone of breathless excitement, that once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. There was an element of disbelief there (oh she’s got malaria now, seriously Windflower?!) but it was honestly a great deal of fun. However, I’m certainly not suggesting you give it another go :P

    @Tamar:

    I can certainly see why you might have loved it, and why the love would stay with you. I feel like that about lots of books I read as a teenager – anything by Weis and Hickman, basically.

    In some ways, I’m kind of glad Cat hasn’t got his own book (even though I would eat it right up) – I felt his ending was full of potential and possibilities, and not restricted to “and he meets some girl and falls for her” which would surely be the case if there was another book about him. I mean, responses to sexual abuse are deeply complex, and “I’m not really that interested in sex” can be one of them, and that’s not a failure of wholeness as a human being. So although I’d love to read a romance about an asexual, I’m not sure the 80s would have given me one. To be honest, I’m not sure we’d get one now, since our ideas about love and romance and deeply intertwined with our ideas about sex.

    @Tanya:

    I read that comment a little bit too quickly and, for a moment, I thought you’d eaten The Windflower – and I had this vision you spitroasting it slowly or something.

    @Elyse:

    Thank you – I feel a bit bad, because I think I have communicated too much omg and lol, and not enough “I did actually enjoy this book.”

    @Lada:

    I kind of bobbed about a bit on Rainbow – sometimes she was genuinely plucky and entertaining, and other times I genuinely wanted to strangle her. Mainly on Cat’s behalf. So, yes, probably not the best attitude to a heroine.

    I’m not sure I’m going to go out of my way to seek out more Curtis stuff – though I keep hearing intriguing stuff (stripper who keeps owls! The Amish!). I do enjoy the exuberance but I have zero interest in these desperately virginal heroines. And I know it’s not really my place to judge, and I understand being gently coaxed to sexual awakening by a more experienced man is probably some kind of fantasy and that’s fine, it just does absolutely nothing for me. I can’t identify with him or her, and I don’t really want to bonk either of them, so it’s just a bit … bewildering.

    Buuuut, that said, that does kind of … interesting. Argh. Suckered again.

    (Also Search For the Missing Hymen sounds like the next Indiana Jones movie. Also I’m quite confused as to how you could discover the hymen was missing in the first place – it’s a tiny little membrane, and varies by individual)

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  33. AJH
    Jun 15, 2013 @ 05:26:50

    @jmc:

    Ouch – I think it might be one of those “had to be there books”.

    To be honest, I didn’t remotely hate it, I found it confusing and problematic, but I was also carried along by the characterisation and the general exuberance.
    On the other hand, I can also see why it might have hit the wall. I came close to that on occasions.

    @Angelia Sparrow:
    Oh dear, so much of adolescence seems to be this weird exercise in flailing around for something to relate to what seem to be unfocused and incomprehensible urges. I can’t decide whether I’m glad or disappointed we didn’t have the internet when I was growing up. I can remember reading The Phantom of the Opera at a formative age, again, trying to find someone to identify with – and vaguely coming to the understanding that if a dude fancied you one possible way he could express it was to lie on the floor and cry. Then kidnap you. In some ways, it’s a wonder I’m not more messed up than I am.

    The wine scene didn’t really work for me – largely because it was Devoncakes and Rainbow and I wasn’t interested in their personalities, let alone their orgasms.

    @Mary:

    From what folk have said, I think desperately virginal and quirky as hell is a Curtis heroine standard. I’m genuinely sorry if I’ve given you second thoughts (there’s a copy available on amazon for, like, 89p so it wouldn’t break the ban) because – although it’s obviously very very silly in many many ways – it is also fun, and charming. I think it would have be more fun and charming if you were about 16 when it was published – but if you can navigate yourself comfortably through fabulous and infuriating in equal measure, then I honestly think could be an enjoyable read.

    For a slightly more generous take, there’s this review by Ruthie Knox over at Wonkomance.

    @Joy:

    Oh thank you – it was a pleasure, believe me. Any excuse for a peeved looking animal really…

    @Little Red:

    Indignant turtle for president!

    I feel bad if I’ve come across so negatively – but I think it’s one of those personal call things, really. Even though I was always on the verge of throwing the book against the wall, the text just carried me along. But I can also see why several people gave on it on completely.

    @Ani Gonzalez:

    I definitely see why you loved it – and, yes, it’s incredibly vivid and hilariously OTT. I could feel the authors’ enthusiasm as I was reading, I think it’s probably why I didn’t react more negatively to all the things I found frustrating.

    @Jennie:

    Omg, yes. Merry is, indeed, a Pomeranian. You literally made me LOL.
    Also, I can absolutely see why, if you read this at a particular point in your life (probably a formative one) you’d love it. And, honestly, there’s lot to love here – as you say, the writing is vivid, the characterisation is genuinely complex (with the possible exception of Devoncakes), and there’s such a sense of raw enthusiasm about the text. All of this carried me along, even in spite of the problems. Obviously, I don’t have much context for it – but, ye Gods, compared to The Flame & The Flower this book is amazing, so, again, I can see how important and valuable it was when it was published.

    Merry did have her moments of charm but I was peeved at her on Cat’s behalf so I wasn’t all that disposed to see her good side.

    @Ducky:

    Oh yes, Cat was wonderful and I adored him, though weirdly I might have liked Rainbow and Devoncakes more if I hadn’t been constantly distracted from them. Also you get quite a skewed perspective on a book if you start looking at through the lens of a secondary character.

    I am, however, weirdly glad there isn’t a Cat book. I felt is arc was as complete and right as it needed to be, and anything else might have diminished it by fitting him into a conventional romantic framework (not that there’s anything wrong with conventional romantic frameworks!). I kind of like having the liberty to, ah, imagine my own future life for him, with or without love affairs, with or without bisexuality.

    I’m quite intrigued by this male-stripper-owl thing but I’m not sure I can stand another shy, innocent Curtis heroine.

    Glad you enjoyed the review.

    @msaggie:

    Thank you for the link to the discussion – I know what you mean about having liked the book more at a different time, or a in a different context. And I realised slightly belatedly (i.e. after the review went up) that The Windflower is deeply loved by a lot of people, so I genuinely didn’t mean to trash it. And there’s no denying I had fun with it, even while I was confused and frustrated.

    I was quite interested in Cat’s hair, in general, as it gets a little line of description pretty much every time he appears. Obviously I’m not a pirate, and I don’t engage in low down dirty fighting with villains and rogues, but I do historical sword fighting and pugilism and I have quite long hair (admittedly not down to my hips), and so far it hasn’t hampered or killed me.

    There will definitely be more Kinsale articles coming in at some point – but I’m trying to get further down my list before I start looping back on myself :)

    @JAT:

    Certainly looks like the same guy … oh God, I’m going to get DA sued for misuse of an angry turtle.

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  34. leslie
    Jun 15, 2013 @ 11:09:39

    @AJH: Oh no…..I realize on your part…..no trashing was involved, but for me this kind of romance is not my cup of tea. It was the premise alone that sounded horrific. Thank god the book was written though, or we wouldn’t of had your terrific review. :)

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  35. AJH
    Jun 15, 2013 @ 12:51:49

    @JenM:

    I agree, I didn’t pay as much attention to context as I should have – but, unless you count having read The Flame & Flower, I don’t have much personal experience of that context. I can certainly see why The Windflower would have been deeply loved – and I can sort of see, in a semi-ignorant way, the way it seems to be playing with the tropes of the time, as well as reflecting them. I mean the scene where Merry nearly vomits over Devon as he tries to rape her is hilarious as well as faintly threatening (because there’s no doubt he’d have ploughed ahead, no pun intended, if she hadn’t … rendered herself unrapeable), and hilarious and faintly threatening is not something my mind has ever before been previously asked to encompass.

    Anyway, I’m glad my enjoyment and pleasure in the text came through the review – I know I was being quite silly, a lot of the time. And you’re right about the dialogue, it is sparkling. The scene when Devon and Merry first meet made laugh out loud, several times, because although she’s hopeless, she’s not *completely* hopeless, or perhaps she’s hopeless in an endearing me, and Devon, though he’s his usual patronising self, seems genuinely taken by her, and you can sort of see the way her nature gentles his and his steadies her. Except the demands of the plot take over, and you don’t really see that again for a very long time, so I got a bit loss in the rapes and malaria.

    @Jayne:

    My cover is very very orange – much oranger than the cover shown on the review. But you’re right, actually, it’s rather romantic and they’re both shockingly clothed and look vaguely like the characters in the book. My cover of The Flame & The Flower is actively awful. I don’t know what’s going on but he seems to be chewing on her neck in a sort of vomit-pile of flowers.
    I know it sounds weird … but I could honestly see myself reading this book again, if I was in just the right mood, and it was rainy outside, and I had a pot of tea and some hobnobs.

    @Kaetrin:

    I should look up at that review then – people keep tell me that The Lightning That Wossnames is interesting. Isn’t that the one about owl-loving strippers?
    Also yes, Cat is the jailbait with the hip-length Lucius Malfoy locks. And Rand is the pirate Captain who chooses his shirts to match his hair.

    @leslie:

    Oh good, I don’t like to think I’d actively put someone off reading something they might otherwise have tried. And, yeah, I could see why it would not be your brew of choice :)

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  36. Ducky
    Jun 15, 2013 @ 18:56:24

    @AJH:
    The “Lightning That Lingers” heroine is shy but by far not as dopey as the Windflower Sparkles McSunshine heroine. It’s a short book and I love the hero. He is very sexy and a sweetie pie and doesn’t suffer from assholitis like so many romance heroes.

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  37. Jennie
    Jun 15, 2013 @ 23:46:15

    @AJH: FWIW, I read The Flame and the Flower even earlier in my romance career and freaking HATED it. So bad. I think I literally did not get how an actual rapist could be a hero. Also, I thought Woodiwiss’s prose was pretty bad.

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  38. Sasha
    Jun 16, 2013 @ 20:16:17

    Ok, this is definately TMI- but the “colorific” sex scene. Let’s just say that my sensory system likes to respond at critical moments with spectacular color. After almost 25 years the hubs is still known to ask me “So, what color was it?”

    And yes, sometimes it’s more than one color. No, one color isn’t necessarily better than another, though novel colors sometimes are ;)

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  39. AJH
    Jun 17, 2013 @ 04:18:39

    @Ducky:

    Well, I’ll do what I can to track it down – it certainly sounds interesting, and I will admit to a certain fascination with Team Curtis.

    @Jennie:

    My … wrestles with F&F are well-documented, I think. It was pretty much the first romance I read – but then I read Loretta Chase straight after and was, err, consoled. I think you can sort of see what was going with the, um, rapin – if you stare at squintwise and try to be generous, but I also see why it would be a complete no-no for certain readers.

    @Sasha:

    Wow. Well. I clearly need to download a patch or something because I am obviously running an inferior version of the software ;)

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  40. DeeCee
    Jun 17, 2013 @ 22:43:28

    I shit you not…that is the best review I’ve read all year, no, make that of all time. “I call deus ex bullshit.” High five dude!

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  41. Kinsey
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 21:35:07

    I’m sure no one’s reading this thread anymore, but I have to put my .02 in.

    AJH, this is one of the best, funniest, most insightful and cleverest reviews I’ve ever read. Of course I spent much of it thinking “OMG! Someone doesn’t like The Windflower?? He must not like puppies, or sunshine, or love or tickles!”

    But eventually I had to admit that all of your concerns/complaints/objections were spot on. And I entirely agree with everything you say about Rand and Cat. (“get away from her, Cat, she’s whimsical with dandelions” — I think I might make this my new email sig line.) Also, big bonus points for the Brandon Birmingham shoutout. But that leads me to my next (ok, first) point.

    Windflower was published in 1984, which was still firmly in the Rapey, Rapey, Salve and Balm period of historical romance. Kathleen Woodiwiss – author The Flame and the Flower, hero of which is Brandon Birmingham — was the preeminent author of the RRS&B histroms. Woodiwiss, Coulter, Small, all those ladies – wonderful, creative authors – wrote these huge sagas in which the heroines had to suffer through physical and emotional abuse, always at the hands of the hero and frequently others as well. It was normal, it was expected, it was the way all historical romances played out. Big tough hero, helpless/innocent/resistant/wounded heroine, she gets banged up/passed around/put through hell, he realizes he is In Love, grovels (or not,) and then they get their happily ever after. Secondary characters were very secondary, rarely standing out in their own right.

    I read the RRS&B stories in middle school and high school. (Besides the heroine abuse, these books featured disproportionate amounts of virgins who orgasmed their first time out of the gate and had a creepily intuitive knack for fellatio. Also, simultaneous orgasms.)

    I stumbled upon Windflower in college and I. Was. Gobsmacked. Honestly, I don’t recall being annoyed or offended at Merry’s youth and innocence and the way her plight was constantly sexualized although you’re right, it’s there. I was just amazed that I was reading a hero who didn’t rape or physically abuse the heroine, a ship full of pirates who also didn’t rape or abuse her, a H/H who actually talked to each other and liked each other, and genuinely interesting, compelling secondary characters with backgrounds and motivations of their own. (And yes. Cat’s been waiting for his book for 30 years.)

    In 2013, there’s lots about this book to find appalling. Times and attitudes have changed for the better. But when judged against its contemporaries, The Windflower was remarkable.

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