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The Grand Dame of Romance, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Passes Away

Kathleen Woodiwiss is often credited by my generation of readers as having penned their first romance novel. She set a standard with books like The Flame and the Flower that others would attempt to emulate decades later. According to a post on a fan forum, she passed away on July 6, 2007.

Hello. I am very sorry to inform you all of the death of my mother Kathleen. She took the death of my brother a bit harder than we thought and the cancer came back with a vengence. She passed away Friday morning at 0630 in Princeton, MN. I just want to thank you all for all of your support and being such great fans. My Mom was amazed at all of the people that supported her. Her final book is done, but not finished. We will be trying to polish it up for her. Her editor at Harper Collins has been a great source of stress for my Mom and the rest of us as well, so I am not sure how that will work out, but we are trying to get the book published as fast as possible. We all want this to be her greatest book ever. Thank you again for all of your support.

My best to the Woodiwiss family. Ms. Woodiwiss’ work provided many wonderful hours of reading for this reader.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Gwen
    Jul 07, 2007 @ 22:10:32

    Oh wow. That’s a sad thing. Woodiwiss was one of my favorite writers. She’ll definitely live on in her work.

    It’s a shame that such bitterness comes thru in her daughter’s post. I wonder if she were to give herself some time, whether she would want to change it.

  2. Keishon
    Jul 07, 2007 @ 22:23:54

    This news was like a punch in the gut and I’d only read one book by her and I loved it, Shanna. My condolences to the family.

  3. che
    Jul 07, 2007 @ 22:26:41

    I’m saddened as well. I named my daughter Shanna for what was then my favorite romance of all time.

    Gwen, I think I read elsewhere that it was her son that wrote the post.

  4. ReneeW
    Jul 07, 2007 @ 22:48:15

    I’m very sad to hear this. Shanna was my first ‘true’ romance and I loved it. I remember being thrilled to discover Woodiwiss. Up until then I had been reading books with a romantic sub-plot (like Mary Stewart gothics) and couldn’t believe there were actually books labeled ‘romance’. I went on to read and enjoy many others by her, include The Wolf & the Dove and The Flame & the Flower.

  5. Gwen
    Jul 07, 2007 @ 22:48:18

    Ah. My mistake.

  6. Rosie
    Jul 07, 2007 @ 23:22:28

    My condolences and thoughts go out to Ms. Woodiwiss’ family. I remember vividly when a friend told me about these books I just HAD to read. They were SHANNA and THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER. I’d never read anything like them and they changed they way I looked at romance novels forever.

    I too have progeny named after a character in one of her books. My son is named after the protagonist in ASHES IN THE WIND.

    Wow, I’m stunned. Thanks for the heads up Jane.

  7. Kathryn S
    Jul 07, 2007 @ 23:24:30

    I was just saying to some other Avon authors that it’s so strange to hear that KW is gone. I always thought of her as one of those iconic people who would live forever. I met her a few years ago at RWA in New Orleans. I made a total arse of myself gushing over her, but now I’m glad I did.

  8. Sarah McCarty
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 03:57:42

    I feel like it’s the end of an era. Ms. Woodiwiss’ The Flame and the Flower was the first romance I ever read. When i finished I remember thinking WOW! And I remember haunting the book stores for her next book, I lived in a very small town in a very small state and you had to get to the store early and promptly if you wanted a copy of anything without waiting another month and I WANTED The Wolf and the Dove. I also remember thinking when I finished that book, “I wish i could do that”. In essence, she set my feet on the path to becoming an author.

  9. Tara Marie
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 04:22:37

    Oh, I am so sorry to hear this. Thoughts and prayers are with her family.

    Shanna was my first “keeper” and I have fond memories of reading it and The Wolf and The Dove over and over again.

  10. Jayne
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 04:23:59

    “The Wolf and the Dove” was one of the first romances I ever read way back in the mists of my youth in Junior High School. Maybe I was 13? Anyway, I had fond memories of it but as the years passed I wondered if it would stand up to my new sensibilities about “forced seducation” in romances. A few years ago, some friends and I decided to give it another try and see. It wasn’t nearly as bad (as far as forced seduction) as I vaguely remembered it to be. Whew, that was a relief.

  11. Nora Roberts
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 04:24:18

    Very sad news. She was a trail blazer as well as an icon.

  12. Tracy MacNish
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 04:41:23

    “A great light has gone out.”

    This is so sad – KEW was my ultimate. Her books carried me through my difficult childhood, read and reread until the pages were falling out.

    When my first novel was published and the back blurb compared it to her masterful The Flame and The Flower, I sat down and cried.

    Very sad news. My very best to her family.

  13. Danielle
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 06:19:07

    My heart goes out to her family. The Flame and The Flower got me hooked on historical romance when it first came out. The romance world lost a great icon today.

  14. Angela
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 06:31:20

    I’ve never read any of her novels, but based on the history of the romance genre, she was a vital and important part of its beginnings. My condolences to her family, especially dealing with a double whammy of two premature deaths.

  15. December Quinn/Stacia Kane
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 06:45:33

    A terrible loss. Her books defined what romance should be for a generation.

  16. Barbara B.
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 08:29:12

    Very sad news. Woodiwiss’ The Flame And The Flower was the very first romance I ever read. It was the early ’70s and I was 13 years old. I didn’t even know what romance was but when I saw the cover and read the blurb I HAD to have that book! Now 34 years and thousands of books later I’m grateful to Ms. Woodiwiss for a great and thrilling introduction to romance.

  17. Roslyn
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 10:28:54

    ‘Shanna’ was the first BIG romance novel I ever read. I was around 11 or 12. I’d started reading my mama’s Harlequins when I was 9. It absolutely blew my mind. She will always be on my ‘keeper’ shelf. The woman was a brilliant writer.

    I guess as I age its only normal to see the passing of my fave authors, but this is getting harder and harder to watch. Its almost like a death in the family.

  18. Melanie
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 10:35:37

    Shanna was one of, if not the first, non-category romance I read. And re-read. And it remains one of my all-time favorites.

    My condolences to the family. They’ve suffered a lot of loss recently.

  19. Monica
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 10:44:33

    Woodiwiss was one of my first romance reads. She as a fav. I glommed her up waaay back in my days of innocence. What sad news.

  20. DS
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 10:52:28

    I remember reading that her first novel came in over the transom. Luckily someone at Avon recognized the potential.

  21. Ann Aguirre
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 11:34:40

    I’ve only read one of her books, but she really made her mark on the genre. It’s sad to hear that she’s passed.

  22. Robin
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 11:44:03

    I’ve never read Woodiwiss and am a little afraid of The Flame and the Flower. What is everyone’s top Woodiwiss title? Time to make a TBR list.

  23. Janine
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 11:58:52

    What sad news. I too remember reading her books from my early romance reading days.

    Robin, The Flame and the Flower, though iconic and worth reading for that reason, is not her best in my opinion. My favorites are A Rose in Winter and The Wolf and the Dove. I think maybe I liked A Rose in Winter best (it’s a beauty and the beast themed story), but since I read the two books years apart, it is hard to be sure. The Wolf and the Dove was good too, but it’s older (her next book following The Flame and the Flower, I believe) and therefore more old style.

  24. Robin Bayne
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 12:18:16

    Adding my sadness at the loss and sending prayers for her family. I met her at a New Jersey conference years ago–she was very nice and willing to answer questions. Flame and Shanna will always remain on my keeper shelf.

  25. Sam
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 13:10:11

    I read and re-read my copy of Ashes in the Wind until it literally fell apart. Maybe it’s time for a new copy. I enjoyed most of her books, but that one was my favorite.

  26. Kat
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 18:02:53

    Woodiwiss was one of my mother’s favourite romance authors, and therefore one of the first authors I looked up when I graduated from teenage romances. I reread The Wolf and the Dove a few years ago, and while, as Janine said, it’s of an older style, I still enjoyed it a lot (and I’m not normally a big fan of medieval romances, either). I’ve never read Shanna, but I think I may have to now.

    I feel for her family.

  27. Cheryl St.John
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 21:27:46

    This is sad news. Kathleen was a legend in her own time. Her gift to the romance world will be missed.

  28. DS
    Jul 09, 2007 @ 07:16:29

    I have no idea where her later writing went but I don’t think I would want to reread any of her first books. They just never had the staying power of the other historicals I had read about that time: I still have copies on my shelves of Dunnet, Gellis and Golon, but nothing by Woodiwess.

    However, her books are important in the development of genre romance asweknowit.

  29. Stephanie
    Jul 09, 2007 @ 07:36:53

    Wow. Very sad. Like so many others who posted Shanna was my first romance. It blew my mind. I don’t think I put it down from the first moment I picked it up. Without it I don’t know that I would have ever become the reader I did.

    All of her books are on my keeper shelf. But my favorite was Rose In Winter. In my opinion you just can’t go wrong with a Beauty and the Beast story.

  30. Peggy in Oklahoma
    Sep 11, 2007 @ 12:35:17

    What a terrible shock. She was such a private person that the public never knew her. Maybe the mystery helped her popularity? I too remember reading her as a teenager. To this day The Wolf and the Dove is one of my foavorites. Cancer is so horrible and painful.
    I hope that her family can find peace. I want thank them for sharing their mother with us. and that she changed the world . Not many people can say that.

  31. Phyllis Biundo
    Sep 20, 2007 @ 08:16:25

    I’ve read all her books and own quite a few. I’ve collected them over the years, beginning with the Wolf & the Dove, Flame and the Flower, Shanna, Petals on the River, Come Love a Stranger, Reluctant Suiter, A Rose in Winter, Ashes in the Wind, So Worthy My Love, etc. My daughters read the books as well. We enjoyed reading and discussing the books. We all had our own favorite ones. I feel like a family member passed away. My condolences to all members of her family.

  32. melanie gordon
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 19:32:27

    I was very sorry to hear of her passing .I named my daughter Heather Brianna after the Heroine in The Flame and The Flower.To me she will always be one of the best EVER.

  33. rubi
    Mar 07, 2010 @ 15:39:41

    this saddens me to the core…its like i just found out i lost a good in tears

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