Friday, 4 June 2010

The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

GENRE: historical romance

Fearing for her innocence, doomed to a life of unending toil, Heather Simmons commits a shocking and desperate act. Now she must flee – and seek refuge in the arms of a virile and dangerous stranger. Captain Brandon Birmingham is a lusty adventurer married to the sea. Though courting scorn and peril through his actions, he abducts the beautiful fugitive from the tumultuous London dockside. For it is destiny that has brought Heather to Brandon’s side, and no power on Earth will force him to relinquish his exquisite prize. Only she can unlock the tenderness in his heart; and Brandon vows she will be his – to love, to cherish, to desire, and to carry off to uncharted realms of sensuous passion.

This novel is a historical romance. When I was in my early teens, I loved to read historical novels, but then my reading taste changed dramatically and I put aside this genre. Now, I have learned to enjoy reading historical romances again and I feel like reading them in the summer time. I opened this year’s season of historical romances with The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. I decided to read the entire Birmingham Family Saga series this year and The Flame and the Flower is the first book in the series. If I understand this correctly, this novel is also the first novel Woodiwiss ever wrote, so I’m really starting this at the beginning of her writing career. (By the way, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss died in 2007.)

This novel is a typical historical romance, with a beautiful heroine and a dashing, dangerous hero. Passion flares between them and the rest is history. However, what sets Woodiwiss aside from other writers of historical romances is her beautiful, lyrical language. I loved reading this novel precisely because of the beautiful, smoothly-flowing language. Otherwise, this story has a very unconventional beginning, or rather, the way the heroine and the hero meet is unconventional and makes you wonder whether this is meant to be the story of their love and passions, or the real hero is yet to come. I am not going to say exactly what happens, but when I read the first chapter (in which the meeting happens) I was pretty stunned and couldn’t believe that what I read actually happened. If I met my hero that way, I would never grow to love him. I would hate him forever, probably. Of course, Brandon Birmingham, the Yankee captain of Fleetwood, is not only a dark, virile stranger with a temperament and an ego bigger than this big man himself. Inside, he is a passionate man with a heart capable of love and although he is often in a bad mood, he is just and good. He has to be – how else can his first meeting with the heroine be justified? So, he’s dark and wickedly handsome, and as such he manages to find his way into his heroine’s heart.

Heather Simmons strikes me as a heroine of an early 18th-century Gothic novel. She is young, extremely beautiful, well-mannered, soft-spoken, educated and completely innocent (mentally and physically). Her transition from innocence to experience is drastic and dramatic, but exciting, too. In time, she reveals herself as a bit of a spitfire, and her temper can match the hero’s, as they are both stubborn and proud. Actually, they both vow to hate each other, but when you’re forced to marry and you have to spend two months on a ship on its way to America, things happen. Passions awaken, emotions stir and excitement is provided for the reader. Of course, they fall in love with each other and naturally (or this wouldn’t be a proper historical romance) there are several steamy scenes between them.

Both Brandon and Heather have enemies. As Brandon had to marry Heather, his fiancĂ©e Louisa was justly shocked when he came home to Charleston with a beautiful wife. I totally understand Louisa’s hatred and scorn. Sadly, she’s a typical antagonist to the heroine. Louisa is pretty, but definitely not as pretty as Heather. Louisa has a black soul and many lovers, so she’s no innocent, and she’s a bit stupid, too. I don’t expect more from antagonists in historical romances, but Louisa is such a typical character it’s kind of annoying to read about her.

What I found funny was how many times Brandon had to save his wife from being raped. Apparently, she’s so extremely beautiful that no man can resist her and I can tell you that Brandon had to save her three times when some men just attacked her, procclaiming they simply had to have her.

I have a favourite character – Brandon’s brother Jeffrey. Now, Jeffrey is a dashing, handsome man too, but with a better temper than his dark older brother. He likes to joke and flirt, but is a really good, relaxed fellow. I am actually looking forward to reading the sequel to The Flame and the Flower entitled A Season beyond a Kiss, as Jeff Birmingham is the male protagonist. It will be fun to read about him, I’m sure.

The final chapter is really long and some action happens. It’s pretty exciting to read. Some parts are downright silly, but all in all exciting. The truth is, I really liked this novel. I won’t judge the first meeting between the hero and the heroine, as this is a historical romance and is meant to be enjoyed as such. The Flame and the Flower is a really good historical romance and it offers fun, excitement and vicarious pleasure. If you want to read a historical romance, check out Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ books. Aside from this one, I have read three other novels by her and she really was a good writer of historical romances.


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