Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, creator of the modern historical romance

Flame and FlowerKathleen E. Woodiwiss, age 68, of Princeton, Minnesota, passed away July 6, 2007. Author of The Flame and the Flower and The Wolf and the Dove, and eleven other bestselling novels, she is considered by many to be the creator of the romance genre.

Barnes and Noble reports: “In 1972, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss sent a hefty historical romance novel, The Flame and the Flower, to eight different publishers and received eight rejection letters. Finally, Avon Books picked up the book, and it became an instant bestseller. Since then, Woodiwiss has sold more than 36 million copies of her romance novels, and colleagues have dubbed her the First Lady of Romance.”

With her first book, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss forever changed the nature of romance novels. Feisty heroine Heather Simmons—young and captivating, thrust into the care of a spiteful aunt first meets Captain Brandon Birmingham after an occurrence that leaves her believing she has killed a man. The chemistry between them is instantaneous, and readers everywhere gasped at this explosive introduction to the special world of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss.

I still have a copy of The Flame and the Flower. It cost $1.50. My copy says it’s the “eleventh printing” so it’s not an original. I don’t remember reading it until probably 1975 or so. And get this, there are 430 pages of very small print (or so my baby-boomer eyes think). The hero is Brandon Birmingham and the heroine is Heather Simmons. Even their names sound romantic! I’d never heard the name “Brenna” until I read it in the early pages of the book. She was the heroine’s mother. When my daughter was born in 1976, I named her Brenna.

Many of us owe our passion for reading and writing to Kathleen Woodiwiss. Her obituary tells me she lived a full and loving life. I didn’t know she showed Morgan horses.  We will miss her.

As her obituary says, “With more than 36 million copies in print, the legend continues on.”


1 thought on “Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, creator of the modern historical romance”

  1. Hello Jan…..my story is so much like yours! I read “The Flame and the Flower”, kept the name “Brenna” in my memory file, and when my daughter was born in 1974, we named her Brenna Kate. Once when leaving Macy’s Herald Square through their revolving door, a father and daughter were entering and he said “Brenna”. I circled back in the store and told them that my daughter’s name was Brenna, too. Nice exchange, pleasant memory. Lovely name!!! So glad I bumped into your blog 🙂

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