When I was sixteen, I was over at my boyfriend's house, just hanging out. Somehow, his mom and I got to talking about books. She knew I was a book junkie, and asked me if I'd ever read an historical romance before.
Nope. Never had. My exposure to romance novels was the one Harlequin I'd borrowed from my aunt when I visited her and my uncle down in New Mexico. Come to think of it, I still have it - on my shelf. I wonder if she misses it?
But I digress.
When I said no, her eyes almost lit up. "Have I got a book for you."
She left the room to go upstairs, returning a few minutes later with a well-worn, and obviously oft-read paperback. The cover was creased in places, a few pages were dogeared (horror of horrors!), and the paper had yellowed from age.
It was Kathleen E. Woodwiss's The Flame and The Flower.
Hmmm... I'd never read an historical, but I loved history then as much as I do now, so I thought what the heck?
I read it in about a day and a half.
It was one of the best books I'd ever read and when I finished it, I knew what I wanted to write. Until then, my stories were mostly YA-type stuff, coming-of-age, high school relationships - the things that a 16-year old kid would know best.
But this book opened a whole new world for me. I loved Heather and Brandon - their fire and their passion. I loved how Heather went from a meek, abused mouse of a woman to one with a backbone of steel and the strength of ten men. I loved how Brandon went from a cold, unfeeling shell of a man to a warm and loving husband and father. I loved everything about it.
I've read plenty of Woodiwiss since then - but I have to admit that The Flame and The Flower is my favorite. It's partially responsible (along with Johanna Lindsey, whom I discovered shortly after) for my decision to write historical romances.
I learned today that Ms Woodwiss has died of cancer. Her son posted it on her website this afternoon. Her last book is not quite finished, but they are hoping it will be released in the near future. Lovers of historical romance have lost one of our most beloved authors. For me, she was an inspiration and her family is in my prayers this evening. May she rest in peace and thank you, Kathleen, for the world you opened up for me.
I went out today and bought Janet Evanovich's newest Plum novel, but it will wait on the shelf tonight. I think I'll take out my well-read paperback with the creased cover and dog-eared, yellowed pages, and reread The Flame and the Flower. It's the same copy I borrowed from that former boyfriend's mother nearly twenty years ago.
I wonder if she misses it?