I have always loved reading, and my tastes have been somewhat eclectic. When I was young, I went through a Sci-Fi phase, a Western phase, a Fantasy/Adventure phase, and was finally captivated by Historical Novels. In between, I read the odd biography or mystery novel, just to mix it up.
But something significant happened when I was in my thirties. A friend suggested I read a certain romance novel. She had loved it and gotten hooked.
“That won’t happen to me. Those ‘Bodice Rippers’ are nothing but fluff and melodrama.”
But that novel she recommended was “The Flame and the Flower” by Romance Novel pioneer, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. There was no way I could not be affected by it; there was so much more depth than I had expected. The characters and settings came alive on the page, and I could not put down the more than 600 page novel until I found out what was going to happen! (Even though I knew the Hero and Heroine had to end up together).
Perhaps my prior involvement with Historical novels prepared me to fall in love with the Historical Romance genre. Whatever the reason, I read several of Ms. Woodiwiss’ novels (The Wolf and the Dove, Shanna, Ashes in the Wind), before branching out to other romance novel authors. And I have never looked back.
It is interesting to note that Ms. Woodiwiss’ first novel, The Flame and The Flower, was initially rejected by agents and hardcover publishers, who thought that 600 pages was too long. Rather than rewrite to suit them, she submitted to paperback publishers and was picked up by Avon, who published it in 1972. Selling over 2.3 million copies in the first four years, The Flame and the Flower was considered groundbreaking, featuring a strong Heroine and actual sex scenes. Ms. Woodiwiss is credited with pioneering the Romance Novel genre as we know it today. She went on to publish twelve other best-selling novels, focusing on quality rather than quantity. She passed away in 2007, leaving a legacy that will certainly live on.
I personally know several friends that claim a Kathleen E. Woodiwiss novel as their first romance read. What was yours? Which author introduced you to Romance Novels?