Thirty-plus years ago my friend Marilyn kept badgering me to read some of her romance novels. I snorted in contempt and said, “No thank you.” At the end of a semester when textbook reading demanded a break, she shoved a stack of books at me; I sat down and began reading Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower…and I was hooked. Upon finishing that novel, I went on to devour The Wolf and The Dove, Shanna, and Ashes in the Wind.
But I couldn’t let Marilyn “win,” you see. So, when I returned her books, I snapped, “They were good, but I could do that.”
“Then do it.” She smiled.
“Well, I will,” I said. And I did.
One midnight while visiting family in upstate New York for Thanksgiving, I put my six-month-old daughter back in the crib after nursing her, picked up a yellow legal pad, and wrote the worst opening sentence imaginable. But I had started Love’s Destiny. I wrote the first draft in longhand on legal pads that are still tucked away in my closet.
Filled with images of Ms. Woodiwiss’s epic romances, I wrote about Emily Wentworth falling under the spell of sea captain Jonathon Brentwood and following him to the American colonies against her own logic or understanding. The similarity to Heather and Brandon stops there. Emily is much stronger-willed and Jonathon, while teasing and charming, never “demands his way with her.”
Which leads me to the elephant in the room. How can I reconcile my own beliefs about male domination and coercion to say even one positive thing about books that defy those beliefs? By putting them in historical perspective. Ms. Woodiwiss’s novels take place in the 1700s when that behavior was, if not acceptable, probably not unusual. I read the book at a time when the feminist movement was fomenting but had not seeped into our psyche as it has since. What Kathleen Woodiwiss’s novels did was allow us into the intimacy of our hero and heroine. Her love scenes were groundbreaking and liberated romance from just “behind closed doors.”
Love’s Destiny stands on its own with 4 and 5 star reviews and steady sales, but there is no denying that it was born in my delight of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s tales. I am grateful to Ms. Woodiwiss for pioneering romance that allows us to escape to times and diverse situations that sweep us up into our fantasies. Love’s Destiny is a child of The Flame and the Flower, but as with all children, it must find its own way.