In memory of Kathleen Woodiwiss

    So, who was the first romance author you ever read?

    Kathleen Woodiwiss was my first. Somehow I got my hands on a tattered copy of The Flame and the Flower, and the story captivated me. I must have been about 14 when I read it. The book was first published in 1974, I think, so it was a few years old by the time I read it.

    I remember being utterly swept away by Brandon and Heather's story. Heather was so abused and innocent, and Brandon was... Well, what can you say about a hero who rapes the heroine. Of course, he didn't realize that's what he was doing, at least not the first time. The sex was hot, not by today's standards certainly, but for it's time, it was pretty scorching, opening up possibilties for women as writers and readers to explore their own sexuality and their relationships with men.

    That's what romance novels are really about, after all. That's what makes them inherently feminist — powerful tools for women in changing their lives and visioning the world in new ways.

    I didn't understand much about sex then, just the basic Tab A into Slot B mechanics. But I knew the moment I finished reading her book that I wanted to write stories like that one day.

    Kathleen Woodiwiss is why I write romance. It's as simple as that.

    I read Rosemary Rogers and other early romance authors, also, and I loved their novels, too. But Kathleen's books stood out for me. Who can forget Shanna? My friends and I had a dog-eared copy of that book. I can't tell you how many times I read it or how often we traded it back and forth. Anyone who read that book never forgot it.

    And then there's The Wolf and the Dove. Wonderful story.

    I didn't follow her later novels, but I'd hoped to have a chance to meet her one day and thank her for the hours of escape and for the inspiration she gave me.

    My condolences go out to her surviving family, and I know that many of us in the world of romantic fiction, both writers and readers, will be saddened to learn of her passing.

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