Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell's Reviews > The Flame and the Flower

The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
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Woodiwiss is often credited with creating the first bodice ripper or the first "modern historical romance novel." I would actually disagree with both of those remarks - especially since they mean very different things. I wouldn't actually classify bodice-rippers as "romance" novels; they're more like anti-romance novels. The hero in these types of books is usually very similar to the villain, distinguishable only by a very thin and wavering thread of morality that usually ties into a sense of obligation and ownership of the (virginal) heroine & his (usually forced) deflowering of her.



If we're going to talk bodice-rippers, I believe they were heavily influenced by the smutty, exploitative pulp fiction of the 50s and 60s that influenced Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. Christopher Nicole, author of the Caribee of the Hiltons series, is one of these authors, and so is Lance Horner, author of the Falconhurst series. The most famous in this genre is probably MANDINGO, and that is the book that comes to mind first and foremost when I think of the first bodice ripper, although Margaret Mitchell's GONE WITH THE WIND would be a close second. If we're going to talk about modern historical romance novels, I think FOREVER AMBER or GONE WITH THE WIND are better examples, since both still have a very modern feel & have similar formulas to that of many romance novels that are still being published today. If that's not modern, what is? Anya Seton and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro are other authors whose romance novels transcend time and who also preceded Kathleen Woodiwiss by decades.



**Warning: SPOILERS**



Regardless of its alleged feats of being the first of its kind (or not, depending on how you feel about it), I don't feel that THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER survives the times it was written very well. Our heroine, Heather, is under the care of a fat and abusive aunt (because fat and ugly people = villains in this book) and a thoroughly hen-pecked uncle whose dusty balls lie forgotten in the depths of one of Wicked Aunt's purses. The aunt has sold all her niece's clothes & belongings, and she wonders around in clothes "twelve times too large" that gape open to reveal her amazing bosom. It is worth noting that Heather's amazing breasts have more agency than she does, thrusting desperately against clothing as they seek out male attention, declaring their arousal on behalf of Heather (who, you know, just sits there passively and chastely, relying on her breasts to act as liaison with sexual partners) and constantly threatening to pour out of her clothes; Heather's breasts are the true main characters in this book, and it is sad when a heroine's body parts seem to receive more narrative description and action verbs than she does.



Her Aunt is tired of having Heather around and sends her off to be with her brother, who has plans to rape Heather and then, when he's tired of her, it is implied that he will give her to a Madam. Again, since this Uncle character is evil, he is fat and ugly. Heather manages to escape with her virginity intact (by making Uncle William "fall on a knife" dead), still clad in the revealing gown he put her in, and the servant to a rich and arrogant sailor spies her fleeing around the docks. Thinking her to be a prostitute, he kidnaps her and presents her to his master, who he assumes will be pleased. The master, who of course is the hero, since he is the only good-looking in this entire book universe we've encountered so far, is very pleased, and proceeds to rape Heather. The fact that she is a virgin surprises him, but he assumes that she just has her Whore Training Wheels™ on and he was the lucky gent who got to ride the bicycle first. When he finds out the truth, he does a lot of posturing and villainous laughing, basically telling Heather that if she didn't want to be raped, she should have tried to enjoy it more, before raping her a few more times. He then tells her that he intends to make her his mistress, and she should be pleased.



Heather ends up getting pregnant right away from Brandon's efforts, and when she returns home, her Aunt does not shirk on the opportunity to decry Heather's heritage (not only is she Irish and a Tory, but she's also a slut). Heather's well-meaning friends host an intervention where they blackmail Brandon into marrying Heather and taking responsibility for what he's done. Brandon does not take kindly to being told what to do, and drops a bunch of threats about how miserable he's going to make Heather, and oh, by the way, NO SEX, EVER. I have to admit, I laughed. How arrogant do you have to be to imagine that depriving the woman you raped of your magnificent Penis Magic™ is the worst possible punishment you can deliver, ever? If you just said "Gee, seems like the only person that would hurt is him," you would be right, and Brandon spends the next three hundred pages ruing this decision as he quickly comes down with the world's most serious case of blue balls.



After the two are married, Brandon decides to sell his ship and take Heather to his plantation. Here we meet the sexually autonomous, villainous Other Woman, a cringe-worthy Mammy stereotype, the heroine's brother (an updated version of the hero that's still in beta-testing), and all of the jealous, spurned women and their mothers who were vying for Brandon's hand and are bitterly resentful that this girl - who doesn't even go here - somehow managed to snatch him up for herself and get impregnated with his child. The next two hundred pages consist of OW, Louisa, getting into verbal catfights with Heather while trying to seduce Brandon; Heather crying and flinching and seething in a froth of vindication and traitorous lust; and Brandon, who is starting to realize how ineffective his "punishment" is and concocts a new, ingenious plan to win her back that quickly goes awry because the last thing that most women want to do in the late stages of pregnancy and then immediately afterwards is have rough, passionate sex. Brandon abandons this plan, too, and announces that the two of them henceforth are going to have sex every night, whether he has to rape her to get it or not, because damn it, he has needs. Heather goes for this, puts on a sheer blue nightie to seduce him, and after this it's a whole bunch of "I love you" "No, I love you, Pooky-Kins" nonsense, and since Heather is breast-feeding that means that her breasts are always out and everyone, from the hero to his brother to the other woman, has to stare at them in admiration/jealousy and comment on them. The last twenty-five pages attempts to cram in another plot line, introducing a partially-realized murder mystery. It's pretty obvious who the villain is, and this only serves as an excuse for yet another man to lose himself to mad passion and attempt to rape Heather (I think this is rape attempt #5 if we're counting based on unique perpetrators and not actual attempts, in which case it would be closer to rape attempt #20).



This book is ridiculous. One of my friends called this a handbook to having a relationship full of domestic violence, and I have to say that I agree with that sentiment. I don't normally mind reading about rape, but the way it was romanticized in this book made me really uncomfortable. I don't really want to read about all these pastoral scenes of domestic bliss if all the sexual interactions between them border on (or in some cases are actually blatant acts of) rape. This goes away towards the end of the book, but only after the heroine realizes that it's pointless to resist him further.



Heather is definitely a wish fulfillment fantasy and I could see why she might have persisted throughout time. Every man who sees her wants her. Every woman who sees her is jealous of her. She's beautiful no matter what she wears, whether it's rags or a beautiful gown, and her rapist husband is constantly buying her gowns and presenting her with jewelry (when he's not yelling at her, making her cringe, throwing things, or threatening to beat up men for looking at her). When she gives birth she loses her baby bump immediately and the author is quick to reassure us that there are no stretchmarks or unsightly skin folds, either. When she's not making people cream themselves in jealousy or sexual lust, they're falling over in their charmed admiration of her & doing everything they can to make her life better. Heather is the ultimate woman, and doesn't have to lift a finger to achieve it, because expending any more effort than it would take to stomp a foot far is too intimidating in a heroine.



Other things that made me wince/side-eye this book:



-In an attempt to woo the hero, Louisa slathers her nipples in rouge and wears a see-through copy of the gown Brandon raped Heather in



-Lots of uses of the word "Negress" and stereotypical portrayals of the happy slave



-One of the rape attempts occurs because a man visiting Brandon's plantation sees a dirt- and soot-covered Heather and assumes that she's black and a slave (winces)



-When going into labor, the heroine refuses to go anywhere until her husband changes her into a blue gown, because she's sure she's going to have a boy and the baby has to match her gown!



-Dresses tear like tissue paper in this book. It inspired me to make a new shelf on Goodreads for heroines with clothes that tear like wet Kleenex.



Honestly, this book is pretty formulaic, and with the exception of a few odd details (see the above) it follows the usual bodice ripper plot to a T. I've read and enjoyed another book of Woodiwiss's (COME LOVE A STRANGER), so I know she can write better, but this first, unfettered attempt was not my cup of tea at all. If you're going to read it, read it for science: observe it impassively, without any expectations, with the intention of reporting back your findings to others. Otherwise, it might just make a foot-stomper out of you, too.



1 star.
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Reading Progress

April 17, 2016 – Started Reading
April 17, 2016 – Shelved
April 17, 2016 – Shelved as: dresses-made-of-tissue-paper
April 17, 2016 – Shelved as: bodice-ripper
April 17, 2016 – Shelved as: kissing-books
April 18, 2016 –
page 36
8.37% "The dresses in this book must be made of tissue paper, because they keep just tearing off.\n \n This has prompted me to make a dresses-made-of-tissue-paper shelf on Goodreads to raise awareness about all these women's clothes that tear like wet Kleenex at the touch of a brutish dude's hand."
April 21, 2016 –
page 54
12.56% "Hero told the heroine that the reason her rape was painful was because she decided to fight him instead of letting him be gentle & then rapes her two more times to teach her a "lesson".\n \n Hero is in dire need of chemical castration."
April 21, 2016 – Shelved as: rape
April 21, 2016 – Shelved as: rape-by-hero
April 22, 2016 –
page 116
26.98% "Hero: you forced me to marry you after I raped you and you got pregnant, and I don't like being forced to do things because I'm a two-year-old in the body of an adult cocksmith, so I'm going to make your life hell in revenge! D:<\n \n Me: You don't like being forced to do things? Well, maybe YOU shouldn't force people to have sex with you, then, you disgusting man-child."
April 24, 2016 –
page 182
42.33% "a huge chunk of my book ripped off during my lunch break today! it's an old copy and the spine was in incredibly poor condition.\n \n now I have half a book lol. luckily, it's the half i haven't read yet! >:D"
April 24, 2016 –
page 240
55.81% "It's awkward when the heroine and the Other Woman share the same names as two of your very good GR friends. Especially when the man they're fighting over has the same name as a guy you actually dated."
April 26, 2016 –
page 276
64.19% "Lost count of how many times Heather has run away crying because Big Britches McMeaniepants doesn't wuv her enuff."
April 27, 2016 –
page 324
75.35% "Since this relationship is so precariously close to being abusive, I really don't want to read scenes of their domestic bliss."
April 27, 2016 –
page 352
81.86% "Hero informs heroine that he's tired of waiting around for her to recover from her pregnancy/trauma (the pregnancy was from his raping her) and informs heroine that either she can choose to sleep with him willingly every night, or he's going to rape her every night, because dammit, he's a man and men have needs."
April 27, 2016 –
page 430
100.0% "I have no words..."
April 27, 2016 – Finished Reading
July 27, 2016 – Shelved as: historical-romance

Comments Showing 1-50 of 90 (90 new)


Heather *Awkward Queen and Unicorn Twin* Oh my godddddd, how did I not even notice all that when I first read the book? *dies*


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell LOL! How long ago did you read it? :P


Heather *Awkward Queen and Unicorn Twin* High school. I would have been sixteen, maybe seventeen. Obviously this shit was WAY over my head!


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell At least it didn't scar you for life! :D


Naksed Many, many claps and "bow-downs" to not only a wildly entertaining review of this book but a fascinating recap and analysis of the BR phenomenon.


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell Heather *live on coffee and flowers* wrote: "Haha, very true!"

You are a billion times more awesome than your namesake, darling. ♥


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell Naksed wrote: "Many, many claps and "bow-downs" to not only a wildly entertaining review of this book but a fascinating recap and analysis of the BR phenomenon."

Thanks, Naksed! I've been reading a couple articles about bodice rippers and I do think they owe a lot to the exploitation books that were popular a decade before their peak. My theory is that a lot of women probably read and enjoyed them in secret and tried to make their plots more palatable for women.


Cee (The Mistress Case) Really, it's like you're reading these kind of books to help me avoid them. Thank you for your unintentional sacrifices! ;)


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell Cee (The Mistress Case) wrote: "Really, it's like you're reading these kind of books to help me avoid them. Thank you for your unintentional sacrifices! ;)"

Haha thank you, Cee! For the record, I'm very picky, so anything that gets 3 or more stars from me is a ripping good read. :)


Cee (The Mistress Case) Nenia wrote: "Cee (The Mistress Case) wrote: "Really, it's like you're reading these kind of books to help me avoid them. Thank you for your unintentional sacrifices! ;)"

Haha thank you, Cee! For the record, I'..."


I'll keep that in mind!


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell Future-Jess ✮ The Book Eating Dinosaur ✮ Nynaeve ♥ wrote: "Omg."

IKR


Heather *Awkward Queen and Unicorn Twin* Nenia wrote: "Heather *live on coffee and flowers* wrote: "Haha, very true!"

You are a billion times more awesome than your namesake, darling. ♥"


Lol, thank you. ♥


message 15: by Casey (new)

Casey wow.
You've earned this.



Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell Casey ~Kaleidoscopic Killer of the Deep~ wrote: "wow.
You've earned this.
"


OOH. A PRECIOUS. :D

I like crazy, but this was a little too much. I've enjoyed this author's works before, though, so you should expect to see another KEW review soon. ;D


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell Karly *The Vampire Ninja & Luminescent Monster* wrote: "^^ I agree with, casey!

This sounds ATROCIOUS!"


You would hate it, I am sure!

COME LOVE A STRANGER is good, though. Very soap opera-y.


message 19: by Carmen (new) - added it

Carmen You are smart and funny, I adored reading your impressive review.


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell Carmen wrote: "You are smart and funny, I adored reading your impressive review."

Aww, thanks, Carmen!


message 21: by Susana (new)

Susana Amazing review, and girl, you deserve an award for not having DNF this thing! Iaics!


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell Susana wrote: "Amazing review, and girl, you deserve an award for not having DNF this thing! Iaics!"

Haha thanks, Susan. :)


message 23: by Didi (new)

Didi Your review made me laugh! So funny with the breasts taking centre stage, lol!


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell Didi wrote: "Your review made me laugh! So funny with the breasts taking centre stage, lol!"

OMG IT IS SO TRUE THOUGH!!!! YOU WOULDN'T THINK IT WAS SO FUNNY IF YOU SAW THE TRUTH!!! :P

Glad I could make you laugh!


Anya (~on a semi-hiatus~) This book sounds awful. O__O


message 26: by sraxe (new)

sraxe Sounds legit awful. I've read one book by Woodiwiss and hated it.


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell Anya wrote: "This book sounds awful. O__O"

Yeah, sometimes I like this author but this was a miss.


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell sraxe wrote: "Sounds legit awful. I've read one book by Woodiwiss and hated it."

Do you remember which one? I'm curious. :p


message 29: by sraxe (new)

sraxe Nenia wrote: "sraxe wrote: "Sounds legit awful. I've read one book by Woodiwiss and hated it."

Do you remember which one? I'm curious. :p"


Shanna. It's not rapey (there's one almost forced scene, but I was kind of split on it, tbh), and the dude's totally beta, but I hated the heroine. I think maybe Woodiwiss was writing a role reversal on the asshole H and doormat h tropes. You might like it, tbh.


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell Ahh! That one is on my to-read list, in truth! The only one of hers I've read beside this one was COME LOVE A STRANGER, which was fun because the hero was dominant but not particularly douchey, and it has a cracky amnesia plot which is kind of my weakness. Lol.


message 31: by sraxe (new)

sraxe Amnesia plots totally don't work for me unless they're done super well. I just have such an issue with the consent aspect of it. Heath's Once More, My Darling Rogue has the amnesia plot. It was like an 1800s take on Overboard.


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell I can see how that would be an issue. I like it because it's a cheap way to have tons of angst and mystery. It's basically a historical soap opera, and that's kind of what I'm into right now LOL.


message 33: by sraxe (new)

sraxe Yeah, I totally agree. They're fun if the character with amnesia was a total asshole and you can make them suffer, but then when the sex is brought in I'm all ummmm. One of my favourite types of stories (that I don't see often enough in books, damn it) are the time travel/displaced H ones in which the H is sent to the future or something and has no damn clue what the heck a smartphone is lol. I need more books like that. (And they have to be the person coming to the future not going to the past, cuz the whole bringing a modern woman to heel thing would bother me. And watching the characters fiddling with technology is a lot more fun to watch, tbh.)


message 34: by Carmen (new) - added it

Carmen Yeah, I really like when Hs come to the future, sraxe. I remember reading an amazing Viking one that was super-funny, but I can't remember what it was called.


message 35: by K. (new)

K. Man, I am so glad the one Woodwiss novel I slogged through during my teenage BR phase didn't have so much congenial rape in it. Good lord. (There were definitely heaving theatrical breasts, though).


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell sraxe wrote: "Yeah, I totally agree. They're fun if the character with amnesia was a total asshole and you can make them suffer, but then when the sex is brought in I'm all ummmm. One of my favourite types of st..."

You don't see many of those types of books - usually it's the other way around (with the hero/ine getting sent back).

There's a French foreign comedy I think you'll like - it's called The Visitors; it's about a medieval French nobleman who accidentally gets sent forward in time & meets one of his descendants! It's REALLY good (although stay far away from the American version "Just Visiting", which is awful).


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell Katie wrote: "Man, I am so glad the one Woodwiss novel I slogged through during my teenage BR phase didn't have so much congenial rape in it. Good lord. (There were definitely heaving theatrical breasts, though)."

Her later books don't have much of that. Thank goodness!

LOL heaving theatrical breasts is a great turn of phrase. :)


message 38: by Shelby (new)

Shelby That is just terrible news. It makes me sad that no one should read it.


L.   (The Great Book Slump Of 2019) I found this book out at my Grandmother's and it was technically the first HR book I ever read, so it will always have this one place in my heart. Years later I decided to re-read it for old time's sake and ended up wondering what the hell was wrong with me to have like this book in the first place.


LilyCat (Agent of SHIELD)-- on hiatus :( I don't read HR, but all these reviews have shown that the abusive alpha male is alive and well, and has even moved into my treasured YA. Unfortunately, there is hardly a popular YA without an abusive stalker who physically threatens the female character, yet is shown as "sexy."


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell Shelby wrote: "That is just terrible news. It makes me sad that no one should read it."

A lot of people like this...I think either because of nostalgia or because it's just so OTT that they have fun laughing at it. Regardless of the reason, though, there is a chance that you might still like it too if you're interested in it! ;D


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell L. (I need one of these, do they come in threes? cuz I need to squeeze them) wrote: "I found this book out at my Grandmother's and it was technically the first HR book I ever read, so it will always have this one place in my heart. Years later I decided to re-read it for old time's..."

Aww, that's so fun, L! I saw a lot of people saying the same thing about V.C. Andrews's books, and I feel like I missed out on some seriously cheesy books during my formative years because my mother never read anything like that that I could sneak lol.


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell LilyCat (May the Fourth be with you!) wrote: "I don't read HR, but all these reviews have shown that the abusive alpha male is alive and well, and has even moved into my treasured YA. Unfortunately, there is hardly a popular YA without an abus..."

I have noticed that too! I think it's a little creepier when it's YA, although some authors write gamma heroes well. It depends on how it's portrayed, I think, and how the other characters react to the male "hero"'s actions. If his actions are condoned or romanticized then it definitely feels icky. But if the other characters or the heroine are like, "No, he's a bad man" it's a bit easier to stomach.


LilyCat (Agent of SHIELD)-- on hiatus :( Nenia wrote: "LilyCat (May the Fourth be with you!) wrote: "I don't read HR, but all these reviews have shown that the abusive alpha male is alive and well, and has even moved into my treasured YA. Unfortunately..."

Indeed, it's quite creepy when authors are basically sending the message to YA readers that it's OK for someone to be violent or abusive.

What do you mean by gamma hero?


message 45: by Mizuki (new)

Mizuki I just gave up when I saw this Jealous Other Woman showing up in your review. *facepalms*


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell LilyCat (Month of Melinda May) wrote: "Nenia wrote: "LilyCat (May the Fourth be with you!) wrote: "I don't read HR, but all these reviews have shown that the abusive alpha male is alive and well, and has even moved into my treasured YA...."

This blog has a good definition of gamma hero: https://rikaashton.wordpress.com/2011...

It's basically an icy, morally grey hero who is just as dominant as an alpha, but with the intelligence of a beta.


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell Mizuki wrote: "I just gave up when I saw this Jealous Other Woman showing up in your review. *facepalms*"

Haha were you trying to read this, too? :P


message 48: by Mizuki (new)

Mizuki I don't think I want to read it, N. among rippers. Savage Surrender sounds more interesting.

PS. do you want me to pass the pdf of The Sliver Devil to you?


Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell No, thank you, Mizuki! I really want to get it in hard copy so I can cherish it always lol. :D


message 50: by Mizuki (new)

Mizuki Nenia wrote: "No, thank you, Mizuki! I really want to get it in hard copy so I can cherish it always lol. :D"

Ok


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