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The Flame and the Flower

by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

Series: Birmingham (1)

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1,1502816,602 (3.82)39
Fiction. Romance. Historical Fiction. HTML:

New York Times bestselling author Kathleen E. Woodiwiss debut romance...

The Flower

Doomed to a life of unending toil, Heather Simmons fears for her innocenceâ??until a shocking, desperate act forces her to flee. . . and to seek refuge in the arms of a virile and dangerous stranger.

The Flame

A lusty adventurer married to the sea, Captain Brandon Birmingham courts scorn and peril when he abducts the beautiful fugitive from the tumultuous London dockside. But no power on Earth can compel him to relinquish his exquisite prize. For he is determined to make the sapphire-eyed lovely his woman. . .and to carry her off to far, uncharted realms of sensuous, passionate love.… (more)


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Hoo-kay. I went into this book (1972 #11 in my History of Romance curriculum) knowing that there were problems. But, boy, are there Prob. Lems. Yikes. I knew it was rapey. I expected it and addressed that particular type of plot point in my review of The Sheik. Obviously, women from the time period that the book takes place in would not ever engage in or enjoy premarital sex so it had to be forced sex to move that plot forward. So, fine (I mean, not fine, but I've committed myself to this chronological journey through romance and I'm going to grit my teeth and see it through no matter how problematic. Probably). This is a pivotal book in the romance genre. One of the 1st with actual sex on the page and the 1st commercially successful one. So it had to be done. Stop here if you think you might read it because I'm gonna include spoilers. Also, trigger warn: It is rapey.


Heather is almost 18. She grew up wealthy in London but both her parents died and when she was 16 she had to go live with her crappy aunt who forces her to do all the work around the house and beats her and only lets her wear her old hand-me-down dress that is so big on Heather she's always falling out of it. After 2 years of this, the crappy aunt's repulsive brother, who is a dressmaker in London, comes to visit and he tells Heather he can get her a job at a finishing school there, which she of course is all about since it gets her off of this farm with her mean aunt. So she travels, alone, with the dressmaker brother, William Court, back to London and then to his shop, which is also his home. She meets his assistant, Mr. Hint, who is also described as repulsive. William shows her around, gives her a very fancy gown to change into, and they have dinner and retire to bed. When she gets to her room she notices it smells strongly of cologne but doesn't think much about it. She's looking through the closet in the room when William comes in and locks the door behind him. He was never going to get her a job at a school and brought her to London with her because she's beautiful and he wants to rape her. He even tells her he wants her to fight back because he likes it better that way. They struggle and he falls on a fruit knife that Heather had brandished in defense. She can see that he's dead, or nearly so, so she gathers her old dress and flees into the London night. She gets close to the docks and hears footsteps behind her and she's afraid she's been caught. She turns around to face 2 men who are like "You're coming with us. Don't give us any trouble." She thinks they are some sort of law enforcement so she goes with them and is only a little confused as to why they bring her onto a ship and present her to the captain, who happens to be very handsome and whom she thinks is a magistrate or something. And then he rapes her. She tries to fight him but she's exhausted from fighting the last guy that was going to rape her, and this captain is much bigger and stronger than the previous rapist so he quickly overcomes her. This captain's name is Brandon Birmingham and he thinks that Heather is a working girl who has been brought to him willingly. He is briefly surprised when he penetrates her and realizes she's a virgin, but then he just goes ahead and continues to rape her. And then he does it again. And then a couple of times the next morning too. At this point, he realizes that maybe she is not a sex worker, since she was a virgin and continuously fights him whenever he tries to touch her, but he figures, hey what's done is done and she's beautiful so he might as well just keep her as a mistress while he's in town. He has to leave the ship on business so she decides to escape. She dresses in her old gown and leaves the gown that Rapist #1 (William Court) gave her to wear in exchange for 1 pound she takes from the captain's room. She uses that money to get her back to her mean aunt's house. She tells the aunt that William had to leave the city on business and didn't think it appropriate for her to remain in London unchaperoned (It was fine for him to travel alone with her and for her to travel alone back. No one questions this.). The mean aunt is even meaner and Heather endures her for several months, but she's traumatized, can't eat, is nauseated all the time, and has nightmares about William Court, Mr. Hint, and Captain Birmingham. Then one day her aunt sees her naked while she's bathing and flies off the handle. She can see that Heather is pregnant and demands to know who the father is. Heather tells her she got separated from William at a street fair and was kidnapped by sailors who brought her to the Yankee captain who raped her. So they pack up and go to London to find Lord Hampton, who had been a friend of Heather's father and who was also in charge of finding and prosecuting smugglers. He finds Brandon Birmingham and they force him to acknowledge and marry Heather. And he is pissed. How dare she get pregnant when he raped her and trap him into marriage. He vows to teach her a lesson by never having sex with her, the girl he raped, ever again. That'll teach her a lesson. After they get married they stay at an inn because Brandon thinks Heather will be more comfortable there, but it's also dangerous enough that he sleeps with pistols under the pillow and his servant guarding the door. And then, sure enough, the 1st night they're there, 2 dudes break in and try to kidnap Heather so they can rape her and then sell her to a duke who will rape her. Brandon, of course, thwarts this attempt. They stay at the inn for a few weeks while Brandon sells his cargo, restocks, and readies the ship. They start getting to know each other a bit and fall into a somewhat comfortable routine. Meanwhile, Brandon is slowly driving himself crazy because he wants to have sex with her so bad but he vowed to himself he never would so he won't. A few days before they set sail, he starts acting weird like he wants to talk to her about something. He tries several times but never can get it out. It seems to us readers that he's about to tell her that he wants to start having relations with her, as they are going to be shut up in a cabin together for months at sea. However, what comes out is a diatribe about how she won't be allowed to roam freely about the ship because the sailors, being without a woman for a few months and with one so beautiful just hanging about, will get aroused beyond reason and try to rape her. He tells her "If a man watches a beautiful woman and is around her for a long period of time without reprieve, he gets a strong urge to bed her. If he can't it becomes painful for him." >puke emojipuke emojipuke emoji ( )
  Mstufail19 | May 10, 2022 |
A classic romance written in the 1970s. Many readers are uncomfortable with a rape that opens the book but I found the scene fairly mild, relatively speaking. I enjoyed this book. ( )
  klandring | Nov 8, 2020 |
So much rape/attempted rape. The female main, Heather, is so beautiful that all men must possess her after one look. Gross. This book is not okay. It is not romantic. Apparently it sparked a revolution in historical romance. Again I say, gross. ( )
  AmandaEndicott | Feb 21, 2018 |
This is still one of my favorite books, in spite of the events at the beginning. Heather is young and innocent and quite the Cinderella figure. Her parents are dead and she is forced to live with her aunt and uncle. The uncle is henpecked and the aunt is abusive and obviously jealous of Heather's youth and beauty. Heather is turned over to her aunt's brother, who offers to take her to London and get her a job at a school. However, he's lying through his teeth, because he plans to use her himself then sell her to a brothel owner. In a rare show of spirit, Heather manages to escape him but ends up lost on the London docks. There she is grabbed by a couple of American sailors and given to their captain.

Brandon's ship has just arrived in London from South Carolina and he's feeling frisky. He's had a bit to drink and doesn't believe Heather's claims of not being a prostitute until after he has forced her. While he feels a slight pinch in his conscience, he's determined to set her up as his mistress for future visits. He's arrogant and overbearing and fully expects her to obey him when he tells her to stay put.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Heather show a bit of backbone when it came to her escape. Previously she had been quite timid and gave in quickly when berated by anyone. It was great fun to see her overcome Brandon's servant George with an empty pistol, then make her way back to her aunt's home. I ached for her and the abuse she continued to experience at her aunt's hands. Though Fanny's motives were selfish, I was happy to see her go to Lord Hampton for help in finding Brandon. I loved Lord Hampton's kindness and how he wanted what was best for Heather. In that time period, that meant forcing the man in question to "do the right thing." Though Brandon is angry at being threatened, there were hints that he isn't quite as bad as first impressions indicated. I loved the scene where he covered Heather in his cloak after Fanny ripped Heather's dress.

It was terrific to see the changes that both Brandon and Heather undergo over the course of the book. Brandon is initially arrogant, angry, and sometimes cruel. But when it comes down to it, actions can speak louder than words. His anger is expressed in the things he says, accusing Heather of setting out to trap him. He makes threats about keeping her prisoner, making sure she gets no benefits from the marriage, and stating that he will never sleep with her again. Yeah, that one comes back to haunt him. But in spite of his words, he takes her to get a whole new wardrobe (including something special for the cold weather sea voyage) and makes sure she is protected while they wait to sail. Heather is quiet and fearful and provoking Brandon's temper, but inside there is a spark of spirit that continues to grow. I loved her obvious relief that she is going to avoid her "wifely duties" and the dent that made in Brandon's ego.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship. Brandon becomes more intrigued by Heather with each day. She isn't what he expected and he isn't quite sure how to deal with that. I enjoyed seeing the kinder side of him emerge and loved his shopping trip with her. There were times during that period that Heather was able to forget her fear. I loved her sense of wonder and fun during those lighter moments and ached for her when something would set Brandon off. It made me laugh to see the way his physical frustration grew because it was his own fault. During the sea voyage, the confrontation between Brandon and Heather that ended up causing her illness was a turning point in their relationship. Brandon's attitude softened somewhat and Heather was able to relax a little bit of her hyperawareness.

Things got really interesting once they reached Charleston. The extreme difference between Heather and Brandon's ex-fiancée, Louisa, was obvious. In spite of Brandon's claims otherwise, he treated Heather with great care and respect around other people. I loved the effect it had on Louisa, who was a real piece of work. Brandon still had moments of being a jerk, but it became more and more obvious that those were in reaction to the battles he was fighting with himself. There were more and more scenes where he stood up for her, especially against Louisa. Heather also began to bloom in her new circumstances. She gained more confidence in herself, though encounters with Louisa still tended to dent that confidence. I loved the part where they were all cleaning the mill house and everyone kept trying to keep Heather from working and she would resist their efforts. I also loved the scene with the former mill owner and how Heather stood up to him. I loved seeing her and Brandon grow closer and lose most of their antagonism. Their individual decisions to find a way to fix their marriage were pretty funny since they both wanted the same thing. If they had just let go of the pride that was holding them back and actually talk to each other about their feelings things might have gone more smoothly. I ached for Heather when it seemed that her past was about to ruin her hope for a happy future with Brandon. The confrontation with that past was intense and I loved how Brandon was there for her. I loved how they were finally able to admit their feelings for each other and admit their mistakes.

The secondary characters were very well done. Louisa was an excellent foil for Heather. Her selfishness and arrogance made her so very easy to dislike. It was quite satisfying to see the way that she was consistently shown up by the differences between her and Heather. Her frustration at not being able to drive a wedge between Heather and Brandon was acute. I must admit to enjoying the scenes where she was thwarted in her attempts to do so. I feel badly about what happened to her at the end, but it did serve to wrap things up well. I also enjoyed Hattie and her fussing over all the Birminghams. It was fun to see her get in a few digs against Brandon and his idiocy. My favorite secondary character was Jeff. I loved how close he was to Brandon and the respect and love they had for each other. I adored his immediate support of Heather and the friendship that grew so quickly between them. I loved the scenes where he showed Brandon what an idiot he was. I especially loved the scene while he and Brandon were waiting for Heather to give birth and the calculations he did. He had such an air of innocence while he was jerking Brandon's chain. I know I have read his story, but I would like to go back and read it again.

The bit of mystery at the end, dealing with Heather's past and the murders that took place, was also interesting. The fear that Heather felt was real and kept me hooked to see how it would turn out. The final confrontation was intense and I could feel Heather's terror as she tried to escape. ( )
1 vote scoutmomskf | Dec 26, 2017 |
I protagonisti di questa turbolenta e passionale storia d'amore sono Brandon, yankee scapolo duro e affascinante, e Heather, giovane dolce ma forte fanciulla dal passato difficile.

L'avventura inizia nella Londra settecentesca con la fuga di Heather dalle tentate moleste dello zio paterno. La fuga, però, non far altro che aggravare la sua situazione dato che viene rapita in un sordido vicolo del porto e imbarcata di forza come prostituta nel mercantile di Brandon. L'incontro, o per meglio dire lo "scontro", fra i due è travolgente, complesso e anche piuttosto amaro fin dall'inizio. Brandon, infatti, ignorando le origini della ragazza finirà per farle violenza preso dagli istinti trattenuti per tutto il lungo viaggio dalle Americhe. Heather, orgogliosa ma tenace, non mancherà di fuggire dall'uomo non appena le se presenterà l'occasione, deludendo così le aspettative del Capitano che intendeva farne la sua amante.

Da quel punto in poi il romanzo ha un improvviso colpo di scena che riporterà Brandon nella vita di Heather anche se, fra i due, le cose non faranno altro che peggiorare in modo pressoché esponenziale.

Brandon, scapolo di quasi trentanni e capitano della sua nave dal carattere orgoglioso e inflessibile, finirà per terrorizzare letteralmente Heather che, nonostante il timore, non mancherà mai di tenere testa all'uomo fino a che, ovviamente, il punto di vista di Brandon non subirà un'inatteso mutamento verso la giovane donna.

C'è da dire che la violenza iniziale fatta subire a Heather tenderà a sconvolgere e stizzire le lettrici più sensibili, nonché il carattere pressoché impossibile di Brandon che finirà per punire Heather per essere fuggita e tornata alla casa dei suoi zii scatenando così una serie di reazioni che, visto l'epoca, hanno portato a un inevitabile matrimonio fra i due.

Questo tentativo di "punizione" alle spese di Heather da parte di Brandon non fa altro che renderlo più affascinante ma assolutamente insopportabile; come se la ragazza avesse dovuto subite l'onta, oltre la tragedia, di essere una semplice concubina dopo la violenza!

L'inizio così traumatico, nella figura di entrambi finisce per mutare irrimediabilmente durante il tragitto in nave che li porterà entrambi in America, a casa di Brandon Birmingham, dove l'attende anche l'ormai ex fidanzata del suddetto.

Una volta arrivati a terra le cose fra i due continueranno a oscillare pericolosamente fra l'affetto e la rottura per almeno un anno, oscillazioni "devotamente" aiutate dalla ex fidanzata che non ha perdonato in alcun modo Heather per averle sottratto il partito, o meglio gallina dalle uova d'oro.

Per fortuna entra in scena anche un'altro piacevole personaggio che farà immediatamente aumentare l'attenzione delle lettrici: Jeff. Fratello minore di Brandon, Jeff Birmingham, sarà la cosiddetta "boccata d'aria fresca" che aiuterà il romanzo a non cadere leggermente nel cliché introdotto dalla presenza della bionda bisbetica che è Luisa, l'ex fidanzata.

Ovviamente Jeff non mancherà di sostenere con tutte le sue forze la cognata, Heather, per la quale prova immediatamente un affetto smisurato e prenderà in giro il fratello ogni minuto per la comica situazione resa ancora più comica dall'astinenza forzata del fratello/stallone che si riscopre impossibilitato a interessarsi ad altre donne che non siano sua moglie di cui è assolutamente geloso.

Ovviamente, come ogni buon romance che si rispetti, avremo un lieto fine; non prima che ai due siano capitati - ovviamente - una buona dose di sfortunati eventi [cit.]

Heather è un bel personaggio in tutto il suo "percorso" narrativo. Una "vera" cenerentola che si trova in una situazione più brutta dell'altra ma che, nonostante ciò, non rinuncerà mai al tuo passionale e tenace carattere.

Jeff è un altro personaggio assolutamente fantastico. Spensierato e divertente, sembra quasi l'antitesi del rigido e formale Brandon; almeno fino a quando qualcuno non osi toccare la sua famiglia. In quel caso si trasforma nella copia esatta del fratello maggiore dando sfoggio di un elegante forza che, seppur meno impetuosa di quella del capofamiglia, è comunque temibile.

Luisa è il personaggio più stereotipato e, ovviamente, antipatico del romanzo. Non dobbiamo dimenticare che in quanto "primo fra i primi" questo romanzo ha costituito uno dei capostipiti del genere romance per cui, oggi, possiamo definirlo perfino banale ma che allora non era assolutamente tale.

Brandon, invece, è il personaggio che ha subito la trasformazione più repentina, se non addirittura troppo repentina, del romanzo. Da maschio Alpha finisce per essere "troppo" sdolcinato e perfetto da metà romanzo in poi.

Dell'intera trilogia questo è senza dubbio il migliore in assoluto e che merita di essere letto, anche se non si può certo la miglior opera della Woodiwiss è senza dubbio uno dei romanzi romance più famosi. ( )
  Nasreen44 | Jun 8, 2017 |
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For the flame will surely come,

And burn, and blacken, and lay bare the hill.

But with the first sweet breath of spring

The shy and lovely flower will again show

its face among the charred ruins.

It yields to the searing heat,

But with its persistent beauty

Far surpasses and finally tames the flame.
First words
Somewhere in the world, time no doubt whistled by on taut and widespread wings, but here in the English countryside it plodded slowly, painfully as if it trod the rutted road that stretched across the moors on blistered feet.
June 23, 1799
Somewhere in the world, time no doubt whistled by on taut and widespread wings, but here in the English countryside it plodded slowly, painfully, as if it trod the rutted road that stretched across the moors on blistered feet.
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Fiction. Romance. Historical Fiction. HTML:

New York Times bestselling author Kathleen E. Woodiwiss debut romance...

The Flower

Doomed to a life of unending toil, Heather Simmons fears for her innocenceâ??until a shocking, desperate act forces her to flee. . . and to seek refuge in the arms of a virile and dangerous stranger.

The Flame

A lusty adventurer married to the sea, Captain Brandon Birmingham courts scorn and peril when he abducts the beautiful fugitive from the tumultuous London dockside. But no power on Earth can compel him to relinquish his exquisite prize. For he is determined to make the sapphire-eyed lovely his woman. . .and to carry her off to far, uncharted realms of sensuous, passionate love.

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