Review: Three Weddings and a Kiss

Review: Three Weddings and a KissThree Weddings and a Kiss by Catherine Anderson, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Lisa Kleypas, Loretta Chase
Published by Avon on September 1, 1995
Genres: Historical
Pages: 389

This is an anthology of three short novellas and one very short story. All are unrelated to one another.

FANCY FREE by Catherine Anderson: Clint Rafferty trying to raise his brothers and keep the family together after the deaths of his parents. Rachel Constantine wants to get revenge for her sister’s heart being broken by Clint’s brother. When revenge goes wrong, Clint and Rachel end up with a “shotgun” wedding. The two attempt to give their marriage a go. This book takes place in the American West. The story is built on humor as Rachel doesn’t wear her needed glasses and ends up making a mess of cooking, cleaning and all the household activities. I didn’t mind the device, but it went on too long and eventually got tiring to read. The story is pretty fluffy as a story as these two never really get to know one another as people even as their relationship progresses. It wasn’t a bad story, but pretty forgettable. Rating: 2 stars.

THE MAD EARL’S BRIDE by Loretta Chase: THE MAD EARL’S BRIDE is a short story that has a connection with Loretta Chase’s classic LORD OF SCOUNDRELS. The couple from that book, Dain and Jess, make a small but significant appearance here.
This story is the romance between Gwen and Dorian. The two meet because of an arranged marriage because Dorian is dying of an inherited brain disease that killed his mother and is expected to soon kill him. Before he dies, however, he is expected to father an heir. Gwen agrees to the marriage because she seeks the influence and money that marriage will give her so that she can open a hospital. She does not mind that her future husband will soon be a lunatic because she has studied medicine and had wished to be a doctor (of course, she is not permitted to do so because she is a woman). Dorian initially does not wish to marry at all , but decides to help Gwen realize her dream. The romance between the two is sweet and full of angst as they are living under the sadness of having such a short time together. Dorian is reluctant to engage in a true relationship because he cares for Gwen but she overcomes him. What I liked best about this story is how he respects Gwen’s abilities and trusts in her judgment. The resolution of the story comes not from miracles, but rather the intelligence of Gwen and the trust between the couple that uncovers the solution. I really enjoyed this story and I highly recommend it. Rating: 4 stars.

PROMISES by Lisa Kleypas: Lidian Acland is waiting for the man she loves to return from the Continent even though her mother insists that Lidian is only hiding from her hurt of his leaving her. Lord Eric De Gray meets Lidian while escorting his sister at a party and is struck by her kindness. They dance, but Lidian tells Eric that she it taken. Eric takes a liking to Lidian and is determined to make her confront that the man she is waiting for is not worthy of her and Eric himself wants her. This story was okay but nothing particularly stood out with one exception — Lidian and Eric go to Craven’s (yes, Derek Craven’s gambling hell from DREAMING OF YOU). We get a small glimpse of Derek and how his character jumps from the page in only a few lines demonstrated how pale the other characters are in comparison. Nothing was bad about it, it just wasn’t the standard I expect from Kleypas’s work. Rating: 3 stars.

THE KISS by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss: A few things need to be said about this work. Most importantly, this is only one story of two plus a novel about this couple. This story is only a small vignette and really needs especially the novel to feel complete. Jeff Birmingham, the brother of Brandon from THE FLOWER AND THE FLAME, is shopping for a gift for his sister-in-law when he runs into — literally — into a young woman dressed in rags. Raelynn Barrett who is running from her uncle who intends to sell her to a man who may “eventually” marry her. This story doesn’t have much substance to it when read alone. There is instant attraction which then leads to a marriage based upon Raelynn being ruined. We don’t get to know much about her. Jeff is better known primarily because of his appearance in THE FLOWER AND THE FLAME. This story should be read only as a sequel and prequel to the actual book about Jeff and Raelynn which was its intent more than a self-contained story. Rating: 2.5 stars.


Review: The Flame and the Flower

The Flame and the Flower
The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Controversial and Sometimes Polarizing, but the Genesis of the Modern Romance Novel

FINAL DECISION: One of the first romances I read as a teenager, THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER is sweeping with a crazy plot where everything bad happens that one could imagine. So much of the modern romance novel begins here. Despite its shortcomings in a modern context, I love how big and bold it is.

THE STORY: Heather Simmons is an innocent young woman who is treated worse than a servant by her aunt. Believing that she has the possibility for a better life, she agrees to go to London with her aunt’s brother only to end up fleeing his house. In a case of mistaken identity, she is believed to be a prostitute and is taken to an American sea captain who is looking for a woman for the night. Captain Brandon Birmingham finds himself intrigued by the innocent Heather and thinks of keeping her. Heather escapes Brandon but the two seem fated to encounter one another again.

OPINION: I read this book as a teenager when I liberated it from my mom’s stash. I had read a couple of other romance books before but I remember the scope and drama of this story. The plot is crazy. Rape, attempted rapes, kidnapping, blackmail, exotic travels. While the book begins with Brandon having all the power, Heather becomes powerful in their relationship as Brandon falls in love with her.

The book is controversial and often polarizing among romance readers because the relationship between Heather and Brandon begins with rape and Brandon never atones for his actions (although in the sequel about their son, Brandon does acknowledge his actions). For me, however, I cannot take this book out of the time I first read it. The book was groundbreaking and big and crazy and created the template for modern historical romances. For that reason alone it is worth reading even with all its flaws.

WORTH MENTIONING: The relationship between the hero and the heroine begins with the hero raping the heroine. Rape was not uncommon as part of romance of the era (early 1970s). Some modern readers may find this offensive.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER is the first book in the Birmingham series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.