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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I really love Kathleen's books. I first read "The Flame and the Flower" twenty years ago and I have reread it so many times that I've had to buy four books! I've read all of her books and loved everyone of them. This book was great. I was so happy to find out what had happened to Brandon and Heather. The only thing I didn't like was that this book came out before "A Season Beyond a Kiss" which is Jeff's(Brandon's brother) story. The love scenes in this book are as hot and sensual as all of her other books. Beau is a wonderful hero just like his father. And Cerynise is just strong enough to handle him yet appear shy and fragile at the same time. Buy this book and reread it again and again.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The Flame & the Flower is my favorite romance novel of all time, having read it at least 15 times, and I always hoped the author would write a sequel about this fascinating family. Twenty-five years later I got my wish with The Elusive Flame. I didn't care that it focused on Beau as an adult. I knew that Woodiwiss, with her great writing style, would do something with this character and create a great storyline. But, disappointingly, something fell short. After reading it through, all I could think of was that I wished she had done things differently. The beginning of the book starts out good, with the usual evil relative leaving Cerynise destitute. You have to feel sympathy for the heroine, and you do with her, but I just couldn't believe that she always loved Beau, and I couldn't believe that Beau would be so quick to marry her just to help her in a bind and then fall just as quickly in love with her. Perhaps if the author had written a prologue of when Cerynise and Beau were younger, writing in more detail about the times when she teased him in class, when he rescued her from bullies and others that picked on her, and the moments when she would ride with him on his horse, then we could believe that these two people were meant for each other. Once they admit their true feelings to each other, the story goes flat. How many times can you read about their tremendous devotion and their acts of lovemaking that reach incredible heights without getting bored? The best thing about a romance novel is the tension, the separation and the range of feelings leading up to the realization of love, and Woodiwiss gets them together too fast, leaving the reader nowhere to go. I wish that Beau had another woman in his life. If he's so kind and charming as the writer says, surely there must have been a woman with whom he was intimate other than harlots. Why is it that these good-looking men are only intimate with harlots? If there was another woman waiting for him in Charleston, it would've created that tension and confusion for Beau and Cerynise and the other woman. I have to admit that when I finished it, I read it again, only because I enjoyed reading about Heather and Brandon, and somehow I kept hoping that I would read things differently the second time around. Woodiwiss missed the mark on this one, but I still love her work.... And I look forward to the next Birmingham book called "A Season Beyond A Kiss." Does anyone have any info on what this book's about? P.S. I'm glad to see that others were just as confused as me about his EYE color, because she mentions in the book that his eyes are emerald in one sentence and sapphire in another. And we all know that Beau had Brandon's eyes!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have nerver read Kathleen Woodiwiss before, so The Elusive Flame was my first and I'm sorry to say my last taste of a Woodiwiss romance.
I noticed that a lot of reviewers were judging it against other Woodiwiss novels they have read over the years. Being only 21 I havent had much access to the Historical romance novels of the 80's and 90's and can only judge it against the more recent offerings I have read.

The Elusive Flame was unbelievably hard for me to finish, I found it trite, annoying and repetitive.
The characters were completely unbelievably. Cerynise is NAUSEATINGLY perfect. She's completely gorgeous, is so gifted a painter she is often compared to the renaissance masters (Her paintings sell for thousands of dollars), she speaks french "As well as any native" and the author often referres to her as being blessed with, "A hilarious dry wit" and Beau, for reasons unknown to me, wants not only her body, but her lovely company. Everyone on the ship thinks Cerynise is a goddess and metaphorcally kiss her feet. In fact, apart from the two main villains, everyone who meets Cerynise thinks the sun rises and sets for her. WHY? The author telling us that Cerynise has a hilarious dry wit and a wonderful effusive nature does not mean she does. I never laughed at one think Cerynise said. She was the most one dimensional character I have ever read. Even romance heroines need some human flaws and failings to make them relatable or at least understandable to readers. Cerynise is so perfect that after one night of rushed sex she is pregnant and nine months later gives birth to the perfect little boy and then four weeks after that her body is back to the exact slender perfection she enjoyed before her pregnancy.
I laughed my head off when Cerynise's mother in law organised a welcoming Tea for Cerynise and over a hundred people turned up to see the goddess Cerynise. A HUNDRED people? And all of the women, apart from the few, token jealous bitches, left the Tea surprised at Cerynise's general perfection. How completely ridiculous. Reading about all of Cerynise's exploits in perfection while never actually seeing her character become in anyway interesting was like pulling teeth for me.

Now to Beau. Not really sure what to say about Beau. Standard romance hero, ticking all the boxes. Is devilishly handsome, filthy rich, likes the ladies until he meets the heroine and then no other woman will do. Yep, that's about it. Beau is emminently forgettable. Having such an uninteresting cliche of a hero in a romance novel is pretty much the final nail in the coffin.

The plot is slow moving and irritating. When Beau and Cerynise are struggling over the annullment and Beau isnt sure if Cerynise and he had sex or if it was a dream, while Cerynise doesnt want to trap him into marriage by admitting she was compromised. I just wanted to tear my hair out. I hate those convenient, break-down-in-communication plot devices that create phantom tension for the hero and heroine. All the while you know they are going to come to their senses and fall into one anothers arms so it's just ANNOYING. More recent historical romances build in the sexual tension very skillfully and then the sex scenes are much hotter and racier than those in this book. Why does all the romance novels written before 2003 have to use euphemisms for everything, "his masculine harness" is just plain silly. Authors liek Lisa Kleypas, Elizabeth Hoyt and even Juile Anne Long write much more modern sex scenes without the awkward euphemistic filter. I think Woodiwiss represents the old style of romance novels.

Her writing was extremely flowery and over the top. Woodiwiss's philosophy seems to be why use one word when you can use two really long (found only in a thesaurus) words? Only the villains talk in a slightly more believable way.
Early in the book, the author tries to point out that Cerynise is highly educated in the proper english fashion but preferred to maintain her courser American accent, as a tribute to her dead parents, much to her tutor's chagrin. This is how it's put in the book: "Amid a profusion of other studies, her tutors had diligently sought to instruct her in porper English diction and etiquitte, but having considered none of them as wise or as brilliant as her own studious parents, Cerynise enjoyed frustrating their efforts to correct her speech like some precocious child who was want to tease her elders. Though she could assume a stiltedly refined speech that could fool the keenest ears when it met her mood"
Why so many words? It seems far too wordy and flowry. I found the prose innaccessible and felt that it created a slow moving plot.

Okay, from a Woodiwiss novice, that is my humble oppinion
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
My mother has always been a fan of Kathleen Woodiwiss and has tried, unsuccessfully, my whole life to get me to read and enjoy her books. I've tried, "Shanna," "The Wolf and the Dove," and all the others, but never could get into them. However, when my mom bought her copy of "The Elusive Flame" I figured I'd try to again read "The Flame and The Flower" because I tend to like series. I wasn't dissapointed. "The Flame and The Flower" was excellent and by the time I finished "The Elusive Flame" I found myself digging all the other Woodiwiss novels out and planning to read them. I've read some of the other bland reviews of "The Elusive Flame" and wonder, did you all read the same book I did? The characters were *not* one demensional, they were very much like Brandon and Heather. You'd expect Beau to be like his father, which he is and you'd expect him to fall for someone like his mother -- which he did. Cerynise is a lot like Heather in so many ways, the only difference being that Cerynise is a little more outspoken. All in all, it was a great read and one I'll visit many times in the future. I anxiously await the next book in the sage that began with Heather and Bradon. Thank you, Ms. Woodiwiss for an excellent book and a great group of characters!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2002
Format: Audio Cassette
Make that 3.5 stars. Although this book isn't as good as some of the vintage Woodiwiss books, it was still better than I expected, and thus, I enjoyed it. It starts off with interesting events - the death of Cerynise's guardian and unexpected arrival of her guardian's heir, Alistair. He doesn't particularly care for Cerynise and he makes no secret of that fact. Before she knows it, she's thrown out on the streets with no money and nowhere to go. Deciding her only choice is to return home to the states, Cerynise heads for the docks. Barely making it to the docks, she is rescued by Beau, a man she knew from her childhood. They enter into a hasty and temporary marriage as a means of keeping Alistair from taking her back as his ward.
During the long voyage to Charleston, Cerynise falls hopelessly in love with Beau. But because the marriage is only temporary, they both try not to give in to temptation and consummate the marriage -- and there's a lot of temptation. By the time they reach Charleston, both are in turmoil about the direction their relationship should take, and unbeknownst to them, Alistair is hot on their trail bringing with him the threat of death, and the destruction of their shaky relationship. To make matters worse, Beau is a much sought after and very wealthy bachelor whose family home is in Charleston. Upon their return, women pose another threat to Cerynise and her shaky marriage as they try to ensnare Beau for themselves.
While the Elusive Flame doesn't make the reader pant and sigh with emotion as much as some of Ms. Woodiwiss' earlier romance novels, it nonetheless delivers enough romance to hold your attention. The story has elements of danger, adventure, suspense, a little mystery, and a lot of jealousy - which adds a nice bit of spice. The different circumstances the two lovers find themselves in also add a good bit of excitement to the story. Both Beau and Cerynise are developed well enough that they come to life, and you can feel their feelings changing from merely curiosity and admiration for each other to a deep and lasting love.
While at first it seemed a little weird to have a man reading this book, I quickly got over my surprise since his reading didn't distract me from the story. Bottom line, this is a book I would recommend.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
What happened to the Woodiwiss I remember starting with "The Flame and the Flower" "The Wolf and the Dove", etc. They were so full of passion and rich character development. The woman characters now are modern day feminist not at all resembling their female counterparts of the 19th century and the male characters are weak, spineless fools. I miss the Woodiwiss stories which were truly historical romances and not modern day tales in historical settings all caught up in being politically correct and sugar coated so as not to offend.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Kathleen Woodiwiss wrote the first historical romance I ever read. I read "Shanna" when I was 15, and it was the standard by which I judged further novels I read. 18 years later I can still remember the names of all of the 'bit players' in that book, because Ms. Woodiwiss used to spend time developing her minor characters. I have found her work since "Come Love A Stranger" to be shallow and unworthy of the steep price commanded by a new Woodiwiss novel.
I have heard that six or eight years ago Ms. Woodiwiss became a born-again Christian and turned away from sensuality in her novels. All deference to her religious conviction aside, it seems that she has also turned from character development, ingenuity, and plausibility.
I still have my dog-eared copies of "The Flame and the Flower", "The Wolf and the Dove", "Shanna", "A Rose in Winter", and "Ashes in the Wind", but I'll not be reading any more new Woodiwiss novels.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2010
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
Kathleen Woodiwiss was not only the "queen of romance" who started it all, but she was a true professional and her writing shows it. Having said that, as I said in my review of A Season Beyond a Kiss, it's not in the 5 star category that her others are or even the first in the Birmingham series (The Flame and the Flower). The entire Birmingham series is:

The Flame and the Flower, 1972 (a novel)
"The Kiss" in THREE WEDDINGS AND A KISS, 1995 (with Catherine Anderson, Loretta Chase, Lisa Kleypas)
"Beyond the Kiss" in MARRIED AT MIDNIGHT, 1996 (with Jo Beverley, Tanya Anne Crosby, Samantha James)
A Season Beyond a Kiss, 2000 (a novel)
The Elusive Flame, 1998 (a novel)

The Elusive Flame, written before A Season Beyond a Kiss but in the timing of the series comes later, tells of Brandon and Heather's son, Beau, who has become captain of his own merchant ship and at 25 is a successful businessman and quite like a younger version of his father...all tall dark and sexy. He has no plans to settle down for 10 years. While in London, he rescues the young and beautiful Cerynis Kendall, who was sent to London when her parents died many years ago to be raised by an older woman much loved by her. Cerynis was thrown out on the street (literally) on a freezing cold night by a treacherous nephew of her guardian who has just died. There is confusion over wills and in the meantime, Cerynis is left homeless and without a farthing. Raised in the Carolinas and wanting to return, Cerynis discovers Beau (who she idolized as a child) has a ship in port and asks him to give her passage home. But it seems the only way that will happen is if they marry (with plans to annul the marriage when they get back to Charleston, of course). The voyage home proves interesting and Woodiwiss does a great job of describing life aboard the ship and creates some wonderful characters in the London servants and ship's crew. Frankly, I thought the book entertaining and it held my interest though others of hers were more exciting. Still, her writing is among the best out there.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Flame & the Flower is my favorite romance novel of all time, having read it at least 15 times, and I always hoped the author would write a sequel about this fascinating family. Twenty-five years later I got my wish with The Elusive Flame. I didn't care that it focused on Beau as an adult. I knew that Woodiwiss, with her great writing style, would do something with this character and create a great storyline. But, disappointingly, something fell short. After reading it through, all I could think of was that I wished she had done things differently. The beginning of the book starts out good, with the usual evil relative leaving Cerynise destitute. You have to feel sympathy for the heroine, and you do with her, but I just couldn't believe that she always loved Beau, and I couldn't believe that Beau would be so quick to marry her just to help her in a bind and then fall just as quickly in love with her. Perhaps if the author had written a prologue of when Cerynise and Beau were younger, writing in more detail about the times when she teased him in class, when he rescued her from bullies and others that picked on her, and the moments when she would ride with him on his horse, then we could believe that these two people were meant for each other. Once they admit their true feelings to each other, the story goes flat. How many times can you read about their tremendous devotion and their acts of lovemaking that reach incredible heights without getting bored? The best thing about a romance novel is the tension, the separation and the range of feelings leading up to the realization of love, and Woodiwiss gets them together too fast, leaving the reader nowhere to go. I wish that Beau had another woman in his life. If he's so kind and charming as the writer says, surely there must have been a woman with whom he was intimate other than harlots. Why is it that these good-looking men are only intimate with harlots? If there was another woman waiting for him in Charleston, it would've created that tension and confusion for Beau and Cerynise and the other woman. I have to admit that when I finished it, I read it again, only because I enjoyed reading about Heather and Brandon, and somehow I kept hoping that I would read things differently the second time around. Woodiwiss missed the mark on this one, but I still love her work....If you haven't read already, I recommend The Flame and Flower, Ashes in the Wind, and Petals on the River.

P.S. I'm glad to see that others were just as confused as me about Beau's EYE color, because Woodiwiss mentions in the book that his eyes are emerald in one sentence and sapphire in another. And for those of us who are The Flame and Flower devotees, we all know that Beau had Brandon's eyes! Emerald!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I admit this was a pretty good sequel to "The Flame and the Flower". A bit different from the original, but good. I usually dislike sequels and find them never holding a candle the original, but this one held a pretty strong one. The beginning was kinda hard to trudge through in my opinion, but once it got rolling, it was really good. I liked the hero Beau Birmingham,(Heather and Brandon's son from The Flame and Flower)he was a very strong character. Was alot like his father from the first book. Cerynise was a strong heroine and never seemed to falter and become weak as in some romance novels, she held her own. My only complaint was in the "villians". The first book, the villians were really scary and had you wondering what would happen next, very unpredictable. But these "villains" weren't anything of the sort. They were clumsy and predictable. I also was dissapointed in how quick the couple seemed to fall in love. They were suppose to be old friends and she always loved him as a child, but I just wasn't convinced. Though I was excited to see the characters from "Flame.." appear. Heather and Brandon was funny and the same as usual. The story line could've been better. As with the other reviews, I thought the ending was a bit stupid and seemed derived from a certain "movie", but I wont say anymore. =) Also I was as confused as everyone else to what color Beau's eyes were during the entire book! One time they were Blue the next they were like Brandon's(green), then Sapphire! Aside from that I did enjoy the story. Most of exciting part of the story is on the ship to the Carolinas. I am now looking forward to the 3rd in this series, "Season Beyond A Kiss". I hope this helps anyone out there!
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