Intriguing and captivating story!
The extraordinary Birmingham Family Saga commences in The Flame and the Flower -- it continues in The Elusive Flame and concludes in A Season Beyond a Kiss. The Flower: Doomed to a life of unending toil, Heather Simmons fears for her innocence--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.
Heather and Brandon are fascinating from the moment they become involved. A historical novel about the American Colonies and 18th Century England.
Classic, trashy, badly written, wonderfully decadent romance.
The bold, tempestuous romance of a kidnapped and ravished aristocratic girl.
On her way to London, an orphaned beauty is mistaken for a lady of the night and must be rescued from attack by a dashing sea captain who discovers her true identity, and together the couple sets sail for the high seas and a life of passion.
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-fiancÃ©e, 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.