The 1972 debut work by author Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, The Flame And The Flower revolutionised the romance novel genre. It was the first such book to be distributed in paperback, and also the first to depict sexual relations between the hero and heroine. The massive success of this work ushered in a wave of historical "bodice rippers" through the 70s, which became the basis for much public opinion about the Romance Novel for years to come, even long after that first wave of tropes had faded away.
The story concerns Heather, an eighteen-year-old British Heartwarming Orphan in 1800 America, who lives in misery with her aunt and uncle in the countryside. She is pressured to take a trip to London with her aunt's brother, who supposedly will help her find employment. However, the job offer turns out to mean a brothel, once he's sampled her charms. She struggles, he falls on his knife, and she runs out into the streets of London in a panic. When a man in uniform asks her to come with him, she believes she's being arrested, and goes along quietly.
Brandon, meanwhile, was just an American businessman on a trip to London who sent his men to find him some entertainment for the night. When they return with what he believes to be a beautiful prostitute, he mistakes her reluctance for pretense and doesn't realize the truth until after the deed is done. Afterwards, he offers to set her up as his mistress, but she refuses and flees back to her countryside home.
When she's later found to be pregnant, her relatives force her to identify the father and pressure him into marrying the girl that he 'ruined' or face a loss of reputation that he, as a businessman, could not afford. Of course, he already had a fiancee, and neither Heather nor Brandon is pleased to be trapped together, and there's still the lingering issue of that murder...
- Accidental Murder: One of the men attempting to rape Heather manages to end up dead after the struggle.
- Alliterative Title: The Flame And The Flower.
- All Men Are Rapists: Every man who sees Heather wants her, and even otherwise-sympathetic characters hint at the threat of sexual violence. The only man who actually manages it, of course, is the hero.
- Cinderella Circumstances: Heather's parents are dead; she lives with her aunt, who abuses her, dresses her in rags, and treats her as an unpaid servant.
- Common Hollywood Sex Traits: The virgin blood of the girl who was Mistaken for Prostitute.
- Damsel in Distress: Heather spends a lot of time being chased or menaced by people who mean her harm.
- He-Man Woman Hater: Brandon thinks all women are manipulative gold-diggers, largely based on his experience with his fiancee.
- The Girl Who Fits This Slipper: There's a bit of a minor plot involving a dress custom-made for Heather, who is so impossibly slender that no ordinary woman can fit the garment.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Brandon, who does not appreciate being saddled with a wife.
- Mistaken for Prostitute: Brandon thought the girl in his bed was a streetwalker, right up until the point where he saw the virgin blood.
- Southern Gentleman: Brandon and his brother Jeff. The family has a plantation and cheerful black slaves.