Title: A Rose in Winter
Author: Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Genre: historical romance: Georgian
Avery Fleming is desperate when he sells his daughter to the highest bidder. Although Erienne has protested, her worst nightmare comes true when she is sold to the beast of Saxton Hall while Christopher Seton, the dreadful Yankee who’s caused all her troubles, eagerly claims the money her father owes him. Disappointed with how life has turned, Erienne is wed and starting her new life as the next Lady of Saxton Hall.
Erienne Fleming wasn’t the first heroine Kathleen E. Woodiwiss created in her novels but was, despite this fact, not much different either. Woodiwiss’ heroines are rare beauties who play an active role within the story and (un)fortunately, the male heroes share the same destiny as well. They are handsome and older than the heroine. It’s a basic fact and predictable. When you’ve read one of her stories, you’ve read them all because this never changes.
Unsurprisingly, this plot follows the same guidelines as most historical romance novels in which the heroine dislikes the hero but the hero would do everything within his power to make her fall in love. Once that happens, their love is lived shortly for soon the situation in which the heroine needs to be rescued, will approach. However, the stories vary.
This one differenced itself in a way that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the story. Based upon a Beauty and the Beast theme, Erienne is married to someone she fears. Despite of what most people say, this is not superficial but typical human behaviour. It makes her real. People who don’t fit ‘normality’ are considered to be ‘unpredictable’, especially in Erienne’s time. Everyone who was deformed was assumed to be the devil’s spawn. To her credit, Erienne doesn’t despise the monster but she’s scared of the idea what may be hidden behind the mask. As time passes, Erienne learns to appreciate his nature but at the same time, the handsome Christopher Seton acts like a true cunning fox, trying to disgrace her with his passion while she trusts him more than her own husband, which is naivety in its pure form. The moralisation behind this conflict was what captured me most. Trust is (unrightfully) won by those we don’t fear but we all do it, whether it’s consciously or not; appearance is the first thing we observe and if that doesn’t fit what we expect, the person opposite is already one step behind on gaining trust. If that makes Erienne superficial, then I suppose we all are in some ways. Erienne evolves in the story. If she hadn’t, then she would have been truly superficial.
Woodiwiss was a pioneer in modern historical romance when she started writing her stories more than three decennia ago. She’s judged harshly nowadays but in her time, she was cherished for being different. As a consequence of her stories, we can say it feels predictable now; without her, we wouldn’t have this genre to discuss to begin with.
Does all these facts make me love her books, and this story in particular, any less? No, it doesn’t. It’s exactly what I want and need in this genre. It’s my little escape from reality and I can only thank her with all my love for creating this.