Romance 'Came Out of Me,' She Said. Now She's Gone

Johanna Lindsey died this year at age 67
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 24, 2019 11:30 AM CST
She Helped Invent the Modern Romance Novel
Johanna Lindsey in an undated photo.   (Simon and Schuster)

One of the world's best-loved romance writers is gone. Johanna Lindsey—whose pirates, aristocrats, and brave heroines sold at least 60 million copies—died earlier this year with stage 4 lung cancer, the New York Times reports. She was only 67. "Since I was old enough to appreciate a good novel, I've been a romantic," she once said. "I enjoy happy-ending love stories more than any other type of reading. Romance is what comes out of me." Indeed, novels like Wildfire in His Arms and Captive of My Desires have been riveting romance fans for over 40 years with their depictions of love, sexual surrender, and even rape in centuries past. It all started back in 1977:

  • She couldn't stop: "'Desert sheikh, romance, kidnapping'—that's about all I started with," she said of her first novel, Captive Bride. "The book wrote itself. ... I just sat down one day and wrote the middle scene, the love scene in the tent. I amazed myself—I couldn't stop writing." Avon published the book with "only one change," and she was off.

  • So popular: Her works are translated into at least 12 languages and sold one copy every eight seconds, Avon said in 1993, per USA Today.
  • What it's like: "'God, you taste good!" cried one of her characters, "handsome rakehell" Jeremy in A Loving Scoundrel. Of his young female servant, Danny: "She'd been thinking the same thing. His lips were so velvety soft. His breath wasn’t fumed with alcohol at all, was rather heady in scent. His taste was exotic, beyond her ability to describe."
  • Female-centric: "She's one of the foundations of the genre," romance writer Beverly Jenkins tells the Washington Post, comparing her to historical romance writers Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers: "You had these female-centered stories with women who were bound and determined to set their own pace, to define love, to fracture what people associated women with."
  • Rape issue: Lindsey's characters may have lacked power, and even been raped, but her often working-class readers "included a generation of women who'd grown up with a very different set of messages about what they were allowed to enjoy," writes Kelly Faircloth at Jezebel. "They offered adventure and glamour and wildness and pleasure and agency and a vacation from everyday life in more ways than one."
  • Fabio: Lindsey's steamy book covers "defined" the golden-haired male model known as Fabio, a romance correspondent tells the Post. And Fabio paid tribute to the Lindsey, telling USA Today she was "an amazing person and an incredible author. I loved being featured on her covers."
(More novelist stories.)

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