God bless Kathleen E. Woodiwiss.
This prolific author had three decades of bestsellers to her credit before passing away in early July in Minnesota. Her final work will be published this fall. The numbers vary, but total sales of her body of work total upwards of 25 or 30 million copies.
Never heard of her? Check your chromosomes and get back to me. Woodiwiss basically invented the genre of the historical romance novel, and women haven't been the same ever since. I haven't read her books in many years, but I do remember them fondly and with no little sense of romance. Sure, maybe the heroine was originally kidnapped and possibly even raped by the man who ultimately becomes her lover and partner. Maybe it was unlikely the captain of the pirate ship would tuck away a wench for his personal pleasure on a ship packed with less than savory male companions.
Ummm...you're thinking about this w-a-y too much. The novels were pieces of candy women could devour, guilt free. They were a respite from the reality of daily life, where the most romantic thing a woman might encounter is an exchange between Kermit and Miss Piggy as her toddlers watched Sesame Street. They were a vacation you took in your own living room.
Romance novels are the unseen workhorses of publishing. There may be showier steeds out in front of the parade, but these hardworking books keep the business chugging along. They don't need promotion; or endless praise, or cover blurbs or author chats with Diane Sawyer to boost their sales. They just work, day in and day out to make bottom lines look better at publishers the world over and make daily lives that much more fun for women the world over.
Thanks, Kathleen. You made a lot of us very happy to know you.