Kate Duffy, Kensington Books Editorial Director, died this morning, and the romance world mourns the loss of an indomitable spirit, a brassy dame and a woman who cared deeply about the way love stories are told.
That's why Duffy - who rescued Judith McNaught's iconic "Whitney, My Love " from a To-Be-Trashed slush pile -- created Kensington's Brava imprint, one of the first lines of highly-sensual romance for women, one she defined as "erotic romance: sexual love and desire combined with deep emotional commitment."
Duffy was a funny lady, partially a never-suffer-a-damn-fool-gladly New Yorker, but mostly a dedicated, dyed-in-the-wool servant of romance. More fan than industry wonk, she told me a while back in a feature for WNBC.com's world news, "Romance entertains me; it makes me happy. I like to say Nora Roberts got me through my divorce; Suzanne Brockmann got me through my father's illness; Joanne Ross got me through my father's death, and Lisa Kleypas got me through yesterday."
Duffy remarked that the key to a good romance simply is the reader's knowing the hero and heroine are in love long before they understand. "The hero and heroine may think it's temporary, the reader knows it's forever." I remember howling when she added about the classic "opposites attract" construct upping that ante, "He's a demon and she's mostly human, but those kids were meant to be together!"
Duffy definitely knew what was meant to be when it came to choosing books readers love. Yet she understood human nature deeply, and knew the value of support, loyalty and gratitude. My favorite quotes of hers are, "Brilliant work!" and "Thank you."
One got the sense from Duffy that she was like the rest of us: knocked around by life, yet surviving to tell the tale. The difference with Duffy was she wasn't afraid to share the softer stuff when it counted.
"I know romance is pretty damn rare in real life," she wrote in a guest post about the importance of fantasy to women for Romance: B(u)y the Book blog. "So are compassion, empathy, generosity, humor, intelligence and bravery. And yet you find all these elements in romance novels. So, yeah, I guess these fantasies are fairly important to women. At least to this woman."