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."

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎09-28-2009 12:53 PM

The world is a better place to have known her, and I know exactly how she felt about romance "getting" her through some tough times, I know it has for me.

What a tremendous loss for the romance community.

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎09-28-2009 01:08 PM

What a loss to the romance community! I loved the first quote, but then I loved the next one even more -- and then the next one was great, too. I wish I had known her.

by Moderator Melanie_Murray on ‎09-28-2009 03:15 PM

I was so sad to learn about this today. Thanks for tributing a behind-the-scenes star of the romance community.

by Author MonicaBurns on ‎09-28-2009 03:57 PM

It's definitely a loss to writers and readers of romance everywhere. She was sharp, savvy and always had her finger on the pulse of the romance community, LONG before most of us knew what we wanted. The last time I chatted with her via email it was to invite her to speak at the Passionate Ink party this past July at RWA National. When she agreed (prior to knowing she was ill), I wrote back elated and said my chapter mates would adore me. She immediately replied not to get to excited because someone would inevitably come along and shoot me out of the water because people are so fickle. *smile*


She'll definitely be missed.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎09-28-2009 04:21 PM

So many of us will miss Kate greatly.  Meeting Kate was my one, true fangirl moment in the four years I've written about romance.  After that, she offered me inumerable hands up, introduced me to important industry contacts, gave me advice.  Your story, Monica, reminds me of the story I didn't have room for here, and it goes like this:


Early on, before I'd gotten brassy myself, I'd been quoted in an article in Romance Writers' Report, and I was concerned my words might be misconstrued w/in the industry.  I called Kate, who laughed wicked out loud and said, "Michelle, someday, something's gonna' bring you down. But today's not that day."  She just had a way of saying, 'get over yourself' that generally could make you do just that, but with humor.



by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎09-28-2009 04:54 PM

I just found this comment by Kate when asked about her finding/editing "Whitney, My Love" in an RBTB GuestBlog: 


WHITNEY was a terrific book which I loved just as it was originally written. I didn't worry about anyone else's reaction, I just knew we had to publish it. And the other curious thing is that it was going to be sent back to the agent unread because the editor to whom it had been sent disdained romance. I said I'd like to take a look. I didn't work on anything else by Judith that I remember. I think I switched jobs and she went to Linda Marrow.



by 1lovealways on ‎09-28-2009 06:04 PM

My condolences to Ms. Duffy's family and friends.  Although, I didn't know her personally,  I do recall seeing her name in reference to an article once in Romantic Times.  It's wonderful to know that she also loved romances as much as the writers and readers did.  How fortunate we were to have someone like that in our corner!  Thank you Ms. Duffy for all the beautiful fantasies you brought into our lives!  

by Author Annette_Blair on ‎09-28-2009 06:41 PM
It was a sad sad shock to me to hear that Kate passed. She was my first editor. My knight in shining armor. She took me from the world of the unpubbed to the world of the published and for that I will always be grateful. I'll never forget the day she made that happen. She called and said, "Yes, Annette, this is... 'THE CALL'." She knew how to laugh and make others laugh and she loved brightening an unpublished author's life with those words. I'm honored to have known her and to have had her as my editor. Peace, Kate.
by Author LeeRhuday on ‎09-28-2009 06:49 PM

Oh, such heartbreaking news.  I knew Kate was ill, but I had no idea...  I'm in shock. 

No one was as passionate as Kate about the books -- and the authors -- she loved. 

by quetzaltale on ‎09-28-2009 07:11 PM

It is, indeed, a shock. At RWA National, I had heard that she was on the mend and hoping to go back to work this fall. She did so much for romance, and it's a loss for us all.

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎09-28-2009 09:42 PM

Oh Annette, that makes me so sad -- she was your "Call" editor. That is so special, and I'm so sorry for Kate and her family, but also for all of her authors.

by Author Jessa_Slade on ‎09-29-2009 12:50 AM

I never had the chance to work with Kate, but now that I know SHE saved WHITNEY, MY LOVE, that means she was directly responsible for me writing romance.  She will be missed.

by Author HelenBrenna on ‎09-29-2009 09:18 AM

Nice tribute, Michelle, for an amazing woman and wonderful champion of the romance genre.


Although I never had the opportunity to work with Kate, I admired her strength and vision.  She was one of a kind!

by The-Ladies-Room on ‎09-29-2009 11:59 AM

Michelle, lovely tribute to a woman who definitely meant the world to a lot of people and the romance community.  My heartfelt condolences to family and friends of this very special woman.


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