The author died Oct. 27 from complications for treatment for stage 4 lung cancer, but her family had been too devastated to announce the news earlier

By Maureen Lee Lenker
December 24, 2019 01:20 PM
Johanna Lindsey

Johanna Lindsey, the prolific and influential romance writer, has died. She was 67.

According to The New York Timesthe author died Oct. 27 from complications for treatment for stage 4 lung cancer, but her family had been too devastated to announce the news earlier.

Lindsey wrote nearly 60 romance novels, beginning with 1977’s Captive Bride. Her novels sold more than 60 million copies worldwide, according to publisher Simon & Schuster, and nearly every single one of her books achieved best-seller status. Many of Lindsey’s novels topped The New York Times bestseller list.

“Johanna Lindsey was one of the most powerful voices of the romance genre, and at a critically important time,” best-selling author Sarah MacLean said in an exclusive statement to EW. “As the women’s movement revolutionized homes and workplaces in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Johanna’s strong, feminist heroines were revolutionaries in their own right — fighting for partnership, respect, and happily ever after. These were heroines who captained their own fate…they lived fearlessly, fought passionately, and loved with abandon…and they inspired millions of us to do the same.”

In the romance community, Lindsey was a superstar, helping to establish the genre and make it a publishing juggernaut. Alongside authors like Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught, Kathleen Woodiwiss, and Rosemary Rogers, Lindsey ranked among the most successful and influential romance writers of her era. Her books also played a key role in establishing the career of cover model Fabio, as he was featured on numerous Lindsey covers through the 1980s and ’90s, most notably on Gentle Rogue.

Her final novel, Temptation’s Darling, hit shelves in July. Lindsey was beloved for her skills as a historical romance novelist, but her novels spanned across time and space with her settings ranging from medieval England to the Barbary Coast/Caribbean to the Scandinavia of the Vikings to the Western frontiers of the United States in the 19th century. She even branched into science-fiction romance with novels set on the fictional planet of Kystran.

Johanna Helen Howard was born on March 10, 1952, in Frankfurt, Germany, to Edwin and Wanda Howard. Her family was stationed in Germany on an Army base, but they relocated to the U.S. when the author was about 5. Her family eventually settled in Hawaii, and she married Ralph Bruce Lindsey in 1970 while still in school. After her husband’s death, Lindsey moved to New England.

In the 1970s, she sent a proposed chapter to Avon Books and was asked for a full manuscript only three weeks later. She launched her publishing career with Captive Bride, following that initial success with four more classics — A Pirate’s Love, Brave the Wild Wind, Fires of Winter, and Paradise Wild. By the 1990s, Lindsey was writing two books a year. In 2001, after writing 37 books with Avon, Lindsey moved to Simon & Schuster.

Lindsey is survived by her three sons, Alfred, Garret, and Joseph, as well as four grandchildren.

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On Monday morning, as news of Lindsey’s passing spread, countless romance authors and readers shared their memories and love of Lindsey on social media. The hashtag #MyFirstJohanna featured the community sharing their remembrances of their first Lindsey book and how, for so many, she was their introduction to romance.

“It’s hard for me to remember #MyFirstJohanna because I can’t remember romance without her. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for me to say I can’t really remember myself without her. Or, rather, I don’t like to remember myself without her,” MacLean began in a Twitter thread. “There’s nothing a heroine cannot have. No battle she cannot win. No tragedy she cannot overcome. No expectation too high. No patriarchy she can’t smash. Johanna Lindsey taught me that.”

Historical romance author Lorraine Heath wrote, “So saddened to hear of Johanna Lindsey’s passing. Gentle Rogue was the 1st romance novel with a clinch cover that I read after discovering romance nearly 30 years ago. It’s still on my keeper shelf. Johanna was a treasure.”

Romance figureheads like Avon Books and the first all-romance bookstore in North America, The Ripped Bodice, also shared their condolences.

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