4 stars and a half

Historical Romance Review: The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell

frost and flame
The Frost and the Flame, Drusilla Campbell, Pocket Books, 1980, Harry Bennett cover Art

Spoiler Alert ⚠

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Drusilla Campbell’s The Frost and the Flame is one of those naughty bodice rippers where the heroine is separated for a long period of time from her true love, the dull, twatwaffle of a hero, and instead spends more time sexing it up with the lusty, evil villain. For the record, this is just the kind of bodice ripper I like: one that does not take itself seriously and knows how to throw crazy tropes at you, so you’ll keep the pages turning, even if the story is not really romantic.

The Crazy Plot and Characters

I loved the Russian setting and liked the heroine’s growth as a character, but the hero, Alexei, is exciting as dry toast. It’s the villain who is the star here: charismatic, evil, and blond!

Eighteen-year-old Katiana Donova is a convent-bred naif. While traveling across the cold depths of Russia, she and her companions are attacked. The dashing blond Prince Oleg saves her. The Prince seems so sweet and kind at first, but he soon proves to be a lustful rogue. Nothing will stop him from possessing Tanya.

Prince Oleg is seriously obsessed with Tanya, but he’s not in love. He’s not capable of true feeling. Don’t dare think this is a villain with a heart. Even the demonic, baby-killing Robert Bellesme of Anita Mills’s Lady Of Fire was more of a romantic softy than Oleg. Oleg loves to abuse and use his Tanya, but he does not care about her. He degrades her in awful sorts of ways, so make no mistake about finding redemption in him!

Plus, the dude is going crazy. It’s hinted that Oleg has a brain tumor or something because his headaches make him act more insane.

Even as Oleg will do whatever it takes to make Tanya his, he also has a cruel and jealous wife who will stop at nothing to see Tanya pay. Poor Tanya suffers so much through this book. It’s one catastrophe after another.

But wait, there’s more! There’s a twisted secret– No, no, I won’t say. I spoil enough romances; I won’t spoil another. However, I’d hardly call this bodice-ripper a true romance.

As for the hero? Well, Tanya spends much of it separated from her boring Alexei. He vows to have his Tanya and pines for her, however, ends up having affairs of his own. Not much of a hero, but Tanya loved him, so I tried not to dislike him. There’s not much to like or dislike about Alexei. He’s just there.

The Uncoventional Ending to the Uncoventional “Romance”

At the conclusion of The Frost and the Flame, Tanya is reunited with her beloved Alexei. Sadly, Tanya has been so hurt by Oleg’s torments that marriage is not on her agenda right away. She loves Alexei, yes, although wants to have a deeper relationship with him before taking it further.

So this is a unique romance with a Happy For Now ending, not necessarily a Happily Ever After. Am I ok with that? Bodice rippers occupy a strange corner in Romancelandia, where they can do just about anything. As long as it’s an optimistic ending and the book was fun, I don’t mind. This one was. Oleg, the psycho villain, was the star of the show. I enjoyed watching his mental and spiritual decline while Tanya grows from an innocent girl to a mature woman. This may not be everyone’s idea of an entertaining romance; however, I consider myself a satisfied reader. I’m holding on to this one!

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

The Frost and the Flame is available for borrowing for free at the Internet Archive

2 replies »

  1. Thanks, Introvert Reader. As a fan of Richard Gallen romances, an imprint of Pocket Books published between 1979 and 1981, allow me to note that the cover design of this book looks very similar. That’s true of several Pocket Books romances I’ve seen from this period.

    “The Frost and the Flame” is available for borrowing for free at the Internet Archive:

    https://archive.org/details/frostflame0000camp

  2. Yes, Harry Bennett and Robert Maguire illustrated many Gallen books and Bennett would go on to be prolific for Pocket Books, along with artist Elaine Gignilliat. Thank you for providing the link to borrow the book. I’ll add it to the review.

    What’s fascinating about the author, Drusilla Campbell, is that this was her first and only bodice ripper. She would go on to write family sagas and “women’s fiction” about vivid characters dealing with issues like post partum depression, or being falsely accused of a crime. The inherent strength of the heroine in this book, despite it being filled with rape and abuse, was a sign of the characters she’d go on to create.

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