4 stars

Historical Romance Review: Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills

Hearts of Fire, Anita Mills, Onyx, 1989 Gregg Gulbronson cover art

CONTENT & SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

A Fitting Sequel to a Masterpiece Romance

Hearts of Fire is a more satisfying sequel to the first installment of Anita Mills‘ medieval romance series, Lady of Fire, than its second outing, Fire and Steel was. Fire and Steel saw Catherine de Brione, the beloved daughter of Lady of Fire‘s Roger and Eleonor, find love with Guy of Rivaux. Guy was the pure-hearted bastard son of the demonic Robert of Bellesme. Bellesme was the unforgettable charismatic villain of the first two books who had an obsessive but somehow noble love for Eleonor. Bellesme stole the show in those novels, so magnetic was his character.

In Hearts of Fire, the male protagonist is Richard of Rivaux, grandson of Robert Bellesme and his beloved Eleonor. Richard is a fascinating and complicated hero. He has his grandfather’s darkness but is not consumed totally by evil. He kills for his woman, yet he’s a tender lover. In another book Richard could have been a villain. In this story he’s the hero and a wonderful one at that. His multi-faceted personality makes Richard almost as intriguing as his grandfather.

Forbidden Love

Gilliane de Lacey is orphaned, and her brother is dead. When Richard’s forces surround Gillaine’s home, she thinks it’s a siege and does what she can to defend her fortress home. To her shock, it is not an enemy, but a friend of her brother who has arrived. An enraged Richard is prepared to butt heads with the fool who ordered the attack. Then he finds himself confronted with the beautiful Gilliane. His world is torn asunder.

Richard is from a wealthy, powerful family. Although he bristles under his father’s authority, he is duty-bound to wed a noble woman with whom his father has arranged a marriage. Gilliane, as the mere sister to a simple knight, is part of the vassal class. Despite their obstacles, Gilliane and Richard are drawn together and cannot deny their love.

The forbidden romance between Richard and Gilliane de Lacey is stellar… When they’re together, that is.

Final Analysis of Hearts of Fire

I would have given this book 5 stars if not for the long separation when the heroine is married to some beast of a man who rapes and abuses her. It added nothing to the story. I can see that Mills was trying to parallel Lady of Fire with this plot, as in that tale, the heroine was captured and violated by the villain. But it doesn’t work here, as Robert Bellesme was such an integral part of Lady of Fire. Meanwhile, the abusive other man is relatively unimportant to overall picture. The long section when Gilliane was paired off with him seemed like filler for this 431-paged book.

The moments when Hearts of Fire shines is when Richard is around. He is Bellesme, with none of the baby-killing, mother-fucking, or father-killing baggage. I loved Bellesme in Lady of Fire. Despite his thoroughly wicked behavior, he was complex and charismatic. I wished Robert could have had a bit of happiness and love. Through his grandson Richard and Richard’s epic romance with a woman beneath his class, this achievement is fulfilled.

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