Published by: Avon
Genres: Napoleonic Era Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Regency Era Romance
Buy on: Amazon, AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader
MILD SPOILERS 😉
So, after a couple of decades of reading romance, in the early 2010s, I finally got around to Stormfire by the late Christine Monson.
Whew! They do not write them like this anymore. The ultimate in bodice-ripping, Stormfire, is a tale of two mentally unstable people and their violent, intense love. And it’s great!
The Most Controversial Bodice Ripper Ever?
The main attraction of Stormfire is its writing. If it were a poorly authored book, no one would still be talking about it 30-plus years after it was published.
The chapters each have titles such as “Silken Irons,” “Into Eden,” or “The Nadir.”
When Lady Catherine Elderly meets her captor, Sean Culhane, her first thoughts are of Milton’s poetry:
“His form had not yet lost
All his original brightness, nor appeared
Less than Archangel ruined…”PARADISE LOST, JOHN MILTON
The prose is evocative and compelling, but not purple. We agonize over Catherine’s enslavement; we feel the angry passion between the lovers; we grieve Catherine’s loss and suffer from Sean’s torture.
How much misery can two people take?
There is an intense love/hate dynamic between the main characters that is the stuff of legends.
I wish writers of historical romances today wrote like this. Not necessarily the same plot lines, but with action and intensity that doesn’t delve into vulgarity.
To be honest, I wasn’t comfortable with a lot of things in the book. Regardless, Stormfire is enthralling. Even those who hate this book can’t say it’s boring.
Sean Culhane kidnaps Catherine, the daughter of a British lord, seeking vengeance for wrongs committed against his people.
He keeps Catherine captive in his estate in Ireland, where he doesn’t hesitate to rape her before sending Catherine’s bloodied undergarments to her father.
While Catherine is an innocent pawn, she is not weak. She’s a fighter who will meet Sean’s cruelties with a will of iron.
You will not believe what these two go through, what they do to each other, or what they do to others. It’s incredible, but as I said, it’s Monson’s compelling skill at writing that makes this book so special.
His spirit, like the lonely, windswept sea, was ever-restless, ever-changing, sometimes howling down to savage the unyielding land, then caressing it with a lulling embrace, inevitably wearing away its resistance.
Then again, maybe I’m a sicko because I like the plot. Yes, it’s epic and melodramatic. There’s everything but the kitchen sink. That includes: kidnapping, rape, starvation, forced slavery, multiple marriages, miscarriage, insanity, beatings, brothers fighting for the same woman, incest, castration, forcible sodomy, murder…
So much happens here!
Perhaps it’s a bit too much in the last quarter, as Sean and Catherine needed some moments together introspecting rather than acting.
Final Analysis of Stormfire
There are many detractors of Christine Monson’s controversial bodice ripper. In its defense, I say this: Stormfire isn’t supposed to be a sweet romance. It’s an old-school historical romance novel, a bodice ripper, and I use the term with great affection.
It’s a fantasy.
A dark one, definitely. Then again, so too are the vampire, werewolf, bestiality, BDSM, step-dad/ stepbrother kink, and ménage fantasies of today. Books like Stormfire present a different kind of fantasy, where the most tremendous hate can transform into love.
Would this relationship work in real life? Probably not. That’s why it’s make-believe.
Stormfire is entertaining, emotional, and unforgettable. It falters a bit towards the end, so it’s not perfect.
This is not the best romance novel ever written, but for me, it’s up there.
Abducted on her way to boarding school, a terrified Catherine Enderly was brought from England to the coast of Ireland, the prisoner of the angry and powerful young Sean Culhane—a man sworn to vengeance against her family.
Frightened but defiant, the young countess met her captor with a strength that belied her fragile loveliness. But even as Sean vowed to have his revenge on Catherine, with each encounter he became more attracted to her. Her fiery innocence was a seduction that lured the passions of long smoldering hostility into a blazing inferno of desire.
Locked in a love-hate duel, he did not suspect that the captivating beauty who fought him with such tenacity was struggling desperately against her own awakened desires, and that his touch had become the burning reminder that the fierce hatred she felt for him had become an all-consuming love.STORMFIRE by CHRISTINE MONSON