firs of winter gellis

Historical Romance Review: Fires of Winter by Roberta Gellis

historical romance review
Fires of Winter by Roberta Gellis
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Pino
Book Series: Tales of Jernaeve #2
Published by: Jove
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 487
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Fires of Winter by Roberta Gellis


The Book

Told through alternating first-person perspectives, Roberta Gellis‘s medieval romance Fires of Winter starts with a bang.

The Plot

In the first chapter, we experience the hero, Bruno, of Jernaeve’s life as his castle gets invaded.

As an illegitimate child, he is overlooked and left uncared for. He and his sister must hide from the marauders.

Later, it switches to the heroine Mellusine of Ulle’s more calm point of view as a child.

I enjoyed the different perspectives, although I found Bruno’s side more interesting than Mellusine’s.

As Bruno matures, he becomes a master in the arts of war. His success earns him Melusine, a “spoil of war,” for Bruno to wed. Bruno is loyal to King Stephen, and Melusine threatens the king.

Despite their differences, Mellusine and Bruno forge a strong relationship built on sexual attraction, companionship, and trust.

Earthy Medieval Realism

I loved the authentic earthiness Gellis imbued her works with. I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance where the heroine has to take a dump before. Here Melusine squats away without a care in front of the hero.

The love scenes between Bruno and Melusine had Gellis’ trademark frankness. There’s a scene where a third party in their relationship makes an appearance. 

“I do not pretend that I do not desire you, Melusine…But you need not fear I will force you either. I am the master of Monsieur Jehan de la Tete Rouge–” I tapped the redhead that had pushed its way through the foreskin so she could not mistake of what I spoke, “–not he of me.'”

That had me giggling.

Historical Fiction, Not Romance

At 60% through the book, the romance is firmly cemented. Alas, here, the adventures become strictly political. At a certain point, Fires of Winter ceased to be historical romantic fiction and became purely historical.

Bruno spends much of his time away fighting for his king, while Mellusine tends to courtly and domestic affairs.

Lady Mellusine and Queen Matilda rally an army to rescue their husbands. They succeed, displaying that if need be, powerful medieval women were up to the task of warfare just as their men were.

The tale concludes happily with Mellusine and Bruno making babies and farming their lands.

Final Analysis of Fires of Winter

Fires of Winter is heavy on detailed history. Gellis is a master storyteller, at least when she remembers to tell the story instead of reciting history.

However, I felt a tad underwhelmed, despite the fine quality of the writing. A great start fizzled out to a merely satisfactory read.

I would have preferred more lines like:

“I had a long row to hoe before I could plunge my spade into Mellusine’s earth and plant a seed there.”

…Than the endless parade of dates of conquests and battles.

I’ve enjoyed several of Roberta Gellis’s works, knowing that she is heavy on history and it was never a negative aspect. There was a wonderful romance during the first half of Fires of Winter. Gellis forgot about the love story on the back end.

I would recommend this piece of historical fiction for lovers of medieval romances that emphasize the medieval aspect, not necessarily the romance.

3.24 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 3.5


A sparkling prize, the beautiful Mellusine of Ulle is awarded to the bastard-born Bruno of Jernaeve as a spoil of war. Bruno vows to tame the rebellious spirit of the captive beauty, but ultimately surrenders to her charms. Born of different worlds, joined in the flames of passion and intrigue, they find new strength in each other’s arms…and a burning love that defies all eternity.”

Fires of Winter by Roberta Gellis