Category Archives: Gregg Gulbronson

21-cover-artist-to-know

21 Old-School Cover Artists All Romance Readers Should Know

21-cover-artist-to-know

21 of the Best Historical Romance Cover Illustrators

I adore romances from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, partly due to the beautiful cover art. Over the years, I’ve amassed thousands of dazzling images. It’s a fun hobby trying to discover the artists who created them.

This compilation began as an attempt to list the ten artists every lover of old-school romances and clinch covers should know. Ten became fifteen, then twenty. Finally, I settled on 21 illustrators to identify.

This catalog of names consists of some of the best romance cover artists of all time.

That doesn’t mean these are the only artists to know, as this list is limited to historical romances written in the last third of the 20th century.

These 21 entries provide a starting point for the novice learner.

1. Robert McGinnis

Robert McGinnis illustrated Gothic books before he turned to mainstream romance.

His first bodice ripper was Avon‘s reissue of Kathleen E. WoodiwissThe Flame and the Flower. McGinnis then designed the cover for her sophomore outing, The Wolf and the Dove. His suggestive clinches for Johanna Lindsey, Patricia Hagan, and Laura Parker gained him acclaim and notoriety.

McGinnis worked almost exclusively in tempera paints.

His mature, angular style was an instant draw for romance. McGinnis created the first naked man covers, which delighted genre fans.

But it was the McGinnis woman who was a being of legend. McGinnis depicted the feminine form in a most alluring fashion.

“The McGinnis Woman possesses a whirling narrative force all her own, a perfumed cyclone of sexuality, savvy, mystery, and danger. She also sells books—lots and lots of books.”

(Source: Vanity Fair)

2. H. Tom Hall

H. Tom Hall’s artwork for romance book covers is legendary. His technique is instantly recognizable: refined and sensual.

The strokes are broad yet precise. Hall’s scenes contain a dark, smoky essence. The heroines’ long locks flow wildly, while the heroes’ faces are shadowed and inscrutable.

Hall had a sensitive, respectful touch when portraying people of different races and ethnicities. Thus his illustrations were prominent on paperbacks set all over the world.

3. Harry Bennett

Harry Bennett‘s dazzling style of swirls and whorls of flowing hair may be especially familiar to fans of Pocket Books‘ early historical romances. He created memorable covers for Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Jude Deveraux.

While his work inspired many other artists, Harry Bennetts covers have been confused with those of H. Tom Hall. While their depictions might appear similar, a keen eye needs only to look at the faces of the male models to spot the difference.

Of his artwork, Bennett’s son Tom, also a painter, said:

“My father had a great facility with mediums, and he experimented and adapted to new trends with different techniques. His favorite medium above all, in both his painting and illustration, was oil.

He also worked extensively in egg tempera, inks, and various combinations of tempera and oil. In the 1950s and early ’60s he worked a great deal in water-based media like gouache.

Later, he would occasionally work in acrylic. But late in his career, it was almost exclusively oil with a black oil medium.”

TOM BENNETT, KILLER COVERS OF THE WEEK

4. Elaine Duillo

Elaine Duillo was the undisputed “Queen of Romance Covers.” She started in pulp fiction before moving on to Gothics and romance.

Duillo was not ashamed to be sexy and outrageous with her art. She embraced camp to the hilt. Her reverence for beauty and perfection made her creative style a wonder to behold.

Duillo’s technique was marked by hyper-realism, unparalleled attention to detail, and a vast palette of colors.

Elaine would paint light hues onto a black canvas. This achieved stunning results for elements such as platinum-blonde or red-gold flowing waves of hair or sumptuous, satin gowns that looked like one could touch them.

Duillo worked in acrylics and oils. She placed her signature, “Elaine,” as close to the bodies as possible.

Her daughter Melissa Duillo-Gallo also produced romance covers, in a manner similar to Elaine’s.

5. Pino Daeni

Pino Daeni’s brushstrokes, the curves of his feminine subjects, and their facial expressions make his covers uniquely recognizable.

Daeni was always willing to experiment with different methods and poses. He was one of the early artists to employ the wraparound cover design and the pose and clinch style.

Pino worked in oils and preferred to stand while painting.

Pino’s innovative technique precedes him. He mixed impressionism and realism to create his own intoxicating style.

“I used to paint in the academic way. Then I changed. I could no longer stay with just one school. Everything was interesting to me. I was curious about various schools of thought.”

Pino, (2006)

6. Elaine Gignilliat

Elaine Gignilliat designed covers for hundreds of romances. Her artwork demonstrated exquisite attention to detail, especially with the textures of fabrics and hair. Her use of bright colors against dark backdrops made for remarkable images.

Like most other cover artists of her day, Gignilliat worked in oils.

Also, like many other of her contemporaries, Gignilliat designed covers for epic historical blockbusters and shorter category romances.

After making the initial sketches for a cover, she would start her paintings by drawing everything in oil with a small brush.

Next, she established the color values, where the darkest, middle tones, and lightest areas would be. Then she would add the general colors in a light oil wash.

Afterward, the real painting began as Gignilliat developed the faces and hands, giving them more color and form. This eventually resulted in a beautiful picture which was then made into a book cover.

7. Max Ginsburg

Max Ginsburg‘s fine art is considered to be contemporary realism. He excels at depicting emotional scenes,

Ginsburg’s book covers are more romantic than sensual. The edges of his subjects blur into the background,

While Ginsburg could display the human body in an alluring way, his covers were rarely gratuitous.

He has a compassionate eye that highlights the humanity of his subjects. Like H. Tom Hall, Ginsburg has a talent for empathetically painting people of diverse heritages.

Ginsburg’s style influenced many artists of Avon covers in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

8. Morgan Kane

No one could capture the ornate, intricate patterns of fabrics as Morgan Kane could.

Whether presenting a lacy gown, a multi-textured cape, or a mosaic of hues on a blanket, Kane can make one can feel the material just as well as one sees it.

In contrast, he depicted human forms in a much softer manner. The difference between the grounded beauty of his subjects against ornate backgrounds, textiles, or flowers makes for a visual treat.

9. Robert A. Maguire

Robert A. Maguire was another of the many illustrators who created lurid pulp covers. While his pulp art was highly sexualized, his romance covers are more sedate.

An emotional connection is the focus, not sex. The faces of Maguire’s females are delicate, with thickly-lashed eyes and rosebud lips.

Maguire played light and dark tones against each other in an enchanting manner. His method is not surreal nor hyperreal. Instead, it is idealized unrealism, approaching the imagined perfection of a cartoon.

Like Elaine Duillo, Maguire often placed his signature–“R. A. Maguire”–as close to the bodies as possible, in the shade lighter than the background.

10. Roger Kastel

Famous for his movie posters, Roger Kastel‘s romance style shares similarities with that of Maguire & most significantly, Max Ginsburg.

Kastel favored a romantic, blurred technique instead of a precise, angular reality.

Kastel’s brushstrokes fused colors together, creating a hazy aura around the couples.

11. Walter & Marie Popp

Walter and Marie Popp designed Regency, Gothic, and bodice ripper covers. Each genre had its own method to it.

The Gothics were shrouded in darkness and mist.

Regencies were marked with a sweet, crisp quality.

For the historical romance covers, the Popps embraced sexy with their curvaceous heroines and muscular heroes.

The female faces look similar, as Walter often used his wife Marie, a model, as his muse. Their expressions are a variation of hers, from their full lips to their round eyes.

12. Victor Gadino

The great Victor Gadino‘s technique is masterful. His attention to fine detail is exquisite.

Note the musculature of the hero’s abdominal and pectorals, the lace on the hem of the heroine’s skirts, the silk pattern of pillows, and the heavy-lidded eyes in the hero’s lusty expression.

His use of jewel-tone colors results in covers that sparkle like precious gems.

More than any other artist since Elaine Duillo, Gadino’s art is typified by a carnal sensuality. His approach is hyperrealistic, with figures as close to perfection as the human eye can conceive.

13. Sharon Spiak

Sharon Spiak’s mentor, the Italian master artist, Pino Daeni, was a massive inspiration to her when she was his apprentice.

She painted in oils, creating an atmosphere of enchantment always backed by passion. Spiak’s paintings for romance novels capture sensuality, beauty, and fantasy by captivating the viewer in the intimacy of the moment.

Her approach differs from cover to cover. There is always a delicacy to the females’ features and a lovely interplay of pastels against darker tones.

14. John Ennis

John Ennis utilizes a “Disney Princess” method of painting, as his human images are beautiful but unrealistic. His covers have a fanciful, almost cartoon-like, fairy-tale quality. His work is based more on fantasy than romanticism.

Ennis played around with shades of light and contrasting hues, resulting in striking covers that made him a natural fit for Zebra.

If one notes the texture of the heroines’ hair, one can see individual strands and curls against blocks of solid color.

Like Franco Accornero, John Ennis was an early innovator of digital artwork.

15. Franco Accornero

Franco Accornero, also known as “Franco,” pioneered computerized art design. Due to his fascination with the capabilities of technology, Franco always pushed boundaries.

Before he transitioned to digital artwork in the 1990s, Franco worked primarily in oils.

As an independent freelance artist, he was responsible for all cover design elements, from setting up the scene to models, costumes, and props. He arranged various poses with different lighting arrangements.

His fine director’s eye created a dramatic and flattering balance of light and shadow.

Franco would use a wind machine in the photo sessions to get that flowing hair look.

16. Renato Aime

Renato Aime worked primarily in oils in addition to other mediums. He frequently designed covers for Dorchester and Kensington, two publishing houses that hired artists with an eye for the outlandish.

Aime captured the curvaceous female forms in contrast against the more rigid muscles of the males in a most pleasing way.

While Aime’s technique is recognizable as his own, it does bear some resemblance to his fellow Italian illustrators. One can see similarities to the covers of Pino Daeni and Franceso Accornero. Note the blending of colors and the identifiable strokes.

17. Melissa Duillo-Gallo

Melissa Duillo-Gallo, daughter of artists John and Elaine Duillo, was influenced by both her parents, her mother’s romance covers in particular.

Elaine’s work is titillating and highly elaborate. Melissa’s art tends to the sweeter side with more playful emotions. Duillo-Gallo applied flamboyantly bright colors, exemplifying the feel of the 1980s and 1980s.

After she married, Melissa signed her covers as Gallo, not Duillo. Unlike her mother, she usually placed her signature away from the bodies.

Melissa also used less eyeshadow than her mother did, which is saying something!

18. Gregg Gulbronson

Gregg Gulbronson utilized a distinctive approach, making his covers both breathtaking and easy to recognize. Romance, sexuality, fantasy, and reality all meld together in Gulbronson’s art.

Gulbronson used spraying/airbrushing techniques, which made for a striking and individualized look.

Enveloped in a romantic haze, the couples in clinches are surrounded by a dreamy ambiance. The figures seem to glow as the light plays against their hair, skin, and clothes.

19. Ray Kursar

Ray Kursar was yet another artist with a noticeable style. His paintings look more like drawings. Kursar worked with multiple mediums to create his illustrations, such as pastels and watercolors.

He employed various elements to make his covers stand out: emphasis on bright colors, flowers, animals, and fabrics.

Hair is constantly flowing in the wind, while the locks of waves and curls are well-defined.

20. James Griffin

James Griffin‘s covers from the 1980s and 1990s are quite distinct from his 21st-century ones, even though both periods are stunning.

The late-era clinches are made digitally and approach hyperrealism.

Griffin’s illustrations of the “classic” era are more dramatic, with windswept hair and passionate embraces. The couples are shown leaning back or lying down, rarely standing straight up.

His graceful aesthetic resulted in book covers that emotionally resonated with the romance reader.

21. Charles Geer

Charles Geer might be known to readers of children’s books published from the 1960s to the 1980s–two of which he wrote himself.

Geer’s style is so distinct. There is much going on in his images, whether sketches or paintings.

His attention to the tiniest of subjects amazes the eye. He used uniform brush strokes to create spectacular backgrounds, intricate curls in the hair, or elaborate textures in clothing. The bright pigments twinkle like stars against their darker settings.

Geer’s scenes appear dream-like but are far more memorable.

Final Thoughts on Cover Artists

Sweet Savage Flame believes it’s essential to keep the memory of these skilled cover illustrators and their works alive.

Hopefully, by familiarizing yourself with these artists’ techniques, you’ll quickly identify their covers on sight. No more having to confirm with a signature!

Your Opinion

Do you think this a fair compilation of some best romance cover artists? Who are your favorite old-school illustrators?

Is there an artist you think we should have placed on this list but missing? What are your thoughts on painted versus digital cover art?

Please drop us a comment, and let’s talk romance!

moon rider

Covers of the Week #42

Theme: Covers With Dresses Opened at the Back

One of the amusing aspects about clinch poses is that no matter who the artist is, no matter the publishing house or the author, there are only so many variations the couple can engage in, that some poses become ubiquitous. One of my favorite mainstays of cover art is when…well when a lady loses her stays!

Personally, I find it alluring when a gown is draping off a lady’s back as opposed to other more revealing shots. The sight of bare skin and delicates bones down to the waist is more seductive and mysterious rather than seeing heaving breasts front and center. What say you?

This Covers of the Week for Monday, January 24, 2022, to Sunday, January 30 displays pretty historical romance covers with couples in clinch poses and heroines losing their tops while having a grand ole time of it.

skylark

Covers of the Week #24

Theme: Hot Air Ballons

Hot air ballooning is said to be a delightful experience. The winds guide you high above the earth as you drift through the fluffy, white clouds… It seems like an exhilarating time. Unfortunately, a paralyzing fear of heights makes me feel otherwise. My husband once surprised me with plans for a romantic ride and I refused to go. He ended up taking our daughter!

People were baffled at my reticence. Although I aim for courage, there are things I cannot face.

Need someone to kill a poisonous bug? I’m there with my wide-heeled shoe. Could I face a horde of bio-engineered, flesh-eating Zombies? Not a problem, I can shoot and wield a machete. How about cleaning litter boxes for 5 kitties? Bring it on, I’m a crazy cat lady. But fly thousands of feet into the atmosphere in a rickety basket with only ropes to cling to and giant flames above me jetting into a huge balloon? Never.

Still, they’re beautiful things to behold. From afar, what a magical sight to witness those colorful inverted teardrops float through the air! From a safe distance on land, sipping a glass of Pinot Noir, of course.

The Covers

For the week of September 20 to Monday, September 26, 2021, let’s appreciate these clinch poses on romance covers featuring hot air balloons!

hearts of fire gulbronson

Historical Romance Review: Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills

historical romance review
Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1986
Illustrator: Gregg Gulbronson
Book Series: Medieval Fire Series #3
Published by: Onyx
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Audiobook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills

CONTENT & SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills is a great medieval romance that fell a bit short of being flawless.

This book is a more satisfying sequel to the first installment of Mills’ medieval romance series, Lady of Fire, than its second outing, Fire and Steel, was.

A Fitting Sequel to a Masterpiece Romance

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 noblewoman 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 Few Flaws

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

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 the overall picture. The long section when Gilliane was paired off with him seemed like filler for this 431-paged book.

Final Analysis of Hearts of Fire

The moments when Hearts of Fire shines are 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. Anita Mills is such a riveting author, I can’t wait to finish this series.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.3

Synopsis

Gilliane de Lacey’s pride is as fiery as her hair. In the face of a command from the King of England himself, she refused to wed a lord she despises. The one man she does want, Richard of Rivaux, is honor-bound to wed another, even though his passion for her has become a burning need.
 
Defying death to rescue Gilliane from the royal wrath, Richard draws his love into the perilous swirl of conflict between England and Normandy. Against this dramatic backdrop, Gilliane and Richard know that nothing will ever stop them from risking it all for love, and giving all to desire.

Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills
blaze of passion gregg gulbronson

Covers of the Week #18

One of my favorite romance cover artists from the 1980s, 1990s, and well into the 2000s is Gregg Gulbronson.

While Gulbronson remains a mysterious figure (as far as I’ve researched, there is little to no information available about him on the internet), his artwork merits attention and awe. I adore his style, especially his older covers, for which he used an airbrushing technique to add a dreamy effect to the clinches. By the turn of the millennium, he had progressed to digital imaging, like almost all other book cover illustrators. You can find more artwork and information about this talented artist on our Gregg Gulbronson page.

For the week of Monday, August 9 to Sunday, August 15, 2021, we highlight the gorgeous covers by Gregg Gulbronson.

uncommon vows

Historical Romance Review: Uncommon Vows by Mary Jo Putney

Synopsis:

Lady Meriel de Vere had deceived Adrian, Earl of Shropshire. Standing in the royal forest, her falcon perched on her arm, she boldly claimed to be a Welsh commoner, not a noble Norman. Lord Adrian beheld in wonder her raven-black hair and defiant blue eyes, heard her lies, and felt a dark, primeval passion rob him of all reason.

In one irrevocable move of fate, he ordered this fair beauty locked in his castle’s tower, vowing to entice her into surrendering her kisses with lips as hungry as his own. Never to give in, to die if she must, was Meriel’s vow … until one rash moment of impetuousness swept them both up in the royal battles of kings … and into a dangerous intrigue of sweet caresses … and fiery, all-consuming love. 

UNCOMMON VOWS by MARY JO PUTNEY

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

I’ve read Mary Jo Putney‘s Uncommon Vows several times and have always enjoyed the compelling romance. It’s a passionate medieval bodice ripper about obsessive love.

The Plot

Lord Adrian was set for a life of priesthood when a family death changes his destiny. Lady Meriel seemed fated for a life in a nunnery. But twists and turns made it, so neither of these things came to pass. Instead, Adrian becomes the Earl of Shropshire and Meriel renounces her calling to live under the protection of her brother, a knight.

One day Adrian comes upon Meriel in a field and believes her to be a commoner. Adrian becomes fixated on Meriel’s stunning beauty. He takes her captive. Meriel, who is half-Welsh, deeply values her freedom and cannot understand how Adrian supposedly loves her if he keeps her prisoner.

She refuses Adrian’s attempts to seduce her so forcefully. Meriel throws herself out a stained-glass window, causing her to lose her memory.

Without all the baggage hanging on, Adrian is able to woo Muriel into loving him. But will her feelings remain the same when her memory returns?

When writing about the Medieval Era, many authors avoid religion. They treat it as a third rail topic. Here, in Uncommon Vows, it’s used uniquely and romantically. Adrian and Muriel cite phrases from the Bible–the Song of Solomon–to each other during their lovemaking. It works beautifully and poetically to enhance this thrilling love story.

Final Analysis of Uncommon Vows

Uncommon Vows is a fantastic battle of wills between a hero who is obsessed with the heroine and will do anything to have her and a heroine who refuses to submit to her enemy. Putney’s writing is at her best here, although maybe it’s because she so often borrows from one of the most poetic books ever written!

PS: I wish Mary Jo Putney had written a sequel about Adrian’s illegitimate brother. Does anyone know if she ever did?

5 Stars

the heart remembers

Historical Romance Review: The Heart Remembers by Barbara Hazard

The Heart Remembers, Barbara Hazard, Signet, 1990, Gregg Gulboronson cover art

MILD SPOILERS 😉

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Fitting Sequel to a Great Love Story

The Heart Remembers is Barbara Hazard’s sequel to one of the more poignant and beloved romance novels I’ve enjoyed reading: Call Back the Dream. In it, Camille Talbot, a mere vicar’s daughter, and Alexander Maxwell, a Viscount and heir to an Earldom, find love but are only reunited only after many years of separation and loss. Because of Alexander’s father’s nefarious machinations, Camille and Alexander married other people even though Camille was pregnant with their son Jack. Though a tearjerker for certain, Call Back the Dream ended happily, as all romance novels should.

However happy endings aren’t perfect endings because the actions of years past can have lasting and damning effects.

Camille and Alexander from Call Back the Dream suffer for the cruel manipulations enacted upon them, mainly those by Alexander’s father, a bigoted earl whose evil deeds brought down his own destruction as well as hurting the generations after him.

The Plot

Jack is dealt the shocking blow that the man he thought his father was actually not. The truth is he’s the love child of his mother and stepfather. Shocked by his “illegitimacy,” the lies, and the betrayal of the woman he loves, Jack flees to Bermuda to search for forgiveness and acceptance. Unfortunately, Camille and Alexander age rapidly. They experience extreme hurt and do not see their son for years afterward.

Because of his past, Jack feels unworthy of any woman’s love, but more importantly, he feels unworthy as a human, questioning his place in this world. Again, this is a story where the hero is the center of it, and I would say one of the better ones that focuses primarily on the hero’s perspective.

However, Bermudan colonist, Kate Hathaway, is no Mary Sue. She is young and impetuous and madly in love with Jack. Nevertheless, she is a strong character in her own right and a worthy mate for him.

While Kate falls for him immediately, Jack, on the other hand, has no time for love. He wants to make something of himself on his own. He can run a plantation in Bermuda with no help from his noble relatives.

Kate is in pursuit of Jack throughout much of the story. Kate is doggedly determined to learn more about Jack and help him conquer his demons. Although attracted to her, Jack refuses her advances. Nevertheless, Kate is resolved to show him their love is possible. But there is so much hurt for Jack to overcome, and he is cruel to the ever-devoted Kate.

Final Analysis of The Heart Remembers

This is one of those great books where the heroine heals the hero’s emotional wounds. While The Heart Remembers pales compared to its much more emotionally draining predecessor, it is a strong, wonderful love story on its own.

Go to the Sweet Savage Flame Used Book Store to buy some used romances at very low prices:

 

 

 

lady of fire anita mills

Historical Romance Review: Lady of Fire by Anita Mills

historical romance review
Lady of Fire by Anita Mills
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Gregg Gulbronson
Book Series: Medieval Fire Series #1
Published by: Onyx
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance
Pages: 432
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Lady of Fire by Anita Mills

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Anita MillsLady of Fire is one of my most beloved historical romance novels. This gripping medical epic took me places I never knew I could go.

I admit it has some flaws, especially toward the end. Even so, I adore it.

The Plot

Lady of Fire takes place in Normandy, not long after William the Bastard has conquered England. Eleonor of Nantes is a renowned beauty, hungered by many, and bartered as a political pawn. William’s son Henry desires her as his wife, but it’s the man she believes to be her half-brother, Roger Fitz Hugh, for whom she’s destined.

Roger knows Eleonor is not his sister and has always loved her. Eleonor doesn’t know, yet she desires Roger. This fact may be off-putting to some. But, knowing from the outset that they’re not siblings, it was easy for me to overlook this semi-incest.

Eleonor is sent off to a nunnery as part of her mother’s dying wish. But rather than take her vows, she finds herself betrothed to a man she despises. Roger will do what he must to make sure the marriage doesn’t take place. It’s a race against time to see who gets to her first.

For complete disclosure, let it be known that I love blond heroes like Roger. I married one in real life and adore them in fiction. Roger is one of the sweetest, kindest, most loving male protagonists I’ve ever read. His devotion to Eleonor is undeniable, and he and Eleonor are meant to be.

However… He is not the main reason that I’m crazy about this book.

“I Roger…do swear on this sacred relic that I will be Eleonore of Nantes’ man, to champion her causes and give her her justice, yea, even to the end of my life.”

The Charismatic, Wicked Villain

The villain Robert Talvas, Count of Bellesme, with his black hair, green eyes, and evil, evil disposition, positively steals the show in Lady of Fire. He is so hot that every scene with him singes the pages of this book.

Robert is absolutely malevolent and beyond redemption. He coolly lies to priests and nuns, sleeps with his mother, rapes without remorse, and murders innocents.

In the sequel Fire and Steel, Robert is so evil he tears a baby out of his own mother’s womb, killing both!

Utterly irredeemable, Robert is the devil incarnate and is based on a medieval legend.

There is more to Robert, though, whose obsession with the lady Eleonor drives the plot. His unwavering love and reverence for her are spell-binding and captivating. In a bodice ripper written ten years earlier, Robert might have even been the hero.

Disturbingly, despite the fact that he kidnaps and ravishes Eleonor, I found myself hoping, “I know you love Roger, but Eleonor, just once submit to Robert!”

That’s really sick, but that’s what Bellesme’s character made me feel. He was like a hypnotic vampire or incubus, a Lucifer fallen. However, Eleonor never gives in, and I think that is one reason why the dark Lord Robert adores Eleonor so much. She has purity and goodness.

I am so glad Anita Mills never redeemed him nor gave him a sequel to find love with another woman. In his heart, Robert was eternally faithful to Eleonore.

Robert does find a sort of salvation in the sequel, Fire and Steel, which is entertaining, if not as enjoyable, read. The third book in the series, Hearts of Fire, the story of Eleonor and Robert’s grandson, is an even better follow-up.

Final Analysis of Lady of Fire

Lady of Fire is one of my most-loved romances in a sub-genre–medievals–that consist of many of my favorites. It skirts the rules of romance while being faithful to them. For a writer to allow the villain to overshadow the protagonists may be a source of frustration to some readers. Anita Mills does it so skillfully that I fell for it from the opening chapters.

Alas, to Robert’s great unfortunate downfall, Eleonor and Roger are destined for each other, and that’s the way it should be.

Lady of Fire is not only a fantastic medieval romance or even just a fantastic romance. It’s a phenomenal book all around.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 5

Synopsis:

In 11th century Normany, a passionate story of romance, chivalry, and forbidden love. Beautiful Eleanor of Nantes is pursued by many great noblemen, including the evil Robert of Belesme and charming Prince Henry, son of William the Conqueror. But it is the dashing Roger FitzGilbert, born a bastard with no title to his name, who sweeps her off her feet. Their love may be forbidden, but their passion is undeniable…

LADY OF FIRE by ANITA MILLS
Winter Roses gregg gulbronson

Covers of the Week #4

May is upon us! May your days be full of love and joy!

Here are some beautiful May-deval romance covers to enjoy for the week of May 3 to May 9. (Groan! That’s an awful pun!)

Please enjoy these Medieval romance covers!