Category Archives: Onyx

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
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