Category Archives: Berkley

raven

Historical Romance Review: Raven by Shana Carrol

Synopsis:

Named for the bird of night, she vowed to fly free and soar on the wings of passion. Once, she had been Marie Celeste Ravenne, a shy and lovely free spirit plucked from her Caribbean island home to become the ward of a cruel, scheming English nobleman. But now she was Raven – a fiery temptress whose daring spirit astonished all who sailed the sea…whose sumptuous body excited the lust of the powerful men who longed to claim her, to use her, perhaps to kill her… and whose aching woman’s heart led her across elegant ballrooms and raging oceans in search of the dashing rebel chieftain who had won her love forever. 

RAVEN by SHANA CARROL

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Raven by Shana Carrol (aka Christina Savage, aka Mr. Kerry Newcomb & Mr. Frank Schaeffer)–not to be confused with Evelyn Rogers’ Raven— is a riveting bodice-ripper. It’s a pirate adventure that features a kickass, resilient heroine whom I adore. It also stars a hero who isn’t worthy to lick the underside of her shoes. This is one of those books I both hate and love and wavered for a long time what rating to give it.

Raven is the 2nd entry in the Paxton family series, although I’m not exactly sure where it fits in, as it’s the only one from the series I’ve read thus far.

The Plot

Part One, Raven by Shana Carrol

The book begins in the Caribbean, in the early 1700s, where a young Marie Celeste Ravenne lives on an island called Mystere with her father. He is a reformed pirate, and she lives to hear his tales of past adventures. One day the island is raided by Spaniards, and they kill her father. Before dying, he urges his daughter to survive however she can.

Marie and the women are taken as prisoners. But destiny has other intentions for Marie Celeste. A storm capsizes the ship, and she is the only survivor. She is saved by a passing English ship. Marie will spend the following years of her life working in a Duke’s household as his prized French servant.

The Duke realizes Marie’s beauty and plans to use her as a trap to ensnare his enemies. He has her educated, adorned in beautiful gowns, and taught unique skills, such as fencing.

raven shana carrol
Raven, Shana Carrol, Arrow Books edition (UK),
cover artist unknown

Part Two, Raven by Shana Carrol

Enter Jason Brand, who seeks to keep peace among the Jacobite Scots and the new Hanoverian King. He’s also embroiled in a lusty dalliance with the Duke’s wife. Meanwhile, the Duke’s son has his eyes on Marie. He attempts to rape her, but Jason steps in and stops him. The two fight a duel of honor, and the Duke’s son is killed.

Jason’s plans to appeal to the King are in tatters, and he is arrested by the Duke’s men to be hanged. For weeks he is tortured. Marie has developed an infatuation for Jason brings him food when she can. They engage in an affair (And by an affair, I mean affair. We later learn Jason was married. His wife dies sometime afterward.).

Jason manipulates Marie into helping him escape, promising to return. Marie drugs the guard then Jason flees. Months go by, but Jason doesn’t return.

In vain, Marie waits for him, knowing that danger awaits. A jealous servant informs the Duke that Marie helped Jason make his getaway. In a rage, the Duke dismisses his fancy plans for Marie. He gives her to the evil Captain Gregory, who rapes her.

As punishment, Gregory takes Marie on his ship headed for the colonies. Also aboard are men to be used as indentured servants. The crew members are vile, but the prisoners are an assorted bunch of primarily decent men. Over time, they learn to respect Marie.

A handsome officer named Pulham is kind to her. He promises to help her, and indeed, he does try. Pulham and Marie become lovers. Marie wonders if he will backstab her as Jason did. Unfortunately, despite having honor, Pulham is a coward, afraid of Captain Gregory’s wrath. So like Jason Brand, he betrays Raven.

Seeing that no man will be her savior, Raven decides to be her own hero. Remembering her father’s words to survive at all costs, she rallies her fellow captives. They battle with the English sailors and take over the ship.

Marie is now their captain. The men follow her as she becomes a daring pirate.

Part Three, Raven by Shana Carrol

Here would have been an excellent opportunity for Marie to meet a new man, one worthy of her strength and courage. Alas, when Raven and her crew settle on an island, who is there, but Jason Brand?

Jason now has a jealous native mistress, whom he treats abominably. He uses her for sex while he pursues Marie. And Marie, that fool, despite her best intentions, falls for Jason all over again. Ugh.

More adventures are in store, with villains plotting revenge against our brave heroine.

The Shana Carrol team created a frustrating read with Raven. The first half built Marie up as a wonderful character who learned from her experiences to grow into a super capable woman. Her fatal flaw was that she thought foolishly with her heart instead of her head.

Raven shana carrol
Raven, Shana Carrol, Sheridan Books

My Opinion by Shana Carrol

I love, love, love books with female pirates who kick ass! Marie was amazing, but Jason was the worst.

I’m a reasonably forgiving reader. With bodice rippers, I can accept a lot of cruelty from a hero: forced seduction, indifference, vengeance, betrayal, etc. However, I hate promiscuous cheaters. I don’t like them in real life and detest them in romance. Maybe I can go with it if the story is ridiculously over-the-top or written with a male protagonist who shows remorse. Jason made no apologies for being an STD-muffin, which was not cool.

He should have died a miserable death so Marie could have found a man who deserved her.

Final Analysis of Raven

Raven was my first “Shana Carrol” experience, although I had previously read “Christina Savage’s” American Revolution-era Hearts of Fire. I enjoyed that book, not so much for the romance, but the action & adventure. That’s about where I stand with Raven. In this case, I adored the heroine. Marie was awesome.

As for Jason, I wish the Duke’s men had hanged him. What an awful, callous, man-slut he was! He cared nothing for the feelings of any woman he toyed with.

If I view Raven as a tale of the heroine’s journey, it’s a high four-star rating. Jason drags the story down. Marie was such a capable woman. I didn’t appreciate that she needed Jason to save her in the end.

I’ll skip the Jason parts and just read about Marie if I ever feel the need to relive her adventures. As a romance, Raven has significant flaws. It did put me through an emotional wringer, though, so I can’t say I had a bad time with it.

3.49 Stars

savage surrender case cassie edwards

Historical Romance Review: Savage Surrender by Cassie Edwards

book review historical romance
Savage Surrender by Cassie Edwards
Rating: two-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Don Case
Book Series: Savage Secrets #1
Published by: Charter, Dorchester, Ace, Leisure
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon

Historical Romance Review: Savage Surrender by Cassie Edwards

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book and Characters

This review is of Savage Surrender, book #1 in the “Savage Secrets” series by Cassie Edwards.

(Reviewer notes: The original version was published by Charter/Ace in August 1987. Savage Surrender was later republished by Jove (May 1991) and then Leisure (May 1996). The “Savage Secrets” series is NOT to be confused with the “Savage” series, which Mrs. Edwards also wrote.).

Heroine: Brenda Denise Pfleugger, 17, Red hair, blue eyes. Pioneer’s daughter.

Hero: Striped Eagle, 25. Black hair, brown eyes. Future chief of the White Bear band of Ojibwa Indians.

The Plot

The book begins in Minnesota, circa 1840, at the home of the Pfleugger family, consisting of father Harrison, mother Carole, and their two children, daughter Brenda Denise, 17, and the heroine of the book, and son Tommie, 5. Sadly, this will be the last night the Pfleuggers spend together. Soldiers, led by the villainous Major Joseph Partain, attack their home.

Only Brenda survives the attack. She escapes to the woods. Striped Eagle, the hero of the book and an Ojibwa Indian, finds her and saves her life. He takes her to his village. There, they become lovers.

Brenda gets into constant battles, pulled in different directions. On the one side is her love for Striped Eagle. On another side is her desire for revenge. And on yet another side: Striped Eagle’s sister, Morning Flower, and her hatred of Brenda.

In the end, Brenda and Striped Eagle marry. Major Partain is killed. Morning Flower grows to accept Brenda as Striped Eagle’s wife, and they have their Happily Ever After.

Savage Surrender, Cassie Edwards, Dorchester, 1999, cover artist TBD

Upside

Mrs. Edwards is an excellent atmospheric writer, meaning she describes scenes in a way that allows me, as a reader, to feel like I am there as an observer as opposed to simply reading words on a page or screen. One other highly underrated and appreciated part of Mrs. Edwards’ work is the research she has done into her Tribe of the Book language and customs; there are many books about Native Americans that don’t do so the way Mrs. Edwards’ books do.

Downside

Let’s start with the characters. Although Brenda checks off some boxes for romance novel heroines: she’s beautiful and has a great body, she is also young–she’s 17–and impetuous. These qualities lead her into trouble multiple times, which Striped Eagle has to rescue her from (she extricates herself in one instance). It’s not fair to call Brenda a Simpering Sara but rather a Perilous Penelope.

At the beginning of the book, Striped Eagle is a bit of a bastard. Almost immediately upon meeting Brenda–and knowing she just witnessed her family’s murders–he’s pressing her to have sex with him, which is at best insensitive and at worst incredibly sleazy.

He only becomes more sensitive and caring when his father dies, making him the chief of his band of Ojibwa. There is no character development or depth, and the supporting characters only exist as foils for Brenda and Striped Eagle, neither of whom is strong enough to truly lead a book.

Sex

Mrs. Edwards usually writes great love scenes. Her love scenes are quite muted here in Savage Surrender.

Violence

Assault, attempted rape, battery, knifing, shootings, and killings take place in the book. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line of Savage Surrender

Savage Surrender is not a great start to Mrs. Edwards’ “Savage Secrets” series.

Tropes: Historical romance. Native American hero.

Location: Minnesota, 1840.

2.24 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
2.5
Writing
2
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
4
Overall: 2.7

/


Synopsis:

Love’s Captive
Strong-willed and beautiful, Brenda had escaped the brutal muderers of her pioneer family. Her anguish and fury were then challenged by the savage wilderness, where her only hope for survival lay in the forceful bronzed arms of an Ojibwa warrior. Striped Eagle was the kind of man she had been raised to fear – the kind of man whose dark, smoldering gaze unleashed her heart’s forbidden temptations.
Passion’s Slave
She was his – body and soul. The burning touch of his lean, muscled torso against her tender flesh aroused the sweetest rapture of desires unknown. The probing heat of his kiss blazed a trail of unexplored ecstasy. And his loving embrace awakened a hunger for more. While defying her future and daring to avenge her family’s enemies, Brenda would share with Striped Eagle a love that triumphed in the flames of eternal desire and…

SAVAGE SURRENDER by CASSIE EDWARDS
Sarina by Francine Rivers

Historical Romance Review: Sarina by Francine Rivers

historical romance review
Sarina by Francine Rivers
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Morgan Kane
Published by: Jove
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 408
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Sarina by Francine Rivers

MILD SPOILERS AND CONTENT ALERT ⚠

The Book

Sarina is a bodice ripper-lite written by Francine Rivers, the best-known and most successful author of Christian-centered or “inspirational” romances. This romance is set in mid-19th century California, a time of radical changes.

Some Things We Don’t Talk About In Public

This book was written before Rivers became “born again.” However, she was nominally Christian at the time. Rivers has tried to distance herself from her first 11 books, including Sarina, dismissing them as:

“BC (before Christ) books. They are all out of print now, are never to be reprinted, and are not recommended.” 

FRANCINE RIVERS, regarding her first 11 romance novels

She purchased the rights to all those and will never allow them to be republished as she feels they don’t represent her faith today.

As a free speech proponent, I think it’s unfortunate that Rivers has deemed these books verboten. Furthermore, I disagree that their sexually explicit content dishonors Christianity.

WARNING! I Talk Religion Here, Sort Of

A Non-Church Goer Goes to Church

I worked for a small company many years ago where the boss’s wife (BW) took a friendly liking to me. She was Evangelical, and I was a lapsed Catholic (My mother worked for this company, too & BW was close to her. So Mami told her about my “lack of faith,” which they both found disturbing.).

Long story short, I got hoodwinked into attending a two-day, one-night religious revival at a local hotel. Gathered to worship, there were hundreds of people. I’m Hispanic (Dominican heritage), and I’d say the racial makeup there was 80% European-American, 10% African-American, and 10% Mixed/Other. For two tedious days, I sat through mass, concerts, prayers, and a couple of conferences. It was charismatic-based: laying of hands, people speaking in tongues, collapsing, crying, etc.

I felt…uncomfortable. I had no patience for the ceremonial Catholic Mass as a child: Sit, rise, sit. Kneel, rise, consume the Eucharist. Kneel, sit, rise, kiss a stranger, sit. Rise, wait for twenty minutes while churchgoers socialize, go home, take off church clothes, and see if any good cartoons are on TV.

Mass had been dull but at least predictable. This was strange to me.

Sex and Religion

Anyway, the best part of that weekend (besides the rum cocktail I was able to sneak during a rare minute of solitude) was a panel given by a Black married couple who talked about the importance of sex in Christian matrimony. They did not speak obscenely but openly and honestly, and yes, biblically. The couple talked about how sacred sex is and how physical bonding reinforces spiritual bonding in a marriage. They spoke about the equal pleasure both men and women receive in sex and how it joins two people together just as much as faith and children and everything else that matters.

I sat fascinated. This spoke to me! Finally, something that had actual utility!

However, like George Costanza, I can sense discomfort in other people. I saw it in that audience through the awkward expressions and the fiddling of hands. Afterward, the couple asked if anyone had questions, which no one did. The session ended, and the room quickly emptied out. No one remained to chit-chat with the speakers–as was usual with these panels–except for me, who complimented them on a speech well done.

My Point, And I Do Have One

The point of that extemporaneous babbling–and there is a point–is from this non-adherent’s perspective, sex and Christianity do go hand in hand. It’s lamentable that Rivers views her “BC romances” through a lens of shame. She now writes works that, in my estimation, preach to the choir rather than spread the Word to “unbelievers,” for lack of a better term.

I am a believer. Although I’m not entirely sure about what.

Now, About the Book!

Sorry for all that. You know me and my meanderings. So, let’s focus on the plot of Sarina and my opinion of the book.

Sarina Azevedo-Cahill is the daughter of a Californio family who’ve lived in southern California for centuries. Her father, Dale Cahill, married into the Azevedo family to take control of those lands. The time is the 1850s, and new American settlers are moving into the newly-minted 31st state by the droves.

Sarina’s father, also known as El Señor, is a stern, cruel patriarch who gives his daughter no affection. Their ranch Vallecitas and his legacy are all he cares for. Sarina tries to be a dutiful daughter but finds herself butting heads with her father instead.

The hero is Lang Rossiter, the son of an Anglo family that runs the neighboring Val Verde ranch. Incidentally, El Señor would love to have the Rossiter lands, as they would combine with Vallecitas to form the greatest ranch in the area.

Sarina and Lang first meet while out riding alone. There is an instant attraction between the two. They arrange to meet again. However, when they are caught in a compromising position, Lang becomes furious with Sarina, accusing her of arranging a setup. Obviously (insert eye-roll here), she’s scheming with her father to snag Val Verde.

Lang’s enchantment with her turns into bitterness. He’s a big dick and becomes an even bigger dick before he gets nicer.

A Marriage Made Neither In Hell Nor In Heaven

So, their families force Sarina and Lang to marry. Sarina finds herself tied to a man who is attracted to her but resents her. Lang is at times incredibly cruel to Sarina, who fights back with a resilient will (until the end of the book, where both she and Lang get personality transplants).

Despite their rocky beginning, Sarina and Lang find unity through their passion and faith, which helps them through strife. During a sensually charged love scene, when they finally come together after those rough patches, the ever-dominant Lang places Sarina’s hands upon his body and tells her: 

“A woman has the real power…” 

And then they erotically wash each other before engaging in passionate love-making. 

“A kind of baptism. Washing away the past and beginning again.”

Final Analysis of Sarina

Sarina is a wonderful romance. Lang and Sarina’s tale is of a love transformed from innocent sweetness to resentment to a lifelong bond affirmed in myriad ways.

The two stern heads of the different families receive nuanced characterization. Well represented here are the politics and contentiousness between the old Spanish families and the new Americans. (I do question the authenticity of the name Azevedo as a Spanish surname because I’ve always thought it was Portuguese, but that’s a minor quibble.)

Lang and Sarina’s faith helps fortify them during difficult times in the story. Religion is not hamfistedly inserted anywhere. It plays a historically accurate and natural part in their story, just as Sarina’s complicated relationship with her father does.

I do not understand why Rivers feels that her “BC” romance Sarina is a misrepresentation of Christianity. Actually, I think I do, but that would require a much more extended essay.

Suffice it to say, if you can get your hands on this hard-to-find book, give it a chance. It may surprise you as it did me. And that’s a good thing.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
3.5
Overall: 4

Synopsis:

Fiery Sarina Azevedo was a Californio, with a heart as wild and proud as the magnificent untamed land she loved. Yet her desire and her destiny were both denied her. Her first love was the land, Vallecitas, the magnificent ranch that was her birthright.

But fate had drawn her into the demanding arms of her father’s bitterest enemy, Lang Rossiter, the land-hungry Anglo whose touch set her smoldering passions aflame…

There was only one way Sarina could have them both: the land that was her legacy, and the man her body and soul cried out for…and though her father, el senor, would never forgive her, she would defy her very heritage to seize the happiness she knew love promised…

SARINA by FRANCINE RIVERS
the lord of hawkfell island

Historical Romance Review: The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter

historical romance review
The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1993
Illustrator: Unknown
Book Series: Viking Lords Series #2
Published by: Jove
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance, Viking Romance
Pages: 403
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter

WARNING: CONTENT AND MILD SPOILER ALERT ⚠

Catherine Coulter takes her propensity to create unlikeable heroes and dials it all the way up to “11” in her so-called romance, The Lord of Hawkfell Island.

The Plot

Mirana is a young, unmarried woman who lives with her brother in a fortress in Ireland. When he’s away, their home is attacked by Viking raiders seeking vengeance against him. Their Viking leader Rorik blames him for the death of his wife and child.

Usually, a hero grieving over his lost love is grounds for me to dislike a historical romance, but thanks to Rorik, I had plenty of other reasons to despise this “love story.”

I shouldn’t even call this a love story because–let’s get this right out the gate–Rorik never says a single word of love to Mirana. And it’s not because he’s so filled with sorrow over his loss. He’s just an unfeeling, cruel, petty, boorish boar.

I detested him so much that I created a Goodreads shelf labeled “jerky pig hall of fame” for him and his porcine brethren.

Rorik kidnaps Mirana as a hostage, not out of lust, but because he’s on the boys’ team and Mirana’s on the girls’ team, and boys are supposed to torment icky girls because boys rule and girls drool.

Rorik, The Viking Philosopher

Although externally Rorik has the appearance of a strong, 30-something Viking warrior, his demeanor is that of a gangly 10-year-old-boy who’s on the verge of adolescence. He thinks girls are gross and stupid, yet gets a weird, tingly feeling whenever a particular one is around.

So instead of reacting like a mature, well-adjusted male to that particular sow (or female) who gets him hornt up, our hero spouts insults like:

“I told you that my men really have no interest in you. You’re skinny, not at all appetizing. A man would have to be starving for a woman before he would turn his eyes to you.”

Saying mean things to Mirana alone wouldn’t merit Rurik a place at the Big Pigs’ table, though. Sure, he gets naked and bathes in front of her, taunting her in an “I-know-you-want-me-but-you-cannot-have-me-so-look-at-how-hot-I-am” sort of way. That’s cute.

He also threatens to sic his dog on her:

 “I’ll have my dog kill you. He’s vicious. He protects me and my island.”

Rorik accuses Mirana of incest (and being damn good at it): 

“Do you lust after him, your own kin? Is that why you’re still unwed? Perhaps he has already bedded you. You aren’t young, after all. Does he hold you above his other whores?”

He chains her up with heavy iron links–no cloth under the metal to protect her skin–and keeps her that way for days on end, deprives her of food, beats her, and neglects her. Later he gets more brutally physical, punching Mirana in the jaw, stepping on her throat, and whipping her!

So, to sum up: Rorik abducts Mirana, tells her she’s so ugly no man would sleep with her, except her brother, of course, threatens her with murder and rape, abuses her, tortures her, and spouts Schwarzenneggerian brilliance as:

“The man rules. It is he who protects the woman, he who provides shelter and food for her. It is his right to bed with a bear if he wishes to. It is I who am the lord here, and all obey!”

He’s a beast, all right. Well, charisma goes a long way, thank goodness.

Alas, Rorik has zero charisma to back up his nasty demeanor.

So What’s To Like?

Then, why didn’t I one-star this book if the hero is so loathsome?

For one thing, Mirana gives back as good as she can. She’s a solid character who deserves a better man. How about her evil brother? 😉

And second, it’s kind of funny if you can disassociate from it all. Rorik is so childlike in his hatred for Mirana. I’m surprised he didn’t wipe his boogers on her or play “I’m not touching you” with his finger hovering an inch from her face.

Sure the guy’s a looker, and he’s lord of an island, but with his protozoan personality, who wants him?

Sleeping with Rorik would be akin to doing it with Colleen McCullough’s “Tim,” inhabited by the spirit of “South Park”‘s Eric Cartman on D-Bal Max.

(SO WRONG)

+

(SO VERY WRONG!)

X

(AND ON STEROIDS!!)

Sisterly Love

Ultimately, what pulls this book together has nothing to do with romance. It’s all due to Mirana and a supporting cast of female characters who forge a strong network of relationships They help each other grow and thrive in a world that’s brutal and unfair.

On the one hand, we have Rorik and his dopey gang of followers with their collective IQ & EQs of (I’ll be generous) 105.

On the other hand, we have the Hawkfell Island women’s team.

The central theme is all about “The Battle of the Sexes.”

Caring for Mirana is a servant woman, Utta, married to one of Rorik’s men. A beautiful yet simple slave girl named Entti is treated as a bounce house for the Vikings to play with, and she gets no respect. The women unite to get back at the men in ways they can, like giving them inedible food and refusing sex.

After a while, the men determine that Mirana’s behind the women’s uppitiness. Rorik attempts to rein her in. He decides he will marry Mirana and control her through force of will.

Mirana, for some reason, develops feelings for the Neanderthal.

At last, Rorik and Mirana share something in common: love for Rorik. INow, there’s a match made in Valhalla!

When the men get fed up with the women’s antics, they threaten Mirana with all kinds of bodily harm. Rorik does nothing to stop it.

He spouts perplexing threats like: “I will rape you if you force me” when Mirana refuses him his marital rights.

By The Lord of Hawkfell Island’s conclusion, Rorik and Mirana are paired off… because that’s what a romance demands. Rorik remains the same unfeeling brute he was in the beginning.

Final Analysis of The Lord of Hawkfell Island

The kindest, most intimate thing Rorik says to Mirana is:

“You are very nice,” he said forcing his eyes back to her face. “You are pleasing to me.”

If that’s enough to spark your interest, and you have a perverse curiosity to observe an exaggerated caricature of a supreme male chauvinist pig in action, while a crew of much savvier women maneuvers social politics and gender roles, then by all means, take a gander at this book.

Whatever “this” is, that Catherine Coulter wrote.

On a certain level, The Lord of Hawkfell Island is fascinating. I wouldn’t call it a romance, though.

2.74 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
2
Cover
1.5
Overall: 2.3

Synopsis

Rorik is a Viking warrior, as fierce and savage as the North Sea during the winter solstice. Mirana is a Viking woman who loves birds, is more ingenious than most men, and loyal down to her toes. Her life changes utterly one fateful day when Rorik and his men come to Clontarf, a Viking fortress on the eastern coast of Ireland, to kill her half-brother. But she is the one taken as hostage to use as a pawn against him.

Rorik is the Lord of Hawkfell, an island off the east cost of Britain. The moment he brings his captive home, it seems that everything begins to fly out his control. The women are out to teach the men a lesson with the result that food is rank, Rorik’s family is out for Mirana’s blood, a murderer is on a loose, and a huge mongrel, Kerzog, dotes not only on his master but also on his master’s captive.

Rorik and Mirana are two strong-willed people, ardent in their opinions, who will have you rooting for both of them equally.

THE LORD OF HAWKFELL ISLAND by CATHERINE COULTER
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

MILD SPOILERS 😉

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
Plot
3.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
3.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
3
Cover
3.5
Overall: 3.5

Synopsis

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