Pub Date: 1987
Illustrator: Gregg Gulbronson
Book Series: Fire Series #1
Published by: Onyx
Genres: Bodice Ripper, Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Format: eBook, Paperback
More at: Goodreads
Purchase Book: Buy on Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader
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
SPOILER ALERT ⚠
“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.”LADY OF FIRE by ANITA MILLS
Anita Mills’ Lady of Fire is one of my most beloved historical romance novels. I admit it has some flaws, especially toward the end. Even so, I adore it.
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.
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
For a writer to allow the villain to overshadow the protagonists may be a source of frustration to some readers, but Anita Mills does it so skillfully that I fell for it from beginning to end.
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 a fantastic romance. It’s a phenomenal book all around.