MILD SPOILERS 😉
Reviewed by Introvert Reader
Secret Fire was, I think, the second Johanna Lindsey romance I read which cemented her works among my favorites. Published in 1987, this book was written during Lindsey’s peak years of output.
The cover is another Elaine Duillo gem, this time featuring white, cream, and brown hues, appropriate for the wintery Russian setting. There’s also a blond male cover model whom I’ve been searching for for years. Forget Fabio and his long-haired colleagues; it’s this guy I have often imagined as the hero of many love stores I’ve read. He’s a perfect model for the ultra-gorgeous hero of Secret Fire, Dimitri.
Dimitri is a half-Russian, half-English Prince who is in England to visit family and smooth over a scandal his sister has gotten into by engaging in an affair with a married man. The uber-sexual Dimitri doesn’t mind his sisters’ affairs, only that she’s so flagrant about them. So he decides to bring her back to Russia on his ship and perhaps find a dutiful spouse for her.
Meanwhile, Lady Katherine St. John, the eldest daughter of an Earl, is enraged to find that her sister has decided to run off and elope. Although Katherine has a father and brother, it’s upon her dainty shoulders that familial responsibilities lie. She concocts a plan to exchange garments with a maid and search the London street for her sister.
As she’s walking about, Dimitri’s carriage is stuck in traffic, and he happens to see Katherine. Although she’s short and rather plain with dull brown hair, there’s something about her that appeals to Dimitri. A prince who’s gotten anything and everything he’s ever wanted with a snap of his fingers, Dimitri sends a servant off to procure the woman for a night of passion. Katherine dismisses the man, but he won’t take no for an answer. Before Katherine knows what’s happening, she’s kidnapped and finds herself trapped in strange quarters. Her adamant refusals prompt Dimitri’s servant to ply her with”Spanish Fly” to make her willing for the prince’s touch.
When Dimitri finds out what’s been done, he’s disgusted at first. He was just looking for a quick tryst, not a sex marathon. Dimitri figures he’ll have to let his men have a go with her, as Spanish Fly makes a woman insatiable. Then he enters the room, and those thoughts go out the window. For while Katherine might not be the most beautiful woman in the world, she certainly is one of the most sensual visions he’s ever witnessed, naked on the bed and writhing in desire.
And so begins Secret Fire, with a night of pure ecstasy for both Katherine and Dimitri.
The Prince in Pursuit
However, the next day Katherine is back to her old self and threatens Dimitri’s servants with arrest, as she is the daughter of an Earl. No one believes her, of course. What would an Earl’s daughter have been doing roaming the London docks alone and wearing the clothes of a servant? Still, to prevent any scandal, his servant has the brilliant idea of locking Katherine in a chest and taking her with them to Russia.
When Katherine finds herself at sea, she demands to be returned. Dimitri had not expected o find her aboard the ship but is pleased. Despite his hundreds of past amours, their night together was one of the best in memory, and the lady had been a virgin, to boot!
Dimitri pursues Katherine with an ardor he hadn’t imagined possible. Of course, Katherine rebuffs him at every turn. She’s no common trull, but a lady deserving of respect. Dimitri ignores Katherine’s claims of nobility, mostly because he wants to believe that his Katya can be easily had. He knows he has to marry a noble Russian woman to produce an heir for his line, but Katya can be his mistress in the meantime.
Over the seas and rivers, through Europe and into Russia, Dimitri tries what he can to seduce her back into his arms.
But Katherine has a will made of steel. Even though she wants him just as much as he wants her.
[He] wanted her. Incredible fantasy. This fairy-tale prince, this golden god wanted her. Her. It boggled the mind. It defied reason. And she said no. Stupid ninny!SECRET FIRE
Final Analysis of Secret Fire
I love Katherine. Like Georgina Anderson, from Lindsey’s Gentle Rogue, she has a habit of talking to herself, a trait I share, to my husband’s annoyance. Katherine’s fiercely proud, stubborn, and resilient. She’s not my favorite Lindsey heroine, but she is up there with the best. One of my favorite scenes is after Dimitri’s aunt decides to discipline Katherine, and Dimitri’s horrified reaction to it all, combined with Katherine’s stiff-upper-lip reserve.
Dimitri is as equally stubborn and proud as Katherine. But nowhere near as brilliant. That’s ok. His charm and godlike looks make up for it!
This is another of Lindsey’s excellent romances that I’ve re-read many times. Secret Fire is an absolute wonder, the hero, the heroine, the plot, the writing, all of it.