Publication Date: November 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Historical Romance
Pages: Paperback, 496pp
(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Casablanca)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Roberta Gellis on the WEB: website, facebook
Excerpt from Fires of Winter
A sparkling prize of war
The beautiful, cherished daughter of Scottish nobility, Melusine of Ulle had all the privileges of rank. But her family and her life were destroyed by the ravages of war. And her noble name made her a threat to the new king...
A loyal vassal's reward
A basterd son of an English lord, Bruno of Jernaeve was born with nothing. But through loyalty, cleverness, and brute strength he carved out a spot at the right hand of the king. And to remain in favor he would do anything, even accept the hand of his enemy...
They have nothing in common and every reason to hate each other, but even in the coldest of winters one spark can ignite a fire too hot to tame.
Fires of Winter is a re-print of Roberta Gellis' 12th century historical romance. Set against the backdrop of the political struggle between Stephen and Matilda, this novel is historically accurate and well written. Gellis is able to balance the political climate with a deeply passionate love story, to create a book that historical romance readers won't soon forget. It doesn't follow the typical happy-ever-after story line that many would expect and will leave the reader feeling surprised at Gellis' openness as a writer and willingness to stretch the limits of convention.
There are so many things that I liked about this book. Gellis is a veteran romance writer who isn't afraid to push the envelop. The 12th century was such a strongly political time period and Gellis is able to convey that to the reader. She shows just how important that this struggle was to England and still keeps the reader entertained. Though it is a love story, the political turmoil is still key to the story. It allows both the heroine and hero to be in the position they need to be in to bring about the relationship. I loved the way Gellis incorporated everything happening in the world at that time into the story. It gave this novel an urgency that it may not have had otherwise.
Bruno is the basterd son of a nobleman. He isn't privileged. He doesn't have money or position, in fact his father did not even acknowledge him as his son in any way. That made him a very self-made kind of hero and that appealed to me as a reader. Most historical romance hero's are duke's or earls and having an ordinary man as the main protagonist was refreshing. Gellis shows Bruno as a very loyal subject to the king, one who was willing to do whatever Stephen required.
Bruno is also a flawed character. He isn't perfect and does do some things in the book that are a bit shocking. When he is knighted and made to marry the daughter of his enemy, Bruno forces himself on Melusine on there first night together. She is distraught and bit mad with grief, yet Bruno fulfills his obligation against her will. Later Bruno visits a prostitute instead of continuing to force himself on his new bride and yet through it all, I think readers will still love Bruno. There is just something about him that makes the reader look over his indiscretions. He is human and real and I think that makes all the difference.
Melusine is very strong, feisty young woman. She finds herself in a marriage that is completely against her will. She is determined to survive in spite of everything though and she even goes so far as to try to kill Bruno as he sleeps on their wedding night. I think there was a point in the novel that Melusine was beside herself. She was somewhat crazy with grief, but she quickly rights herself and sets out to get past this in any way she can. The problem is despite the fact that Bruno is forced on her figuratively and literally, she still can't help but see the good in him. She tries to fight the attraction but eventually they both succumb to their desires and their love story starts to bloom.
I loved the fact that these two characters had such a terrible beginning and yet are still able to find happiness in the end. I thought Gellis really pushed the limits with several aspects of this story and that was part of what made it so good. Gellis writes in a very straight forward manner, she doesn't skirt the issues and she doesn't apologize for the behavior of her characters, which in turn makes them so much more realistic. Though this book has a lot of political dealings and situations, the love story still shines through and I think readers will find it edgy and gratifying. This historical romance is not your typical love story and I think readers will appreciate the difference.
Fires of Winter is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Roberta Gellis is the bestselling author of over twenty-five historical romance novels with over one million copies sold. New York Times bestseller John Jakes has called her a superb storyteller of extraordinary talent; Publishers Weekly has termed her a master of the medieval historical. Her many awards include the Silver and Gold Medal Porgy for historical novels from West Coast Reviews of Books and the Golden Certificate and Golden Pen from Affaire de Coeur, several Romantic Times book awards and also the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Romance Writers of America. She lives in Lafayette, Indiana.