Fires of Winter by Roberta Gellis
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Length Full Length (490 pages)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Lavender
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&nash; 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 is set in the 12th century, and starts with the story of the charming hero, Bruno, as a child. He does some amazing things when only a boy, including taking care of his orphaned baby half-sister. The sibling love between them is touching. His sister is the legitimate daughter of a lord while Bruno is a bastard. Despite this, he works hard and moves up in the world to become a knight who works closely with the king, Stephen.
Politics play a big role in this book and take up much of the story. They are tightly woven into the plot. At this time in history, the daughter of the late king is fighting her cousin, the current king, for the right to the throne. The author wrote the historical details as if she had seen a diary of people who lived through it. It was very convincing.
The hero, Melusine, turns out to be a good match for Bruno. She loses her entire family and temporarily goes mad. This is quite unexpected in an historical romance, but it¹s handled well. She fights her growing love for her husband because everyone she loves dies.
Something that makes this different from the average romance is an occasional action by the hero that is normally taboo in this genre. For example, the marriage is forced on Melusine at the king's and queen's insistence, and on the wedding night, the king insists that Bruno make her his wife in full and Melusine is not exactly a willing participant.
Also, another thing is slightly disturbing. In the beginning of their marriage, Bruno goes to a prostitute to satisfy his urges. He doesn't want to force his wife, feeling terrible about the wedding night. Near the end of the book, Bruno tells Melusine that he hadn't touched another woman since he'd been with her. Strangely, this didn't come across as a lie. It felt more like he had forgotten that night long before with a hired woman.
Here's another interesting and unusual thing: Bruno doesn't find Melusine attractive at first, and she thought him handsome but not her type (after she comes back from temporary madness). The writing style is straight to the point, not flowery. The earthy feel of it fits the medieval world well.
Also, despite a couple of disturbing things about Bruno's actions, he comes across as thoroughly likeable. Interestingly, he displays a kind of innocence in his thoughts and actions as he falls in love with his wife. It's refreshing for a book set in this time period to have a working man as a hero as well. He's not rich. His closeness to the king adds interest to a story filled with political intrigue. For fans of medieval romance who are looking for something a little different, this would be a great story to check out. The author knows her stuff.