Fires of Winter

Written by Roberta Gellis
Review by Cynthia McArthur

Fires of Winter is a journey through 12th-century England as seen from the perspective of Bruno, the son of the Lord of Jernaeve and a castle whore, who clawed his way up from nothing to become a Knight of the Body to King Stephen; and Melusine, the coddled daughter of a Scottish nobleman loyal to Stephen’s rival, the Empress Matilda.

The chapters alternate between Bruno’s and Melusine’s first-person, past-tense points of view. The first few chapters are mainly character development, and there is sometimes the feeling of backtracking. But soon after, the story rolls in waves of action from their first brief encounter, when Bruno storms Melusine’s keep at Ulle in the name of King Stephen. Stephen’s Queen Maude orders Bruno to wed Melusine in order to watch her as the daughter of a rebel, and Bruno and Melusine form an alliance to regain Melusine’s lost land of Ulle.

We meet King Stephen, the Empress Matilda, and even Eleanor of Aquitaine through the eyes of two people trying to survive in the court of a weak and changeable king, all the while relying more and more upon each other’s strength and consistency in this uncertain landscape.

Fires of Winter is the story of a love-match made despite the dangerous times and doubtful circumstances. The author obviously knows the time period well, and her teasing, alternating chapters kept me interested until the end. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good historical romance that happens to lend a view on the historical politics as well.