Lady of Fire (1987) by Anita Mills
Setting: France & England, 1085-1093
Series: 1 of 5
Reason for reading: Last attempt at liking Mills. Forgot who recommended her.
Plot: At 12 years old, Eleanor’s beauty already entrances Prince Henry (son of William the Conqueror), Belesme (our villain), and Roger, her HALF-BROTHER. Eleanor and Roger have always been very close. Then Roger finds out that he is not really related to Eleanor and decides that he wants to marry her and goes away to make his fortune for the next 7 years while Eleanor is hidden away in a convent.
Long Ramblings: I once read a scientific study that it’s pretty much impossible to have romantic feelings for someone if you have lived with that person as brother & sister for the first 5 years of your life. I think I might have found this book more believable if I had read this book 8 years ago when I was ignorant of that fact. Or maybe not considering the way Mills handled everything.
When an author deals in a romance between a couple raised in a sibling environment, they have to do a delicate balancing act between the yum of the forbidden and the barf of the ick. The book crossed into ick because while Roger knew at the beginning of the story that Eleanor is not his sister, he doesnt tell Eleanor of this fact for years and springs this information on her at the last moment. Like while they are bumping uglies type of last moment. So, not cool, dude. Well, maybe it is if you’re Caligula or sumthin’ but otherwise, no.
But that is just one of the problems with this book.
Author Catherine Coulter once said of her medieval romance, Chandra/Warrior Song, that it was a bad book because the Villain outshone the Hero. I had read Chandra and didnt agree. I thought the Villain in that book was one-dimensional and not very interesting. Frankly, I am just not attracted to the bad boys.
However, if I were to apply Coulter’s standard, Lady of Fire is a bad book because Belesme, the villain, is by far the most interesting character in the book. I found Roger, with his ineffectual desperation, slightly lame. Belesme is a gorgeous, cold, cruel, powerful man who commits unspeakable acts throughtout the course of the novel, yet there is something reluctantly touching about his strange code of ethics and unbalanced obssession to marry Eleanor. Despite the fact that I thought he commited acts that made him unredeemable, I was afraid that Belesme was going to show up as the hero in a future book because he had taken over the story by the end with his burning fabulosity. The slightly unresolved ending just added to my fears. (I checked and Mills didn’t write a book about Belesme, for which I am grateful, because I would have had to track that sucker down and turn into a Belesmaniac!)
Mills did keep me turning the pages quickly despite
or maybe because of the ick factor. She is a good storyteller and she gives good historical atmosphere. This is the third Mills I have tried (after Autumn Rain, a historical regency, and The Fire & the Fury) and will be the last. None of her H/Hs have ever grabbed me nor any of her plots. She just isnt my cuppa but I did give it a valiant effort.
Content warning to gentle readers: (highlight to read) ——> Rape scene. Some characters engage in incest and skinning/torture. <———-