Top positive review
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One of the very best Viking romances
on July 9, 2003
I first read Fires of Winter about eighteen months ago and remembered a powerful and highly alluring storyline. Last week, I decided to read it again and found it was even better than I remembered.
I have discovered, as I read through the backlists of many authors, that most romance writing today is very different from the romances of the 1980s. I often find that the formula romances written during that time frame can be very trying to read. But I have also learned that some of the very best gems of romance writing were written during the 1980s. Of all the hundreds of romance books I have read, my top five favorite books include at least three from this 1980s period. I love a story with rich historical detail that concentrates primarily on the hero and heroine. Length of the story (longer than 350 pages), unusual plot lines, and depth of characters are extremely important. Fires of Winter is one such novel that fits all of these criteria as well as just being a downright delicious read. I consider Johanna Lindsey to be one of the best authors of these sweeping historical novels during this period although I have read a couple of hers that I would consider some of the worst.
Garrick Haardrad is a Viking who makes his living through trading overseas. He is the younger son of a Viking chieftain, Anselm the Eager. Unknown to Garrick, his father, Anselm, had promised his hand in marriage to a Celtic lord's daughter. When Anselm arrives in England to supposedly collect his younger son's future bride, he instead attacks the Celtic settlement. The marriage betrothal was merely a trick to allow the Viking raiders easy entrance to the Celtic settlement. Not only does Anselm and his warriors kill the majority of people and steal all that can be stolen, he also takes with him seven captives who will become slaves once they reach Norway.
Lady Brenna is the Celtic lord's daughter that had been promised in marriage, unwillingly, to the Viking chieftain's son. She is one of the seven captives taken back to the Vikings' homeland of Norway. Brenna is a very independent woman and has always been treated like a son rather than a daughter by her father. She is very adept at warrior skills such as wielding a sword, archery, and defending herself with a knife. When Anselm and his warriors attack Lady Brenna's home, she fights the Vikings just like a man. She is a very uncooperative captive and is considered dangerous if not a little mad. Brenna refuses to accept her new role in life - that of a slave. Anselm discovers he actually respects Lady Brenna and decides to give her to his son, Garrick. Brenna is extremely bitter towards Anselm and cannot bear the thought that she will be Garrick's slave rather than his wife.
Brenna's behavior is my main complaint about Fires of Winter. She was always angry. There are few pages in which she is NOT angry. This behavior actually makes Brenna appear immature. But, to give her character due credit, I will admit that she was dealing with one of the hardest heroes I have ever read. Garrick could be just down right mean and he was - many more times than once. Lindsey can write some of the meanest heroes that we still find a way to accept wholeheartedly. Part of the intrigue of Lindsey's heroes is the change they undergo. So, although we see Garrick as unkind, we also see him evolve to a hero you will love.
Usually, I don't appreciate a great deal of fighting as occurs between Garrick and Brenna. It was, however, a really outstanding battle of the wills. I found that I relished this battle of wills because both characters are so well written. They both clearly have their strengths and weaknesses and Lindsey lets us see them as the imperfect people they are and it only adds to the overall appeal of the story. The sensual scenes rate about a 3.5 out of 5.0 (see More About Me for rating guidelines). Although Lindsey does not write these scenes in explicit detail, they are still highly sexual. Be warned - these scenes are both consensual and non-consensual. At times, women are not treated with much respect in this book. This story takes place during the Viking era and I actually think this mistreatment of women is true to the time period.
This book had extreme highs and lows and was a fascinating read. There are few books that I find hard to put down but Fires of Winter was definitely in that category. I like to savor the really, really good books and make the reading last. But I found myself making excuses to read the next chapter and then the next. Fires of Winter is probably one my favorite top ten books. This is a book that is about the leads and it is very satisfying. I will soon choose another Lindsey book from her backlist and hope to find yet another jewel.