1990, European Historical Romance (1860s [Victorian] England)
Avon, $4.99, Amazon ASIN 0380755793 Part of a series
1861, Yorkshire. In the night and the pouring rain, dogs are hunting Bonnie Eden. She is weak and hurt, but nothing deters her; she is escaping the brutality of a workhouse and a future as a whore. She finally seeks refuge at Damon Warwick’s estate, whereupon she coerces him into rendering her aid through blackmail. Her arrival in his life is explosive. While he is there with his friend/mistress Marianne, Bonnie is a like a raging fire in Damon’s life, forcing him to experience feelings he wants buried and forgotten. Deceived and betrayed by his fiancée six years ago, he only came back to England to inherit the earldom.
Bonnie loves him and gives herself to him body and soul, with a passion and naiveté only found in the very young. Damon, on the other hand, when he realizes that he can not keep himself from her physically and emotionally, goes with her to London to marry her off. Not being able to see past his own pain and struggle, he is repeatedly cruel to Bonnie who finally rebels and responds in kind. Damon is forced to fight a duel for her and is seriously wounded in the process. He lashes out for the last time. Hurt, realizing Damon could have died because of her actions, and believing he could never truly love her, Bonnie flees.
What Bonnie endures after she flees, and Damon's search for her are among the most poignant moments in any romance novel I've ever read. The scene when he finally finds her, starved, bruised, dirty, and defeated in both body and spirit is a three-hanky moment. It is made all the more so by the sub-text - she is peering through the window of a dressmaker at the hundreds of beautiful ribbons displayed, extravagant ribbons she was able to have when she was with Damon, but which were stolen just that morning.
A Fire in the Heart is one of those romances that more than tugs at your heart strings. We've all read romances where the heroine was once a dirty street urchin, where the jaded hero has apparently closed off his heart, where the hero decides he'll find a husband for his ward and fights the very fact that he's perfect for her himself. In Sutcliffe's hands, however, none of these premises read as clichéd. Bonnie and Damon are true to themselves in their emotions and behavior, and seem entirely real. Readers will be easily caught up in why Bonnie gives herself so completely to Damon, why he fights so hard against his love for Bonnie, and why he can't keep himself for treating her badly. Readers will also understand his deep remorse and relentless quest for her after she leaves.
A Fire in the Heart features some strong secondary characters as well. We are introduced to Miles Warwick, Damon's brother, who not only has an important part to play in this book, but who is featured quite nicely in My Only Love, the story where he gets a love of his own. And, as I mentioned earlier, there's Marianne - who could have been just another "other woman," and instead is both more and better than that. I strongly urge you to find a copy of this book; the love story is incredibly strong and compelling and well earns its status of a Desert Isle Keeper.
LLB: I'm so pleased to finally have this review online - it's taken about four years to have someone write this review! In my records, I show that this was an A- read for me. Dream Fever shows as a straight A. As for My Only Love, it's also a fine book - I gave it a B+.
-- Odile Saurel
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