Night Fire (A LLB favorite)
By Catherine Coulter, 1989, European Historical
Avon, $5.50 ISBN #0-380-75620-X (This book has since been re-printed)
First in Night trilogy, followed by Night Shadow and Night Storm

Sensuality: Hot


For those of you looking for a book by Catherine Coulter that you can love, I have just the book for you - Night Fire. In a departure from her usual arrogant verging on (or surpassing) abusive hero, she has created instead Burke Drummond. Burke is part warrior and part gentle man. A magnificent speciman who has been worshipped by the young Arielle for years, he returns from war hoping that the young Arielle has grown into maturity so he can marry her.

Instead he finds a cowering, wimpering shell of a widow. He doesn't know but will eventually discover that Ariel's brother "sold" her to the evil and lecherous Paisley Cochrane, who abused her both physically and mentally. She believes all men are like her dead husband, her brother, and her husband's equally repulsive son, with whom she was "shared" by her husband. Her only protection and solace has been with Dorcas, her maid, who has tried to protect her over the years.

So what's a guy like Burke to do to win his Arielle? Trick her into marriage, of course, and prove to her that not all men are cut of the same cloth. It is a slow and tortuous course, to be sure, but Burke is able to bring the spirited Arielle back. As she regains her sense of self and dignity, Burke works to awaken her sensuality and passion.

The love scenes in Catherine Coulter's books can either be incredibly stimulating or as much fun as a trip to the stirrups at the gynocologist (to paraphrase my collegue Leslie McClain in her review of the 1996 Coulter release Rosehaven). This book fits into the former category. The love scenes here are definitely recommended reading. Just as Burke slowly breeches Arielle's defenses and turns her into the wanton hussy she is to become, the reader will be seduced as well.

Arielle and Burke continue to discover each other, although Arielle's brother is not ready to give up his meal ticket and her former son-in-law is not ready to give up on his evil dream of having her. It turns out Dorcas is having trouble accepting that Burke is not as evil as Paisley and keeps trying to kill him to protect Arielle (she mistakes Arielle's cries of passion as pleas for help). On top of that, someone has murdered a young maid in Burke's employ.

So, in addition to the theme of domestic abuse, there is quite a bit of suspense in this romantic tale, including a nice little twist at the end. It is to Catherine Coulter's credit that she did not turn preachy in her dealing with this this important issue; instead, she deftly incorporated the violence in a wonderfully terrifying manner.

Her creation of Burke is a definite departure. He is my favorite Coulter hero, even if he isn't hers. His compassion, strength, and love for Arielle are what heroism is all about. The scenes where Arielle is certain he will abuse her are compelling. The scene where Arielle is terrified and, in her terror, tries to pacify him sexually, is riveting. The scene where she is finally convinced to stand up for herself will make the reader want to cheer Burke on.

The second book in this trilogy, Night Shadow, is a good read, although not as good as Night Fire. By the third book in this trilogy, Coulter seemed to run out of steam. In my opinion, this has often been the case where her trilogies are concerned. But I don't think you can go wrong with this book. It's great.

-- Laurie Likes Books

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