Monday, February 7, 2011

Denise Domning -- Winter's Heat

Denise Domning -- Winter's Heat Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ . ♥   {4.85}
Action: ♠♠♠.♠ / Emotion: ♣♣♣♣.♣ / Romance: ♥♥♥ / Sensuous: ♦♦ / Suspense: ♠♠♠♠
Action: 3.5 / Emotion: 4.5 / Romance: 3 / Sensuous: 2 / Suspense: 4  //  Historical Flavor: 5 / Laughter: 3 / Tears: 2

  Romantic Times : Best First Historical Novel of 1994
After picking up Winter's Heat, Denise Domning's first book in The Graistan Chronicles five-book series, could not put it down.  Was immediately engulfed in the story.  Domning has an engaging, enthralling way of writing a story that just draws the reader into the lives of the characters dancing from the pages of her book.

Domning's talent was showcased in the Prologue when she opened the book with an exciting action scene, which evolved into an emotional revelation of Lady Rowena of Benfield's feelings as an unwanted child -- a child used as a pawn between her warring parents Lord and Lady Benfield.   Lord Benfield's character played a vital role in the book, but he was not important enough to the story line (nor in the lives of his family) to generate the identifier of a first name.

Lord Benfield dragged his kicking and screaming daughter from the convent where she had lived for the past fourteen years.   She was to marry a hard, cold powerful man who could hold on to her dower lands.   The basis for the Benfield family feud was: {1} Lady Edith resented her husband because she was a beautiful woman who felt she was worthy of a man far better; {2} Lady Edith's first daughter, Philippa was her favorite, chosen daughter; {3} having sworn an oath of secrecy, Benfield had been waiting for Lady Edith's father to die before he could reveal that Philippa was not his natural daughter; and {4} after such event, Benfield told the church that Philippa was not eligible to receive her grandfather's inheritance -- it will all go to his legitimate daughter, Rowena.

Domning further increased the intensity of the story by revealing that Rowena was not the only star character who had traumatic emotional issues which would make it difficult for the hero and heroine to fall in love.   Rannulf FitzHenry, Lord of Graistan contracted to marry Benfield's daughter because of the land she would bring.   He was having second thoughts about the marriage because of the emotional havoc that his second wife, Isotte DelaCroix, had created in his family.   Rannulf, however, had a weakness for beautiful women and upon seeing Rowena, decided to go forth with the marriage.

Domning wrote a powerful love scene when Rannulf consummated the marriage.   The love scene was full of emotion and sensuality, but the sexuality was tame and offered no spicy heated descriptions for the reader. While Rannulf and Rowena were constantly and lustfully aware of the other throughout the remainder of the story, Domning choose not to share any of their lovemaking with the reader and concentrated solely on the emotions emanating from them as they strove to keep their barriers in place so they would not be hurt by falling in love.

Instead of escorting his new bride to Graistan keep, Rannulf headed to the siege at Nottingham (as requested by his king) and entrusted Rowena to his elder, illegitimate half-brother, Temric.   One aspect of the story that really drew the reader into Rannulf's emotional sphere (as well as prompted interest in the other books of The Graistan Chronicles), was the obvious love between the brothers.

Temric's character was developed with enough information to inspire a desire to know him better and to witness the pain he felt at being left out his father's will.   It was readily apparent that Temric was very stubborn and determined to live life on his own terms instead of those espoused by his brothers and the men under his command.   Temric not only had a strong relationship with his brothers, he also developed a bond with Rowena as she assumed her role as Lady of Graistan.

Gilliam FitzHenry, the youngest brother, was also featured in Winter's Heat.   It became obvious that Gilliam acted as a carefree, irresponsible youth because his brothers still thought of him as a child.   It was equally obvious that Gilliam performed the role of Graistan's steward (a job he hated) because he was consumed with guilt over his betrayal of his brother with Isotte.

The scene with Rowena when she entered Graistan (without it's lord by her side) to assume her position as lady of the keep was captivating.   Rowena saw the wealth of Graistan and the ruin to which it had run and knew that her talents could restore it to it's previous grandeur.   Rowena saw her chance to win the people of Graistan and solidify her role as their mistress by immediately confronting Hugo, the arrogant, scornful, insolent wardrober (man who ruled Graistan's treasury).

Domning introduced another character that played an important role in the furtherance of the strain between Rannulf and Rowena.   Lady Maeve came strolling down the stairs of the keep as if she owned it.   Maeve was as richly dressed as the keep was slovenly.   No crystal ball was needed to know that the false sweetness that oozed from Maeve's mouth was going to lead to all kinds of trouble.   Maeve was very easy to hate.   Domning painted a vivid picture of a self-centered, evil woman who would do whatever it took to get what she wanted.   Maeve did not shy away from promising vengeance against those who thwarted her; including Rowena.

By the time Rannulf returned to Graistan, Rowena had converted it into a home again, had won over the servants and his brothers. Rowena's greatest fear was to be removed from her new home (like she had been removed from first Benfield, and then the convent), yet she couldn't stop her razor-sharp tongue from lashing out at Rannulf.   Rannulf's own demons caused him to lash back at Rowena when he saw that his brothers and his natural son, Jordan, cared for her.

Since Winter's Heat is a romance, naturally Rannulf and Rowena could not stay away from each other in the bedchamber, even though they purposely avoided each other during the day.   Desire transformed into caring on both their parts.   It wasn't until after they were faced with possible death, that Rannulf and Rowena finally admitted they had fallen in love.

Domning was able to give readers an action-packed, suspense-filled ending by creating a tense, intricate situation because Rannulf did not believe Rowena and Gilliam with regard to Maeve's machinations.   Rannulf decided to marry Maeve off to a very affable, and, soon, very smitten, John of Ashby.   John's disrespectful daughter, Nicola, was introduced when they arrived for the wedding.   After the wedding, Rannulf found out he'd made a terrible mistake.   When Rannulf tried to justify his decisions, Rowena, basically, told Rannulf to "shut up."
"You hold your tongue," Rowena snapped at him . . .   "It was your stubbornness that led to this ill-fated wedding.   It was again your stubbornness that brought us here . . .   Now, would you doom us to death so you can say for pride's sake that his life was yours?   Well, I will not let our child die because you are too stubborn to see beyond your honor."
Winter's Heat is a book full of action, loaded with emotional angst, tense with nail-biting suspense about the resolution of the problems facing the two strong-willed, totally alpha protagonists heading towards their happily-every-after.   Domning did an impressive job of keeping the characters' dialogue and actions true to the medieval era of the book.   She also did a phenomenal job of keeping the reader's interest and attention throughout the entire story.   Winter's Heat is a book that is difficult to put down after reading the opening scene.   The only reason the book did not get a perfect rating was because of the lack of sensuality in the story.   (Obviously, it is not fair to penalize Denise Domning's writing style because of a reviewer's preferences, but such is the nature of personal biases.)
--Vonda M. Reid (Sunday; January 16, 2011 : 3:14 p.m.)
Books In The Series: "The Graistan Chronicles"
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.02-1994Winter's HeatRannulf FitzHenry, Lord GraistanRowena "Wren" of Benfield
02.08-1994Summer's StormRichard "Temric" FitzHenry, Lord MeynellPhillipa of Lindhurst
03.04-1995Spring's FuryGilliam FitzHenry, Lord AshbyNicola "Colette" of Ashby
04.11-1995Autumn's FlameGeoffrey FitzHenry, Lord CoudrayElyssa of Freyne
05.12-1996A Love For All SeasonsRobert of Blacklea, Grossier of LynnJohanna of Stanrudde

Characters Found In "Winter's Heat"
Character Description
Rannulf, Lord of Graistan, Ashby, Blacklea, and Upwood[Hero] head taller than her dad; clean shaven (22) thick, burnished chestnut hair curled lightly over collar; pride infected set of shoulders; arrogance in line of jaw (23) cold, hard gray eyes; harsh angles and planes of his face gave features bitter cast (25) work-hardened frame that radiated power; several livid scars across chest (39) long legs; narrow hips; broad chest; strong arms (40) generous sweep of forehead; narrow line of nose; well-molded lips (42) moody; unpredictable (154) straight stubborn line of nose; hard curve of jaw; perfect arch of brow (187)
Lady Rowena of Benfield[Heroine] small (7) soft black brows; wide-set blue eyes; short, straight nose; ebony hair (9) 21-y-o; prideful; read; write; tally figures (12) not allowed to take vows (13) headstrong ways; sharp tongue (17) over-educated, over-aged; no experience with men (27) full breasts; slim waist; gently curving hips (40) fiery; passionate; beautiful (48) bold; straightforward manner (53) strength; stamina (59) determination (66) deep blue eyes; thick, dark lashes; smooth, pale skin (78) "Wren"; independent; self-contained (336)
. . .. . .
Alain[Brief Appearance] Geoffrey's ballista engineer (357)
Alwyna[Brief Appearance] Temric's mom (288)
Arnult[Secondary Character] young knight (189)
John Ashby[Secondary Character] as massive in girth as height; iron gray hair that stood out from his head in stiff curls; merry brown eyes; simple soul (196) 50-y-o (236)
Nicola of Ashby[Secondary Character] [Heroine of Book Three] John's daughter; tall; willowy (195) wealth of thick brown hair; striking hazel eyes; intelligent; seemed plain as father (196) nearly 17 (197)
Lady Edith of Benfield[Secondary Character] short as Rowena; thick tawny braid; girlishly slim; beautiful; bitterness deeply etched set of her mouth; dull, lifeless green eyes; her mother (15); 30s; flat, toneless voice (16)
Boudewyn[Brief Appearance] Graistan messenger (96)
Isotte DelaCroix[No Appearance] Rannulf's his second wife (53)
Ermina[No Appearance] Rannulf's father's second wife; love of his life (49)
Gilliam FitzHenry[Secondary Character] [Hero of Book Three] Rannulf's half brother (48) his steward of Graistan (57) blond giant of man; taller than Rannulf; barely older than Rowena; guileless blue eyes (62) softly boyish face; curly mop of golden hair (63) deep thundering voice (66)
Geoffrey FitzHenry[Hero of Book Four] Gilliam's full brother (287)
Bishop of Hereford[Secondary Character] Benfield's new overlord (48)
Oswald of Hereford[Secondary Character] Rannulf's cousin (48)
Hugo[Secondary Character] high ranking servant of Graistan; disrespectful to Rowena upon her arrival; stout man; polished bare pate; pompous carriage; scornful; arrogant; wardrober; ruled Graistan's treasury (67) not well liked (68) insolent, intolerable behavior (69)
Ilsa[Secondary Character] Graistan servant; tiny; wizened woman; brittle, old voice; stiff; toothless gaps in gums (72)
Sir Jocelynn(191)
Jordan[Secondary Character] Rannulf's son (30) same auburn lights in hair as dad's; same clear gray eyes; image of Rannulf (90)
Lady Maeve[Major Secondary Character] richly attired; hair color of harvest moon in single plait; sultry voice; lush curves; delicate ankles; nearly colorless pale eyes; thick, dark lashes; fine lines at corners of eyes and mouth; cosmetics enhanced (71) Rannulf married to her sister (72) sultry bitch (87)
Brother Matthew[Secondary Character] Jordan's teacher (133)
Petercloth merchant (304)
Philippa[No Appearance] [Heroine of Book Two] mom's favorite (11) Rowena's elder sister (12) golden hair; cherished; petted (15)
RichardJohn's man (312)
RolandRannulf's bay steed (124)
ScherwindJordan's pony (152)
Temric[Major Secondary Character] [Hero of Book Two] taciturn; plain armor; Rannulf's man; bearded; medium height; even features spoke of common ancestry; commanded Rannulf's knights; brown eyes (55) Rannulf's elder bastard brother (98)
Tom[One Appearance] messenger from Oswald of Hereford (182)
Ulric[Brief Appearance] Rannulf sent get his armor (226)
WalterRannulf's man (304)
Bishop William(187)

"Winter's Heat" Quotations
186. . .   But she had deceived herself and seen only what she chose to see. . . .
191She opened her mouth to argue, then realized that to do so would be both futile and a waste of time. . .
234. . .   How she wished she could strike out and hurt as she had been hurt.   . . .

"Winter's Heat" Review and Information Links
Rated Posted Site Notes, Comments, Etc.
----Denise Domning's WebsiteAuthor (aka: Denise Hampton)
4.29 average{49 reviews}Amazonas of: October 21, 2012
A-02-25-2008Aneca's World 
4.50 average{11 ratings}Barnes & Nobleas of: October 21, 2012
----Fantastic FictionList of Denise Domning's Books
----Fiction DBList of Denise Domning's Books
----Fantastic FictionList of Denise Hampton's Books
----Fiction DBList of Denise Hampton's Books
3.67 average{20 reviews}Good Readsas of: October 21, 2012
4.00 average{2 ratings}Library Thingas of: October 21, 2012
--10-07-2012Regan's Romance Reviewsslightly positive inflection
3.50 average{5 reviews}Shelfarias of: October 21, 2012
----Writer's In The Stormbiographical information
4.8502-07-2010Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Good Reads, Shelfari

♥   Disclaimer:   I Purchased This Book
♥   Very Subjective Rating
♣   Will add your Winter's Heat review link to table, just ask

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