Ellora’s Cave, $5.95, ISBN 1-84360-770-0
Historical Erotica, 2004
You’re probably wondering who Leonie Daniels is. She’s actually the pseudonym for Laura Resnick or Laura Leone. Nights of Fire is the closest any fans of hers will get to a follow-up romance novel to Fallen from Grace. You may not know this unless you visit the author’s website. It’s that well-hidden a secret.
Set in 1944 near the end of the World War 2, this story revolves around an American soldier who awakens from a recent beating to realize that he can’t remember anything about his identity or his past. He finds himself in the care of a French woman who calls him Paul. She seems to know him very well, if you know what I mean. With Gabrielle’s help, he learns that he’s a key member in the Resistance movement and the success of the Alliance invasion of Europe may rest on what he knows. The thing is, he has amnesia and there is a spy among their numbers that caused him to be captured by the Gestapo agents in the first place, so Paul has better start remembering things fast or things may literally blow up in his face.
This is a pretty good story because Paul is a sympathetic character and the build-up is done well. There is one problem: Gabrielle. I try to be understanding but 1944 isn’t 1844 so I don’t understand why Gabrielle acts like it’s such a great crime that Paul forgets who she is. Is it rational to assume that love can be so powerful that it can overcome amnesia? She comes on to him when he’s barely recovered so naturally he responds and they have sex early on in the story and then she acts like it’s so horrible when he did that to her while not remembering who she is. Does she expect him, having just recovered from his ordeal, to be say, “Upon my honor, my dear, since we don’t know each other, can you please remove your mouth from my penis so that we can get acquainted first?” France is at war, Paul has a role to play in the war, but Gabrielle is all “Me! Me! Me!” to an extent that she’s utterly ridiculous.
Gabrielle is a very inconsistent character. One moment she’s trying to help Paul remember, then she’s acting like an unhappy brat when he can’t remember things. Then she’s telling him that she can’t deny him and asks him to make love to her. Once they’re done, she’s back to sighing over the fact that he can’t remember her and starts casting doubts on his “true” affections towards her. Because Paul is dependent on her in this book, he has to respond to her actions in this story. As a result, this story turns into a frustrating read every time Gabrielle starts acting up over things that Paul has no control over and she should be more understanding about. He was tortured by Gestapo! It wasn’t as if he ran off to a new girlfriend, sheesh.
This story has plenty of sex but ultimately they end up becoming annoying distractions. I find myself more interested in the mystery of Paul’s identity rather than the tale of Paul and that annoying girl-child Gabrielle so I end up skipping the love scenes in this story. That subplot has a poor payoff because there is only one potential villain in this story and that villain is a popular romance genre stereotype so there’s no suspense in the subplot. Gabrielle is written too much like a self-absorbed little girl playing with the grown-ups in this story, the sex scenes become a distracting nuisance I have to slough through just to find out more about the story, and the pay-off is far from satisfactory.
Fans of the author may want to check out this book to complete their collection, but I personally won’t recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a little bit more depth in their stories.