Robert Gellis wrote a series of six books (there are now seven, but that’s explained below) about a family of strong women in medieval England. Despite the cheesy covers, they are well written and Gellis adds lots of real historical detail as opposed to the wall-paper variety. Roselyne, Alinor and Joanna are the best, but the last of them tend to drop off a bit story wise, as well as Gellis’ constant Big Misunderstandings, which tend to wear thin after a while. That said, I had a gas looking up these old covers and they’re a whole lot more fun than the ones I bought.

I don’t know about you, but the guy on the cover doesn’t look much like an older man, does he? This book was great fun, with a lot of chemistry and humour between Alinor and Simon, plus a nice twist to have the heroine being not only intelligent and strong-minded, but to have her fall in love with an “older man” instead of some young hunk. There were so many funny scenes, but I especially loved the one where Simon wanted to see her books and had a horrible misunderstanding with the confused monk.

No matter what the appearances of the book cover, I would not classify this as a “bodice ripper”,  Alinor and Simon didn’t eve consummate their relationship until the very end of the book! I found the battle scenes to be a bit tiresome (the crusade didn’t interest me as much), but otherwise very entertaining and well written.

Desiree was apparently published in 2004 as an addition to and intro to a planned republishing of Gellis’ beloved Roselynde books. The story is about Simon’s nephew Alex who leaves his home in France after his mother (Simon’s sister) dies. Simon and Alinore take Alex under their wing and after he is knighted isappointed the castellan for the aging Sir Frewyn and his young wife Desiree. Of course, sparks fly between the two, Alex’s evil brother bungles (and I do mean bungles!) his way through his attempts to murder Simon at the order of King John and thus begins a very predictable and not well written historical romance. There is a love scene in it that is truly cringe worthy. Only if the library has it and you must read them all, otherwise give it a pass.

A very nice follow-up to Roselynde, Alinor is mourning the loss of her beloved (and much older) Simon. Simon’s former squire Ian de Vipont has always loved Alinor from afar and he persuades her to marry him to avoid King John’s clutches.  There are many misunderstandings (almost too many) between the two as they are afraid to admit their true feelings for another, but some WONDERFUL arguments as well!  And oooooh, the making up they do. Ian is very much one of my favorite hunks in history 😀

Joanna is Alinor’s daughter and heiress to her mother’s great landholdings. Her mother and step-father, Ian de Vipont want to betroth Joanna to Geoffrey Fitzwilliam, the illegitimate son of King John’s half-brother William Salisbury. When Joanna and Geoffrey are called to court, they are caught up in the vicious intrigues and corruption of John’s court. King John’s wife Isabella hates both Geoffrey and his father and schemes to have Joanna seduced at court to cause them  embarrassment. This is the point in the series where the Big Misunderstandings start to wear thin.  I liked it a lot at the time, but I doubt I could go back and read it again.

King John is dead and his young son Henry rules England with William Marshal as regent, and Prince Louis of France is in cahoots with the rebellious English barons in an attempt to oust Henry and rule England for himself. Gilliane is the orphaned daughter of a minor knight and was raised in an abusive household and brought from France by her foster-father to marry the disabled son of a rebellious baron so that he can control their lands for himself. Adam Lemagne, son of Alinor and her first husband Simon, takes control of Gilliane’s lands, and surprise (not) sparks fly between the two. Nice storyline set up, but you will be sooooooooo tempted to slap a TSTL Gilliane on occasion.

How does he manage to stay on that horse anyway? Alinor and Ian’s son Simon has settled in Wales where he is governing Ian’s lands. Simon has spent much of his adult life as quite the womanizer, and never planned to marry – that is until he met Prince Llewellyn’s natural daughter Rhiannon. Of course, it’s love at first sight for him, but she’s afraid to admit love and only wants him for, erm well, you know. Thus begins a predictable romance in the historical setting of Henry III’s court and his battles with the Welsh and his rebellious barons. I have to admit to finding the love scenes a tad bit over the top, not tasteless but it moves the book more towards the romance category instead of historical fiction.

This final book in the series is about Sybelle, Geoffrey and Joanna’s daughter, Alinor’s granddaughter and heiress to the Roselynde lands and legacy. Now sixteen, it’s time for her to marry and she sets her sights on the older Walter de Clare who along with the Earl of Pembroke (William Marshal’s son) is in rebellion against Henry III. Pembroke’s widowed sister-in-law Marie sets her sights on Walter as well and her evil manipulations threaten to interfere with Sybelle’s and Walter’s marriage and happiness. You tell me, but Walter isn’t looking like such an older man in this cover is he?