Melania is a Roman woman at the time of Roman withdrawal from England, who detests the loathsome Saxon Wulfred. She calls him Oaf, he calls her snake and they utterly HATE each other.
But he finds breaking her spirit an impossible task. She is constantly provoking him with diatribes against him and all things Saxon, she scratches, kick and bites anytime he gets near, deliberately trying to provoke his temper into murdering her. She continually tries to kill herself. Not as a Ophelia whiner I-cannot-face-life, but as a strong warrior wanting life and death on her own terms, and if she cannot have life as she knows it, then will faces death with open arms. So Wulfred spend more time tries to stop her, than breaking her spirit.
This report prepared by DeborahAnne MacGillivray
Leisure, Apr 2002, 384 pp.
In Ancient Britannia, Saxon chieftain Wulfred vows to destroy every aspect of the hated Romans that he finds on his beloved island. When he locates a remote Roman villa, he leads warriors on a destructive assault like none that the inhabitants have ever seen before. However, Wulfred is stopped in his tracks when he sees what he believes is the beautiful abomination that represent the Roman woman, the intrepid Melania, whose father just died in battle with the Saxons. She reciprocates his deepest feelings of loathing except hers target the Saxons.
She considers him a murdering barbarian. while he deems her an invading scrounger. He makes her his slave, but quickly wonders who is the master (or mistress) in this relationship as love blossoms between Wulfred and Melania. However, neither trusts the other as sleeping with the enemy goes against their respective value system.
This ancient historical romance between star-crossed lovers contains an intriguing character twist. The lead protagonists fall in love and respect the principles of their beloved, but neither overcomes their bias towards the other's people. The religious debate between the lead characters and the prejudicial stereotyping make TO BURN more realistic than the usual sub-genre novel, but a bit slower of a plot because the historical authenticity needs time to develop. Paradoxically, because the plot feels so genuine, readers will wonder why Wulfred allows Melania to live. Still Claudia Dain writes an insightful tale that entertains the reader while enabling fans to taste a past over two millenniums ago.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner