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Gellis, Roberta 1927–

Gellis, Roberta 1927–

(Max Daniels, Roberta Leah Jacobs Gellis, Priscilla Hamilton, Leah Jacobs)

PERSONAL: Born September 27, 1927, in New York, NY; daughter of Morris B. (a chemist) and Margaret (a teacher) Jacobs; married Charles Gellis (a teacher), April 14, 1947; children: Mark Daniel. Education: Hunter College (now Hunter College of the City University of New York), B.A., 1947; Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, M.S., 1952; New York University, M.A., 1958. Politics: Independent. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Reading.

ADDRESSES: Home and office—Lafayette, IN. Agent—Lucienne Diver, Spectrum Literary Agency, 320 Central Park West, Ste. 1-D, New York, NY 10025. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Foster D. Snell, Inc., New York, NY, chemist, 1947–53; McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, editor, 1953–55; New York University, New York, NY, teaching assistant in English, 1956–58; Hudson Laboratories, New York, NY, microbiologist, 1961–63; freelance author, 1964–.

MEMBER: Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Novelists, Inc.

AWARDS, HONORS: Romantic Times awards, 1982, for best medieval novel, and 1983, for best historical series; Silver Medal Porgy awards, West Coast Review of Books, 1983, for The Kent Heiress, and 1984, for Fortune's Bride; Romantic Times reviewers awards, 1985, for Tapestry of Dreams, 1987, for The Rope Dancer, 1988, for Fires of Winter, and 1990, for A Silver Mirror; Lifetime Achievement award, Romance Writers of America, 1986; Golden Certificate awards, Affaire de Coeur, 1987, for The Rope Dancer, and 1988, for Fires of Winter; Silver Pen award, Affaire de Coeur, 1988; Lifetime Achievement Award for Historical Fantasy, Romantic Times, 1996.



Knight's Honor, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1964.

Bond of Blood, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1965.

(Under pseudonym Leah Jacobs) The Psychiatrist's Wife, New American Library (New York, NY), 1966.

Sing Witch, Sing Death, Bantam (New York, NY), 1975.

The Dragon and the Rose, Playboy Press (Chicago, IL), 1977.

The Sword and the Swan, Playboy Press (Chicago, IL), 1977.

(Under pseudonym Max Daniels) Space Guardian, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1977.

(Under pseudonym Max Daniels) Offworld, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1979.

(Under pseudonym Priscilla Hamilton) The Love Token, Playboy Press (Chicago, IL), 1979.

Tapestry of Dreams, Berkley (New York, NY), 1985.

The Rope Dancer, Berkley (New York, NY), 1986.

Fires of Winter (sequel to Tapestry of Dreams), Jove (New York, NY), 1987.

Masques of Gold, Jove (New York, NY), 1988.

A Delicate Balance, Leisure Books, 1993.

Dazzling Brightness, Pinnacle (New York, NY), 1994.

Shimmering Splendor, Pinnacle (New York, NY), 1995.

Enchanted Fire, Pinnacle (New York, NY), 1996.

Bull God, Baen (New York, NY), 2000.

Overstars Mail: Imperial Challenge (e-book), SWP, 2000, published in book form, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2004.

Thrice Bound, Baen (New York, NY), 2001.

The Seven Deadly Sins, MightyWords, 2001.

Lucrezia Borgia and the Mother of Poisons, Forge (New York, NY), 2003.

(With Mercedes Lackey) This Scepter'd Isle, Baen (Riverdale, NY), 2004.

(With Mercedes Lackey) Ill Met by Moonlight, Baen (Riverdale, NY), 2005.

(With Mercedes Lackey) By Slanderous Tongues, Baen (Riverdale, NY), 2007.


Roselynde, Playboy Press (Chicago, IL), 1978, reprinted, Harlequin, (New York, NY), 2005.

Alinor, Playboy Press (Chicago, IL), 1978, reprinted, Harlequin (New York, NY), 2006.

Joanna, Playboy Press (Chicago, IL), 1978.

Gilliane, Playboy Press (Chicago, IL), 1979.

Rhiannon, Playboy Press (Chicago, IL), 1981.

Sybelle, Jove (New York, NY), 1983.

Desiree, Harlequin (New York, NY), 2004.


The English Heiress, Dell (New York, NY), 1980.

The Cornish Heiress, Dell (New York, NY), 1981.

The Kent Heiress, Dell (New York, NY), 1982.

Fortune's Bride, Dell (New York, NY), 1983.

A Woman's Estate, Dell (New York, NY), 1984.


Siren Song, Playboy Press (Chicago, IL), 1981.

Winter Song, Playboy Press (Chicago, IL), 1982.

Fire Song, Jove (New York, NY), 1984.

A Silver Mirror, Jove (New York, NY), 1989.


A Mortal Bane, Tor (New York, NY), 1999.

A Personal Devil, Tor (New York, NY), 2001.

Bone of Contention, Forge (New York, NY), 2002.

Chains of Folly, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2006.


Contributor to Irish Magic: Four Tales of Romance and Enchantment from Four Acclaimed Authors, Kensington (New York, NY), 1995; The Shadow of Doubt, Kensington, 1996; Irish Magic II: Four Unforgettable Novellas of Love and Enchantment, Kensington (New York, NY), 1997; and Millennium Magic, Hard Shell Word Factory, 2000.

SIDELIGHTS: Dubbed "one of the pioneers of the romance genre," by Jean Mason in Romance Reader, Roberta Gellis is a well-respected author of historical romances that take readers back to the French Revolution, the War of the Roses, twelfth-century England, and even to ancient Greece. Praised for what Mason described as "strong characterizations, attention to historical detail, and intriguing plots," Gellis has also contributed to a number of other genres, including science fiction—under the pseudonym Max Daniels—historical fiction, and mythological fantasy. In Mason's opinion, the popularity of such novels as Tapestry of Dreams, The English Heiress, and Siren Song has made Gellis's work "the standard of excellence" in the historical romance field.

Although she earned a master's degree in biochemistry, Gellis changed career paths in the mid-1950s to edit scientific manuscripts; she also would return to university to earn a graduate degree in literature and history. The knowledge she acquired during her graduate studies in medieval literature eventually combined with her skill as a writer in what became Gellis's third career as a well-respected historical novelist. Her debut novel, Knight's Honor, was released in 1964. It would be the first of many books in which Gellis tells a captivating story imbued with a strong sense of the historical epoch. In Sing Witch, Sing Death, her fourth novel, readers are swept back to the English coast at the turn of the twentieth century as a woman is hired to teach proper manners to a young lord's foreign-born wife. The War of the Roses is the backdrop for Gellis's 1976 novel The Dragon and the Rose, which a Publishers Weekly contributor praised as "altogether engrossing and stylish." In The Sword and the Swan medieval England comes to life as Gellis spins the tale of Catherine, a widow married to Rannulf, a brave but aged knight in the service of King Stephen as the English throne is threatened by Henry of Anjou. Containing what West Coast Review of Books contributor Henry Zorich called "excellent dramatic descriptions of jousts, swordplay and outright war," The Sword and the Swan reflects the author's "fine way with character and description" and, according to Zorich, proves Gellis's theory that "gaining an understanding of England's history does add more heat to the [fictional] fire."

Gellis sets many of her novels in medieval England, a period that lasted from 500 C.E. to 1500 C.E. Her lengthy research has allowed her to fill her novels with a wealth of details as she weaves her fiction with factual events, real people, and the sights and sounds of the times. Although some reviewers have criticized her heroines for being too modern in their self-assured approach to the male-dominated world around them, Gel-lis explained to Mason: "Strong women were surprisingly common in the medieval period. You don't hear much about them in the chronicles or history books, of course: Nicolaa de la Hay is mentioned and Hadwissa … Queen Eleanor herself. But in addition there were hundreds and hundreds of women whose men were always away at war or conducting legal cases. These women were left in charge of the property and managed it and defended it in the men's absence." Mason further explained: "Gellis's view of men and women as individuals who are equal, who are able to maintain their individuality and equality in their male-female relationships, sets a different tone in the historical romance genre and places Gellis well ahead of many other authors in terms of quality."

Gellis has authored several novel series, too, including the "Chronicles of Roselynde," which traces the history of a family through the generations. From the first page of each of these novels, according to Mason, "Gellis makes it clear that she is dealing with extraordinary, rather than average, women." In Roselynde readers meet Eleanor of Aquitaine as she accompanies her son, Richard the Lionhearted, on a Crusade to the Holy Land, while her younger son, the less-than-goodhearted John, conspires for the throne in Richard's absence. The second volume in the series, Alinor, finds the queen's namesake, now a young widow, forced to marry in order to keep the avaricious king from confiscating her lands. Alinor's daughter weds King John's illegitimate nephew in Joanna, which a Publishers Weekly contributor praised for its ability to "bring a long-ago time wonderfully to life." The series continues with Gilliane and Rhiannon, the latter a love story containing "Gellis's wonderful re-enactment of Welsh-English politics of the thirteenth century," according to a West Coast Review of Books critic. After a break in the series that lasted over twenty years, Gellis returned to this series with Desiree, which Romance Readers critic Leslie Dunlap declared "a worthy addition."

Among her more recent novels, Gellis has delved into the mystery genre, while keeping her characters firmly ensconced in England's distant past. In A Mortal Bane, for example, Magdalene la Batarde runs a house of ill repute nestled in the shadows of London's St. Mary Overy Church. When a papal messenger winds up dead on the church's doorstep, suspicion immediately falls upon Magdalene. Her only hope of escaping the blame is to discover the killer for herself. "Magdalene is a memorable character, sharp witted and strong," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor, "and she shines through this novel from start to unpredictable climax." Gellis's heroine returns in 2001's A Personal Devil, in which the wife of one of her best clients is discovered murdered and Magdalene and friend Sir Bellamy of Itchen are determined to put their talent for sleuthing to the test once more.

In Bone of Contention Magdalene, again with the help of Sir Bellamy of Itchen, sets out to find the real murderer of an unlikable Aimery St. Cyr and prove the innocence of the man wrongfully accused, who works for Magdalene's patron Sir William. In a review in Publishers Weekly, a contributor attested: "Meticulous attention to detail … help[s] put Gellis at the forefront of this popular mystery subgenre." Chains of Folly finds Magdalene investigating the death of a whore whose body is found in the bedroom of the Bishop of Winchester. Carol Haggas, writing in Booklist, commented that the author's "plot twists and nose for intrigue should appeal to any mystery fan."

Gellis has also written stand-alone historical mysteries, such as Lucrezia Borgia and the Mother of Poisons, in which the notorious Borgia is accused of poisoning her husband's mistress and must prove her innocence. Booklist contributor Margaret Flanagan called this novel a "gripping historical whodunit."

In addition to historical romances and mysteries, Gellis has explored the genres of fantasy and science fiction. She has collaborated with Mercedes Lackey to write a number of fantasies set in the past. In This Scepter'd Isle, the authors set their story during the time of King Henry VIII in a land where elves and humans struggle over the world's future through the Bright and Dark Courts. Jackie Cassada, writing in the Library Journal noted that the authors "demonstrate their flair for period fantasy and romance." Commenting on the next book in the series, Ill Met by Moonlight, Booklist contributor Frieda Murray wrote that the authors "continue their superior blending of English folklore and history." Among Gellis's science fiction books is Overstars Mail: Imperial Challenge. In an interview on the Writers Space Web site, the author referred to this novel as a "short, light, humorous (I hope) space-opera book."



Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.


Booklist, April 1, 1984, Mary Banas, review of Fire Song, pp. 1098-1099; November 15, 1989, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of A Silver Mirror, p. 640; March 15, 2001, Margaret Flanagan, review of A Personal Devil, p. 1357; October 15, 2002, Carol Haggas, review of Bone of Contention, p. 390; September 1, 2003, Margaret Flanagan, review of Lucrezia Borgia and the Mother of Poisons, p. 54; February 15, 2004, Frieda Murray, review of This Scepter'd Isle, p. 1048; March 15, 2005, Frieda Murray, review of Ill Met by Moonlight, p. 1275; March 1, 2006, Carol Haggas, review of Chains of Folly, p. 71.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1999, review of A Mortal Bane, p. 1448; January 15, 2006, review of Chains of Folly, p. 63.

Library Journal, April 1, 2000, Darryl Dean James, review of A Mortal Bain, p. 160; February 15, 2003, Kristin Ramsdell, "Stay Tuned: Continuing Romances," p. 121; February 15, 2004, Jackie Cassada, review of This Scepter'd Isle, p. 167; February 1, 2006, Jo Ann Vicarel, review of Chains of Folley, p. 56.

Publishers Weekly, February 24, 1975, review of Sing Witch, Sing Death, p. 117; December 6, 1976, review of The Dragon and the Rose, p. 60; April 11, 1977, review of The Sword and the Swan, p. 76; January 2, 1978, review of Roselynde, p. 63; May 8, 1978, Albert H. Johnston, review of Alinor, p. 72; October 9, 1978, review of Joanna, p. 72; April 9, 1979, Sally A. Lodge, review of Gilliane, p. 106; August 8, 1980, review of The English Heiress, p. 81; November 14, 1980, review of Siren Song, p. 54; October 28, 1983, review of Fortune's Bride, p. 66; March 9, 1984, review of Fire Song, p. 111; October 26, 1984, review of A Woman's Estate, p. 99; April 26, 1985, review of Tapestry of Dreams, p. 79; July 31, 1987, review of Fires of Water, p. 72; August 5, 1988, Peggy Kaganoff, review of Masques of Gold, p. 79; September 22, 1989, review of A Silver Mirror, p. 48; August 30, 1999, review of A Mortal Bane, p. 56; February 12, 2001, review of Personal Devil, p. 187; November 25, 2002, review of Bone of Contention, p. 46; January 26, 2004, review of This Scepter'd Isle, p. 236.

West Coast Review of Books, September, 1977, Henry Zorich, review of The Sword and the Swan, p. 64; May, 1982, review of Rhiannon, p. 37; September, 1982, Henry Zorich, review of Winter Song, p. 65; November, 1983, Henry Zorich, review of Fortune's Bride, p. 45; May, 1985, review of Tapestry of Dreams, p. 50.


All about Romance, (March 10, 2003), Jane Jorgenson, "Roberta Gellis: A Classic Author Talks about an Expansive Career."

Rebecca's Reads, (October 7, 2006), M.E. Cooper, review of Lucrezia Borgia and the Mother of Poisons.

Roberta Gellis Home Page, (October 6, 2006).

Romance Reader, (July 3, 1997), Jean Mason, interview with Roberta Gellis; (October 7, 2006), Lesley Dunlap, review of Desiree; (October 7, 2006), Jean Mason, reviews of Bull God, and Bone of Contention.

Writers Space, (October 6, 2006), "Romance … With a Little MYTH-Story!," interview with Roberta Gellis.

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