Monday, March 5, 2012

Firelight by Kristen Callihan (Paranormal Romance, Non-YA, 18 yrs+)

* * * *

London, 1881
Once the flames are ignited …
Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented. Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities. Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family’s fortune decimated and forced her to wed London’s most nefarious nobleman.

They will burn for eternity…
Lord Archer is no ordinary man. Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it’s selfish to take Miranda as his wife. Yet he can’t help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn’t felt in a lifetime. When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied. Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue. For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.

Set in Victorian England, Firelight is an impeccable story fraught with mystery, deception and enough sexual tension to leave the pages smoldering. With that backdrop and a sinister paranormal element looming overhead our heroic couple, Miranda and Lord Archer, are perfectly matched in this remarkable debut from Kristen Callihan.

Creating a special connection between characters is tricky especially when it’s instant despite its extraordinary circumstances. What makes it work in Firelight is how well the characters play off each other. Their exchanges are often heated and it’s clear that there’s a spark in Miranda that inspires Lord Archer’s admiration and longing for her. Miranda, in spite of her husband's handicap, is not reviled by him. Instead she is drawn to him and after observing how others react to him, she yearns to protect him. She also clearly loves to goad him as much as he does her. And have I mentioned the sexual tension?? It’s so palpable that I thought of shaking the book to knock some sense into the two of them.

Another thing I liked is that Miranda isn’t some delicate little thing that easily panics. She’s quick-witted and self-assured enough that she is not afraid to unleash her inner bad ass. Part of that is due to her extraordinary ability that she keeps hidden from everyone, including Lord Archer. Comprehending that his bizarre appearance easily makes him the scapegoat for the murders, she takes it upon herself to do her own investigation and clear his name.

Lord Archer for his part is chivalrous but also forward thinking. He has no wish to tame the exquisite Miranda. He struggles feeling at once selfish for taking her as his wife and finding solace in her presence. Because of his "curse" he keeps her at bay unwilling for her to discover the truth of his condition. It's amazing to think of this strapping aristocrat as vulnerable. Still, whether around her or not, he is all consumed by her, at one point he muses, 

“Did the rest of the world not realize what excruciating pleasure simply holding a woman could inflict upon a man?”

That. Is. Swoon-worthy. Also swoon-worthy: the alleyways. Seriously, what is up with alleys and brick walls for hot interludes for all ages? (City of Fallen Angels being another example)

I believe you get the point. Secrets aside, Firelight also has a terrific cast of characters that includes Miranda's sisters, Daisy and Poppy. Miranda isn't the only one with an independent mind and her sisters are quite entertaining. Lord Archer's adversaries are many and some shadier than others like the Marquis of Northrup, Ian Ranulf, whose motives are very, very suspicious.

Firelight is so much fun and the paranormal aspect heightened the excitement. Kristen Callihan does a superb job developing the story from both angles bringing it to a satisfying finish. Firelight is part of the Darkest London series which also features Ember, the prequel available as an eBook, and Moonglow, out later this year that will feature Miranda's sister, Daisy, and the Marquis of Northrup. If you're a fan of romance and the supernatural, you'll like Firelight.

~ Bel

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