Format Read: Mass Market Paperback
Length: 372 Pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: historical paranormal romance
Series: Darkest London, #1
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Formats Available: Mass Market Paperback, eBook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Book Depository, Author’s Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books
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 Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man. Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it’s selfish to take Miranda as his bride. 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 so hard 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.
I’d like to begin by saying the following: this book has absolutely zero relationship with the Sophie Jordan book of similar title. I sort of wish the PTB (Powers That Be) had decided against using a title that was already in use for a releatively recent (2010) and extremely popular book and series.
But I digress. ^_^ Firelight, by Kristen Callihan, is the first book in the paranormal historical romance series called “Darkest London.” The series title is truly appropriate in this case, given that there’s no romanticization of the city at all. It’s real, it’s ugly, it’s tough. But the juxtaposition of the unforgiving setting with the intensely sweet romance makes for a very exciting, unique story.
This book most definitely works the “beauty and the beast” trope, adding some mysterious, mystical elements. But funnily enough, though this book is a paranormal romance, the paranormal aspect takes a bit of a back seat to other elements (like the mystery, the romance, and the dark London setting). Though there are very early references to both main characters having special “traits,” the progression of the story doesn’t explicitly make use of it. Not really. I was a little disappointed by this, but only because Lord Archer’s and Miranda’s unique attributes ended up being really intriguing.
The sensuality found in this book was very much dependent on the romance. Lemme explain: there were a lot of bated-breath, almost-kissing-but-not-quite moments that, by themselves, were rather tame as far as most romances go. But they were given so much more weight by the steady buildup of trust and affection between the main characters. Callihan did a marvelous job of illustrating the personal qualities and moments that form the basis of Archer’s and Miranda’s mutual attachment. It was the romance alone that added that .5 to the star rating, for me. ^_^
The mystery was more or less solid, but it was the element that gave me moments of frustration. The plot doesn’t reveal a whole lot (read: anything) regarding Archer and his unique history, leaving the reader to rely on other cues for the appropriate reader reactions or expectations. And because it figures substantially into the mystery, I found it hard for some of the related developments to properly resonate with me. I kept thinking to myself, “why should this dilemma matter to me?” Of course, to some readers that might sound like a good thing, the deep mystery. To each their own, I guess. ^_^
I liked Archer, even with his standoffish demeanor and inaccessibility; however, it was the smart and resourceful Miranda that really kept me intrigued. She’s a survivor. Some of her back story is only hinted at (though fleshed out a bit in the short-story prequel, Embers), but what’s revealed is a breath of fresh air from many a wallflower and wannabe bluestocking in HR. ^_^ Really, the prominent males of her life depend on her, in a way, either financially or emotionally. It was fascinating to read about her strength and resilience, as well as her vulnerabilities. They held up well to a character as intense and multilayered as Archer.
This book is certainly meant for reread; the story will open up, take on new dimension with the addition of more context. From the in-text clues (and the excerpt at the end of the book), it’s obvious what the next story, Moonglow, is going to focus on, and it seems like that book will be more forthcoming with the paranormal aspects. I cannot wait to read it. ^_^
Bottom Line: This is no typical historical romance, with plenty of intense action, dark intrigue, and swoon-worthy romance. It’s a solid debut novel and a great series opener!
I give Firelight 4.5 Stars
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