(Darkest London, #1)
Genre: Historical Paranormal/Fantasy Romance (Victorian, 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 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.
The audio version of FIRELIGHT (Darkest London, #1) is the first Kristen Callihan novel I have encountered and I was completely enthralled from beginning to end. What a fabulous story, the like of which I have never before experienced; this genre being well outside my comfort zone of Historical Fiction or Historical Romance. I couldn’t begin to categorise FIRELIGHT – paranormal, fantasy, myth? And all combined with a deliciously sensuous romance. Had I not heeded the recommendation of a well-respected reviewer, I would have missed out on this very unusual story – it just goes to show that we should experiment or miss out on some excellent writing.
One darkly dangerous night in the depths of Victorian London, Lord Benjamin Archer saves Miranda Ellis from a pair of thugs. He little realises that the tantalising flame haired beauty is more than capable of taking care of herself. Miranda hides a strange and powerful gift and one which she needs must keep a tight rein on, but which can be called on if the need arises. The meeting leaves Archer shaken and besotted with the 19-year-old daughter of a man he despises. Indeed, Archer had been on his way to end the life of the disreputable and corrupt Hector Ellis for an unforgivable act perpetrated on himself which ended in the violent death of a loyal and true friend.
Lord Archer is an infamous and sinister recluse feared by Victorian London society. Cloaked in shadows and wearing a mask to hide his features, only adds fuel to the rumours which surround him. The reasons for the mask are unknown to all but a few of his oldest and closest friends, and said mask only adds to his sinister facade. Archer knows he should not pursue Miranda but he is unable to stop himself, wanting what he knows he cannot really have. He strikes up a bargain with Miranda’s unscrupulous father and after three years returns to claim his bride.
Although at first Miranda resists the marriage, she is eventually coerced into it by her father and finds Archer much less menacing in the flesh; a reluctant liking, respect and tentative love begins to grow. She soon comes to understand that her husband has deep and dark secrets, leaving him vulnerable and lonely despite his outwardly fearsome guise. Archer adores Miranda and soon realises that his beautiful wife is fearlessly determined and becoming fiercely protective of himself.
For the main part of the story their marriage is chaste, both afraid for reasons of their own, to consummate it. This doesn’t detract from the longing, wanting and sheer sensual sexuality which emanates from the pair when they are together. Ms. Callihan, with consummate skill, pulls the reader into their ever tightening need and it is always a case of when rather than if it will happen, and when it does…. It explodes right off the page! For my part, the fact that Miranda loves and desires a man whose face she hasn’t seen is compelling – a real and raw, unselfish love.
The background plot is set against the seedy backstreets of Victorian London, its sights and smells expertly and knowledgeably described by Kristen Callihan, and masterfully penned to reveal undreamt of evil. Men are horrifically murdered and mutilated, and the fear and horror ratchets up by degrees as the extent of Archer’s involvement is revealed to Miranda. His honourable and selfless determination to protect her and annihilate the force responsible takes centre stage, with the terrifying, apparently inevitable outcome – the destruction of himself, proving that there is no greater love. The perpetrator of the crimes I guessed – mainly through a series of elimination, but in no way did I expect the outcome or the way the final scenes would play out – utterly riveting, compulsive and imaginatively achieved.
Narrator Moira Quirk has perfectly captured the many characters introduced (which at one point I did have trouble keeping up with, although this sorted itself out as time passed) – Miranda, confident, authoritative but very feminine and Archer, with just the right amount of huskiness introduced into his voice to make him sound mysterious – the man behind the mask – but still oh-so-sexy. Ms. Quirk totally captures the scene in which Archer is unmasked to Miranda, the sensuality, sexuality and vulnerability – so moving which, in the hands of a less talented narrator, could have been ruined. Even the London street boy, cocky Jack-the-lad, appears initially threatening then later carefully protective – again the subtle nuances in Moira Quirk’s performance totally capture this.
MY VERDICT: I loved my first foray into the paranormal (if that’s what it is), listening deep into the night as I NEEDED to know the ending.
REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: HOT
Listened to March 2015