Series: Darkest London #1
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Published by Forever on 31 January 2012
*Warning* This review contains unseemly gushing. I simply adored this book and can honestly say I haven’t read anything quite like it before. Whenever I read paranormal books I’m always fascinated to see the supes’ origin story and rules that dictate how they operate. If done well, the book should reflect on facets of our society and make us reconsider what it is that makes us human. This book plays out like a tragic opera where larger than life characters, tragic circumstances and achingly beautiful scenes abound. Waxing a bit lyrical I know but opera tends to do that to me. It is a classic Beauty and the Beast / Phantom of the Opera love story and I devoured every bit of it.
Our Byronic hero Lord Archer has a debilitating condition and wears a mask at all times to conceal it. Several years ago he thought he had found a cure but the box containing it was stolen by Miranda’s father, Hector Ellis. Archer decides to kill Hector as if he can’t be cured, he might as well take revenge. On his way to do the deed he meets the lovely Miranda and his plans take a 180 degree turn. Flash forward to the present and the Ellis family is living in poverty because of one little mistake by Miranda. Archer sees his opportunity to gain the one woman he can’t forget and pounces, making Hector an offer for Miranda that he can’t refuse. Things aren’t quite plain sailing though as Archer’s old friends start dying in particularly unpleasant ways and he is accused of murder.
Both Miranda and Archer have aspects of themselves that they like to keep from others. Miranda has the gift of fire and is more than capable of protecting herself. Protecting others though is a bit harder as she struggles to contain her power. She still feels guilt for ruining her family’s fortune and at some level sees her marriage to Archer as a way to atone. He too is lonely and burdened with a pretty big secret. Watching them getting to know the people behind the literal and figurative masks was a joy. Just as the Beast was my favourite in Beauty and the Beast, Archer kept grabbing my attention. He said so little but felt so much that I felt a swoon coming on more than once.
Callihan’s writing style is elegant and vivid. Her world building is simply sumptuous. The book wasn’t perfect though as there are a few clichés near the start. Much of the confusion and Miranda spying on Archer could have been resolved if they had just sat down and recapped their tragic pasts over a cup of tea, but where is the fun in that? This is one hell of a debut novel and should not be missed.