Title: Firelight (Darkest London #1)
Author: Kristen Callihan
Format: Mass Market Paperback & eBook
Source: NetGalley & Purchased
Publication Date: February 1, 2012
Rating: 4 out of 5
I saw some really great reviews of Firelight online, so when I saw it in my local Barnes & Noble this past weekend, I grabbed a copy and ran for the door, shrieking, “You hipsters will never catch me! BWAHAHAHA!!” I’m now writing this review from jail. Okay, I lied. I actually paid for the book, but my first story is much more exciting. Anyway, I got home, read the book, loved it, then 2 days later received an e-ARC for review from the publisher. Whoopsies! All that aside, this historical paranormal retelling of Beauty and the Beast is fabulous. I loved the heroine and can’t wait for the second book in the series to come out.
Miranda Ellis is a pyrotechnic who managed to destroy her father’s shipping fortune by setting fire to his warehouse when she was 10. Now that she’s all grown up, she’s forced to steal for him to make ends meet. Lord Benjamin Archer is a mysterious peer of the realm who’s never seen in public without a mask covering his face. Three years prior to the beginning of the novel, he was on his way to kill Miranda’s father for cheating when Archer interrupts two youths who’ve accosted a disguised Miranda. He intercedes on her behalf, then realizes who she is. Captivated by Miranda’s beauty, Archer gives her a gold coin, then leaves.
Three years later, Miranda’s father informs her that he’s marrying her off to the mysterious Lord Archer. Miranda doesn’t realize at first that this strange man is the same she met three years ago, but she’s drawn to him all the same. They both have secrets to hide, but when former associates of Archer’s are murdered one by one and he is implicated in their deaths, Miranda decides that she’s had enough with all the secrets. But can Lord Archer trust Miranda with his secrets without endangering her life?
There was so much to like about this novel! I love that Miranda and Archer slowly begin to trust one another and that their relationship develops gradually over the course of the book. Because Archer is hiding his appearance from Miranda throughout most of the book, the sexual tension gradually builds, and there’s only one sex scene late in the text. There’s definitely chemistry between them, and the mystery and secrets surrounding both characters makes learning the truth about them an intriguing puzzle. Miranda is a delightful heroine as well, stubborn and intelligent. Archer is also stubborn, but in his attempts to shield his wife from danger he manages to make the situation worse.
It takes a lot for plot twists to surprise me these days, but that’s exactly what happened with this book. Fairly early on there were several clues concerning the nature of Archer’s curse, and I thought I’d figured it out, only to be proved wrong later in the book. I also thought I had identified the villain quickly, but that character was soon revealed to be more on the side of good than evil.
One weakness in the book is the historical setting. The action takes place in London in 1881, but from the description of the events and people in the book, it could have occurred at almost any time in the 19th Century. I’m not sure why this particular moment in history was chosen for the setting, and while the lack of historical detail doesn’t detract from the action, it doesn’t add anything to it either.
However, this is one of the better books I’ve read thus far in 2012. I’m really looking forward to reading the next book in the series, but in the meantime I’ll be catching up on the prequel, “Ember,” which was just released as an eSpecial.