Saturday 12 January 2013

#CBR5 Book 5. "Firelight" by Kristen Callihan

Page count: 400 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Miranda Ellis has the power to start fires, but when she was ten years old, she wasn't very good at controlling it, and accidentally set her father's warehouse on fire, causing him to lose most of his money. He's never really forgiven her, and forces her to pick pockets and steal to supplement the family income. It also means that he has no scruples about promising her hand in marriage to an enraged nobleman whose cargo he stole while he was a thriving businessman.

Lord Benjamin Archer is an unbelievably wealthy, but cursed man, forever changed in a botched supernatural accident. Formerly a member of an elite gentleman's club, he's been travelling the world for decades looking for a cure for his malady. He never appears outside without gloves and a mask, and there are any number of terrifying rumours about him. Having first set eyes on Miranda after rescuing her from an attack in an alley, he becomes instantly drawn to her, and spares her father's life and forgives his debt if he agrees to the match. When his spies reveal that Miranda is forced to steal to survive, he returns to London to claim her as his bride, assuring himself that she is better off with him than with her careless father.

Shortly after their wedding, Archer is accused of the grisly murder of one of his former friends and club members. Miranda is convinced that her husband is innocent (having connected the mysterious hooded stranger who rescued her all those years ago with the masked man who insisted on marrying her), but he refuses to share the details of his past and his disfigurement, and mostly keeps far away from her. As her attraction to her husband grows, Miranda becomes determined to clear his name, and discover the truth about his curse, once and for all.

Things I liked:
- Miranda is not a blushing virgin when she gets married, and Archer doesn't explode in a fit of jealous rage when he discovers this fact
- Miranda has a cool power, and is generally a fairy engaging heroine
- Lord Archer's curse turns out to be a lot more complicated and cooler than I thought at first
- Archer is not as overbearing and dominant and douchy alpha male as a lot of romance heroes

Things I thought could have been expanded on:
- Some of the world building felt a bit rushed, and there was a little bit too much of the secret club shenanigans that wasn't clearly explained, even after the reveal of what the curse actually was
- There was a little bit too much tell, and not enough show in this book
- If Miranda is going to use her alleged mastery with a sword at the climax of the book, you might want to spend a bit more time setting up her abilities than one brief practise session with her childhood friend at the beginning, and a mention in passing of said abilities later in the book
- I would have liked the book to give me a bit more substance to the romance between Archer and Miranda. I can get behind insta-attraction, some people are just super hot. But near-instant everlasting love is harder for me to accept, especially when I've not been given anything to suggest why these two people love each other. Want to have sex, sure, but building a marriage lasting a lifetime. No.

I did still mostly like the book, and hopefully Callihan's writing will become more polished with time. The next two books in the series are about Miranda's older sisters, both introduced in this book, and I was definitely intrigued enough by this book to want to check those out.

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