Monday, 25 December 2017

#CBR9 Book 117: "Winterblaze" by Kristen Callihan

Page count: 436 pages
Rating: 3 stars

Throughout her marriage, Poppy Lane has been lying to her beloved husband. Until very recently, he believed her to be the owner of a bookstore, when in fact she wasn't just a member of, but the head of, a secret paranormal organisation known as the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals. Poppy's entire life is working to ensure the existence of various supernatural beings remains unknown to mere mortals, and she had just been sworn into the Society on the day when she first met Winston Lane and quickly fell for him, even knowing he was a normal mortal man and could never be told the truth about her, her family or the underworld she protects.

After Winston Lane, a dedicated London police detective, discovered the existence of the supernatural after he was brutally savaged and left for dead by a werewolf, he also realised that his wife had been lying to him all these years and he refused to speak to her during his recovery. Now they've been estranged for months, but Poppy is sent a warning that an ancient demon, who she had dealings with in the past, has resurfaced and intends to get his revenge on her by targeting her husband. Whether Winston wants to speak to her or not, Poppy is not about to see him become prey for a demon and he'll just have to put up with her presence in the name of protection. Of course, while Winston has come to realise that his wife isn't the sedate bookshop proprietress he believed her to be, he's also not about to let her risk her life to protect him, especially when it turns out that the demon may be targeting him not just because of an ancient enmity with Poppy, but because of events in his own past that he's been made to forget.

While I really enjoy Kristen Callihan's contemporary New Adult novels, her paranormal historical books are a lot more hit and miss for me. I read the second book in the series, Moonglow, last summer and have only a vague recollection of what transpired in the book, except it involved werewolves, some sort of power struggle, and Poppy's middle sister discovering her own elemental powers. I have absolutely no memory of Winston (obviously a supporting character in that book) being attacked or discovering his wife's deception and choosing to leave her. You're given all the background you need in this book anyway.

Some of this book is told in flashback, with chapters outlining how Winston and Poppy first met, how he tried to woo her and was initially rejected (not because Poppy didn't love him, but because she was reluctant to tie herself to a man she'd have to lie to every day of their life together) and once his forgotten connection to the demon is revealed, how he made an ill-considered bargain to attain his heart's desire. The rest is a desperate race to outwit the demon, while the estranged couple have to work through their differences, or they'll pay a terrible price.

This book is fairly highly rated on Goodreads, but I never really cared for Poppy or Winston, nor any of the supporting characters (two of whom are clearly being set up as protagonists in the next book). Hence whether they outwitted an evil demon and emerged victorious, saving their marriage at the same time, or whether they all perished was all of a muchness to me. This is now the third in the Darkest London series I've read (it fit into my A to Z Reading Challenge) and I think I need to acknowledge that while Ms Callihan's contemporaries (at least the ones involving athletes, not so much the ones about rock stars) are great, her historical fantasy ones just aren't for me. The world building is really interesting, but I can't seem to care about any of the characters.

Judging a book by its cover: Well, it's quite obviously a romance cover, with at least the lady in a partial state of undress and the couple locked in a passionate embrace (or possibly grappling aggressively, it's a bit hard to tell). While they've given the man blond hair and the lady long red tresses, the cover models don't fit with my mental image of Winston and Poppy at all. Nice touch with the ice surrounding the lady's flowing skirts, though, since Poppy has elemental powers over water and ice.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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