In her debut novel and the first book of her Darkest London series, Kristen Callihan pushes the limits of the romance genre. On a conceptual level, Callihan carves out a unique space. Part paranormal romance novel, part historical fiction, and part heavily-plotted action-packed adventure story, Firelight does not fit neatly into either the major romance subgenres or historical fiction proper. Held together with sparkling prose and sharp, witty dialogue, Firelight‘s appeal reaches far beyond the habitual romance reader.
Callihan anchors her book with a dynamic hero and heroine who have great chemistry. Miranda Ellis, the daughter of a destitute London antiquarian who lost his fortunes in a mysterious warehouse fire, channels her inner Gavroche to help save her family from ruin, turning to a life of petty crime. Yet, Miranda finds a certain amount of freedom and enjoyment in her swashbuckling and slumming, even if she bears a keen moral burden as a result of her actions.
When the mysterious, disfigured Lord Benjamin Archer suddenly and inexplicably asks for Miranda’s hand in marriage, she escapes the fire only to land in the flames. London’s most notorious nobleman, Archer frequents the outskirts of polite society, if he goes out at all. Hidden behind a mask, the nature and cause of Archer’s malady are a secret and a source of constant speculation.
After a rushed marriage, Miranda has little time to settle into her new life before her evasive husband is charged with a string of bloody homicides. With all of London convinced of his guilt, Miranda must decide for herself where to place her trust. Archer and Miranda plunge into a dangerous dance. Dark forces and shadowy figures are pulling the strings, and the mystery must be solved if the pair of unlikely lovers hope to survive.
Callihan expertly weaves together the mounting sexual tension between the protagonists and a fast-paced plot filled with creative fight scenes, intrigue and mystery, and an innovative supernatural flair.
I particularly enjoyed Callihan’s use of a mask as a plot device. It added a wonderful dynamic that heightened the already strong sense of mystery and tension Callihan developed with her dialogues and plotting. Fans of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast and the Gothic love story The Phantom of the Opera will enjoy parallels that can be found in Firelight.
An engrossing, fast read, I greatly enjoyed Firelight and recommend it highly. The two other books in the series, Moonglow and Winterblaze, are on my to-read list!!