Firelight by Kristen Callihan
My flight trip paperback of choice during my weekend away from it all was Kristen Callihan’s Firelight, which was just the right size for my +1 personal item restriction . Everyone else on the flight had their e-reader or ipad but I rocked it old school. Yep. Mostly because I didn’t want to deal with charging the nook while on vacation. I’m a lazy technology owner. But back to the book…
Firelight is part of a genre that has really caught my attention: historical paranormal romance. Historical? I love a good historical novel. Paranormal? Like that too, in good measure. Romance? It’s the best kind of “trashy” fun. All in one? My mind explodes. Firelight manages to do all this in an unexpected way. While many of the books in this genre focus on the traditional vampire/werewolf/fair folk/other legendary creature of choice, Callihan introduces a different “monster,” something more akin to Frankenstein (yes, the doctor not the creature) than Dracula.
The novel begins with a chance encounter between Miranda Ellis, daughter of a destitute merchant who just happens to have a particular talent at starting fires, and the dread Lord Archer, a man who hides behind a mask lest he reveal the horror that he has become. Of course, damaged Archer is hot, as is the spritely Miranda. Insta lust with a Beauty and the Beast twist. Unable to stop thinking about Miranda, Archer (who was about to exact his revenge on Miranda’s father before he met the intriguing daughter) comes to an agreement with Ellis–Miranda will be betrothed to him but must agree to the marriage of her own free will. See, Beauty and the Beast. They do marry and a great dynamic is formed between the couple as they come to learn each other’s secrets and admire one another’s tenacity. When a sinister murderer with links to Archer’s mystery ailment threatens to destroy the life claimed, Archer and Miranda must come to terms with their own dark pasts in order to safeguard their future.
A few cliches at the start of the novel, mostly involving the insta lust factor and a somewhat heavy-handed effort to assure the reader that the story is set in Victorian England, pea-soupers and all, soon gave way to a character-driven novel that established a true, companionate relationship between its sexy yet guilt-ridden protagonists. Neither Miranda nor Archer are innocents in this novel and that makes for an excellent connection between the two, one that adds to the overall suspense of the novel as they each try to keep their secrets while trying to make something of their marriage. Secrets are a major part of the plot, more so than the murders that drive the two together. Archer’s ailment is revealed in degrees as Miranda searches for a reason behind the murderer’s seeming desire to frame Archer. That Archer was once a scientist on a quest for immortality adds to the Frankestein-esque, man overreaching the boundaries of humanity, theme of the novel.
A prequel novella, Ember, adds further depth to the characters, though it reads more as an accompaniment to the novel rather than an introduction to it, and does a good job of addressing a few of the details that I found lacking in the plot (especially with regards to Miranda’s history and ability).
It’s an interesting world that Callihan has created and one that I want to spend some more time in.