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Once the flames are ignited . . .
Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented. Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities. Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family's fortune decimated and forced her to wed London's most nefarious nobleman.
They will burn for eternity . . . Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man. Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it's selfish to take Miranda as his bride. Yet he can't help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn't felt in a lifetime. When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied. Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue. For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.
This was a much darker book then I imaged it would be originally (yes I realize the irony in that statement). It was also however a much deeper and complex romance than I imagined as well. Part Beauty and the Beast and part Cupid and Psyche, I was fascinated by the interplay between Archer and Miranda. Their way with words, their verbal sparring and well chosen words interested me far more than the romance at times in fact.
It would be safe to say that if I hadn't read EMBER, the prequel short story, first then Miranda's guilt complex would be a lot more irritating then they were. EMBER really set the stage as to why Miranda felt she had no choice but to hide what she could do--why she felt ashamed and desperate to make amends for the past. It also gave a better accounting of what happened with Martin, since its more or less glossed over in this novel.
Oddly, having read EMBER I was almost put off by Archer's attitude. A few years had passed from the first meeting between Archer and Miranda and the start of the novel, but he seemed a lot less...determined I think is the right word. Less confident in his decisions, especially in regards to Miranda.
The revelation of what Archer was becoming exactly was really not what I expected. To be perfectly honest I had a lot of trouble visualizing it and buying into the idea. It was clever however, and definitely a good twist on the whole 'gaining immortality' angle. There's many forms of immortality after all.
As I said above the interplay between Archer and Miranda fascinated me moreso than the romance. Callihan excels at believable and rich banter; both in terms of making it snappy and making it intelligent. Both are highly intelligent individuals and both know how to make words work for them, how to hide the truth in plain sight with a sentence. That said the romance was a slow burn, despite how passionate they both were, and it felt like an organic process.
Miranda was not instantly in love with Archer, she was too wary and curious about him to feel that emotion. Even after she finds out it was he who saved her years ago she doesn't fall into a fit of giddy school girl flights of fancy. Archer was quicker of the two, but then he knew of her much longer and was of a somewhat more impulsive nature (where his emotions were concerned at least). When they finally understand one and other, well its a joy to behold and read.