I got this book because everyone was talking about how great it was, so curiosity got the best of me and I requested it. It also helped that I love Beauty and the Beast stories and this one seemed to be the paranormal version of one. Unfortunately the book failed to meet my expectations.
Lord Benjamin Archer is a tormented man. Years ago something mysterious happened to him and now he’s disfigured and hiding behind a mask. Desperate to find a cure he seeks vengeance against the person who stole it from him, but what he finds instead is his daughter, a lovely and rebellious young lady who takes his breath away and makes him feel alive for the first time in years. So he devices a plan in order to have her, a plan that includes blackmailing her father so he can marry her.
Miranda Ellis’ life has been quite hard. She has the ability to create fire out of nowhere which has caused her a lot of problems, including a broken heart. On top of that, her father is quite the shady character and forces her to steal in order to support him. One day she gets home to find out that her father has promised her hand to the feared Lord Archer, a man who hides his face behind a man and has a terrible fame. It turns out that her father is indebted to Lord Archer and has offered Miranda as payment. Now she must marry this man, but even though she is frightened she also senses that going with him will be her greatest adventure, so she agrees.
Married life isn’t what Miranda expected. Archer treats her well but doesn’t touch her, so they develop a somewhat friendly relationship but nothing sexual. Their relationship is marred by the fact that both Miranda and Archer hide their respective secrets from each other. Miranda however, is very curious about Archer and goes to painful measures to discover his secret, even though she’s also hiding something from him. And then, just to complicate matters even more, the murders begin. Each victim is connected to Archer through a mysterious and secret club, and several witnesses claim to have seen a masked man exiting the murder scene, so he becomes the main suspect. Now Miranda and Archer must deal with super powers, curses, vengeance, a murder mystery, and their mutual feelings.
The first impression I got from the book was fantastic. The hero was sexy and wounded, the heroine was feisty and likeable, and the mystery was compelling. I wanted to know what was going on with Archer, what was going on with the heroine, and what was going on with the murders. The story was part historical romance, part suspense, and part gothic mystery, and all of those aspects got my attention. Yet, they didn’t keep it long. The story became confusing and boring. There were no real explanations and no worldbuilding whatsoever, the paranormal aspect just was, and the reader is expected to accept it without really knowing or understanding why. Perhaps the problem was that the characters were in the dark as well, but they didn’t even question what was going on. Miranda, for instance, accepts the fact that she has this supernatural power, but never wonders why. She doesn’t try to find more about it, nor does she look for other people like her. Nothing. She accepts her ability as if it were a regular feature, like hair color or height.
The love story was the best part of the book. The chemistry between the leads was undeniably and yet I couldn’t help but feel like Miranda wanted Archer as an escape from a terrible life with her father, rather than really love him. Besides, I didn’t understand why she never doubted him. She just married this guy who hides behind a mask, has a terrible reputation and is a complete stranger, but when someone accuses him of murder she blindly believes he’s innocent. I don’t buy it, just a tiny little doubt would have been more realistic. Then there’s the fact that Archer’s life is in danger, he has a terrible reputation and is cursed. But he sees this woman and just has to have her, no matter how dangerous that may be, or how unfair. That was very selfish of him, and the worst part is that minutes after marrying her he realizes his mistake and decides that the best he can do is to keep her at arm’s length. Because everybody knows that the heroine is always safe as long as she doesn’t have sex. Was it romantic? Yes. Their love story was sweet and very hot, and I understand Archer’s motives and how lonely he was, there was a lot of sexual tension between them and the payoff was steamy, but it wasn’t enough to keep me interested.
The murder mystery was predictable. I could tell who the killer was right from the start. What I couldn’t tell was why. But by the time we actually find out what’s wrong with Archer, and how it relates to the murders I didn’t really care. Well, that’s not true. I wanted to know what was behind the mask, but I was really disappointed after the big revelation, the reveal was surprising but not exciting. Worse, the ending was anticlimactic and a huge copout.
This book is part of a series, so perhaps we will find out more in the next installment. But the lack of a mythology to support the overall plot and the nonexistent worldbuilding make it hard for me to muster the enthusiasm needed to keep reading the books.
Review by Brie
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.
Forever. February 1, 2012.