Firelight by Kristen Callihan

First, the horribly truncated summary: Cupid has a past that’s covered by his Zorro mask and Psyche can immolate herself at will.

Let me start you all with this assurance: I do not read romances often. Their covers are all the same: the overly-elaborate dress of a damsel with most of her face out of frame and/or the torso of a man that I have yet to find. Said woman is usually holding a fan, flowers, or something loosely tied to the title.

Now that I think about it, a romance book with a woman holding a stun-gun on the cover would prod my curiosity.

(Outlander is the exception to this rule. Outlander seems to be the exception to many rules.)

Why do I bring up covers? Isn’t it the content of the book that counts?

I bring up covers because I am certain I bought this book out of cover lust. Because it was part of the Amazon monthly sale, the cover was emailed to me almost daily, along with the news of the kindle daily deals. Women on fire tend to get attention. At the end of January, I relented and bought the book before the sale ended. And it was worth it.

But first, the opening quote: “The knowledge that Archer would soon end the life of another cut at his soul with every step he took. The miscreant in question was a liar and a thief at best. That the whole of the man’s meager fortune now rested at the bottom of the Atlantic did little to rouse Archer’s sympathy. On the contrary, it only ignited his fury. A red haze clouded Archer’s vision when he thought about what had been lost. Salvation had almost been his. Now it was gone because Hector Ellis’s pirates had raided Archer’s ship, stealing that which might cure him and hiding it away in the bloody doomed clipper ship.”

Opening your romance book with the anticipation of murder is good.

A little context with our nightmusic: the initial murder is foiled by Hector Ellis’ daughter, Miranda, our “Psyche”. Archer, who covers most of his face with a mask, returns as an English lord three years later and offers Ellis a deal: Ease his continuing destitution in return for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Father agrees and sends Miranda off.

I should mention here that Miranda is one of the causes of her father’s problems. She set his warehouse on fire. Not “oops dropped the lantern” fire. She can pull fire out of her body. How? Don’t know. Why? Why not? She does feel guilt over the accident, but living with her father was punishment enough and she is done paying for her mistake.

When we get the tour of the house, I begin to remove the fishhook from my cheek. He’s rich, she’s overwhelmed, he doesn’t like her touching his right side, servants know more than she does, we’ve seen it before. I had serious “Beauty and the Beast” vibes.

Cut to another house with an old man and his newspaper. The old man looks up, sees a masked figure, calls out Archer’s name, and has his throat slit.

The rest of the book, which slowly folds in a few paranormal elements, is deciphering the murders (yes, plural) while Archer and Miranda figure out how close to get before pain is involved.

If more romance books were like this, I’d read the category more often. The reason I included the quote was a note to the author’s style. I’m not certain if it’s because of the books I recently read (The first Dresden Files book had prose problems and the books before that were either indie or YA) or if this author is that good, but her writing style amazed me. I didn’t put this book down for the better part of five hours, I was that hooked. I had to owe someone a cookie because of this book.

I also have to say that I fully believed I solved the whole story at about 60% of the way in. I was wrong.

This issue I have is this: the book is, at its heart, a romance. I do not know if I can recommend this to any of my guy friends and live it down. Hence why I asked on facebook about guys that liked The Princess Bride, which is also a cleverly-guised romance with a masked hero. This book has fencing and murder, but is it enough?

So, my final thoughts: Download the sample chapter and see for yourself. Personally, a Goodreads 4.5/5. I do not give my 5’s lightly.

(Side question: Have you ever coverlusted? What book was it? Did it end up being good? Put your answer in the comments below.)

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