Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Victorian-era paranormal romance fairytale

4.5 out of 5 stars

I know, this is a paranormal romance and I liked it. What is the world coming to? Well, first off, this is a retelling (albeit a loose one) of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairytale and I love a good retelling when I get my hands on one. Secondly, I'm a sucker for any kind of alternate Victorian novel. I can't tell you why, just that I am.

One thing to know, the blurb on the back of Firelight is slightly misleading. Miranda, the beautiful (natch) leading lady, is forced to wed the mysterious and infamous Lord Archer in order to redeem her family's name and fortune. Well, Miranda, her temperament matching her fiery red hair, is feisty and fully capable of defending herself and certainly not one to be "forced" to do anything she doesn't want. For once, I didn't find myself screeching in annoyance over a empty-headed ninny of a female protagonist. Miranda's got spirit and intelligence; she's a protagonist whom I can actually admire. Now we come to Archer. Tall, dark, and brooding, in the best possible way. And masked. And sensual as hell. Yummy!

Of course, there's some intrigue and both Miranda and Archer have deep, dark secrets, which neither of them is willing to divulge to the other, creating the sexual-tension-fueled misunderstanding between them which drives most of the action for the first half or so of the novel. And while that kind of cliched misunderstanding gets rather irritating (you just want to knock their heads together and make them talk), once it gets cleared up and they start working together, they work so well as a pair, it's worth any amount of annoyance. Their sparring, and the sparks that often (literally) fly, reminds me of another fun literary couple, Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson. There's something about a large, bellowing man, who is really a soft, squishy marshmallow inside, which is just unbelievably sexy. Add in a woman who's not afraid to stand up to his thunderings, who'll stand nose to nose (even if she has to pull over a step-stool to do so) and poke the bear, as it were, and you've got one immensely readable, entertaining, compelling story.

There was only one big quibble I had with the story and that was the fact that Miranda's "talent," her ability to create fire, is never fully explained, as far as where the ability came from. Was she cursed as a child? Were her parents cursed? Was there some sort of magical object causing the ability? I would've liked to have had a deeper backstory on Miranda.

That said, I could barely put this book down, reading it in only two days which, considering how my powers of concentration have been lately, is an amazing feat. I'm eagerly looking forward to the sequel and because I got this book from the library, I'm seriously contemplating buying it and adding it to my permanent "keeper" shelf.  My favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling was written by Robin McKinley (her first retelling, that is, the novel Beauty), but I must say, Kristen Callihan might just have written my second favorite retelling.

Read April 30-May 4, 2012
Originally reviewed on Goodreads May 2, 2012

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