I was so intrigued to read this book since it has many components that I find enjoyable. First, it combines historical romance with fantasy, but secondly, there is intrigue. Finally, the romance is a combo Phantom of the Opera/Beauty and the Beast premise and I love those stories.
Miranda Ellis has lived a hard life. Her mother died while she was young and her father is the polar opposite of a father of the year candidate. He is a thief and conniver with no paternal feelings for his children particularly Miranda since he threatens and manipulates her to serve his own needs. He made her take up thievery by playing on her guilt and desire to please him. Miranda’s guilt is built on the fact that she is cursed with the ability to summon fire from within. She accidentally set fire to her father’s goods and when she revealed her gift to her fiance he left her at the altar. Her existence is bleak until a cursed and lonely man offers her an out.
But Miranda’s situation is no worse than Benjamin Archer’s. In an experiment gone bad, he was changed and disfigured. Now he leads a shadow existence where he is feared and just his presence revolts people. The only bright spot of his existence came from a chance encounter with a beautiful, fearless young girl whom he rescued from some toughs in a back alley. He was there to kill her father because Hector Ellis double-crossed him in business and sent his pirates who boarded and sank the ship bringing his last hope for a possible cure. Archer leaves without murdering Ellis, but he will never forget the man’s daughter. Three years later, he returns when Ellis is in even more dire financial straits and uses this as leverage to claim Miranda for his wife. He tells her it is because he needs an heir, but in truth it is because she has captured his lonely heart.
Miranda chooses to marry the dread Lord Archer to get away from her former life and finds that the man behind the mask is someone that she could come to care for. They tentatively each hold on to their secrets as they reach out to offer solace and understanding. Friendship blossoms as does Miranda’s feeling for her husband. Unfortunately, horrific murders begin cropping up and the common denominator is Archer.
The plot was fantastic both the beautiful relationship between the lonely Miranda and Archer, but the excitement and mystery brought on by Archer’s need for a cure and the fiend who is killing those in Archer’s circle. I loved how the fantasy elements were so deftly employed in the story since it can be difficult to accomplish this with smoothness in historicals.
The characters and their interactions were the best part. Archer and Miranda’s time together was so well written and I loved how they were so good for each other. I was as intrigued as Miranda to find out what Archer hid behind the mask. Secondary characters such as Miranda’s sisters- who were a hoot-, Miranda’s friend Billy, Archer’s friend Lord Leland as well as the enigmatic Lord Ian were great. They were not just backdrop for the main characters. I was glad to see that the next book in the series tackles Miranda’s sister Daisy. She was a scene stealer.
Overall great read! Impatiently waiting for book two now!
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