4.5 stars. Not what I expected, but a great read all the same! I first heard of this debut book a few months ago and was instantly intrigued that it is a PNR series set in historical London 1880's. So when I noticed Netgalley had it I immediately requested it.
This book paints a vivid picture of a darker Gothic London, one plagued with cut throats and thieves, fathers who sell their daughters for a tidy sum, and cunning men willing to risk damnation of their very souls.
In this version of a 'beauty and the beast' theme, Lord Benjamin Archer hides his identity and disfigurement from the world behind a dark mask. Cloaked in the shadows of darkness, he spies the beautiful Miranda Ellis defending herself from would-be attackers and instantly finds himself enthralled. In time he arranges a marriage with Mira and whisks her off to his remote castle.
For years Archer has been obsessed with finding the cure for his 'illness'. He constantly fights his inner demons, and now struggles with a burning desire for his new bride. But when his friends start getting murdered and he is the most likely of suspects, Miranda's safety is all that matters.
I absolutely loved the darker, Gothic historical feel of this story. Archer is a tortured hero who feels he must hide from the world. Miranda slowly comes to learn of his 'illness' and other secrets, meanwhile hiding secrets of her own. We meet many other nefarious and interesting characters as well, including Mira's sisters who will have their own books in this series.
The paranormal part of the story is slowly revealed and therefor hard to explain, and in fact best left for the reader to discover. The world Archer and Miranda live in is the actual London 1880's, but we learn that not everyone is as one would believe. There are some people who have gifts, or curses depending on your point of view, that simply go beyond the imagination.
If I have any complaints it is that the romance was pushed to the later part of the book. However, there was a great deal of relationship building and tension between the H/h, so my complaint is small. Overall, Kristen Callihan has an amazing writing voice so I have no doubt this author will be a big hit with romance fans. I am excited to read the next book in this series, or whatever else she publishes.