Darkest London, Book 4
Heat Factor: Inferno
Character Chemistry: Hate turns to love, but in a realistic way
Plot Development: Demons. Lots of demons.
Overall: 4 stars
Let’s start with a content warning: This book is extremely violent. Both the hero and the heroine kill multiple people, in an up close and personal way. There are several brutal fight scenes, including one in the first quarter of the book where the heroine’s cheekbone is broken. Both the hero and the heroine have ugly violations in their past (torture and gang rape); neither experience is described in detail, but both are referred to multiple times.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk turkey.
Shadowdance is the fourth installment of Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London series, which follows a collection of various paranormal folks in Victorian London as they fall in love while also working for a shadowy policing organization called the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals (SOS). This book does stand alone – I have read one other book in the series, but several years ago, so I didn’t remember much detail – however, it is clear that the protagonists had both been introduced in previous books, so reading the whole series in order would probably make for a richer reading experience. In addition, there is a LOT of world building happening here. If you are stressed by the thought of not being able to keep track of the different types of supernatural beings, as well as the two competing supernatural organizations and their goals, I would suggest that you not just jump in in the middle of the series. I definitely had moments of – wait, what? Tell me about the different types of demons? What’s the Nex again? What exactly are the goals of the SOS? They seem to just run around solving murders, so are they supernatural police or what? Basically, some romance novels you can kind of skim through, but this one is quite densely plotted, so you have to slow down a bit and read carefully.
Mary Chase, our heroine, is technically undead. That is, she died, but was brought back to life with a clockwork heart, and can therefore send her spirit out of her body at will, which makes her an extremely useful spy. She has been working as an administrative assistant, but now is moving up in the world, and is trying to prove herself as a Regulator in the SOS (as far as I can tell, Regulators are like Detectives?). So she gets herself attached to a serial killer case.
Jack Talent, our hero, is a shifter with an attitude problem, and has been on the serial killer case for a while. Someone, nicknamed the Bishop of Charing Cross, has been killing demons (who presumably look like humans). He’s not making much progress, so he shouldn’t be too surprised when Mary gets assigned to work with him. The only problem is that he’s not making much progress because… he’s actually the killer, since demons are the worst, amirite? But now a copycat has emerged, who is definitely framing Jack for some other murders that he didn’t commit.
For some additional drama, Mary and Jack have been at each others’ throats for years. Mary asks to be put on this case explicitly to take Jack down. Because of their mutual antagonism, the first couple of scenes of them together basically consist of delicious repartee as they poke and prod at each others’ weaknesses.
Of course, the mutual antagonism is partially based on suppressed lust, especially on Jack’s side. As the two work together and come to know one another, the antagonism fades away and the lust comes to the fore. They have some excellent sex, which is quite graphic – I thought it was well done and very hot, but if a detailed description of a man masturbating is not your jam, maybe skip this one.
However, it is not all gore and penises. There are some genuinely sweet moments of connection as these two very broken people learn to love, a little bit at a time. Take, for instance, the scene where Jack teaches Mary how to kiss:
“A kiss,” he said, “is a conversation.” Easing closer, he continued to speak as he caressed her cheeks with feather-light strokes of his thumbs. “A first kiss” – his lips neared hers– “is an introduction.”
And then his mouth brushed against hers. The contact sparked, sharp and bright like lightening. Yet his lips were soft, unexpectedly so. Her breath caught the same instant his did.
Against her mouth he whispered, “That was hello.”
His breath mingled with hers as he waited, his lips so close she could feel their warmth. For a moment she simply breathed him in, growing heady on the scent of him and the tight anticipation gathering in her belly. Then she understood. Nerves fluttering she brushed her lips across his as he had done. Again his breath hitched as if he too felt that same spark, that hot need.
Her eyes drifted closed, and his voice poured over her like warm cream. “This is ‘I’m Jack.’” Another brush of his lips, but slower now, clinging at the last touch.
She liked that one better. The tightness within her spread down her thighs and up to her breasts. Mary tilted her head slightly as he had done and repeated his kiss, soft, slow. I’m Mary.
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