When only seduction will do…
Wherever Cassandra Darkin goes, fire is sure to follow. It’s not until she’s swept into the arms of a handsome, infuriating stranger that she learns she’s responsible for the fires. As it turns out, Cassandra is a fire mage…and with her gift comes a blazing desire for sins of the flesh.
With his pretenatural ability to influence the thoughts of others, Garrett Sterling is sent to gather Cassandra for the Order of the M.U.SE. He’s entirely unprepared for his immediate attraction to the comely little firestarter. But it’s an attraction that he must quell, even as his body craves her touch and her fiery, sensual hunger.
For Garrett’s gift has a dark side…and the moment he begins to care too much for Cassandra, he knows he will doom her to an inescapable fate.
I know I tend to be a bit of a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to the sub-genres I read, so I occasionally try to branch out a bit. I’ve enjoyed a few Historical Paranormals lately, so when I came across The Curse of Lord Stanstead, I thought I’d give it a go, even though I wasn’t all that impressed with the last book I read by this author. I thought that perhaps the change of direction might work better for me.
The first thing that struck me about the book, (the first in Ms Marlowe’s new Order of the M.U.S.E series), is that it opens with a cast list. We’re given the names of the principal characters and told what their particular gifts are – and I felt cheated because I wasn’t going to be able to get to know these people and make those discoveries for myself. And as I continued to read, I felt as though I was reading a TV episode; there’s a lot of plot for a category length novel and the action jumps swiftly from one thing to the next without much by way of explanation. Not enough time is spent on any of the key elements of the story so that the plot is little more than a series of convenient coincidences, the characterisation is extremely shallow and the romance is practically non-existent.
The “order” feels like a nineteenth century version of a superhero team, or – for those of us old enough to remember it! – The Champions, a British TV show from the 1960s which features a group of people with advanced psychic and telepathic abilities; and the cast list at the beginning felt like a set of opening credits.
The story starts with the introduction into the Order of a new member, a fire mage by the name of Cassandra Darkin, who has absolutely no idea what she is or why, over the last couple of days, she’s been in close proximity to a number of incendiary accidents. The head of the Order is the Duke of Camden, whose gift is… er… I’m not sure exactly, but he seems to be able to feel all the other supernaturals in the world by doing things like this:
”The duke closed his eyes and reached out with his mind, trying to discern the identity of the new mage.” And he can sense when ”More psychic energy had radiated into the universe.”
Now, I’m not a regular reader of paranormals, so perhaps such incredibly vague, simplistic language is normal.
When Cassie is located and brought into the bosom of the Order, she is assigned one of the team as her *ahem* “helper”. Garrett Stirling is the heir to the Earl of Stansted and is the team’s resident rebel. He’s a bit of a jack-the-lad, has the devil of a reputation with the ladies and his gift is to be able to out-Kenobi Obi-Wan by convincing all and sundry that those really aren’t the droids they’re looking for, with his ability to plant suggestions in people’s minds. His curse, however, is that whenever he has a nightmare, his dreams come true, and until he met Camden, he spent as much of his life as he could in a drunken or drug-induced stupor in an attempt to make sure he didn’t dream. And now, he doesn’t let himself get close to anyone in case he dreams about them and they then die a horrible death.
The thing is, that when a fire mage is “born” (which, in females, is when they lose their virginity), they’re horny as all hell, and need constant sexual gratification if they’re to retain control of their gift and not incinerate everything within a five-mile-radius. Naturally, Garrett is assigned to be Cassie’s personal orgasmatron. And equally naturally, they are drawn to each other for more than just sex and fall in love.
The purpose of the Order is to protect the British crown from attack by any and all arcane psychic weapons. The duke has heard of something called an ASP which has just arrived on English shores, which he has been informed could present a significant threat; the snag is that nobody has so far been able to find out exactly what it is. While he is working on this, Cassie receives training in how to control her gift (and receives plenty of orgasms!) and eventually, she and Garrett are sent on their first mission, to retrieve an item called the Infinitum, something which can be used to extend a lifespan. This turns out to be an incredibly useful device when the nature of the ASP is discovered and Cassie’s very existence is threatened. Incredibly, coincidentally useful. *wink*
Honestly, I ended up making it to the end of The Curse of Lord Stanstead simply because it was so silly and I couldn’t help wondering what daft, improbable coincidence was coming next. It moves along at a lightning pace, which might suit you if you want something completely superficial, but there is no character development, no romance, no chemistry between the leads and the plot is weak and just plain silly. I suppose not everyone can write Historical Paranormals like Kristen Callihan – and for that reason, I’m going to stick to her books in future when I want something a bit different.