Book Review: Kristen Callihan’s Winterblaze

Posted February 13, 2013 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Kristen Callihan’s Winterblaze

Winterblaze


in Paperback edition on February 26th 2013 and has 422 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.


Third in the Darkest London historical paranormal romance series revolving around three Ellis sisters in 1883. The primary couple focus is on Poppy Lane, a.k.a., Mother, and Winston Lane with a secondary focus priming the pump, so to speak, between Mary Chase and Jack Talent.

I received an ARC from the publisher.

My Take

This story is the absolute best of the three and just so, oh, so very incredibly romantic. A tragic romance absolutely dripping with love in a tangled tale that twists in and around itself including a twist on the romance angle with a couple who have separated. Callihan has a lovely approach with both parties being wrong as well as right. I absolutely love how these two counter their pride and reveal the depths of their love.

Their first encounter after the months since Win left is…icy…in every sense. Two people held apart by their pride even as each is desperate for the other.

There are so many lovely quotes I could relate that reveal the love that Win and Poppy have for each other…it’ll make you cry.

I am wholly myself when I am with you.

Callihan makes use of flashbacks, switching back and forth between current day and fourteen years ago, allowing us to eavesdrop on Win’s courtship of Poppy while observing the deterioration of that union today. It definitely shows the dangers of saying always and never.

Poppy is learning the toll that her double occupations has had on her life. I do love that she sees to the heart of the problem. Despite its setting in 1883, it could be today with the same issues couples have now with taking time to be with each other, with Win’s complete acceptance and appreciation for Poppy’s skills and abilities. How turned on he is by the lethality of his Boadicea.

I’m confused. At one point Callihan says Winston has lost his job, and a bit further on, he’s musing over Sheridan’s encouraging him to take a vacation. So, which is it? I’m truly impressed that Poppy and Mary Chase manage to get over to Calais in two days, seeing as it appears to take that long for Archer’s ship, the Ignitus, to sail from Calais to England. The ship certainly lives up to its name for there are some fiery encounters aboard. Seems very unfair to be maneuvered into death; that ought to nullify the contract immediately.

Demons are not inherently evil. Every living being has a choice as to how it will live its life.

One doesn’t often encounter a sexual act incorporating bookish metaphor:

her long legs spread open like the pages of a book offering up their secrets.

Of course, one is not often warned about encountering naked dwarves either. I did enjoy Poppy’s response to Win on that score: “Who said he enjoyed women?” But Win’s response to her quip is, oh, so much better…and funnier! Only to be caught up short by Manet’s The Absinthe Drinker.

Oh, YES! Fabulous ending. And very clever! I look forward to more from Callihan!

The Story

Poppy Lane and Winston have separated. He’s furious that she’s lied to him from the start about her being Mother, the leader of SOS. But Winston soon learns that he has his own skeletons in the closet.

He’s also a target for a demon determined to “take her heart and destroy it”.

The Characters

Poppy Ellis Lane has lead a double life for all their fourteen years of marriage. One life of which she hadn’t informed her husband. She operates a bookstore in London as well as acts as the head, Mother, of The Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals (SOS). Their mother, Mary Margaret Ellis, was “the seventh daughter of the Earl of Lister” who married an East Ender, Hector Ellis.

Former Inspector Winston Lane is experiencing anger management problems. As you can tell by the “former”. Besides Poppy, that job with the CID was everything to him. Absolutely everything. He’s also a younger son of the the now-deceased Duke of Marchland and cousin to the queen. Osmond is his older brother, the duke. The man who forgot him. Winston complains about his mother’s treatment of him — that she treated him as a pet but closed her ears whenever he expressed an opinion. “The idea of me was far preferable to her than the actual man.” He’s also angry over Poppy’s continued rejection of his proposals; “the wall she erected whenever she remembered how disparate their families were.” Ranulf and Archer are concerned about Win’s recovery from the attack and have sent Jack Talent, a shapeshifter and Ian Ranulf’s valet, to guard Winston.

Daisy is a GIM, a fate she chose to avoid a much worse one. She’s married to Ian Ranulf (see Moonglow, 2). Lucien Stone is the current head of GIM. Miranda is the youngest sister and married to Lord Benjamin Archer (Firelight, 1). Mary Chase is also a GIM, but she desperately wants to be a Regulator. There is a mutual hate between Mary and Jack. Augustus is a demon who appears as an angel; he saved Win in the alley in Moonglow, 2.

Lena, a Sanguis demon, is an SOS lieutenant and the official go-between for Mother and any requests for her aid. It is imperative that Mother’s true identity be hidden. A fact that Daisy ignores. Mr. Smythe is Mother’s secretary. Michael Scott is a shock journalist with the Cryer whom SOS uses. Grevis is the fusspot librarian who objects to sex in the library. Who knew.

The Evernights are a family of tinkerers. Extremely talented ones. Think “O” from James Bond! Holly Evernight is the chief firearms master. Eamon Evernight, her grandfather, built the colonel’s hand and made his reputation with SOS.

Mr. Jones, Lord Isley, Apep are all one. A Primus demon who entices the weak into signing their souls away.

Moira Darling is the price of Win’s soul. Komtesse Krogstad is a demimonde and highly social with an interest in supernatural activities. Henri is the naked dwarf with unusual accoutrements. Mrs. Amy Noble won’t have time for regret or her party. Colonel Alden is an art collector. And a survivor.

A GIM is a Ghost in the Machine, “the best spies in the underworld”. The primary goal of SOS is to “keep the world from learning the truth” about supernaturals. Regulators are field agents for SOS. Primus demons “are the ancients, born of the collective thoughts, fears, and hopes of humanity when it was young” while the Onus demons are the offspring of Primus. The Nex are a resistance group who want to expose supernaturals with Isley as its founder and head.

The Cover and Title

It’s a chilly cover in the snow with Winston in an embroidered white shirt, open to mid-chest, passionately enveloping a Poppy seemingly rising up out of a snowy embrace, dressed in a gleaming satin and velvet navy off-the-shoulder ballgown with a deeply v’d back, the heat of her wild red hair billowing in the wind with a veiled London and its bridge in the background.

The title provides an inkling of the power of Poppy’s gifts, for it’s a power so cold it feels like a Winterblaze.