Title: Night Falls Darkly
Author: Kim Lenox
Genre: Paranormal Romance/ Historical
Stand Alone/ Series: Book 1 of Shadow Guards series.
Summary: ARCHER, Lord Black, returns to England at the behest of Queen Victoria to immerse himself in the dark, hellish streets of London’s East End. Among the immortal Shadow Guard, he is the most prolific and cunning of the Reclaimers. He revels in the hunt of his current prey: an ill-mannered, reluctant soul reviled in the daily newspapers as Jack the Ripper. Archer has only one weakness … one distraction … the young woman he spared from death two years before.
ELENA WHITNEY has never wanted for anything – not since coming under the protection of her mysterious and absent guardian, Lord Black, who has gifted her with everything a young woman of quality could ever hope for, including an enviable address, an unlimited income and entrée into the drawing rooms of high society. But now, after nearly two years of indifference, he believes he can sweep into her life and rid himself of her by marrying her off. If he knew anything about her – anything at all – he’d know she had greater aspirations than that.
Why did I read the book: Time for a confession: I asked the author for a copy of the book. I saw this at Kmont’s site a few months ago and I just HAD to have it. I took a deep breath and decided to be cheeky and was actually surprised that Kim Lenox not only replied but also was kind enough to send me a review copy. After the deed was done , of course I was terrified because what if I didn’t like the book? What would I do? Thank God, it turned out to be a very good one. I loved the book.
Archer, Lost Black is an Amaranthine – a race of immortal beings that once walked the earth alongside humans but now have retreated to the Inner Realm where they live apart from mortals only intervening when the boundaries of their domain are threatened. That happens when mortal souls are so corrupted they are close to Transcend – and a soul once Transcended becomes so powerful they can cross to the Inner Realm. The Shadow Guards are an order of elite assassins that walk the earth Reclaiming these souls that have become so morally deteriorated they are a danger to mortals and immortals alike. Archer is an Ancient Shadow Guard and one of the most powerful and respected Reclaimers.
He has walked the earth for more years he can count, enjoying the thrill of the hunting but killing the souls almost dispassionately. Archer has not once strayed from his single-minded path until one night two years ago when he is hunting an assassin and rapist and is surprised when he realizes the assassin has a hostage; a girl Elena, who has odd eyes – one blue, one brown – with whom Archer shares an immediate connection and even though he is not supposed to, he intervenes and saves her life. He erases her memory of that night but by doing so he also erases her entire past and he leaves her at a hospital to recover. He tells his secretary to take care of the girl’s future and then he leaves for his next assignment, not planning to return any time soon. Two years later, he is called back to London with a new task and a new criminal to catch and is completely surprised to discover that his sectary has set up Elena as his ward and she has been living at Black House. And all those feelings he is not supposed to have come running back when he meets her again.
This would be like any other paranormal romance out there except for one distinct feature – it is set in London during Victorian times and that makes all the difference. Because who calls Archer back is Queen Victoria herself and the person he must Reclaim is that of Jack, the Ripper – whose soul is so corrupted he is very close to Transcend and become way too powerful.
This is the first Paranormal Romance I read which has a historical setting – I know there are others out there though like Kathryn Smith’s Brotherhood of Blood and Teresa Medeiros’s After Midnight – and it really works. There is a clever use of historical setting and historical characters that are never too much and only add to the story. For example, there is an encounter between Archer and Elena and a famous writer at the Reading Room of the British Museum that was s delight to read.
Similarly, Victorian London is a place that is full of life but also death and Kim Lenox manages to capture the atmosphere of both High Society and its Balls and afternoon teas but also the poorer, less privileged parts – the description of the foggy streets of Whitechapel in the nighttime were not only atmospheric but also quite horribly suffocating – the different between rich and poor very distinct in the outcome of some of the characters. Some sequences were so cinematographic I kept having flashes of movies like From Hell and Sweeney Todd both of which managed to capture the gothic feel of hopelessness of how I imagine the streets of London to have been back then.
Jack The Ripper in the movie From Hell
The romance also worked very well –Archer and Elena are amazing protagonists. Archer is that typical male who has lived for centuries without really connecting to anyone and is caught off guard by Elena who is every bit as strong as he is. Living as a Ward of a powerful and rich man she has a privileged life but which is by no means sheltered. Elena hasn’t got a memory but she has a life that she built on her own – she is a nurse at a London Hospital and she is preparing herself to become a doctor – by attending the first school of medicine for women in London. She has dreams that do not include getting married, she has a gift and she is prepared for accepting the consequences of it. She is no wilting flower and even when she falls for Archer, she still wants to carry on with her plans. There is one scene that I thought was very clear in showing how clear-headed Elena was – even if she doesn’t know what Archer really is, she knows his place is not with her and she says:
“ I know you can’t stay. I don’t even want to know why. It’s all right. She smiled bravely, her eyes wide and hiding nothing. “I have my own plans, my own dreams, and I will be fine without you. In fact, my admission to the medical college will arrive within days. Perhaps it will be I who must say my goodbyes first. Whatever happens, I’m glad to have had this time with you”
Likewise, Archer could have been easily a domineering and towering Alpha Male but he wasn’t – he was on the right side of protective. Even when he makes a tough decision in order to protect Elena, he soon realizes he was wrong in thwarting her dreams and he apologizes:
“I’ll fix things. Everything. I realize that I was trying to smother everything in you that I admired. I also realized I’ve got to let you –“
“Let me what?”
“Fly, Elena. I’ve got to let you fly.”
And so the two of them dance around each other until they can finally be together – there is some angst but also a lot of light repartee. Archer is a wonderful hero who finally understands the meaning of wanting someone so badly. And Elena is prepared to get what she wants, the way it comes. There are no hysterics or depression. Only the certainty that they were right for each other, even if only for the time being. I loved the development of their love story and was thoroughly content when they got their HEA.
I did have a few problems with the world building though – some things were covered in mystery; so much so, I am still asking myself what was the explanation for some of the things that happened – like why did Archer had his hair cut. It seems trifle but two characters in separate occasions mention “ you cut your hair – you only cut your hair when…” and then they are interrupted. I am guessing it has something to do with him falling in love with Elena but I am not certain.
I also wonder about some of the “hows” – I was most intrigued with the fact that (and without spoiling too much) one of the Shadow Guards had to Transcend in order to stop Jack, the Ripper. But I remain uncertain about how exactly that has been accomplished. Kim Lenox explained in the comment section of another review (Kmont’s) that her Shadow Guards series is intended to be seen as a point of transition for historical readers that never dared to cross to paranormal shores and her world building will be developed in small installments throughout the series. I think I would have been happier with a full immersion in the world building which probably only means than I am greedy and wanted more.
Which is also one of the reasons why I was somewhat disappointed with the finale – it had all the workings of a Grand Finale but one that was never delivered. There is a huge buildup from page one for a major confrontation between the Shadow Guards and Jack, the Ripper but the whole sequence of his demise lasts only but a few pages in what was a very anti-climatic stand –off. And the resolution of Archer and Elena’s love story happens even faster –her whole life turns upside down and we have less than two pages to let things sink in. I am not saying I was unhappy with the way things turn out because I wasn’t – quite the contrary – my gripe was that we hardly had any time to understand what was happening. If I had been given 10 mores pages in the end – maybe even an epilogue – this could have easily been an 8 rated book.
I am very intrigued with the Shadow Guards – did I mention each of them has a power and that they are very cool? And that there are two secondary characters that are very, very interesting and fascinating? Both are Shadow Guards working with Archer, well sort of, the twins Mark and Selene who before becoming immortals were… I will let you find out for yourself .I sure want to read more. The book ends with a great cliff-hanger for the next novel and I am, resolutely and positively looking forward to reading it.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: I really liked the meeting between Queen Victoria and Archer – the Shadow Guard has worked close with mortal monarchs and leaders and Archer is one of the favorites of Queen Victoria. She summons him to talk about his task of bringing Jack, the Ripper down. In the end they share a very poignant moment when she tries to get Archer to deliver a message to her beloved late husband. Which sadly, he can’t do because he has no access to THAT place.
Additional Thoughts: I love everything about Victorian times – I am always watching documentaries, reading history books, and devouring movies and books set in the period. It is such a rich historical era with Political, economical and scientific revolutions. But what I find the most interesting are the cultural changes including Women’s new place in society – for example, The London School of Medicine for Women was founded in 1874 and was the first medical school in Britain to train women (thanks Wikipedia) and this is where Elena, the heroine of Night Falls Darkly is set to go.
I find the Victorian years to be a fantastic setting for romance novels – actually to any novel. I am loving to hear about the re-birth of Steampunk and looking forward to reading some of these books.
It is no wonder I loved Night Falls Darkly – it has a certain dark atmosphere that I have come to associate with Victorian London – I wonder how much of it is actually accurate and how much comes from watching movies such as Dracula, The Prestige, From Hell, Sweeney Todd and reading The League ofExtraordinary Gentlemen – all of them have that same certain gothic aesthetic that appeals to me. That is the same sort of artwork that appear in the cover of Night Falls Darkly and the on the next book So Still The Night – provided that we pretend the shirtless men are not there, of course.
What about you? Do you like novels set in Victorian times? Would you like more romance novels to be set in that time period instead of say, the Regency?
Night Falls Darkly is to be released on October 7th.
Verdict: A new addition to paranormal romance that has a lot of potential. The romance is well executed with a strong pair of protagonists, the world building is interesting and the Victorian setting adds a gothic feel and a lush atmosphere. Considering that Night Falls Darkly is a debut novel, I could not be happier.
Rating: 7 Very Good
Reading next: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead