In Zoe Archer's new series she takes us to the year 1762 and introduces us to five friends, known as the Hellraisers, for their relentless pursuit of adventure and life's pleasures.
James Sherbourne, Earl of Whitney (Whit) meets a gypsy beauty named Zora at her family camp. They have an instant connection. Zora doesn't usually believe in superstitions but she has a heavy sense of foreboding as Whit leaves her camp with his friends to tour a local ruin that evening.
Zora's intuition is correct and she arrives too late to stop the longtime friends from entering a deal with the devil himself. Whit's vice is gambling. In his exchange with the devil, Whit receives the gift to control the odds unaware of just how high the cost.
"For you, my dear Lord Whitney, I shall grant you the ability to control the odds. You can make them good or bad, as you require."
Once the bargain has been sealed, Whit and Zora are tied to each other. Whit is pleased that his deal also won him his fiery gypsy but Zora will not give in to the man, no matter how attractive, until he turns his back on the devil and regains his soul.
I can't even tell you how much I loved Zora. She has got to be one of my favorite heroines in a long time. She's beautiful, confident and intelligent but most of all she has values that she will not compromise. Even in the heat of lust. You go girl!
Whit was passionate, and I loved how much he respected Zora and treated her as an equal although he didn't really stand out for me. Their declarations for each other also seemed a bit much at times.
One thing that didn't work for me is the setting. This is more a reflection of my reading preferences, not about the writing itself. Since the series takes place in 1762 there is fair bit of descriptions about cravats and corsets and the like but I'm just not a big fan of historical romances or the language of that time period. If you are, then this might be a better fit for you.
Archer skillfully blended elements of paranormal, historical, and gypsy mythology. I definitely enjoyed the magic the most. I don't want to spoil it but I particularly loved just how Zora came to be in Whit's "possession". Nice twist.
In order to save his soul, Whit also has to choose between his friends and Zora. Whit is continually drawn to the dark and the lure of beating the odds as his friends beckon him. I thought that played out nicely and is a good set up for the next books in the series. It seems that both Whit and Zora may be players and not cast aside. (I hope anyway)
According to Archer's book trailer, not all of the men will get their happily ever after. That makes for a fun twist.
The historical feel was not a favorite of mine but I adored the feisty and intelligent Zora and the creative use of magic in this story.