I have really enjoyed the three books of the Darkest London series. They manage to merge the great romance of a historical romance with the dark, dangerous world of a paranormal or urban fantasy novel in a way that is unique and refreshing in many ways. I adored Firelight, and Moonglow was also super enjoyable. This third book of the series didn't quite rise to the level of those first two books, but I still enjoyed it and will continue reading on in this interesting and well-written series.
Winterblaze is the story of Poppy and Winston Lane. When we last left this couple in Moonglow, Winston, a London detective with no knowledge of the crazy supernatural world around him, discovered that his wife, Poppy, had lied to him their entire marriage. She played a huge role in this supernatural universe, and after Winston is nearly killed by a werewolf he discovers who the woman he married truly was. Needless to say, he didn't take the news so well, so as this book begins Poppy and Winston are separated and in the middle of an epic war of the silent treatment. That changes when Poppy receives a message making it appear as if a newly escaped demon is coming after Winston, making it necessary for Poppy to come to his rescue. It turns out that Winston has more experience with the supernatural than he had any idea of, and he has made a real mess of a situation for his family. This is the story of Poppy and Win coming to terms with their roles in this supernatural universe while they fight an uber-powerful demon with a personal agenda involving the Lanes. Can their marriage survive? Can they survive? That's the story.
I thought that it was interesting that this story begins with our hero and heroine already married. Their love story began 14 years earlier, and only recently has it run into problems. Seeing this previously happily married couple work through a gigantic trial in their marriage is a unique thing in a romance book. I thought that the ideas that this struggle brought out were very interesting. Poppy had not been honest with Win, but she did it out of necessity and out of concern for Win's safety. Does that make it okay? Not according to Win. I think that I agree with him, but I do recognize Poppy's predicament. It was also interesting to see the struggle that came about because of Poppy's role as a leader in this supernatural world. They are existing in a world of male dominance. Women's rights didn't really exist. Win felt the need as a man to protect Poppy, but Poppy didn't always need that assistance. At times Win was able to play the protector, but at other times Poppy played that role. It is a very modern arrangement that might not seem unusual to us today, but it had to have been difficult to maneuver in the world of this novel. Seeing this couple figure out how to find a balance in their relationship in the midst of this new knowledge of who they were was interesting to read and very well-written. Win and Poppy are excellent lead characters for this story. Poppy is a strong heroine who does not fit into the norms of her society at all, and Win is strong as well as he works beside her and adapts to a new world around him.
Here is what dropped this book a bit for me: I could really understand the issues that Poppy and Win were having in their relationship. I could see why Win was hurt by Poppy's dishonesty and why he had trouble trusting her. I could also see why Poppy questioned the validity of Win's feelings once his dealings with a demon are revealed. I understand it. I do. But these two really loved each other. A lot. Their love was practically epic. But for two people who had such a good marriage, they seem to have a horrible time communicating their feelings. It seems like a few good conversations could have moved a solution closer. But they never truly expressed their feelings for most of the book. I knew what they were thinking because of my advantage as a reader with third person narration. I even think that the two of them knew what the other half of the couple was feeling. But nothing moved forward until almost the end of the book. I found myself getting terribly irritated with their stubbornness by the end. I would have liked more conversation between the two as they worked through things and less obsession with the physical. Win spent three times as much time pondering on the shape of Poppy's breasts than he did on her personality. And with a personality as colorful and strong as Poppy's, it would have been fascinating to see how Win works with her to solve their problems in a non-physical fashion.
I was also a bit annoyed with the situation that got them in this mess in the first place. No spoilers here, but ... Why in the world did Win make that deal with the demon in the first place??? It made no sense to me. I understand that he was desperate to marry Poppy, but the stumbling blocks in their way weren't going to be that difficult to overcome. I am not sure how the demon's solution was outside of what Win could have done on his own. Since this bargain forms the framework for the action of the entire novel, my irritation with it did harm my enjoyment of the book overall. But still, I did enjoy seeing how working together to save their family and defeat this horrible demon was able to bring Poppy and Win closer together at the end.
I have to finish on a positive note. I LOVED the flashback scenes where we were able to see the beginnings of Poppy and Win's love story. They were super sweet, and seeing how strong Win's feelings for Poppy were from the very beginning helped me to root for this couple to succeed. There may not have been very many men of that day who would have had the strength and the confidence to be married to a woman as intelligent and strong as Poppy, but Win was the perfect man for her. I do love this couple.
Three stars for this story because I did like it, although I didn't quite love it. The next book in the story seems like it will be wonderful. Jack Talent is the star of that one, and after the horrific events of this book I am super excited to see what happens in his life in book four. He is going to have a rough journey, but after all he endured in this book, he deserves to find his own Happily Ever After.