This book just about ticked all of my boxes. I'm a fan of Paranormal Romance and an occasional dabbler in the Historical Romance genre, and this book is such a perfect blending of the two, coupled with exceptional storytelling, great characters and a captivating romance. I LOVED it!
I would urge anyone about to read this not to read any spoilery reviews, nor to read the prequel, Ember, first, because one of the biggest thrills for me with this book was the guessing game I had to play with regards to Archer's character and why he has to wear that damned mask! I knew very little of the plot going in. Basically just that it was a Beauty and the Beast type story with paranormal/supernatural stuff thrown in. I think that's the best way to approach it because you really are teased and tantalised with clues and it just wouldn't have been the same had I known what was under there before I was supposed to. Trying to work it out from the strange behaviour and occasional random comment from other characters was killing me! It was so frustrating that other people clearly knew and yet he wouldn't tell his wife, Miranda. And until she finds out, we are in the dark too. It made the book unputdownable.
Miranda, our leading lady also has a secret, but in her case we as a reader know the secret way before anyone else, so that was a lot less painful. It helped, I think, make it more believable that Miranda would fall in love with a man she's never laid eyes on as well. Because she of all people knows exactly what it means to have something you fear showing others in case they reject you for it. Their back stories really complemented each other.
Which brings me to the other thing that I loved- the romance! I loved both characters in equal measure, really. I might have gotten a bit cross with Archer occasionally. But even he admits that he can be an unpardonable ass at times. Some of his behaviour was borderline for me, like the alley scene for example. I wish he hadn't behaved that way. But he redeemed himself. And looking back now, knowing what I know (finally!), I can understand his fears and frustrations and forgive him. Kinda.
I also enjoyed much of the dialogue between the pair. It was possibly a touch sugary sweet towards the end, but most of it was lovely and had I not been tearing through the pages, unwilling to slow down, I could have found many great quotables to share with you.
To sum up, this wasn't a perfect novel, there were a couple of issues I could nitpick on if I was being a stickler, but I decided to go for 5 stars just because it was so original and the romance so captivating that it definitely belongs in the "I loved it" category" more than the "I really liked it" one. I can't wait to read the next one, Moonglow, when it comes out in August 2012.