October 2008, Paranormal Romance (1888 England)
Signet Eclipse, $6.99, 311 pages, Amazon ASIN 0451225376
The first in a new paranormal series, Night Falls Darkly offers promise for readers not thoroughly sick of new paranormal series.
If that sounds a bit back-handed, it is. Because the truth is that while this book nicely recreates its late Victorian setting, I would have liked it just as well – probably more, as a matter of fact – without all the required silly-word-world-building that, frankly, gets in the way of the story. But the market is what the market is.
The author sets her story in the months when Jack the Ripper terrorized London. Elena Whitney is a nurse working in the East End with ambitions to be a doctor. She is also the “ward” of a mysterious nobleman the reader knows is one of the immortal Shadow Guard tasked with protecting humanity and “reclaiming” evil doers. The reader also knows what Elena doesn’t: The respectable past she believes is hers is fiction. Elena crossed paths with Archer, Lord Black, when he was reclaiming an evil doer who had also victimized her. She doesn’t remember the events of that night or anything else about her past other than what she is told and lives in luxury in London through the gracious assistance of her absent benefactor.
Archer (who is, of course, Elena’s mysterious guardian) returns to London one evening on a quest to reclaim the Ripper and is surprised to discover Elena in his home. (It’s too complicated to explain the reason why here, but it’s tied up with characters sporting large “Future Hero or Heroine” tattoos on their foreheads.) He’s also surprised to discover that he finds her hot. Since reclaiming the Ripper will require his full attention, it’s an attraction he doesn’t welcome.
I am something of an amateur Ripperologist, and the author does a terrific job of setting her story within the real details of the murders. The fear and turmoil of those months is realistically recreated, as is the general flavor of the times. Elena is also a nicely fleshed out character, though Archer is less so since he also comes with all that world-building baggage. When an author starts introducing silly, made-up words my eyes glaze over. Enough is enough.
Still, this one is much better than most of the formulaic series out there. But here’s the bottom line for me: What I enjoyed most about the story is the setting and the author’s skill in evoking it. I don’t think we need another series about immortal warriors out to protect humanity, but, within those confines, this one stands out.
-- Sandy Coleman
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