Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Review: Burning Lamp by Amanda Quick

Title: Burning Up
Series: Arcane Society / Dreamlight Trilogy
Author: Amanda Quick
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: March 29, 2011
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 051514925X
ISBN-13: 9780515149258

The Arcane Society was born in turmoil when the friendship of its two founders evolved into a fierce rivalry. Sylvester Jones and Nicholas Winters each sought to enhance their individual psychic talents. Winters’ efforts led to the creation of a device of unknown powers called the Burning Lamp. Each generation the Winters man who inherits it is destined to develop multiple talents—and the curse of madness.

Plagued by hallucinations and nightmares, notorious crime lord Griffin Winters is convinced he has been struck with the Winters Curse. And the instincts that have helped him survive the streets and rise to power are now drawing him toward Adelaide Pyne, the bothersome social reformer. But even as he arranges a meeting with the mysterious woman, he has no idea how closely their fates are bound, for Adelaide holds the Burning Lamp in her possession.

A dreamlight reader, Adelaide should be able to manipulate the Lamp’s light to save both Griffin’s sanity and his life. But their dangerous psychical experiment makes them the target of forces both inside and outside of the Arcane Society. And though desire strengthens their power their different lives will keep them apart—if death doesn’t take them together.

My rating:

Griffin Winters, descendant of the crazy alchemist Nicholas “Old Nick” Winters, has all the reasons in the world to think he’s going as crazy as his multiple-gran grandfather. He’s just turned 36, he’s acquired a new psychic talent (an additional one!), he’s starting to hallucinate, and his nightmares are getting worse.
These are clear symptoms of the Winters Curse. And the fact he’s the first in his family to get the Curse isn’t reassuring. He’s flying blind.

Lucky for him a woman catches his attention. And not just any woman. Adelaide Pyne, a dreamlight reader. Who also happens to be in possession of a certain Winters family heirloom. The Burning Lamp. A strange contraption created by Old Nick himself, rumored to be able to reverse the family curse.

And since Griffin doesn’t believe in coincidences, this must be fate. And when he sees Adelaide Pyne for the first time, Griffin knows it’s fate. Now they just have to survive the attempts at making the Burning Lamp work, the attempts at their lives, and surmount the biggest obstacle of all, their different lifestyles. Because an affair between a social reformer and a notorious crime lord is impossible. Or is it?

And Amanda Quick has done it again. I just love her historicals and when she throws the paranormal into the mix...Oh, joy. And Burning Lamp is no exception. I loved it from the beginning to end, there wasn’t a dull moment, the story was gripping and intense, the suspense just right, the romance just right. Everything was as close to perfect as it could’ve gone.

But what I loved most of all about this book, was the breath of fresh air it brought into the Quick-verse. First of all, the hero was a crime lord who, despite his initial rank, has spent most of his life on the streets, after his parents’ murder. All AQ heroes have a certain charisma, something that draws the heroine (and the reader) toward them, but Griffin Winters amped that charisma tenfold. This guy oozed it from his pores, and used it to his advantage, both with women and in business. I loved this bloke.
He was a self-made man, had money to burn, had a reputation of ruthlessness, yet he was fiercely protective of those around him, wracked with guilt over something that happened in his past...Not something one would associate with a brutal, cold-blooded “mobster”. And the more as the dichotomy became apparent, the more the real Griffin began to emerge.

Second refreshing fast: though she wasn’t a widow, as she at first claimed, she wasn’t a wilting violet either, and she wasn’t a virgin. While that deprived the reader (please, notice the sarcasm) of the usual historical-romance deflowering scene, it created a nice contract to the other historicals out there, and prevented the first love-scene from turning into a semi-rape. Because I’m sure that taking a virgin in a Burning-Lamp-psychic-energy-induced passionate frenzy wouldn’t have been a pretty scene. Luckily we were spared that...And the usual post-coital talk of “did I hurt you?”, “why didn’t you tell me?”, “I never dreamed it would be like this.” crap.
I still don’t know how Griffin figured out she wasn’t a widow, though. Huh.

And the third refreshing fact: the L-bomb came quite naturally (on both sides) without putting up any fight (again, on both sides). They just said it. Talked a bit more on the impossibility of their future together, and then, thanks to Adelaide’s rather brilliant idea (thought predictable), settled the matter quickly and effortlessly.

The suspense aspect of the plot was the usual AQ fare with some paranormal thrown into the mix, nothing overly spectacular, but very satisfying in its “predictability” and “series-and-author-stability”.

As I said at the beginning. I loved it from start to finish, but unlike some previous books where I liked the story and the characters were just there for the ride, Burning Lamp was all about characters and their development for me.
And I love the fact that (in both books, the first and second in this trilogy) the men from the two “warring families” (Winters and Jones) became if not exactly friends at least good allies in the end.

"Once Smith had you, he would most likely have tried to negotiate for the lamp."
Everything inside her warmed gently. "You'd give up the lamp if you thought my life depended on it?"
"Without a second thought."
"Oh, Griffin, I'm truly touched. I know how important the lamp is to you."
"And then I'd slit the bastard's throat."
She groaned and rested her forehead on her knees. "Two birds with one lamp. Who says a crime lord can't be a romantic at heart?"


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