Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review: The Hunter by Kerrigan Byrne

The Hunter
by Kerrigan Byrne
Series:  Victorian Rebels #2
Pub. Date:  Feb. 2, 2016
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Pages:  432
Format:  eARC
Source:  NetGalley

My Rating:  
Sultry Scale:

They're rebels, scoundrels, and blackguards—dark, dashing men on the wrong side of the law. But for the proper Victorian-era ladies who love them, a hint of danger only makes their hearts beat faster... 

A scandalous proposal. 

As one of London't most elite hunters, Christopher Argent never misses his mark and always gets his man. But when his latest target turns out to be a woman—the popular, and stunningly beautiful, actress Millie LeCour—it turns his whole world upside-down. Overwhelmed by the heat that simmers between them, Christopher can't complete his mission. On the contrary, he'll do anything to save Millie's life—even if it means risking his own...

A dangerous passion... 

When she learns what Christopher was hired to do, Millie is torn between the fear in her heart and the fire in her soul. Putting herself in this dangerous man's arms may be her only path to safety—but giving in to her desire may be the deadliest mistake she's ever made. With both of their lives in jeopardy, Millie and Christopher must learn to trust the real feelings they're hiding—to find the true love they're looking for...

I am totally digging the latest series from Kerrigan Byrne, who has proven to be exceptionally adept at writing complex and damaged heroes who will steal your heart like a thief in the night.

The plot of The Hunter follows a similar formula to The Highwayman in that we have a tortured hero ensconced in the criminal underworld, and a lovable heroine with a big secret that puts her life in danger. Don't let that worry you though, for all that the plot formulas were similar, each installment has stood on its own merits with captivating characters, beautiful prose, and a bit of suspense. The plot conflict in The Hunter is of a darker nature than we saw in The Highwayman, and involves a necrophiliac serial killer assassin that gave me the creepy chills. Yeesh. He is definitely not someone I want to meet on a dark night.

We met our hero, Christopher Argent, in the first book where we knew him as the menacing and silent assassin for Dorian Blackwell, the Black Heart of Benmore. However, in this installment we are taken back to Christopher's beginnings as a shackleborn bastard at Newgate Prison. Byrne certainly knows how to hook you into the story with a heartwrenching prologue to get you invested in the damaged boy before you see the dangerous man he has become. The concept of innocent children being raised in a prison is an eye-opening one, particularly as they remained inmates until their majority, when they were released into the world without money, skills or education. While at Newgate, Christopher trained under the tutelage of a Kung Fu Master. Given his size, coloring and scars, my imagination painted a vivid picture of Christopher in his silk pants going through a martial arts routine. I loved having all this back story for our hero because it allowed me to understand Christopher's thought process and reasons for his actions without having to be told every single time... this is what I am always harping about, the show vs. tell... Kerrigan Byrne knows how to do it.

So now as an adult, Christopher is a threatening giant, as sinuous as water and as dark as the shadows. He turned off his emotions way back in the prologue and has been existing as a hollow killing machine ever since.

A boy born in a cage, taught little but cruelty and survival. Then he was thrust into this world and had to make his own way, falling upon the only skills he'd ever mastered. 
Violence and death.

It was as though darkness sought him out, as though shadows settled upon him, recognizing one of their own, and he siphoned strength from them. This was where he belonged. Cold, eerie nights full of danger and blood.
He is impervious to all emotion until he first sees Millicent LeCour, whom he is being paid to kill. There is something about Millie that starts to crack the stone encasing Christopher's heart and he is not quite certain how to handle it. As Dorian so wisely imparts:
Men like you and me, we don't love like other men do. With patience and poetry and gentle deference. Our sort of love is possessive - obsessive even - and passionate and consuming and ... well, fucking terrifying sometimes.
Now that I have went on and on about our hero (or anti-hero as it were), I have run out of words for our heroine, Millie. But let's face it, this series is all about the men. The women being likable heroines comes as a bonus.

The darling of the London stage, Millie mesmerizes her audience and our hero. She has a special light that draws people to her, and that light certainly startles Christopher right out of the shadows. While he may step into the light, however, that doesn't mean that he will act like a civilized individual. Millie is acosted, assaulted, threatened, and coerced to submit - but she finds she doesn't mind all that much when its Christopher doing the manhandling. Millie also has a son, Jakub, an intelligent and inquisitive little boy who added a sweetness to the story that Christopher was incapable of. Millie and Jakub created a perfect package to start healing that wounded little boy that Christopher's psyche brutally suppressed in Newgate. Seeing Jakub draw Christopher out with his curiosity was especially touching.

I am enjoying this series immensely and am looking forward to meeting Kerrigan Byrne at the RT Convention this year. She has definitely moved onto my auto-buy list with her ability to craft such captivating and complex characters.

I received an advanced copy of this book from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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Victorian Rebels