by Kathryne Kennedy, historical/fantasy (2010)
Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-3652-5
The Fire Lord's Lover is set in an alternate 18th-century England where the humans are ruled by elves. These elves are tyrannical types as opposed to the tree-humping little Legolas clones beloved by prepubescent girls, and the Fire Lord rules over all. As you can imagine, these elves can use fire to create mayhem.
Dominic Raikes is the half-human son of the Fire Lord, Lord Mor'ded. Mor'ded is evil - can't you see the apostrophe of doom in his name? Dominic is lusted, if not exactly liked, by many because of his long anime hair, all silvery and glistening, and his good looks, and, alas, he is not close to his father because he's played by Orlando Bloom and he is therefore the good guy. He's also powerful - of course - but he conceals his powers from his father.
Cassandra Bridges, raised to kill people with her sexy dancing (seriously), is the bride to Dominic in an arranged marriage. She is supposed to kill Dominic, but naturally, no woman can stand the allure of sparkling soft anime hair and big eyes that glow like stars set on a clear night sky. So kawaii!
And no, the Last Airbender doesn't show up here. What gives you the idea that he will? Look at the anime hair! How can you confuse a pretty boy like Dominic with an emo waffle like Zuko? I don't know you. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
Perhaps with another reader, this one will be a pleasant read topped with silky hair found only in Pantene commercials. Me, I always have problems with heroines who cannot deliver, and Cassandra is a good example of a heroine who just cannot deliver.
She is supposed to a trained assassin, but right away I can only wonder what the Rebellion is thinking to have a convent-bred girl become an assassin. It is one thing if Cassandra intended to impale Dominic fatally with a hidden blade in a crucifix - that would be pretty cool - but a convent-bred girl who's supposed to do sexy dances that will kill Dominic? Seriously? Cassandra is said to be capable and willful, but these abilities are all informed. Somewhere shortly after the middle point of the story, Cassandra reveals that the thought of killing people nauseates her. Gee, why am I not surprised? Cassandra is a complete failure as an assassin - she's set up to fail by Ms Kennedy, and only in the romance genre is such a heroine considered worthy of a happy ending.
Because Cassandra behaves more like a squeamish little girl who falls in love too easily with our anime hero, I find her an exasperating character. Why did the author make Cassandra an assassin when she had no intention of making Cassandra go through with the stunt? Am I supposed to root for Cassandra because she's an incompetent dingbat who falls in love with such an ease that she comes off as a naïve dingbat experiencing her first throes of infatuation?
Dominic is no prize either, because he is so busy fluttering around like the anime stereotype that he is, right down to the hair, that everything about his feelings for Cassandra is told rather than shown. Like Cassandra, he comes off like someone who is infatuated with a pretty face. He also comes off as a fool because he actually thinks that his wife is capable of assassinating him when it's pretty obvious to the reader that Cassandra can't even kill a cockroach without becoming catatonic with guilt.
The Fire Lord's Lover tries to turn Legolas into the Last Elfbender, but the hero and especially the heroine cannot deliver the goods to make this one a convincing romance. Really, let's not even discuss things like pacing and world building. This one is dead on the water when it's pretty clear that the heroine is set up to fail in a premise that relies heavily on her to fall flat on her face. Therefore, I just do not find this story plausible from the get go.
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