Author: Wendy L Callahan
Publisher: Eternal Press
Buy Link: Buy Heart And Fire Here!
Rating: You Want to Read
Reviewed By: Nerine
Courtesan. Secret agent. Tea-drinker.
Courtesan and gunslinging government agent, Saville Cantall has just been thrust into an untenable position. She has been ordered to work as bodyguard to the woman who just replaced her as the king’s mistress.
Frustrated by, not just the situation, but her own tenuous place in society, Saville finds her problems compounded by the question of who would want to harm the king’s new mistress.
Over the course of the summer, she learns that time is running out to stop a war, learn the secret of her magickal abilities, and fend off two persistent suitors… While somehow still finding the time to sit down for afternoon tea.
Wendy L Callahan certainly delivers when she introduces us to her feisty Saville Cantall who, for five years not only protected her king, but served as his mistress. As secret agent, she’s prepared to lay down her life for her country, and has no time for romance. Nevertheless, she can’t help but feel just that little bit hard done by when her king *does* set her aside for another woman. And of course the man being a bit of a right tosser, in my opinion, doesn’t exactly do it in the nicest possible way.
So, I totally understand *why* she’s miffed. But Saville does the right thing. After throwing a bit of a hissy fit she sucks it up and gets on with her life, or at least tries to. Because then her king, pulls the worst stunt imaginable. He expects her to act as bodyguard to the new woman.
Yeah, I’d be pretty pissed too, and admit when I saw this as the hook to the novel, that I really had to read it to see what would happen next. And Callhan delivers a wonderful first-person narrative. I really got into Saville. I loved her spunk and her character.
There were a few bits that annoyed me, which I often find with fantasy and/or steampunk novels, and here I’m afraid Callahan *is* guilty, in that she shoehorns in a bit too much exposition at the start. Items such as the goggles—which I know are de rigueur for popular steampunk McGuffins, seemed a bit too convenient. Ditto for the clockwork butterfly. It really served no purpose other than set dressing and, although a pretty trinket in the tale, did little to progress the plot.
Another aspect of her writing that did set my hackles up a little was that I would have liked to see clarity in Saville’s motivations in a few of the parts where the narrative seemed a bit fast. Some tensions and dynamics could have been developed further, but overall, I engaged with the story and could overlook these little quibbles.
What Callahan does well with this novel is a nice bit of misdirection with regard to the eventual love interest. She succeeds admirably in deflecting the expected trope of the love triangle, then succeeds in maintaining simmering tension.
In conclusion, Callahan writes a wonderful, swashbuckling tale featuring a smart-mouthed, sassy heroine that, if you’re a fan of the type of action provided in films like Pirates of the Caribbean, you’ll most likely latch onto this fast-paced fun read and relish it down to the very last page—action and court intrigue, with a dash of romance and oodles of attitude.