Burn For Me: A Hidden Legacy Novel, by Ilona Andrews Reviewed by Stephanie Burgis

  • Paperback (ISBN 978-0062289230) Avon Books, October 28 2014 – 400 pages. Also available as an e-book.

Burn For Me is the first in an addictive new series of romantic urban fantasy novels by husband-and-wife writing team Ilona Andrews. Like their Kate Daniels series, the Hidden Legacy series is written primarily from the first-person point-of-view of a strong, smart, snarky woman and set in a large, contemporary Southern city (this time, Houston) in which a history of magic use has changed the social structure. Similar to the Andrews’ Edge series, the romantic development in Burn For Me is given equal prominence with the fantasy adventure, rather than being relegated to a mere side plot. Put together, it’s a fast-paced, fun and utterly absorbing combination.

Magic was first introduced to Nevada Baylor’s world in 1863, when European scientists invented a serum that brought out people’s latent magic talents. Due to the many disastrous results, the serum was soon locked away, but not before it had been used to genetically modify a significant number of customers all around the world, from rich aristocrats to soldiers in various countries’ armies. Now, in twenty-first century Houston, the most powerful magic-users — known as Primes — belong to powerful and wealthy families (Houses) that have carefully interbred over the last century and a half for maximum magical abilities and financial gain. The various Houses feud violently with each other, arrange marriages with each other and together, essentially rule the world despite the existence of external political structures.

Twenty-five-year-old Nevada Baylor does not belong to a powerful House. Instead, she belongs to a fiercely devoted extended family that is struggling to survive the twin financial and emotional hits of her father’s recent death. Every member of the family, from her teenaged sisters and cousins to her fierce and dangerous grandmother, works for the family business … and the Baylor Investigative Agency is mortgaged to the hilt. That mortgage is held by House Montgomery. Nevada, who is both sensible and determined to hold her family together, tries to stick to the safe cases that she knows they can jointly handle. When House Montgomery calls in her contract though, she’s forced into a case that may well take her life.

Adam Pierce is a narcissistic, volatile Prime who has rebelled against his House and gone rogue, committing grand acts of arson and robbery that leave dead police officers and other victims in his wake. When House Montgomery is tasked with finding and bringing him back to his family before he can be arrested, they see it as an impossible task, likely to result in death for anyone who tries it. However, they also see a perfect, expendable scapegoat in Nevada and her tiny investigative company. According to the terms of her contract, if Nevada turns down the job, House Montgomery can call in her mortgage and take away both her family’s business and their home.

Nevada will do anything for her family – even sacrifice her life to save them. So she sets out to reel Pierce in, with the help of her nineteen-year-old cousin’s computer skills, her own intelligence, and a magical power that she and her family have kept secret all her life. She is a Truthseeker, able to read the truth of other people’s words. Unfortunately, her first attempts at catching Pierce’s interest succeed only too well, when Pierce fixates on her in ways that threaten her entire family. Perhaps even more dangerously, her hunt for Pierce puts her in the way of one of the most powerful and frightening magic-users in modern history, Connor “Mad” Rogan, who can wipe out entire cities with his powers. Rogan’s young cousin has been swept into Pierce’s wake, and Rogan is determined to use Nevada’s connection to Pierce for his own purposes. Soon, however, he has a second goal in mind: Nevada herself.

Cautious, practical and deeply ethical Nevada is horrified by her attraction to ruthless, amoral Mad Rogan. He may be physically appealing and extremely intelligent, but he’s also a man from a different social realm who will do absolutely anything to achieve his goals, even kill without guilt. Still, he almost never lies to her.

Their chemistry is intense, and the class issues between them are well-developed, but what really makes it all so much fun to read is that, while Rogan fits the usual paranormal alpha-male mold to a T, Nevada calls him on his bad behavior every single time. She may secretly fantasize about being carried away by him, but she’s far too sensible to let that actually happen. By the end of the book, readers may hope that she can be persuaded into giving Rogan a chance, but they’ll be cheering for Nevada’s intelligence and common sense all the way.

Nevada is a fantastic heroine throughout: smart, funny, self-aware and fiercely devoted to her family. The scenes between her and Rogan crackle with energy, and their banter sizzles. But the real joy of this book comes from her interactions with her big, loving, maddening family. The scenes where the whole troupe is together, bickering and driving each other crazy, are so funny that I laughed out loud again and again as I read. Every character feels real, and the interactions are spot-on perfect. The scene where Mad Rogan eats with her family was my favorite in the novel.

I can’t wait to see what happens in Book Two.

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