The Scarlet Corset

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Stronger Than Magic by Heather Cullman

Posted by Mistress on August 4, 2008

Don’t be fooled by the book’s obscure author, unassuming cover, and multi-genre arc. This one belongs firmly on the keeper shelf. Nobody does tortured heroes like Heather Cullman and I’ve never read a TSTL heroine from her just yet and simple as my requirements are, they are not always easy to come by.

Beware: here be spoilers.

The year was 1315, Alys le Fayre is a beautiful much sought after maiden who got her rocks off pitting her suitors against each other. One such suitor was a hawt knight stud named Lucan de Thistlewood. A Battlefield prodigy, the only thing Lucan loves more than a good and bloody fight is manipulative Alys. However, as much (or as little) as she loves Lucan in her own way, the only thing Alys loves more is riling up the jealousy of her suitors. Obsessive in his quest to win her, one such suitor kills Lucan in a jousting (or something like it) tourney. Unknown to all, Lucan’s father was Aengus, the King Of Faeries who was naturally infuriated by his son’s murder. Other than the unnecessary death of his son, the reason why King Aengus is up in arms about it is because faeries, being fallen angels, have no soul, and as a result of being half faerie, Lucan only has half a soul which naturally bars him entry to heaven. The only way Lucan can complete his soul and gain entry is by loving and being loved back by his soulmate and one true love. As punishment Alys is kept captive by the fairy daddy for the next 500 hundred years (ha ha!) playing matchmaker to humans as practice for when Lucan is reborn. Time it seems have taught Alys humility, compassion, and understanding, but not the true meaning of love. Uh oh.

Fast forward to 1816, Regency England, Alys gets a brandspanking new assignment, the very one she’s been waiting for, her one chance at redemption and the salvation of her mortal soul, to match 32 year old Lucian Warre, Marquess of Thistlewood with his one true love. Given 500 years of matchmaking experience, it should be easy as pie, except it’s not. Lucian’s faerie essence (the non-soul half of his soul) expires in 4 months and things aren’t looking up for Alys. If she doesn’t find him his one true love he will forever be in purgatorio and so will she. If she fails she is doomed to wander the earth as a ghost ad infinitum. Too bad for her, Lucian has a lump of wet coal in place of his heart. Or was it a smelly gym sock? I forget. Anyway, so how can Lucian feel if he’s dead inside??

When her murderous suitor (like her, became a captive to the faeries) is sent to earth to protect Lucian in the battlefields against Napoleon, he takes a bullet and dies. This becomes her ticket into Lucian’s home and heart. She becomes Alys Faire, sister to the deceased Bevis Faire, and ward to stone cold Lucian Warre. Lucian is naturally indebted to the Faire family so he takes Alys on, intent on giving her a proper season and fitting husband.

When we first meet Lucian he is a cold, cold man. Brrr. Heartless, unfeeling and completely unsympathetic. He is utterly repulsed by Alys’ blonde hair and lack of cha chas. No insta-erection for this hero. Heck, he doesn’t even enjoy the sexxoring with his mistress and only does it to clean his pipes. As natural as tea in the morning and brandy in the evening. What a charmer. Alys immediately recognizes this about him and goes about her business by teaching him how to feel. How does one teach a dead man feel, you may ask? Well, by pissing him off, of course! And boy did I have fun reading about her antics. She constantly yells at him, disobeying his every domineering command, pushes all of his buttons and before you know it his cold dead heart starts twitching a little bit. When he starts thinking that there’s something wrong with her upstairs (he catches her talking to Hedley, a faerie only she can see) he decides to show a little sympathy for the grieving and traumatized girl. They become great friends (oh! how I love their nightly ritual of noshing in the kitchen) and although Lucian doesn’t get it from the get go, he starts falling in love with Alys a little bit more every day. Alys on the other hand, has a little bit more self-awareness, she recognizes that she’s in love with Lucian but has long deemed herself unworthy of his love. So she goes about matching him with whomever she can when she realizes that true love is supposed to be selfless and requires sacrifice. No canned awwws for this one.

Heather Cullman is one of the few authors who isn’t afraid to massacre her hero and heroine’s characters and she needn’t be because the utter skill in how she redeems them is simply wonderful. No cookie cutter hero or TSTL heroines in this book.

Oh man, this book totally rocks my socks.


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