There might be some mild gushing and fangirling in this review… You have been warned!
I really loved the first book in the Victorian Rebels series, The Highwayman. I found Dorian, Farah, and their tale of timeless love utterly charming. The hero of this installment, Christopher Argent was introduced and proved to be a complete mystery. Where Dorian was dark and tortured, but had a tremendous passion under all that angst for his childhood love, Argent is just cold. And completely ruthless.
The Hunter opens with a look into Christopher’s backstory. While readers (at least those who had read the first book) were aware that he was a member of the Blackheart Brothers of Newgate Prison, along with Dorian, who banded together to survive hell and who as men ultimately took over the London underworld, I don’t think they had any idea how bloody awful his childhood could have possibly been. Argent was born in Newgate, to a mother imprisoned at seventeen for various crimes including prostitution and assaulting a nobleman. In order to provide for her son, she frequently sold herself to the guards in exchange for extra food and comforts. But on one bloody evening, her door is wrenched open and a band of criminals enter her cell, raping and murdering her in front of her ten-year old son. While Christopher had already begun tentatively training with a Kung Fu master and fellow prisoner, after watching his mother die in such a bloody, horrific way he hardens his heart and sets himself on a quest for revenge.
The entire prologue is heart-breaking.
And yet he was tethered by nothing. A boy born in a cage, taught little but cruelty and survival. Then he was thrust into his world and had to make his own way, falling upon the only skills he’d ever mastered.
Violence and death.
Fast forward twenty-two years and Christopher is the deadliest, coldest assassin in the empire. He is known for always completing a contracted job, no matter the circumstances. When he is hired to kill the famous actress, Millie LeCour, something happens that hasn’t in all his years and after all his kills. He feels an emotional and physical pull to the beautiful, talented woman. When he wraps his fingers around her throat to end her life, he finds himself hesitating and instead is lured in by her tempting mouth and beguiling ways. Which leads to emotions he doesn’t want to feel, but does nonetheless. He makes a deal with Millie to protect her and her son, in exchange for night in her bed. Afraid and willing to do anything to protect the young boy in her charge, Millie makes a deal with the devil, not expecting him to become the great passion in her life.
So…. Christopher. I swear if ever there was a more broken, emotionless hero I can’t remember it. This man is ice. I was fascinated from the moment he walked onto the page in The Highwayman. He is also NOT what one would call a good man, I mean he has killed countless men and women over the years. Enough that he has made a fortune and has no need to take new contracts, but an assassin is who he IS. Christopher Argent is a perfect anti-hero. Millie on the other hand is all light and charm and beauty. She loves her son, and will do anything to protect him, which includes taking a monster into her bed. BUT WAIT! The chemistry between these two lights up the pages from the moment they meet eyes across the room in the first chapter. So despite Millie’s fear, she is also drawn to the man who she knows has been sent to kill her.
Christopher Argent was a creature born of nightmares, a man who looked evil in the face and challenged it to a duel. Millie acknowledged that in this instance, she didn’t need a white knight, but a shadow that could traverse the darkness with the cunning and speed of that lethal viper.
There is something about this couple that had me reading all through the night to find out how they would achieve their HEA. As Christopher’s emotions overtake his cold exterior and Millie begins to see the real man behind the mask, I was riveted to the page. While I’m not big into asshole alphas, for some reason a cold-hearted anti-hero gets me every time. It occurs to me as I’m writing this that I’ve really only talked about Christopher, and I guess that’s because The Hunter seems more his story than Millie’s. His fall and redemption. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Millie, quite a lot actually, and without her Christopher would have never found the light. But while she is the one who must be rescued and opens up the heart of a killer, it’s that killer who made the strongest impression on me. His evolution from brutal assassin to dedicated partner, protective father figure and acknowledged friend. There’s a scene at the end that sums it all up why I loved him so much, which also happens to be my favorite quote.
Christopher Argent was her fallen, avenging angel.
Not a seraphim. Nor a cherubic innocent garbed in white. But a guardian. A warrior. A boy who had traded his halo and wings, and perhaps even his soul, for a knife and a garrote and ultimate vengeance. He’d been baptized in blood and now he rose from the ashes, something hard and sinister and unholy, but ultimately redeemable.
He had a heart. She could see it in his eyes as he drank her in.
I adore this author’s voice and find her to be a wonderful talent in the Historical Romance genre. I’ve only read two books by Ms. Byrne and both have been five-star, amazing reads. I can not tell you how much I am looking forward to the third book in this series, The Highlander, which has a release date of 8/2/2016. The Hunter will definitely be joining The Highwayman on my keeper shelf. Final Grade: A