The Curse of Lord Stanstead (Order of the M.U.S.E #1) by Mia Marlowe

curse of lord stanstead

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London, 1819

Wherever Cassandra Darkin goes, fire is sure to follow. It’s not until she’s swept into the arms of a handsome, infuriating stranger that she learns she’s responsible for the fires. As it turns out, Cassandra is a fire mage…and with her gift comes a blazing desire for sins of the flesh.

With his preternatural ability to influence the thoughts of others, Garrett Sterling is sent to gather Cassandra for the Order of the M.U.SE. He’s entirely unprepared for his immediate attraction to the comely little firestarter. But it’s an attraction that he must quell, even as his body craves her touch and her fiery, sensual hunger.

For Garrett’s gift has a dark side…and the moment he begins to care too much for Cassandra, he knows he will doom her to an inescapable fate.

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Publisher and Release Date: Entangled Select Historical, August 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1819, London and Brighton, England
Genre: Paranormal historical romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Mia Marlowe writes a fast-paced and sensual romance and, though I didn’t care for her recent Somerton Park series, she’s back on track with The Curse of Lord Stanstead. The first in her new Order of the M.U.S.E. series, I read early chapters of this as a work-in-progress on the author’s blog and felt it had great promise then. I have also enjoyed her previous paranormal Regency era Touch of Seduction series and this is similar to those quirky, sexy books.

This story is a nice combination of paranormal, historical and romance with some exciting extras. There’s espionage, a group of smart men and women fighting for the common good of God and country, and a heroine finding self confidence and true love.

Cassandra Darkin is the younger daughter of a newly minted baronet who made his fortune in trade. She is a vulnerable and insecure young woman who gave her virtue to Roderick, an undeserving sycophant who had no intention of marrying her. In her silent rage, she unknowingly sets fires in her home and all around London. At a ball in the first chapter, she sets yet another unexplained fire when she realizes that not only is Roderick going to marry another but that he has also bragged about her to his friends who now think she’s an easy mark.

The illustrious Duke of Camden works for the Crown but his specialty is sensory intelligence. Hence, he collects “Extraordinaires,” people with unique gifts and talents. He helps them come to terms with and control their gifts so that they can find some semblance of peace and happiness in their lives. They are known as the M.U.S.E. (The Metaphysical Union of Sensory Extraordinaires) and they work to divert unexplained phenomena plots against the king.

There is Westfall, a viscount who hears thoughts in people’s heads (and who was recently released from Bedlam into Camden’s care), Meg Anthony, a former maid who can find lost objects, and Vesta LaMotte, a femme fatale fire mage and courtesan with whom Camden once had a short-lived affair; and Garrett Sterling, Camden’s newest and unruliest acquisition. Garrett can send thoughts into people’s heads. Think Jedi mind trick.

But all of the Extraordinaires’ gifts also have a downside (or curse). For example, Garrett dreams horrific nightmares of those closest to him… and they always come to fruition. This terrifies him and so he has made it a point to never get close to or care about anyone.

When it comes to Camden’s attention that there is a new fire mage on the loose in London, he sends Garrett and Westfall to locate her and bring her to him so that he can help her as well as use her talents to help stop the threats against the Crown. And when Garrett learns the beautiful and young Cassandra is the fire mage, he is assigned the delightful task of helping her control her fire in more ways than one. He will help her release her sexual energy and frustration so that Vesta can help her control her fire making abilities.

This is an amusing allusion of fire and passion as Cassandra is a passionate and sexual woman who must learn to temper not only her lusts but also her anger. When she gets agitated, she sets fires and only sexual release can help her to control her uncontrollable heat.

At first, Cassandra rebuffs Garrett’s “assistance” but, as she gets to know him and enjoys his touches and kisses, she permits him to help her. He only satisfies her, however; he does not seek pleasure for himself. Vesta told Cassandra that her dreams of a husband and children are no longer realistic, but Cassandra still hopes she can have all of those things. With Garrett.

Garrett is a woman’s sexual fantasy. Tall, handsome, virile, funny, with a devil-may-care attitude, he introduces Cassandra to a world of pure sexual pleasure and helps quench her passions so she doesn’t set fires all over London or harm herself in the process. But despite his greatest fear, he soon falls in love with her.

I liked the romance between Garrett and Cassandra. He’s the heir to an earldom who reluctantly comes to care for Cassandra while she learns to control her talents. She in turn helps Garrett overcome his fears of love and commitment. The passion between Garrett and Cassandra is smoldering (no pun intended). He is very sexy and I envied Cassandra; all women should be so lucky to have such an attentive, considerate, and generous lover who sees to satisfying her needs before his.

The paranormal and espionage elements run nicely parallel to the growing romance between Garrett and Cassandra. The humorous interactions of the characters in M.U.S.E. and the team collaboration reminds me of both Tracey Devlyn’s Napoleonic era Nexus series as well as Zoe Archer’s Victorian Nemesis, Unlimited series (but with a dose of unreality tossed in just for fun). I enjoyed meeting the entire cast of Extraordinaires and see the potential for happy endings for Meg, Westfall, Vesta, and even the duke himself.

If you like metaphysical elements in your historical romance, pure entertainment, a sensual love story, and stories about spies, then this is a book for you.

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