The Hunter (Victorian Rebels #2) by Kerrigan Byrne

the hunter
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They’re rebels, scoundrels, and blackguards–dark, dashing men on the wrong side of the law. But for the women who love them, a hint of danger only makes the heart beat faster…

A scandalous proposal…

Christopher Argent lives in the shadows as the empire’s most elite assassin. Emotion is something he tossed away years ago, making him one of the most clear-eyed, cold-hearted, wealthiest, and therefore untouchable men in London. But when his latest target turns out to be London’s own darling, Millicent LeCour, Christopher’s whole world is turned upside down. Overwhelmed by her stunning combination of seduction and innocence, Christopher cannot complete the mission. She has made him feel again. Now, he will do anything to save her life, even if it means risking his own…

A perilous passion…

When Millie learns what Christopher was hired to do, she is torn between the fear in her heart and the fire in her soul. Putting herself in this notorious hunter’s arms may be her only path to safety–even if doing so could be the deadliest mistake she’s ever made. But how can she resist him? As the heat between her and Christopher burns out of control, danger lurks in the shadows. Is their desire worth the risk? Only the enemy knows what fate has in store…

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Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s Press, February 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London, 1877
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 Stars

Review by Sara

Author Kerrigan Byrne unwittingly created a very big challenge for herself with The Hunter. Not only did the book have to follow The Highwayman, one of the most highly regarded releases of 2015 (on my “best of” list and those of many other reviewers) but the hero she introduced was a cold-blooded killer with little remorse for the job he does. How do you make an assassin into a man worthy of love?

Christopher Argent was briefly seen in The Highwayman as something of a lieutenant for crime boss Dorian Blackwell. When the men escaped Newgate prison and took control of the London underworld, Christopher used his skills as a master assassin to kill targets who threatened the group’s rise to power. With control of the city firmly in the hands of Blackwell, Argent takes contracts for anyone who can afford his services with no care about the target, save small children. His latest job, to kill actress Millicent LeCour, is nothing out of the ordinary and Christopher begins his work by observing his target to find the best way to kill without drawing attention. Watching her on stage and then seeing how she engages a room full of strangers triggers something within Christopher, making him risk interacting with his victim before taking her life.

For Millie LeCour, the best way to connect with her audience is to find one face in the crowd and perform her role as if only for them. Catching the focused gaze of a man with pale blue eyes, Millie finds herself drawn by his attention. Seeing him again at a theater party, giving her the same direct attention as before, is exhilarating enough for her to take a chance to know her silent admirer better. Millie finds herself giving into a passionate kiss in the shadows that leaves her breathless and wanting more, yet he leaves her before their encounter can go much further. Millie’s euphoria at a successful début and a romantic encounter is short-lived when her mysterious stranger appears in her apartments later that evening prepared to finish what he had started; not her seduction but her murder.

Needing to complete his job despite the strange awareness he has around Millie, it is her selfless concern for her son that stays Christopher’s hand at her throat. Unable to reconcile the image of a loving mother with the kind of woman who would warrant a contracted hit, and with his lust for her adding to his confusion, Christopher decides that there must be something more to Millicent LeCour. Believing that slaking his lust for the woman will clear his mind and refocus him, Christopher offers Millie a devil’s bargain to protect her from whoever wants her dead in exchange for one night in his bed. Without knowing who could want her murdered Millie has no choice to accept Christopher’s terms for protection. Unfortunately he cannot know how high a price he’s asked her to pay.

It is a difficult feat to make an assassin the hero of any kind of media and it is here that Ms. Byrne flexes her writing muscles. Many of Christopher’s behaviors would indicate that he’s a sociopath, detached wholly from his actions to the point where he describes himself as being outside of his body observing himself going through the motions of living; however there are small hints that Christopher does feel things in his own disconnected way. It begins when he sees Millie “die” on stage and it pricks at emotions long buried. The longer he keeps himself in Millie’s company the more he begins sensing her reactions or emotions, which causes his own untried feelings to manifest. Christopher transitions over the course of the story from wanting to possess Millie as an object of lust to needing her for their emotional connection and the life she brings back to him.

Just as The Highwayman used darkness and light to distinguish the traits of the main characters, in The Hunter it’s Life and Death that color Millie and Christopher. Using her talents on the stage, Millie breathes life into the characters she portrays, drawing in her audience to believe that those fictional struggles are important. As a mother she nurtures and protects her son Jakub, giving him every advantage in his life that she can provide. Millie’s soul is such that past tragedies or a real and present threat to her life are not enough to extinguish her love of the life she has built for herself. It is that spark and joy of being alive that calls to Christopher like a siren’s song, beating back all of the death and horrors he has lived and inured himself to.

I loved so much of The Hunter and it served as a wonderful follow-up in both tone and storytelling to the previous book. In the end however, there is a small part of me that couldn’t quite believe that one woman could turn a man like Christopher around so fully in only a matter of weeks. There are clues sprinkled within the text to show that he was changing even before knowing Millie; forming a brotherhood of sorts with Blackwell and having a code about the kinds of jobs he would take, but one can see there is still much more work to do in saving his soul. I can hope that as the series progresses we will revisit Christopher and Millie to see some of those developments in their life together.

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