Lucinda Elliot

The Fire Night Ball by Anne Carlisle: Entertaining, and Full of Vivid Characters

Packed with vivid characters and lively humour, this story features a heroine I took to at once – Marlena Mae Bellum.

It’s she who makes the jokes, she’s stunning, sensual, ambitious, charming, clever – it’s outrageous that she’s had the misfortune to be besotted by a prize philandering cad, the totally insensitive and sex obsessed Harry Drake for years, and she’s about to find out that her birth control has failed.

Never mind, Marlena Mae Bellum isn’t a woman given to despair or seeing herself as a victim – even though, or perhaps because – at times it seems as though she’s the late twentieth century reincarnation of her enchantress ancestor Cassandra Vye, the one time scourge of a small town in Wyoming, who was also the recipient of a curse supposedly to blight the lives of generations of descendants.

This book is a real page turner and through earthy humour and a cast of vivid and recognisable characters transforms a classic story – a curse destined to cut across and link the lives of generations of a family – into something new and intriguing.

Like many good stories, it isn’t one that is easy to define. Roughly it can be called a ‘Paranormal Romance with a Historical slant’ but that hardly does it justice.

The supernatural elements in this book are subtly depicted; though undoubtedly there, they are brought into play through a series of synchronicities. Prosaic corruption in corporate business over land use is subtly connected to a past resounding with a tragedy which draws in the characters, cutting across time, individual personalities, plans and desires with a tangled skein of peculiar co-incidences.

This, the first volume of the series, isn’t a simple story. Neither, as in real life, can the solutions which the characters use to try to resolve their problems wholly satisfactory; but I was constantly struck by how strong the female characters in this story are – whether it’s Marlena herself, her hidebound, strictly religious mother or her dispassionate, cerebral psychiatrist older cousin. Then , there are the machinations of that wonderful siren, Lila.

There are so many funny scenes and so much throwaway humour in this that I find it hard to make a choice for a quote. The put down given to the lecherous Harry Drake by gay woman Stretch, ‘Keep it in your pants, buster. I’m batting for the other side’ is my favourite.

Then there’s Chloe’s reflections on Harry Drake: ‘Poor Harry, always one day late and a dollar short in the when it came to emotional commitments’.

I was very impressed by this vivid writing and lively characterisation and shall look out for the rest of the series. I recommend it to anyone looking for a story which contains the spine chilling, the ridiculous and the moving all seamlessly combined.

You can buy this book at various outlets, including

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