Book Four of The St. Croix Chronicles

Forced out of London’s coal-blackened streets, Cherry St. Croix is faced with her most difficult undertaking yet: sobriety.

At long last, my guardian, the enigmatic Mr. Oliver Ashmore, has revealed himself-and his order is clear: I am to be dried out at once, regardless of my wishes.

I loathe the country estate I am imprisoned within. Footsteps follow me, voices call for me, and my sanity wavers. In my fevered dreams, I am haunted by those I failed, while waking proves no protection from the ghosts of my reckless past. The craving for laudanum plagues me. I require a distraction.

To unravel the alchemical mysteries of my mother’s family, I must rely on Ashmore’s tutelage. I am lured to the art and drawn by the secrets my guardian possesses. Yet the deeper I delve, the more I believe that something dreadful disturbs these haunted corridors. In my madness, I fear that what it wants most…is me.

This book was a wonderful blend of actions and angst, and a perfect addition to the St. Croix series.

It’s been a long time coming, but Cherry’s addiction to opium finally brought her to rock bottom in the last book, and the painful journey towards recovery wasn’t always easy to witness, but really brought out another side of her character. The title itself is perfect, because to temper steel — that is, make it stronger — you have to heat it and cool it to extremes, and that’s exactly what happens to Cherry in this book. She’s knocked down, raised high, and forged into something stronger than she was before.

Honestly the only thing I didn’t really care for about this book was that Cherry has sex with someone who is not her Happily Ever After.  I know, I know, that sounds awful, and to make it even worse (or better?), it was hot. I just prefer that when reading romance, when a couple has sex (especially hot, angry sex — guh!), it’s because they’re going to end up together.  Not judging or anything, it’s just a personal preference of mine.  That said, I’m actually kind of relieved that things worked out the way they did, because I’m greatly looking forward to the next book.

I did figure out the “twist” fairly early, as one of the very first questions that popped into my head when reading the first chapter was actually one that answered by the revelation of the twist towards the end.  Even though I rather suspected it early on, I have to say that the reveal was still wonderfully, shockingly done.

I also really enjoyed that “magic” aka alchemy comes to play a larger part in this story. We’ve had hints and teasings, but this is the first time that Cherry has actually embraced alchemy and the mysticism that comes along with it, with fantastic results.

In the end, this is probably my favorite book of the series. Though I was (and to a point, still am) a little bothered by Cherry using no-strings-attached hot sex to distract herself from the other major issues that she was experiencing, the action and emotional turmoil in this story made it an incredibly enjoyable read (and did I mention the really hot, angry sex? Yum!)


4.5/5 Stars