If you missed my review last week I was waxing lyrical about the genius of Ilona Andrews (yes, again). Burn For Me (the first book in the Hidden Legacy series) restored my faith that it was possible for a great author to pen a book that was both a romance and a genuinely awesome story. Even so, I approached book two, White Hot, with slight trepidation. I needn’t have worried; the second book in the series serves up a scorching romantic urban fantasy tale that I devoured and then immediately re-read.
I’ll avoid spoilers for White Hot but there may be a few for Burn For Me.
You have been warned.
The of my trepidation when I started reading White Hot was the the Curse of the Break Up/Make Up Trope (I’ve discussed this at length elsewhere in relation to Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series). Burn For Me ended with a proposition from leading man, Rogan, who wanted to whisk our heroine, Nevada, away from everything.
She turned him down, even though it’s clear she’s smitten. She assumes he’s only after one thing, and honestly, he does nothing to indicate otherwise.
In fact, he gives a speech very similar to one Curran gave Kate in one of the Magic novels (the Kate Daniels books all start with the word ‘Magic’), and I have to say I was a little worried this similarity didn’t bode well for White Hot. While I am generally full of nothing but praise for the Kate Daniels books, the appearance of the Break Up/Make Up trope in one of the novels is the reason that novel is my least favourite of the whole series.
The Problem With The Break Up/Make Up Trope
Much as I adore the Kate Daniels series my only true criticism of it is that it relies far too heavily (in the earlier books at least) on the Break Up/Make Up trope. It was particularly prevalent, if not central to Magic Rises and, as I said, this is why I didn’t enjoy that one as much. Which is not to say Magic Rises is a bad book. It’s still great. It’s simply markedly less awesome than the others due to the perpetual ‘let’s separate Kate and Curran so there’s tension and they can make up’.
It grew tiresome.
And I have never been particularly attracted to the ‘you’ll beg me for it’ approach to wooing a woman. It gives me a similar creepy feeling to the ‘I’m going to do nice things for you and keep asking and asking until eventually I wear you down and convince you to sleep with me because you owe me for all the nice stuff I’ve done for you’ approach.
So, when we got to the end of Burn For Me and Rogan announced to Nevada that she will beg him for it, I was irked.
It’s the only thing he’d done that made me dislike him at all, and it’s the exact same thing that puts me off Curran.
Maybe that’s just me, I’m not sure, but it did make me worry about the contents of White Hot, a concern that was only heightened when I started it and discovered Rogan had been AWOL for two months after his big ‘you’ll beg me for it’ speech. Nevada was (justifiably) convinced he was a tool but (also justifiably, because the guy is scorching hot) still pined for him.
Fortunately, I was worrying about nothing.
White Hot Offers A Superior Romance Tale
White Hot neatly sidesteps the Break Up/Make Up trope and immediately made it clear to the reader (if not Nevada) that Rogan had stayed away to keep her safe. Still, that particular plot point could easily have dragged on (it did in Magic Rises). Thankfully, White Hot surpassed its predecessor and refrained from making this an important part of the book. It’s a momentary situation in a much greater whole, lasting just long enough for us to get a sense of Nevada’s anguish over Rogan’s absence, and empathise with her plight. The situation is then quickly dispatched and the plot moves on to much more interesting things.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say book two is even better than book one. Both Nevada and Rogan are developed enough now that we know them well and can understand their actions, motivations, feelings etc. All without the need for nasty exposition or pointless nonsense. White Hot hits the ground running, picking up the threads left over from the central mystery running through Burn For Me.
The conspiracy expands, the web tangles ever-deeper, and all the while both Nevada and Rogan deepen as characters. Their romance develops at a steady clip, but the plot of the novel – the mystery, the action – also carries on a great pace.
Side characters (particularly Nevada’s family) take a more prominent role. We get a deeper look at the world, a clearer sense of Nevada’s magic and emerging place in the magical community, and it all wraps up in a knockout ending.
I won’t spoil it for you, but I was quite worried that, since it avoided the problem at the beginning, it was going to end with another Break Up, to set up the Make Up that would kickstart the next novel in the series. That would have seriously annoyed me.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
While Burn For Me was an incredibly promising start to the series, White Hot solidifies Hidden Legacy as the best Romantic Urban Fantasy series I’ve had the pleasure of reading.
How Hidden Legacy Distinguishes Itself In The Romantic Urban Fantasy Genre
The Burn For Me series (as it’s often called due to the title of the first book) is indisputably a top urban fantasy series. Urban fantasy often hinges on the delicate interplay between romantic elements and thrilling action. Hidden Legacy excels by intertwining these components with a masterful ease. Unlike certain series which may give undue prominence to one aspect over the other, Andrews strikes a harmonious balance, allowing neither to eclipse the other. This is in stark contrast to series that are heavily skewed towards action, at times neglecting the nuanced development of the characters’ relationships.
The meticulously designed magic system and world-building are hallmarks of any Ilona Andrews novel. In Hidden Legacy, magic as an inherited trait shapes societal structures, adding depth to the narrative’s character interactions and plot. This refined approach to magical elements stands out against some urban fantasy series, where magic might appear as a secondary consideration or simply a protagonist’s tool.
Nevada Baylor, the protagonist, exemplifies Andrews’ dedication to crafting characters with multiple layers. She’s not just a conduit for magical abilities or romantic storylines; she’s a character with depth, possessing clear strengths, identifiable vulnerabilities, and significant agency. This depth sets the series apart from others that might rely too much on clichés or tired tropes.
For those who enjoy Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series (which I personally dislike, but many love!), or Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, White Hot and the rest of the Hidden Legacy series presents a novel (pun intended) perspective on the genre’s typical ‘lone wolf’ protagonist narrative. Nevada Baylor’s strong family ties add a dimension of richness to her story, setting it apart from the often solitary journeys of Mercy Thompson or Harry Dresden.
A Note on Ilona Andrews’ Other Series
For those who aren’t aware of it already, it’s also worth mentioning that Ilona Andrews has written the highly acclaimed Kate Daniels series, which offers a different take with a stronger emphasis on post-apocalyptic settings infused with magic. If Ilona Andrews’ urban fantasy style piques your interest but you’re seeking a variant flavour, or if you simply wish to follow their magic books in order, a list of all Ilona Andrews’ ‘magic’ books in order can be found here. This series is yet another showcase of the authors’ prowess and adaptability, and another personal favourite of mine.