White Hot is the second book in Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy trilogy. Just like Burn for Me, the first in the series, it’s a highly enjoyable story that features a fast-paced plot, a cast of extremely likable characters, and sizzling chemistry between the two leads. If you are a fan of urban fantasy and have not yet read Burn for Me, I urge you to stop reading this review and run to your nearest bookstore now. It is not impossible to enjoy White Hot on its own, but you will get a lot more out of it if you read this series in order.
For those unfamiliar with the series, White Hot takes place in an alternate universe in which society is controlled by powerful ‘Houses’ with different magical abilities that are passed down from generation to generation. People who register the highest on the magical abilities scale are called ‘Primes’, and a family must have at least two living Primes within three generations to retain their House designation. As such, one’s position in society is contingent upon producing a gifted heir and the society elite assiduously cultivates their magic through carefully arranged marriages between Houses with compatible abilities.
Private Investigator Nevada Baylor is a truthseeker – someone who can tell if a person is lying or telling the truth. She can also invade a person’s mind and compel him to answer any question she asks, but that is an ability she only uses as a last resort. As the story opens, she is approached by Cornelius Harrison, whose wife Nari was gunned down in Hotel Sha Sha under mysterious circumstances. Cornelius wants to hire Nevada to find his wife’s killer, and even though murders are higher risk than the cases Nevada’s family-owned investigative agency typically accepts – background checks and cheating spouses being their bread and butter – Nevada finds that she cannot refuse someone who is so clearly distraught over his wife’s death. Luckily for her, it turns out that Connor Rogan, the most powerful telekinetic Prime in the city, has also taken an interest in the case after some of his employees fell victim to the same rampage at Hotel Sha Sha. As Nevada and Connor team up to get to the truth behind Nari’s murder, they soon find themselves the target of several assassination attempts. Clearly, Nari’s murder is part of a much larger conspiracy. But who is behind it, what is his endgame, and, most importantly, how will Nevada and Connor stop him?
One of the criticisms I have heard about Burn for Me is that it starts out a bit slow. Well, that’s definitely not the case here. Having dispensed with much of the world building in the previous book, the action in White Hot starts fast and furious almost from the get-go. Readers are introduced to several different types of magic – which leads to some very inventive action sequences – and we also get to watch Nevada and Connor peel back the mystery surrounding Nari’s death layer by layer until all the puzzle piece fall into place. Of course, this being the middle chapter of a planned trilogy, not all of the loose ends are tied up by the book’s end. But there’s enough closure offered here so that the readers won’t feel like they are hanging off a cliff by the time they turn the final page.
The last time we saw Connor at the end of Burn for Me he was walking out of Nevada’s garage after she refused to go away with him. When they meet again in White Hot, it’s been about two months since then, but you can still feel the sexual attraction between them if the two so much as look at each other. All of the concerns Nevada has about starting a relationship with Connor are still legitimate – that his wartime experiences have left him with no empathy and moral compass, and that he’s too used to having his own way – and yet she is able to catch glimpses of him that make her think maybe he’s capable of caring about someone after all. As Nevada and Connor work together on their investigation, Nevada is left with no doubt in her mind that Connor does indeed love her. And it is this realization that leads her to a decision to alter the nature of their relationship, which eventually culminates in a scene hot enough to melt wax. Imagine being with a telekinetic who can touch things with his mind. ‘Nough said!
Other than Connor and Nevada, White Hot is populated with a cast of vividly-drawn supporting character. Nevada’s sisters Arabella and Catalina are charming teenagers whose ribbing of Nevada about his relationship with Connor often had me in stitches, and Granny Frida remains the coolest seventy-three-year-old you’re ever going to meet. I also liked the glimpses I had of Augustus Montgomery, an illusion mage who inadvertently ran afoul of someone from the Baylor family’s past. This last revelation in particular, about where Nevada and her sibling received their powers, may lead Nevada on a course of action that will alter the lives of both herself and her family in irrevocable ways.
With the Hidden Legacy series, the author has managed the impressive feat of creating a fascinating alternate universe full of people I have come to care about. For most of the book, I was prepared to give it a Desert Isle Keeper status, until I got to the final chapters, when an anticlimactic showdown between the heroes and the villains caused me to lower the grade a notch. I liked the fact that the final mission included all of my favorite characters, but the way it unfolded, with Catalina using her special power to help Nevada, gave the entire proceeding the feel of a Disney After School Special. This is due to the nature of Catalina’s special power, which I won’t reveal here. But suffice it to say that the tonal shift is jarring.
The above quibbles aside, the Hidden Legacy series is one of the few Urban Fantasy series that I have genuinely been excited about reading over the last few years. Luckily, I only have about two months to wait before the final book comes out. And if the first two books are any indication, the last book is sure to provide us with a rousing conclusion to this excellent series.iB/BN/K