“Elizabeth Hunter’s A Hidden Fire is a fantastic ride that takes the reader back and forth from the present-ish to Renaissance Italy and back again. Giovanni Vecchio (aka Gio) is a man-ish on a mission; for the past several centuries, he has worked non-stop to retrieve his rare and ancient library that was stolen from him. During those centuries, Giovanni has always managed to keep himself separate from the mortal world only venturing out when his needs outweigh his desire to remain apart.
A Hidden Fire opens with Gio completing yet another night of research; his work frequently takes him to the Special Collections section of the library where he spends many, many solitary hours studying and copying ancient texts under the watchful eye of library employee Beatrice de Novo. B, as she prefers to be known finds the ultra-quiet and ultra-hot Dr. Vecchio quite the mystery man. He just sits there working diligently week after week with little to no unnecessary conversation. When the two do interact it is typically business related but through these interactions Gio discovers that B is no mere employee: she is witty, intelligent, fun, beautiful, and quite unfortunately, human. Damn the luck!
And then the plot thickens: Giovanni learns that B is more than just intelligent, she is also observant and intuitive and before long figures out not only Gio’s true nature but also many of his secrets; secrets that he has kept well hidden for centuries. For Gio, this experience is quite unnerving, unexpected, and not entirely unwelcome. In the ensuing weeks, Gio and B become closer and closer to one another and to unraveling the mystery behind the missing library. Their search leads them from Gio’s Houston mansion back through the ages to Renaissance Italy (figuratively speaking, of course) where all the drama began. B becomes vital to not only the search for the library but Gio’s life, and when her life is threatened, Gio must make a very difficult decision: the library or the girl.
To B’s great disbelief and even greater heartbreak, the dumbass chooses the library! Or does he? This is where the story really, really gets good. Hunter spends the last quarter of the book detailing Gio’s search for B and her time spent as a captive – a result of the moron’s choice. In this part of the book we learn a great many of the dirty details about Gio’s past and how he plans to deal with the traitor who stole his library and his girl. We also get to know more about the minor cast of characters including Gio’s butler Caspar, the Hawaiian-shirt loving priest Carwyn, and the incomprehensibly old Tenzin. Of Gio’s allies, there is not a single character that is off-putting or unlikeable. In fact, all of these characters are interesting, endearing, and entertaining in their own way. On the flip-side of this are the villains who are as deplorable as Gio and his allies are likeable.
The bottom line: I was damn pissed off when this novel ended! Hunter’s character development is one of the strongest aspects of this novel and I want to know precisely how this is going to play out, NOW! While the major arc of this novel is completed, Gio and B’s story is not. Of the cast of minor characters, there is also a great, great deal of potential for future plot lines. So dear reader, imagine my great joy when I electronically turned the page and discovered that many of my lingering questions are going to be answered in December 2011 with the second installment of the Elemental Mysteries series, This Same Earth. To be fair, I’m pretty sure Elizabeth Hunter is not going to answer all my questions so I will be pissed off again. But, I am also not ashamed to admit that while being all pissy I will also be eagerly and quite likely desperately awaiting the third installment of this fantastic new series. ”