I've loved romance novels since...like forever. I read across most subgenres of romance. I also write fantasy/paranormal and new adult romance.
Kristen Callihan is one of my new favorite authors and I'd been counting the days until Shadowdance was released. I really liked it. I thought it did justice to Jack Talent and Mary Chase, two wonderful characters who have appeared in the last two Darkest London books, Moonglow and Winterblaze.
Jack and Mary have both been hurt, badly, in their lives and have an antagonistic relationship with each other. Callihan makes it work at a pace that, at times, was a little slow for me, but perhaps would have felt inauthentic to what Jack and Mary had previously been through. Sometimes tortured characters throw themselves into relationships and action and sometimes they take their time to build trust, let down walls, and truly reveal who they are, despite not having reasons to trust. Jack and Mary have the latter type of story. Although there were fight scenes, many of which involved a lot of blood and fire (woo!), much of the conflict was internal.
Callihan's tone and setting are perfect. Previous characters make brief appearances that add to the story. At one point I almost wanted a glossary of terms, given Callihan's world-building. There are a lot of supernatural creatures and what they do and what they can/can't see weren't always on the tip of my tongue. I loved the steampunk elements and, especially the character of Holly Evernight. Callihan's recent novella, Entwined, is about her family.
Shadowdance has stayed with me and I find myself still thinking about it, fondly, today, which is always a good sign. For me, it wasn't going to be hard to see how Mary could fall for Jack, despite his surly, frowny behavior. The catch was going to be how Jack would let himself get close to her and let her in. That part of their romance was great: sweet, tender, hot, and true to Jack Talent, all the way.
If you haven't read this series, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you fix that. I read a few reviews from folks for whom this was their first Callihan book and they didn't complain about being lost. Personally, I think it makes sense to have read #2 and #3 because much of Talent and Chase's interactions take place there and are adorably fiesty.
This was an enjoyable read that gives me the best excuse for rereading the whole series to experience again the awesomeness of Callihan's books.