All Night Long
Michelle Jerott won the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award for her first book, Absolute Trouble. I thoroughly enjoyed that one and wondered if she could do as well on her next book. Well, as good as Absolute Trouble was, All Night Long is even better and it is my candidate for one of the best contemporary romances of 1999.
Annie Beckett is a photographer and writer of fancy gift books – coffee table books if you will. She is researching a book she plans to write about a soldier, Lt. Lewis Hudson, who was killed as a deserter during the Black Hawk War. Annie has found a number of letters from Lt. Hudson and has traced him to a farm in a small town in Wisconsin. Annie believes that Hudson was not a deserter but instead was killed by a fellow soldier who later went on to a distinguished career and the crime was covered up by the Army.
Rik Magnusson owns the farm where Hudson was killed. Annie comes to town to do research and to photograph the area. She arranges with Rik to rent a room from him as it is convenient to her work. It does not take long for a simmering sexual tension to build up between Annie and Rik and soon they are engaged in a passionate love affair. Both of them tell themselves this affair is only temporary. Annie is a wanderer, wedded to her work and Rik is bound to the land that has been in his family for generations. But they are only kidding themselves. Rik and Annie grow closer and closer and as she slowly unravels the truth behind the death of Lt. Hudson, can rootless Annie Beckett find it in herself to settle down pemanently?
All Night Long begins each chapter with an exerpt from a letter written by Lt. Hudson, his mother or his fiancee. Through them, we get to know Hudson and the clues to his fate are given to us to try and solve along with Annie. Annie is almost obsessed with the long-dead soldier. He was a distant relative, and she who was abandoned by her mother and raised in a series of foster homes is searching for her roots vicariously through him.
Rik loves his work and his land and is the product of a loving home. But he has his own demons to face. He married young and the marriage broke up when his wife began an affair with his best friend. He pretends that he has gotten over it, but he is carrying around a lot of baggage and is fearful of trust. His love for Annie is strong and passionate but the longer he knows her, the more sure he is that he does not want to settle for a short-term affair.
All Night Long very neatly blends Annie and Rik’s story with the historical mystery surrounding Lt. Hudson’s death. As a matter of fact, it has one of the most interesting external plots I have read in a long time and two fabulous main characters to play in that plot. The characters and the plots, both contemporary and historical, are so neatly and subtly intertwined that the book bears re-reading to discover its nuances.
Both Rik and Annie were complex and neither too good to be true, nor too obnoxious to live. They both had their share of faults and failings, but were all the more real and likable because of them. Their love scenes were all that a love scene should be – tender, passionate and funny. There isn’t a trace of purple prose to found and I recommend them to aspiring writers as the way a love scene should be written.
The only quibble I have about the book is directed to the art department at Avon. The man on the cover of this book is dark haired and wearing a suit or tuxedo. Rik is a red head and a farmer who wears blue work shirts most of the time – did anyone in the art department read this book?
All Night Long is neither romantic suspense (although there is a mystery to be solved) nor romantic comedy, although Rik and Annie have their share of laughs. What it is is unique – and excellent – and a book that will make you want to read it straight through from cover to cover.