Fire at Midnight
Fire at Midnight by Lisa Marie Wilkinson spent some time on my bedside table. In this case, it was all for the best, because the book contains a number of elements that might have distracted me at another time, but because I read it in the right mood, I had a lot of campy fun.
At the beginning of the novel, Rachael Penrose is languishing in Bedlam. Her parents died recently, leaving nasty Uncle Victor guardian to both Rachael and her baby brother James, and Victor can only inherit if both youngsters are dead. Rachael caught him messing with James’s food, and so that he can kill off the baby at leisure, he deposited her in the madhouse, planning to dispose of her later. Fortunately, Rachael’s childhood friend Tarry Morgan engineers her escape, during which she ends up in the traveling carriage of Sebastién Falconer, a notorious French privateer who has just evaded being thrown into prison and whose crew, he has been told, was informed on to the authorities by one Rachael Penrose. Using a wrong name, Sebastién lets Rachael believe he is her rescuer and carries her to his isolated Cornish cottage to get revenge on her.
Now you know exactly what is going to happen, and it does, but then so much else happens, sometimes with the most amazing coincidences. I was breathless while reading several times, as well as surprised by the latest developments, which does not happen so often when I read romances nowadays. I did not feel particularly close to the characters, but they were just fun to read about with all their emotional ups and downs and who betrayed whom and who was in charge of baby James right now. That said, the sex scenes, even the first one with a faint hint of forced seduction that somehow felt fitting for a pirate – sorry, privateer – romance, were both hot and tender.
What else is there to say? This novel is not for the nit-picky reader as regards traveling distances and some other stuff, or those who mind a deus ex machina (one whom I, for my part, loved, partly because he was balanced by a diabolus ex machina). The French hero’s name is spelled in a way that is actually unpronounceable in French, or so my French friend tells me. I liked the solution at the ending – very unusual for a British-set romance, and surprisingly realistic.
So yes, Fire at Midnight contains a number of bits and pieces that would have had me chomping at the bit at another time, but that just made me chuckle or widen my eyes in fascinated disbelief as I read. The novel reminded me quite a bit of some written in the 1980s, and all in all this was a roller-coaster ride of a reading experience. Whether you would enjoy it the way I did will be very much up to both your general taste and your mood, but it might actually be worth a try.