Ulric is pack leader of the upyr, a race of unearthly, beautiful vampires who possess magical powers and can shape change into the form of an animal (Ulric’s beast is the wolf) when it’s time to eat. Upyr are forbidden to interact with humans or to drink their blood, but Ulric is suffering from heartbreak (his true love dumped him) and he’s breaking all the rules. When the story begins he has just finished drinking the blood of seven willing women, while screwing them to unbelievable heights of ecstasy. The blood momentarily fills him with human passion and joy, but once his various hungers are sated, all of his pain comes rushing back.
Juliana Buxton is a 22-year-old virgin whose father insists she marry an old coot who wants her as a pretty trophy. Being a dutiful daughter, Juliana can’t say no to her father and fears she’ll resign herself to a life of quiet obedience once married. But she can’t stomach the thought of being trapped and decides to do what any betrothed-against-her-will heroine would do: She runs. During the night she’s entranced by a street performer and impulsively asks to join him in his travels. Not at all tuckered out by his seven previous sexual encounters of the night, Ulric (who I don’t think has bothered to bathe) mumbles what Juliana interprets as agreement and leads her into an alley where they quickly make history of her virginity.
After several bouts of vigorous love making, Ulric falls asleep with Juliana and doesn’t bother to find shelter from the morning sun. He chalks this misstep up to “losing control,” but the words “suicidal” and “foolish” flit across my mind. When Juliana awakens, her studly savior is bursting out in little flames. He’s upyr, she quickly deduces, and screams “Monster!” Deciding to use this knowledge to her advantage, she refuses to help him and, as he continues to sizzle, blackmails him into agreeing to share his powers by threatening to expose him. He agrees to “turn” her but, because he doesn’t have the power to do so, stalls by insisting she spend time with the pack to decide if it is something she truly desires.
The opening scenario, though hot if you enjoy reading about two strangers going at it, doesn’t present either two lead character in the most flattering light. What kind of pack leader would be so careless as to allow himself to be placed in such a ridiculously dangerous situation? And what sort of previously sheltered virgin would talk dirty and get all crotch-grabby (even if under upyr “thrall”) during her first sexual encounter and then follow it up by blackmailing a dangerous creature into turning her into a similar beast? Plot logic? Who needs it!
Those issues aside, at least this portion of the book moves along at a decent clip because of the earthy writing and raw sexuality (even when it’s unbelievably over-the-top). Unfortunately, once the two begin their trip to Ulric’s cave, the book loses steam as the upyr decides to refrain from having sex and does a mind-meld feeding thing instead for too many pages. During this period, the pair fall hopelessly in love (though I’m still not sure why), but remain insecure about each other’s feelings. Ulric fears Juliana will leave him if he allows his controlling nature to run free. Meanwhile, Juliana doubts Ulric’s feelings for her because he continues to hold back and appears to be hung up on his ex-lover. These two agonize over their insecurities too much and do too little talking.
Rounding out the plot are pop-up appearances by Juliana’s would-be-betrothed and his two evil bug-eyed sons, along with pack power struggles that are intensified when an outsider upyr named Bastien joins Ulric’s pack. Ahhh, Bastien, now here is a character who holds the attention! Compassionate, yet brutal when necessary, he’s full of secrets and on the run with his ill upyr companion Emile. The brief glimpses of Bastien’s devotion to his long-time friend were more touching, and his secrets more intriguing, than anything Juliana and Ulric shared.
As a romance Hunting Midnight just doesn’t cut it. The relationship isn’t engaging on an emotional level (Juliana appears to spend more quality time bonding with Ulric’s pack members than with Ulric) and blossoms from lust to love too quickly to be believable. If you skip the slower bits, it works better as a sexy, slightly gory escapist fantasy. I’ll read the Emma Holly books sitting in my to-be-read pile because she has an edgy, saccharine-free voice, but I won’t be buying any more new ones if they continue in this vein.