I thought I was never going to finish this book. I picked it up because I just can’t resist a Revolutionary War story, though I probably should have been warned by the cheesy tag line: Midnight Blue… was the color of desire. As the days stretched into weeks, I crawled through the book at a snail’s pace. When I finally finished, I felt like I deserved some special treat just for making it to the end (more on that later).
Widowed and pregnant, Sarah Hadley is en route to London and her inlaws’ home when her ship is captured by a privateer. Raised in a staunchly Loyalist home, Sarah had been married to a British soldier. The captain who captured the ship is a Rebel privateer and he takes Sarah aboard the Island Belle. Captain Christopher MacLeod locks her in his cabin, and his crew is sure he’ll have his way with her. But he notices that Sarah is heavily pregnant, so he treats her kindly.
Not kindly enough, it turns out. Nothing is really good enough for Sarah, who is determined to hate Chris no matter what he does. He serves her the best meals and is always solicitous. He protects her from his rowdy crew. Every once in awhile he teases her in a sort of threatening way, which fuels her hatred. Eventually she gives birth, and naturally the baby comes at the worst possibly time. As the ship rides out a hurricane (and the leaderless crew battles to save it), Christopher delivers Sarah’s son. Trying to motivate her, Christopher jokes that if she doesn’t make it through, he’ll raise the baby as his own. Sarah sees this as another reason to hate him. Chris already loves her, however. In fact, his first thought upon seeing Sarah nurse her son (hours after his birth), he thinks how “desirable” Sarah is.
Eventually they arrive on Martinique, where Chris has a beautiful home. Shortly thereafter Sarah does a complete about-face and starts sleeping with him. She still doesn’t want to marry him, which really doesn’t make any sense, but whatever. Anyway, Chris discovers that the French naval fleet has arrived, and it appears the war may soon be over. Hungry for a piece of the action, Chris heads back to Virginia, where he plans to leave Sarah and the baby with his family. His father is fairly hostile and sees Sarah as an opportunist, but his mother welcomes Sarah warmly. Chris then gets wounded in battle, and many pages are devoted to him whining about it. (Poor me, I hate this, I’m used to being active, what if I can’t captain a ship anymore, will Sarah still love me, will I ever get an erection again, on and on, ad nauseum.) Then the book abruptly ends (so abruptly that I turned the page in shock, wondering where the rest of it was). I would have been more annoyed at the up-in-the-air ending had I not been so thrilled that the book was over.
My biggest problem was probably that the book just seemed pointless and completely uninteresting. The characters did nothing for me. Sarah was complaining, ungrateful and plain annoying. Chris was a nicer guy (probably too nice for Sarah), but his actions never seemed very believable. And the rest of the characters were just – strange. Chris’s crew seemed to regard obeying his orders as optional, and his hold on them was tenuous at best. It’s a weird situation for a shipboard romance. And both the characters’ families had a one-note feel. Chris loved his brother, but I found him more than a little creepy. Sarah’s parents were repressive and overbearing.
Compounding these problems are a series of head-scratching moments. The worst is probably when Chris thinks the postpartum Sarah is a raging hottie. When I read this, I actually checked the back of the book to see whether the author had children. Surprisingly, she did. While I can believe that Angelina Jolie could probably look hot mere hours after childbirth, with the help of able and expensive make-up artists, I simply can’t believe that anyone else would look sexy. (If you disagree, and in fact looked like a ravishing temptress five hours after you had your child, please post about your experiences at www.youarelying.com.) After this amazing womanly feat, Sarah goes on to be absurdly shy about breastfeeding. She seems to constantly obsess that people will see her, even through windows. This attitude struck me as bizarre for the time period, when virtually every baby was breastfed and no one thought much about it. Granted, in my day I nursed my babies everywhere from an art museum to the Target garden center, so I didn’t have much patience with her missish attitude. But if she was that uptight about it, why didn’t she just get a blanket?
The oddest historical faux pas occurs late in the book, when the still-unmarried Chris arrives on his parents’ doorstep, installs Sarah and the baby in his bedroom, and expects no one to bat an eye. I could maybe see this happening in a frontier romance, if the hero’s family lived in a one room cabin or something. But with a wealthy family, this would be completely unheard of. While author clearly did her homework in regards to troop movements and military details, she appears to have totally missed the boat on social mores. Besides, there was really no reason for them to be unmarried at this point, unless dragging the book out for another fifty pages constitutes a reason.
As unresolved as the ending was, it was still a relief just to be done with the book. Even if you are a huge fan of Colonial/Revolutionary romances (and I am), I wouldn’t recommend reading this one. However, I did get something out of the experience. The author constantly mentions that Chris smells like bayberry soap (and Sarah smells like cinnamon, if you’re interested). This reminded me that during my college years, I bought some bayberry soap balls in Colonial Williamsburg. I’d always intended to go back one day and buy more. While reading Midnight Blue, it occurred to me that technology had advanced since those days, and I could probably buy them on the Internet. I’m enjoying them right now; they’re my special treat for making it to the bitter end.