Dee Davis’ Midnight Rain has the right elements for a good romantic suspense novel. Unfortunately, it takes a too long for the story to get going for the book to be truly effective.
Computer magnate Jonathan Brighton is in Mexico for a much-needed vacation when he is ambushed and shot in the head. Six months later, he is slowly recovering, making the awkward adjustment back into his old life, a life which no longer seems to fit him. He meets his new physical therapist, Katie Cavanaugh, when he is released from the hospital. Calm and caring, she soon becomes the only comfort in his increasingly tumultuous life. Several of his clients develop concerns about his ability to handle their accounts, and some of his subordinates plot a takeover of the company. Two Austin police detectives are also investigating the suspicious death of one of John’s employees, who died shortly after he left town.
What John doesn’t know is that Katie is actually an undercover FBI agent trying to find proof of wrongdoing on his part. It doesn’t take her long to learn John isn’t the man she’s been led to believe he is, and she soon finds her loyalties put to the test. She can’t believe he can be responsible for the crimes he’s suspected of. Proving that may force her to risk everything important to her.
While Midnight Rain isn’t boring, it never fully engages the reader as both the romance and the suspense plots get off to slow starts. The love story is rather bland, consisting of a back-and-forth advance-and-retreat that soon grew annoying. Katie is instantly attracted to John, followed by a scene where she says she has to control her emotions. She grows close to him, followed by a scene where she says she has to be professional. They flirt. She needs to be more professional. They kiss. What is she doing? They make love. What has she done?!
This internal conflict is understandable, but it makes Katie seem too wishy-washy to be believable as an FBI agent. It would be nice if the author gave us some sense of her as a strong, capable agent before she gives in to her feelings for John. Instead, the very first scene from Katie’s perspective has her responding to her attraction upon meeting John. Her superior undermines her and refuses to tell her why they’re investigating John, which also makes her seem weak. This relationship would have worked better had Katie truly doubted John and stuck to her guns at first, only falling for him after she gets to know him. Instead, the instant attraction undermines her character. For someone who says she never cries, Katie seems to be teary-eyed a lot. While John is nice enough, there wasn’t enough to his character to make it believable that she would become convinced of his innocence.
The first half of the story is divided between Kate and John flirting and John’s co-workers plotting to take the company from him. The suspense is low because there is more corporate scheming than murder investigation in this part of the book. We have too little information regarding the murder and the FBI’s interest to make it seem as if much is at stake. Knowing what the FBI suspects John of doing is something we should know from the start; without that information it’s tough to generate much interest in that plot line. Instead, the main thing that appears to be on the line is the fate of John’s company, and that’s hardly the kind of threat good suspense plots are made of. Two of his partners try to convince a third to join them. Page after page is spent on this plot. Will he join them? Won’t he? Who cares? It also makes John seem foolish for surrounding himself with so many people willing to turn on him so easily.
However, if the first half of the book drifts, the latter half gets back on course. All the missing elements appear… finally. The reason for the FBI’s interest is explained. Kate shows some fire in her dealings with her colleagues and takes some risks. John finds his freedom on the line and displays some darker emotions that give him a much needed edge. Real conflict and dramatic tension is introduced to the romance, as well as some sweetness and emotion that make the relationship seem like it’s about more than simple attraction. This part of the story moves faster and is more intense. I didn’t even mind that I had the villain pegged so early on. It was just so nice that the story was actually moving.
The second half of Midnight Rain was a vast improvement on the first and a much more fulfilling read. Had the romance and suspense plots had anywhere near the intensity of the latter portions from the start, it would have been a much better book. Instead, it balanced out to an average read.