I remember reading some of Laurie Grant’s medievals back when she wrote for Harlequin Historicals and I initially looked forward to reading her again. Unfortunately, while the German immigrant community forming the setting for Midnight Satin sets it apart from many Western romances and gives it an interesting flavor, an unnecessary villain and some choppy plotting render this a somewhat less than average read.
As the book opens, Jake Taylor has returned to his family’s Texas plantation after the Civil War. His father intends to use sharecopping to keep the plantation alive, but Jake does not think this plan will succeed and instead sees horse breeding as a way to keep the family afloat financially. Following a quarrel, Jake leaves for a visit to San Antonio.
Along the way Jake is attacked by Indians who intend to steal his horse. After trying to fight them off, Jake is injured and left for dead on the road until he is found there by Erica Mueller and her father. The two interrupt their own journey to San Antonio and take the stranger back to their farm to care for his wounds. Jake is grateful for their help, but his time at the Muellers‚ is rather uneasy. The German immigrants of New Braunfels and other nearby settlements supported the Union during the War and this, along with their different culture, makes them outcasts among most Texans.
However, the Germans have their own flourishing culture. They remain somewhat isolated from the Americans and most of the characters – particularly the older ones – seem happy to remain this way. Grant does an excellent job of painting a picture of the German settlements and their culture. Erica is proud of her heritage, but she is also drawn to Jake who, as he spends time recuperating in the Mueller home, forms a special bond with Erica. Their slow courtship is a very sweet one.
The courtship of Jake and Erica could have been a very pleasant one indeed were it not for some of the subplots woven into this story, with the major one involving the Mueller family’s past. It is disclosed early in the book that the Muellers came to America at least in part to flee from a horrible secret back in Germany that could have ruined their children. That is all well and good, but this secret follows Erica Mueller throughout the story in the form of a truly unbelievable and e-e-e-evil villain that turns a sweet story into eyeroll-inducing melodrama. I found myself cringing whenever this character appeared.
In addition, while Jake and Erica’s story is a sweet one, the romance moves a bit unevenly. The couple seems to go from friendship to being interested in one another and then out of nowhere they are passionately in love. The speed of the plot toward the end of the book was enough to make one’s head spin.
Were it not for the ridiculous villain and the somewhat uneven pacing of the romance, I would probably give this book at least a conditional recommendation. Heck, were it not for Mr. E-e-e-e-evil, I would probably lean towards recommending this book simply based on the setting and the initial sweetness of Jake and Erica’s story. While some books work very well with a suspense subplot, Midnight Satin is a perfect example of a good story that really did not need to be saddled with one.