A treasure hunter hero, a sailboat setting, and a touch of mystery all seem like promising ingredients for a good read. But a heroine who jumps to too many wrong conclusions ensures this one never gets out of the dock.
Emma Purcell was the only one in her family who never gave up on her cousin Wayne. His parents and Emma’s long dismissed him as nothing but a troublemaker doomed to amount to nothing. So when he died, he left his only worldly possession, his sailboat, to Emma.
After falling off a boat as a child, Emma fears the ocean. But to satisfy Wayne’s last wish that she visit the boat before selling it, she travels to the port in Washington State where the boat is docked. There she meets Harlan McClaren, the scruffy loner staying on an impressive yacht next to her boat. He was also the last person to see Wayne, just an hour before his death.
Harlan is actually famed treasure hunter Mac McLaren. During his last adventure, he was captured in Nicaragua and tortured by those who believed he was a government spy. Recuperating on his friend’s yacht, he struck up a friendship of convenience with Wayne, and now has to deal with Emma. It’s clear she has no idea of the man her cousin had become. Harlan doesn’t really want the responsibility of shattering her illusions, even as the timid woman watches him with fear and distrust.
In spite of the mystery of Emma’s inheritance and what Wayne was up to, this isn’t really a suspense novel. There are a few brief action scenes that don’t last long and Wayne’s secrets come out with relative ease. The clue Wayne leaves for Emma is so obvious most readers will probably pick up on it right away. Instead, this is more of a low-key character story. It’s slow and not very eventful, with two characters who gradually get to know each other. Some of their interactions display an easy chemistry and there are some nicely intimate scenes, but it would have worked better had one of the characters not been a nitwit.
That would be Emma, an astonishingly and laughably dense “heroine” who spends most of the book coming to wrongful conclusions about Harlan. The first time she sees him, looking scruffy and unkept, she sticks her nose up in the air and walks by, dismissing him as nothing but a bum. When she learns that he was the last person to see Wayne alive, she immediately suspects he was involved. After she asks for a soda and he gets one for each of them, she tells him he doesn’t have to drink soda just because she is, since she evidently believes he’s nothing but a drunk. He saves her from attackers on the boat and when he suggests she call the police, she wonders if an obviously dangerous man like him would really want her to do so.
Finally, more than halfway through the book, Emma tells herself, “Maybe you need to quit making assumptions about him at all, since most for them seem to be wrong.” It seems like she’s finally had an epiphany, until a short time later when she hears him start the boat’s motor (because he’s checking the engines) and immediately runs to the bridge, convinced that he’s kidnapping her. Her naïve blindness about the man her cousin really was might be excused because of her love for him, but her behavior toward Harlan made it clear the woman didn’t have two braincells to rub together. My favorite part of the book was when Emma learned the truth about Harlan. She feels like a fool. Good. She deserves to.
Of course, most of this would be cleared up if Harlan simply told Emma the truth about who he was, ending the cycle of misunderstandings himself. It may be easier to accept because he is a more interesting and charismatic character than wimpy Emma. Most of the book’s problems revolve around her. There’s also a small subplot, if it can even be called that, where Emma’s landlord is trying to raise the rent on her animal shelter. It’s dealt with in such an offhanded way I didn’t know why it was mentioned at all.
Midnight Seduction is basically a series of misunderstandings interrupted with an occasional action moment. The hero is intriguing, but unfortunately the dimwitted heroine is steering this one. Ultimately, it goes nowhere.