Stealing Midnight is a lush romance with a very gothic atmosphere. The hero is wounded and devastatingly handsome, the heroine is beautiful and resourceful and the villainess hides an evil disposition behind the face of an angel. Like all of Tracy Macnish’s books, this is old school romance – the kind I like very much.
Olwyn Gawain lives with her scientist father Rhys in a small village. Rhys is madder than a dozen March hares and getting madder all the time. When his son died, Rhys swore to solve the mysteries behind life and death and to that end, he dissects corpses which he buys from the resurrection men. Rhys treats Olwyn as his servant. She cooks, cleans, and assists him with his dissections – a task that is making her ill in body and mind.
As the story begins, Rhys has bought two male corpses. One is beginning to putrefy but the other is fresh – very fresh and Olwyn notices that he is still breathing and he’s very handsome. Rhys doesn’t care and has just begun to cut the man’s chest, when Olwyn in a burst of defiance, pulls a weapon, forces her father into a locked room and then takes the man and escapes in a wagon.
The man is Aiden Mullen, the son of a Duke. He became ill on board ship when a plague broke out and fell into a coma. Because he was the son of a duke, he was not thrown overboard, but instead kept in the hold and interred in a burial vault where the resurrection men found him. When Aiden comes out of his coma, he finds himself in the company of a beautiful and mysterious woman. By the time his twin brother Padraig comes by searching for him, Aiden has fallen deeply in love with Olwyn and she comes to stay at his parent’s home. But there are complications in their relationship. Aiden is engaged to Mira, a delicate, lovely beauty whom he compromised. While he likes her in a mild way, Aiden has a nagging doubt – does she love him for himself or is it because he may be the heir to a dukedom. As for Olwyn, Mira reminds her at every opportunity that she is a nobody. Aiden’s parents and grandmother are warm and kind but Olwyn’s life has not been one to mark her as a duchess. There’s an external conflict as well. Rhys has escaped and he is determined to punish his disloyal daughter and get his specimen back.
Stealing Midnight is a very emotional story. To my taste, if the character’s emotions are pitched too high, they risk becoming silly, but Tracy Macnish manages to keep things under control. Aiden and Olwyn are very much larger than life and they feel things very deeply, but they are never silly or over the top. Olwyn is inclined to consider herself not worthy, but that’s only to be expected. Her father constantly called her ugly, the villagers stoned her as a witch and Mira constantly puts her down. It’s a wonder she is as sane as she is.
The one element in the book that I did not like was the question of Aiden and Padraig’s birth. They are identical twins and the first born will one day be the next duke. However, they don’t know which of them is the heir. Their parents (who are kind and loving) didn’t want to tell them since they want them to grow up to be their own men. That’s fine, but Aiden and Padraig are mature, responsible men. They love each other and their bond is strong, and Aiden really wants to know who is who. He feels that Mira only wants to marry him for his possible patrimony. The whole thing struck me as odd.
However, this was a minor point. I very much enjoyed Stealing Midnight and I hope that Padraig will get his own story in the future. And even though that plot point annoyed me, I really want to know who the next duke is.