Thursday, June 7, 2007

After Midnight, by Teresa Medeiros [1]

*/***** (1/5)

My 3rd Teresa Medeiros novel after CHARMING THE PRINCE and THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST, and now I'm finally seeing a clear pattern among them: a consistent play on appearances. Certainly, the heroine is always an average or less-than-average looking maiden who nurtures yet envies her beautiful, gorgeous sisters. Our average-looking maiden always lands her hunky, chiseled hero of course, while one or more of her gorgeous sisters pairs off with an Average-Joe in a secondary pairing. There's even an inelegant, stagnant pattern to the progression of the primary romance between our hero and heroine very much mirroring THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST. For a good 300 pages, our leading pair in AFTER MIDNIGHT share nothing but one kiss, all the while lusting after each other with second looks and ripples of shudders and tremors at slight touches and lascivious gazes. Weak.

Although I didn't find AFTER MIDNIGHT nearly as annoying or terrible as THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST, I found it just as boring if not moreso. AFTER MIDNIGHT is an extremely light paranormal romance set during the Regency period, we're completely spared of any blood-curling sucking throughout the novel. Vampires are monsters in Medeiros' paranormal, and the book reads more as an attempt at a humorous parody on paranormals. It wasn't all that funny to qualify as a satire, and not nearly dangerous/grave enough to take it seriously. I found the plotting a cure for insomniacs, the romance sapless and empty, and the ending worse with a flurry of villainous activity without reason and less sense. Thankfully, AFTER MIDNIGHT's hero Adrian isn't nearly as emasculated by the end as THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST's hero Bernard.

Still, similar to THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST, Medeiros has our hero again "tamed" by the end, choosing his love for the heroine over the chance to save his brother's soul, something he's been working towards for five long years. I suppose Medeiros finds it "romantic" to have the hero consistently choose the heroine over a cause he's been working at for years, nevermind if the cause is noble or not. I really don't see this as a taming or saving of the hero's soul; rather, it's best characterized by divesting the hero of his soul. Also similar to THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST, the hero balks at marriage and a happily-ever-after at the last second after witnessing the possible danger he could bring to his heroine. He doesn't hesitate for long though.

On the plus side, I found Portia's parts in the beginning very funny. The settings are fairly strong, just like Medeiros' other novels.

The Story, possible spoilers.

Our heroine's youngest sister Portia suspects Viscount Trevelyan, Adrian Kane, to be a vampire. Apparently, the viscount satisfies all the prerequisites: he doesn't go out in the sunlight, he shrouds his home in London, he sleeps during the day, etc. After learning that the viscount is courting their beautiful middle sister Vivienne, Portia entreats our heroine Miss Caroline Cabot to save Vivienne from the viscount's clutches. Portia's characterization is actually funny in the beginning, and pretty endearing throughout. The sequel to this novel in fact focuses on Portia.

At the viscount's invitation, Caroline and Portia travel to London to meet their sister's suitor for a midnight supper. The viscount and Caroline meet and they exchange some witty words. Our heroine Caroline discovers that the viscount paled when he saw her sister Vivienne for the first time and apparently Viv bares a strong resemblance to his last love. The viscount isn't really interested in Caroline's sister Viv though, and he plans on using Viv to draw out the evil vampire Duvalier who plagues the world. You see, the Adrian and Duvalier both vied for a woman's attentions years ago and Adrian won, but Duvalier killed the woman as retribution. Now Adrian wants to use Viv's resemblance to the woman to draw out Duvalier. This isn't a romantic notion, this is a ridiculously dumb plot device.

Adrian plans to host a grand masquerade at his country castle and invites the Cabot sisters, hoping to use Viv's resemblance to draw out his enemy Duvalier.

The novel bores and sags tremendously as the Cabot sisters travel to Adrian's castle a full week before the masquerade and stay there before the event. Nothing happens for 200 pages during this time before the actual masquerade. I mean nothing. It's so boring, Caroline spends her time exploring the castle for clues which would prove or disprove the rumors dealing with Adrian's vampire status. At one point, Caroline and Portia hunt the castle for mirrors, any mirrors, horrified they can't find any. Certainly, there's no romantic interaction between our lead pair during this time (unless you count "tremors" and "shivers" from touches and gazes).

Finally, Caroline discovers Adrian is a vampire hunter, his brother a vampire, and Adrian is using her sister Viv as bait for the evil vampire Duvalier to turn up. Apparently, Duvalier can return Adrian's brother's soul. The book doesn't say how, but it's possible. In order to divert danger from her sister, Caroline poses as Viv at the masquerade, capturing the attention of everyone there. An important moment for Caroline since she never had a Season and since she's widely considered the least pretty of the sisters. The finale follows the masquerade and we're treated to our first real love scene 300 pages into the novel. Funny, because by this point I was more interested in what was happening with a locked-up Portia.

As much I liked Portia's character, I seriously doubt I'll be reading another of her paranormals.

Teresa Medeiros is on her last straw with me, A KISS TO REMEMBER looms dangerously :O) I had such high hopes for her writing after CHARMING THE PRINCE. But I guess CHARMING THE PRINCE was an anomaly.

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