by Celia Ashley, paranormal (2005)
New Concepts Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-58608-594-8
Celia Ashley, who previously wrote historical romances under the name Alyssa Deane, has presented a contemporary paranormal romance featuring a troubled heroine named Perry Madison and the hunky Ethan Taylor who is supposed to restore her big and spooky mansion. When he shows up at her place, however, he finds this beautiful woman acting all dazed and confused under the waterfall in the nearby woods. Being a gentleman, Ethan only ogles and tugs - let me quote - "a sudden, involuntary restrictions in his jeans". It's a good thing that Perry is too dazed to do much because I'd have kicked some butt if I'm in her shoes and see this weirdo pulling at the crotch of his jeans while staring at me. Anyway, this is the start of the story. What is Perry up to? Why is she behaving so strangely? That's the question that Ethan and the reader will slowly find out as the story progresses.
This leads me to my question. What is this story supposed to be? As a paranormal story, this one is actually quite compelling once I get over the snail-paced crawl of the first few chapters. The nature of this paranormal dilemma Perry is facing isn't too original but Ms Ashley manages to make me want to find out more as the story goes along. But as a romance, Midnight Hearts doesn't fare too well. Perry is very emotionally fragile and vulnerable throughout the whole story and Ethan finds himself playing the role of a protector and babysitter as well as a lover in this relationship. As a result, I don't understand why Ethan would believe that he's in love with her. His feelings for Perry are more akin to protectiveness instead of love. This story takes place within a few days so I should at least get some over-the-top love at first sight thingie in order for the author to sell me the romance. Instead, it's all about Perry getting the wide-eyed look on her face as she sees or hears things and Ethan has to hold her and try to figure out which M Night Shaymalan movie he's currently stuck in.
Perhaps if it's expanded a little longer so that there is more room for the characters and their relationship to be developed further, Midnight Hearts will be a more enjoyable read. The start is very slow and filled with what seems like all but the kitchen sink when it comes to Ms Ashley tossing in all the paranormal clich�s in the subgenre, but towards the end she has found her rhythm and pacing so it's an intriguing and rivetting read to the last page. It's not a bad book at all, therefore, just one that could a little more meat to be more satisfying.
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