by Jacquie D'Alessandro, historical (2009)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-22549-3
Seduced At Midnight brings back memories... memories of the time when I had read one too many historical romances featuring nitwit heroines and mind-bogglingly dumb plots that I ended up developing a Pavlovian revulsion toward that subgenre, one that I am still slowly recovering from.
Lady Julianne Bradley is one of those sheltered creatures of the Ton, pampered and privileged brats who believe that their lives are actually very miserable ones because they couldn't find a guy similar to those alpha males in the "horrid novels" they read. And, of course, Julianne is also convinced that she is smarter than she is.
This book is part of a series, of which the previous two I have not read at the time of writing because those books were published during my "oh no to Avon historical romances" recovery period, so I am a little lost in the first quarter of the story. So bear with me if I get some things that happened in previous books wrong. From what I can gather here, Julianne is in love with our Bow Street Runner hero Gideon Mayne. They have met in a previous book and had some interaction back then. So now they are in love. I don't know why this is the case because this story treats the relationship as one where the romance is already established and we are all waiting for the moment when they inevitably have wonderful sex. It's wonderful, of course, because they are in love. Or something.
Anyway, in this story, bodies of genteel women are piling up. Julianne's father is convinced that she's marked for Darwinian elimination next so he hires Gideon to protect her. Gideon is on the case of the murderous swine, but because taking care of the woman who tickles his loin is more important than anything else, he passes over the case to his subordinates. Julianne knows that there is someone out there killing women in her social circle, so what better way to find true love than to manufacture some drama so that she can pretend that she's being targeted by the murderer, eh? Imagine her surprise when it turns out that she is indeed marked for death.
The best thing about this book is that the hero is stupid but boring. Seriously, this man must be one of the most incompetent Bow Street Runners I've come across. His interrogation methods are hopeless and I have a hard time imagining that criminals do not laugh when they see him approaching. The rest of him is strictly stock historical hero material. There is nothing about him that stand out in any way. Gideon is hopelessly generic and awfully incompetent.
And he's the best thing about this book. The heroine is as stupid as a rusty doorknob and she never gets to learn anything in this story. I have to grit my teeth at various moments when Julianne wanders around cluelessly even when she knows that there is a killer on the prowl. She and her friends are obsessed with their horrid novels to the point that they seem to have no personalities apart from squealing like an idiot whenever they are in the presence of any male remotely resembling the heroes of their favorite books. There is a killer on the loose and three women are dead, but these nincompoops run around merrily to hold secret book clubs and all.
The mystery... well, let's just say it doesn't take much to figure out who the bad guy is. Of course, it takes ages for Gideon to do so, but that's because he's a stupid man infatuated with a woman who is even more stupid than he is.
As for the difference in the social status of these two characters, well, Ms D'Alessandro has Gideon making a fuss about that only to sweep the whole thing under the proverbial rug when it is time to address the issue. Then again, what's another strike against this book where there are enough strikes against it already to make a professional bowler drool in excitement?
To sum things up, Seduced At Midnight is a book that makes me think, but unfortunately, it makes me think of the many lovely ways to torture the hero and heroine for wasting my time with their wretched pretense at romance.
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