by Lisa Kleypas, historical (2007)
St Martin's Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-312-94980-8
The woman on the cover - is she dead?
Mine Till Midnight is a nice but not remarkable story that sums up nicely how I feel about Lisa Kleypas' last few books. She writes some of the best family camaraderie in a romance novel, but her stories don't have much conflict and the relationship between the hero and the heroine is pretty tepid at best. The hero has some kind of commoner background - in this case Cam Rohan is half-Gypsy - but the author easily brushes aside most of the social status-related problems one would imagine will arise from his union with the blue-blooded heroine. The hero also will have some angsts that turn out to be easily remedied by a healthy dose of love and hot sex with the heroine. That is pretty much the author's last few books and that is also Mine Till Midnight as well.
Cam Rohan is a half-Gypsy who has become the manager of the gambling den Jenner's. He meets our newly-minted heroine Amelia Hathaway when she comes into Jenner's looking for her brother. They locate Leo easily enough and end the night with Cam stealing a kiss from Amelia. Amelia soon relocates her family to the Hampshire countryside, hoping that this move will save Leo from his downward spiral of self-destructive behavior and help her sister Win recover from her illness. She doesn't expect to see Cam again but sure enough he shows up as a neighbor. Has he come all this way... for her?
The story has Cam feeling a little blue about being trapped between the more nomadic ways of the Roma and the trappings of his life among the Ton, but his personality, surprisingly, doesn't really go beyond a standard romance hero's. Ms Kleypas doesn't allow his issues or any difficulties Amelia will encounter by her marriage to Cam to stand in the way of an otherwise familiar and tepid "rake pursues responsible spinster" romance. With the characters in this story cushioned by the cast of the author's previous Wallflower Quartet series who are naturally supportive of these people, it is hard to imagine that these two characters are or will be in any genuine difficulties anyway. This is a typical problem of a book that occurs late in a long-running series, although Mine Till Midnight is not officially part of the Wallflower Quartet: with the appearance of all those supportive and socially powerful characters from previous books as fanservice to readers of the series, the main characters in that book often end up wrapped in a cocoon of protection and support network afforded by these secondary characters and it is hard, therefore, to imagine that the main characters are in any genuine difficulty at any time during the story.
However, the main characters are likable. Amelia has a few dubious moments when she decides to take charge and do things her way even when she may be out of her depths in such a situation, but on the whole she is very sensible and likable. She is the responsible one since her siblings are either too young (Poppy and Beatrix), ill (Win), or emo (Leo) and therefore someone has to step up and hold the family together. It makes sense, therefore, that she ends up a spinster who sees herself on the shelf. Amelia, however, doesn't have any martyr or victim complex. No "I can't marry you, I just can't!" nonsense from her here. Cam is a more familiar hero. In fact, I feel that Ms Kleypas has missed an opportunity to do more with Cam here. Cam is a likable hero as he is a nice balance of roguishness and issues without getting too self-absorbed, but he also comes off as a familiar and rather typical romance hero here despite his not-so-typical background. Still, he and Amelia make a likable couple to root for.
The story, however, doesn't have much going for it as it is for the most part a familiar storyline. The resolution of the half-baked external conflict is most disappointing as well with the author employing a few deus ex machina plot devices to tie matters up. But at the same time, I don't find this story boring because the author does an excellent job here in presenting a most enjoyable healthy and warm camaraderie between the main characters and the secondary characters, be they family members or friends. There is a nice close-knit family feel to the ensemble cast here, with dialogs that feel natural and spontaneous rather than stilted. The author manages to present all this love and sunshine without making me want to go buy some Full House DVDs to make a bonfire, so that in itself is quite a feat.
Mine Till Midnight, therefore, is a most enjoyable kind of comfort read. It won't make me feel as if the world has stopped spinning on its axis, but at the same time it manages to entertain me without annoying me too much. It's familiar, but it doesn't feel completely clichéd. All things considered, I think that's pretty good.
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