Midnight Rain
by Dee Davis, contemporary (2002)
Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-8041-1977-5

Hmm, who would've thought? When Dee Davis doesn't try too hard to create a useless, weepy heroine or a try-too-hard macho alpha mule hero, she could create a decent romantic suspense, as Midnight Rain demonstrates. I'd say "decent", because the author just has to ruin my fun by taking her Cliché lipstick and draw a raccoon-eye motif mask on her face.

Our mega-superworkaholic hero John Brighton was shot in the head and was left for dead six months ago, and while he survived, another guy in his company died soon after under mysterious circumstances. Katie Cavanaugh is an FBI undercover who poses as John's physical therapist to learn who did the deed most foul, but alas, she just has to fall in love with him now. Silly woman. This is what happens when Quantico starts hiring romance heroines. Send her to Saddam's palace and next thing you know, she'll be married to that villain, Harlequin "I Sheikh In Terror" Temptation style.

Okay, since I'm an evil woman, let's start with the flaws first. The exposition villain - you know, holding you at gunpoint while blabbing everything like the most stupid villain ever since Ming the Emperor. The Evil Woman, who - surprise! - has a career, has ruthless ambitions, and look, give her a dingdong and she'll be a romance hero. Oh well, I guess romance authors have to cater to the Coulterites and the Falwellians if sophisticated romance readers thumb their noses at their shoddy writing. And yes, Kate? Dumbest FBI undercover ever, period. The scene where John pounces on a really stupid blunder of hers and she confesses and collapses without a meek fight will see her driven out of any decent law enforcement academy were this real life. Then again, we're talking about an undercover agent who justifies her rather blind trust in the hero - her suspect - because she always (sic) trusts her gut instinct.

Romantic suspense-wise, Midnight Rain is tired and formulaic, although it's nice that it doesn't jump onto the serial killer bandwagon at least. The villain(s), the villain's motivations: they are really tired and familiar.

But what's nice is that despite being too emotional and just plain stupid when the plot requires some conflict, Kate does display some brainpower and guts to prove that there's some reason why FBI want to keep her on their payroll. And despite some contrived alpha mule moments, John is a pretty okay guy on the whole. Since the plot gives these two plenty of quiet time, the author manages to develop their relationship to a satisfying extent.

All in all, Midnight Rain is a pleasant, moderately fast-paced read bogged down by playing it safe (and not too smart) too much at times. Incidentally, I read the snippet of the upcoming book that came along with this one, intrigued by the chance that this author has ditched her hysterically weepy and weak heroines for some women with brainpower, but I must report that the next book seems like another retread of the usual weepy/hysterical/useless heroine in trouble thing. We'll see. In the meantime, a few more books like Midnight Rain in the future won't hurt in making me eat back all the thumbs down I've given this author in the past. That is, if she can ditch the annoying bandwagon elements that keep plaguing her books and preventing her from standing out from the overly saturated crowd of bandwagon romantic suspense authors currently in the market.

Rating: 81

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