After Midnight
by Merline Lovelace, contemporary (2003)
Onyx, $6.50, ISBN 0-451-41072-6

After Midnight reads like a half-baked job. It can't seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be a shorter-length Harlequin mass market novel or a longer mainstream romantic suspense novel. Subplots are introduced that go nowhere, the characters are just there, and I couldn't remember a thing about this book two days after I've finished it.

Jessica Blackwell and her mother fled Walton County when she was a kid. She never really know why they fled that day, but she suspects that her mother, the town white trash slut figure, has been pushed too far to remain in town. Today, she is a Lieutenant Colonel assigned to the military base right near - you guess where. She has to oversee the clean-up of an illegal chemical dump, a difficult job that has seen a few butts being sent packing out of the base. But when men start to die, all somehow connected to her mother, she finds herself under the suspicion of the town sheriff Steve Paxton. But if she's not involved, then who is? (Hint: the person trying to kill her.)

Jessica is strong, yes, but so are the heroines of this author's previous books, so that is not a good reason to recommend After Midnight to anybody. Steve is just there. Their romance is more like a case of lust, and in this case, the lust isn't even credible. The suspects are small-town stereotypes, the suspense bland, and the whole story is forgettable.

The author has done better in the past than this watered-down small-town murder mystery story, and hopefully will continue to do so in the future. After Midnight is just not Merline Lovelace on her good day.

Rating: 66

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