Meet Me At Midnight
by Jacqueline Navin, historical (2001)
Jove, $6.50, ISBN 0-515-13054-0

Bad, bad, bad boy Richard Giscard has been very naughty. He and his friends bet on who will seduce Julia Brodie and break up her engagement to a man she seems to love. Poor Julia has no way of resisting Rich's bad boy charms. But what happens when Rich starts falling for her? What happens when the other shoe drops and the chamber pot hits the ceiling?

I was confident that I would love Meet Me At Midnight, because the hero is so unrepentantly bad that he is just screaming for a super grovel scene. Great stories are made out of themes like this. Anne Stuart did it. Rexanne Becnel, when she isn't trying to be lazy and cut corners by overrelying on love scenes (think her Wales medieval trilogy), did it. Catherine Coulter did it. And Loretta Chase proved that you can actually combine humor with rake angst very well. And Christina Dodd's A Well Favored Gentleman still gives me the shivers.

Anyway, Julia Brodie is a decent heroine whose naivete befits her personality. A practical woman who has no idea what it is like to be swept of her feet, she is easy meat for Rafe's practised moves. Seeing her fall in love is like watching a car filled with screaming nuns stuck in the middle of a railroad track while two trains are fast approaching from both ends of the track.

Of course, what's important is how the resolution is dealed with once everything and the toilet breaks through the roof, right? For one, I'm glad to read a character-driven story devoid of the external spy/blackmail conflicts. Ms Navin, however, fails to handle the resolution of her story adeptly. Most of the great bad rake stories that I love (and mentioned above) have one thing in common: a proactive hero who openly seeks to rectify his wrongs and going at lengths, even risking his life and all, to make her love him the way he has grown to love her.

But Rafe's idea of remorse is to behave even more hatefully towards her so that she will flee and leave him to wallow some more in his self-pity. MMAM can't descend into Headache Read territory fast enough. And finally, after Julia dumps that misguided twit in a great show of womanly angst, the author has create an annoying plot twist to have Julia go back to Rafe. (Read: Heroine's Twisted Moral Values.) Again, Rafe cranks up his "Hate me so that you will leave me" bastard act.

I give up. Julia tells me she loves him - but why? He does nothing to warrant it. The author tells me of Rafe's remorse, but Rafe never shows Julia much of any sign of remorse. Only his "I'm a bastard, hate me now, honey, heh heh heh" act that makes him fit to be stuck in that car replacing the nuns, if you ask me.

Hence MMAM has potential. It just never live up to its potential. Still, points must be given for effort. We do need more character-driven romances.

Rating: 74

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