Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81550-8
Contemporary Romance, 2000
There seems to be two ways to write a contemporary romance nowadays. One is to go the I’m-stalked-by-a-serial-killer mode. Another is to open a first year psychology undergrad course textbook, pick twenty neuroses at random, pitch them in nilly-willy for “heroine’s emotional factor”, and make that the main course of the day.
Guess which mode It Happens at Midnight, its deceptively “Ain’t we happy looking?” cover hiding a lot of incoherent dysfunction, takes after.
Let’s start with the heroine Michaela Langtry. She is one unhappy woman, and she never hesitates to let any Tom, Diane, and Bob the dog trapped in her way know it. She barely escapes a failed sexual harassment suit against a bad boss with her career and pride intact. Predictably, she screams and yells a lot.
She runs home to rustic, good and wholesome Shiloh, Wyoming. And look who awaits but town hottie Harrison Kane II (ooh, rich guy alert).
From here onwards I am subjected like what seemed like a avalanche of plots. I don’t know what is going on, but it seems as if the dysfunction cheap sale at Cheap Pop Psych R’ Us must be ending soon – quick, grab all the $3.99 Neuroses while we can! Hence, I get a lot – and I mean a lot indeed – of subplots that run all over the place.
Let’s see. Harrison’s mother is involved in some kidnapping of our heroine’s sister. Then there is a villain who believes that a Langtry family heirloom would cure his baldness (I am not making this up). A journal containing secrets and a key to great treasures need to be found. A wedding ring is missing.
Meanwhile, our heroine must regain her self-worth (now that’s a tough one), while our hero must make peace with his dead Evil Daddy, his Mom’s guilt, his attempt to restore his family name to its good old former glory, and a zillion more baggage.
That’s a lot to pack in slightly under 380 pages. But when things could’ve been tolerable, our heroine whines. She keeps insisting meteorology’s her thing, hence when our hero offers her a job at the local station out of pity/lust/whatever, she hates it because she can’t get to practice her Shaman Weather Prediction Techniques. Never mind the job is high-paying and gives her lots of control over her schedule. “You all hate me!”
When her family offers some tentative suggestion – “Get a grip, you sad lady!” couched in nice euphemisms – she bristles. “You all hate me!”
Her brother offers comfort, she yells at him to get lost. “You all hate me! I hate all of you!”
It must rain a lot in Shiloh, I must say.
Frankly, It Happened at Midnight could’ve been a good read, but alas, that heroine, the plot overkill, the dysfunction overkill! Bleak, rarely funny, and frighteningly serious in its depiction of a heroine who doesn’t seem to know that she is a nutcase on the verge of PMS Chernobyl – if you ask me, the cover is missing a few important important elements. An extra-large bottle of Prozac and maybe a jumbo-sized tranquilizer gun.