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misunderstanding

Guest Backlist Review:  Secrets of Midnight by Miriam Minger

Guest Backlist Review: Secrets of Midnight by Miriam Minger

The title is kind of gothicky, and I’ve always enjoyed a good gothic, so I was comfortable with that.  And the first page tells me the story is set in Cornwall in 1813.  As a great fan of both Daphne duMaurier and Winston Graham, I looked forward to another Cornish tale.  Unfortunately, Secrets of Midnight didn’t stand up very well in comparison.

Secrets of Midnight	Miriam MingerThe story begins with two young women, Corisande Easton and Lindsay Somerset, sharing their last day together in their native Cornwall before Lindsay is to go off to London for her first Season.  She begs her dear friend Corisande, the vicar’s daughter, to join her, but Corie steadfastly refuses, citing her obligations to her widowed father and younger sisters as well as to the working poor of the parish: the tin miners, farmers, and fishermen and their families.  We’re told that Corie is disfigured by a scar on her cheek.

Next we meet tall, dark, handsome Donovan Trent, second son of the late Duke of Arundale, and his brother Nigel the current holder of that title.  Nigel informs Donovan, who has recently returned from four years on the Peninsula fighting Bonaparte, that according to their father’s will Donovan must marry in order to receive his inheritance, which is an estate and tin mine in Cornwall.  Donovan reluctantly and angrily agrees but only because he needs the money from the inheritance so he can return to Spain and search for someone known as “Paloma.”

Donovan and Corie meet under strained circumstances when she arrives at his estate near Porthleven and attacks his agent, the timid and obsequious Henry Gilbert, with a pitchfork.  She demands that the tinners operating the mine known as Arundale’s Kitchen be treated fairly and their hated overseer Jack Pascoe sacked.  Corie has no way of knowing Donovan has already done everything she’s seeking.  He decides she’s a perfect choice to fulfill the terms of his father’s will and so he proposes a marriage of convenience, to be annulled as soon as the paperwork is signed giving him his inheritance.  She agrees, but only because he has made improved treatment of the tinners conditional upon the marriage.

Corie, the vicar’s daughter, has a temper.  I found that a bit difficult to swallow because Minger hadn’t given sufficient motivation or background for the temper.  Without sufficient explanation, Corie came across as every bit the shrew Donovan accuses her of being.  The fact that she works with the poor,, helps the brandy-smuggling free trader captain Oliver Trelawney, and has the responsibility for her father and siblings, I found her lack of patience with Donovan inexplicable.

His patience with her was a bit more understandable because at least he had a motive, even if it was just to get the money.  And while I didn’t like the tiny bit of physical discipline Donovan inflicted on Corie late in the book, I had to admit I sort of sympathized with him.  He was dealing with a woman whose control of her temper was about on the level of a spoiled five-year-old drama queen.

The romance is complicated not with any single Big Mis but with dozens of little ones, and then finally resolved when a totally unlooked for Major Complication puts everyone’s lives in danger.  Minger could have done more to set up this complication as an integral part of the story; it seemed contrived and disconnected from the rest of the plot.  She could also have done a better job exploring Corisande’s emotional baggage so her infantile tantrums made more sense.  She’s not TSTL, just impulsive with a hair-trigger temper.

There was much in Secrets of Midnight to remind me of Winston Graham’s Poldark novels, almost to the point of wondering if that was where Minger had done most of her research.  Unfortunately neither the quality of the writing, the depth of the characters, nor the overall sense of place and time came close to equalling Graham’s.  Like many digitally republished books, this has a few formatting glitches, but they are few and very minor, no worse than the typos you’d normally find in a printed book.  And the price is certainly attractive at 99 cents on Amazon currently.  If all you’re looking for is a pleasant romantic read, this will suffice, but it’s not likely a book that will stay with you for years after the first reading. C

Secrets of Midnight
Miriam Minger

  • Jove Edition 1995
  • Digital Edition 2010

Elaine

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REVIEW: All of You by Dee Tenorio

REVIEW: All of You by Dee Tenorio

All of You by Dee TenorioDear Ms. Tenorio:

I recall reading and enjoying one of your earliest works, but since then I confess that nothing has quite struck my interest like the first one. When you sent me All of You, I opened it to read the first page, which is what I do with nearly every book sent to me. And this time I was engaged. I read the second page, the third, and before long I was through the first chapter.

Jessica meets with her on again / off again boyfriend, Lucas with the intention of breaking up with him. Lucas won’t be disappointed. Sometimes they go for weeks without talking, let alone meeting in person and sharing any physical intimacy. Yet, that evening Lucas is different.

Because the story is supposed to be about the insides of a person, it seemed strange that Jessica’s first hint that something is different about Lucas is outward. His chest looks broader, his smile is wider, she can’t stop looking at him. But as dinner progresses, Lucas starts treating her differently. He shows more interest in her work, seems more interested in her as a person, rather than just a convenient dinner companion. Even his manner of eating seemed different. He was partaking of the food with some sort of joy and reverence rather than perfunctorily shoveling his dinner down.

Jessica wonders at the change in his attitude, his seeming new lease on life. This new Lucas is not someone she can resist and so instead of breaking up with him, Jessica brings him back to her apartment.

Of course, Lucas is not Lucas, but his twin brother Kyle. And while Kyle knows that it is all kinds of wrong to go to bed with Jessica when she thinks he is her boyfriend Lucas, Kyle cannot resist. He keeps intending to tell her, but there is never the right moment. Of course, this intentional misunderstanding rightly angers Jessica when the truth comes out the following day.

Kyle is ready to settle down. He’s done with the flighty superficial women and wants someone who will be a good partner and a good mother. Lucas, to get back at his brother for impersonating him, proceeds to inform Jessica of Kyle’s little list. Needless to say, Kyle has a high mountain to climb to get into Jess’ good graces.   Good thing that Jessica’s secretary is ready and willing to give Kyle all kinds of instructions on how to lay siege to the Jessica fortress.

I loved the message of the story which was that the packaging of a person can be deceiving. Kyle and Lucas look identical, but underneath their skin, they are very different individuals. Kyle projects a certain aura of being care free and a little careless, but he’s ready for more responsibility, such as a family, but preconceptions are hard to shake off, particularly those built over years and years.

Jessica’s issues are more internal. She has preconceived ideas about herself. She thinks she is incapable of loving someone or being loved. While she might be able to have intermittent sexual fulfillment, she wouldn’t commit to a long term relationship with someone like Kyle because it wouldn’t be fair to him.

I did think that there could have been more subtlety in the conflict and for all the efforts to say that the story was about how what is underneath the skin that matters, I felt that there was a lot of reliance placed on external looks and sexual attraction. At one point, Jessica confronts Kyle about how he can be so sure of her without knowing anything about her. I thought that was a good question but one that was ducked by Kyle’s ‘I just know you’ response. By that time, he had only known Jessica for a few days and really didn’t know much about her.   I thought the very risque cover was a bit misleading. This is a sexy romance, but no more erotic than a Blaze.   B-

Best regards,

Jane

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