Of Midnight Born
by Lisa Cach, historical/paranormal (2000)
LoveSpell, $5.50, ISBN 0-505-52399-X


Shall I start with how fun Of Midnight Born is because of things it doesn't have? No silly broody Earls, no supposedly ummarriageable spinsters, no murder mystery, no babies to play nanny over, no Evil Other Woman, no Evil Other Man, no - no everything that is popping up like ugly zits in four out of five historical romances out there.

Then, Of Midnight Born passes my CODPIECE test. It's pretty Creative, rather Original, Dramatic, Poetic, Intensely Emotional, Comedic, and best of all, Entertaining.

I haven't read anything as fun or wonderfully romantic in a rather melodramatic way in a historical for quite awhile, really. Of Midnight Born has a ghostly heroine, a scholarly hero, and a redemption theme.

Serena Clerenbold has haunted Maiden Castle for 500 years now. Her reputation for scaring males that dare live in the Castle, including one guy who got his, er, froggy pulled while he was bathing, gives the Castle its nickname. The ghost just wants to be left alone to brood. But Alex Woding, the new tenant, decides that the Castle is perfect for his astronomy observations. Never mind that when he was ten he thought the ghost lady almost killed him. He was thirty-three now, older and wiser, and everyone knows there is no such thing as ghost in 1832!

So he won't leave even when his male staff starts screaming and quitting left and right. Not when his silly doggie Otto starts Woo-wooing in terror whenever Serena or her ghostly cat Beezely is around. He will stay.

Does she have to pull his froggy too to drive him away?

Well, what happens when a ghost falls in love with a very mortal man anyway?

I admit I went "Hah?" when it turns out that Serena can be kissed and made love to. In fact, such ability seems to cheapen the whole "Our love is so forbidden" theme of the story. But I really adore this couple. Serena is often petulant and dramatic, but she is actually a very likable character who doesn't even know until almost too late that her flaw is the only thing keeping them apart. And Alex - well, let's just say the author describes his naked physique so well and in so much vivacity that I wish this is a movie. I want to see for myself too how that froggy jumps around in the bathtub.

I always have a soft spot for hunky nerds anyway, and Alex fits that term perfectly. He is also free from emotional baggages - okay, almost, but he never behaves cruelly on Serena or on any women in his life. His character can be a bit vague at times, but there's no denying the chemistry between him and Serena.

The first half of the story is funny, filled with Serena's attempts to drive him away without descending into outright tomfoolery. Somewhere in here the author also weaves in very well the increasing fascination Serena and Alex have for each other, until wham! They actually start talking to each other and soon the clothes start flying across the room.

Comedy, great characters, and really hot love scenes aside, the second half is a nice magical tale of redemption. It's so elegant in its simplicity that I am caught unaware of what the Evil really is until I'm hit in the head with it. And to the author's credit, she never makes this revelation seem corny. And the resolution to a happy ending is pretty ingenious.

Everything just seems to work for me. Okay, I am not too happy at the way the author leaves the staff love-hexagon melodrama hanging or some minor subplots unfinished, but for the beautiful love story between Alex and Serena, I am more than happy to overlook those faults. Of Midnight Born is like a fresh, lovely-scented breeze after so many predictable romances.

Rating: 92


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