by Anna Campbell, historical (2011)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-168430-2
So far all the books I've read by this author have me convinced that she can write a good grovel scene, but she also loves to write about heroines who are disproportionately full of self-loathing just because they have sexual desires. The inappropriately-titled Midnight's Wild Passion is not going to change my mind anytime soon. If this book is a person, I'd say that it has issues about female sexuality. At least five subscriptions, plus a discount coupon for the upcoming DVD set of Chastity Bono's reality TV show Becoming Chaz.
Ten years ago, Antonia Hilliard spread like peanut butter to some charming fellow. Because that fellow is not the hero, she paid dearly for that: she was dumped by her lover and was subsequently disowned by her father. Thought to be dead, our heroine spent the next few years in hiding, cleverly changing her name to Antonia Smith and playing the chaperone to her niece. Of course, she disguises herself to be ugly and spends her waking hours repeating and reiterating that she was bad once and she has to behave, to the point that I'm surprised she hasn't succumbed to mental hysteria and get herself committed to a madhouse a long time ago.
At any rate, her peaceful existence of self-flagellation and perpetual self-induced victimhood is interrupted by Nicholas Challoner, the Marquess of Ranelaw. He is determined to ruin and destroy her charge because her employer ruined his half-sister twenty years ago. Naturally, our hero is too gentlemanly to put a bullet between Godfrey Demerest's eyes. Where's the fun in that? It's better to be a man and ruin his daughter instead! Of course, Nicholas soon finds his vengeful pee-pee blocked by Antonia, but never mind, he'd roger her first before restoring world order by seducing and ruining a silly young girl.
On her part, Antonia is like... oh, no, another version of that man who ruined me... but he's so hot! I want! I want! But no! No! NO! NO! NOOOOO! But since Nicholas is so manly, so attractive, so not taking "no" for an answer, how can she not get an orgasm when he pushes aside her protests and boinks her? Don't be mad at Nicholas, though. He knows she is gagging for his majestic sword of vengeance, and we all know it too.
Still, Nicholas isn't that bad for a date rapist. As I've said, Ms Campbell does know how to make her heroes grovel and undergo epiphanies even if she bungles up everything else in this story. A big problem with this story is the bewildering psychology of the characters. Nicholas has witnessed the devastation wrought on innocent women by rakes like his father and his half-sister's lover... and yet he becomes the very kind of man he detests. Why is this? I never have a good idea why, so I can only chalk this up to Ms Campbell wanting to fall back on the old clichéd method of giving the hero a sad past to make his present behavior palatable. But it's the wrong kind of background to give the hero - it doesn't fit his profile and angst! Nicholas would have been a more believable hero if he'd been a rake through and through, I don't know. Just not what he is presented in this story.
As for Antonia, oh my god. She is that kind of heroine, determined to punish herself for spreading even as she spreads for the hero because she'd taken pee-pees up her choo-choo so she is A WHORE. FOREVER! The hero says that he doesn't care that she'd had a lover? He's the only one in the world because everyone knows she is a WHORE. Seriously, that's what she calls herself. Her antics are a tedious cycle of lusting and feeling disproportionately guilty over her lust. Then there's the constant screeching and wailing that she can't be loved. Usually in stories of this kind, the heroine will heal the woobie hero and make him love again, but in this one, the hero is the one who has to babysit, coddle, and gently put an end to the heroine's hysteria. Clearly, this brainless cretin is clearly determined to beat all competition to win the Balogh Idol trophy. At least Nicholas gets some character development. Antonia just needs to be put to sleep.
Antonia is not a believable heroine. Her automatic attraction to Nicholas is bewildering enough, considering her damage at the hands of another rake, and yet, here she is, calling herself a whore while claiming that Nicholas, one of the biggest rakes in town, is too good for her. Nothing about Antonia feels real. Every behavior and emotion from her is something from the script, and Ms Campbell cobbles these often contradicting clichéd elements together to pass the grotesque end result as Antonia's personality.
Midnight's Wild Passion is a blatantly artificial and wooden story, where everything about the hero and the heroine is contrived. If you like loud wailing hysterical heroines bent on being a victim, running wild in stories where all responsibility for sexual conduct is shifted onto the woman, then yes, go wild with the passion of Antonia Christ. Everyone else, let's see what other books are out there.
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