by Emma Holly, historical/paranormal (2003)
Berkley, $5.99, ISBN 0-425-19303-9
Like the first book in Emma Holly's shapeshifting vampire trilogy Capturing Midnight, Hunting Midnight suffers from the same problems of underdeveloped characters and subplots that never really go anywhere. Maybe all these subplots will come into play in the final book, I don't know, but Hunting Midnight is still a book that doesn't seem to know where it is going.
Ulric, the vampiric shapeshifting wolf guy that appeared to shag the heroine of Capturing Midnight in the first chapter of that book, is the hero of Hunting Midnight. Right now he is on what seems like a drunken sex rampage, enthralling women under his glamor and feeding on them after boinking them silly. Of course, I wonder why a muscular, handsome hunk described as the sexiest guy ever will need that glamor thing to get his women - it's not as if he has a tiny penis or something - but hey, some men are inexplicably insecure and Ulric may be one of them. One day he is performing to a group of admiring horndog women when this charming and beautiful woman comes forth and tells him that he needs someone to accompany him and she can play the harp so she'll volunteer for the job. Who cares? He "glamor"izes her and apparently she's resistant to his glamor, but what the heck, readers of Emma Holly's books expect some scorching hot love scene, so scorching hot love scenes are what ensue next.
As it turns out, our heroine Juliana Baxton is running away from an arranged marriage. See, her Daddy, a rich commoner, loves her dearly but he's marrying her off to an old man and because Juliana is a dutiful daughter that doesn't want to betray her father's trust in her but knows that he will never listen to her, she runs away instead. I think I need to lie down. Anyway, after the shagging, she realizes that Ulric is an upyr. Hmm, I thought these upyrs kept their presence a secret from humans? And why is Juliana so calm and accepting that she's just slept with a bloodsucking werewolf? And why does she demand that this bloodsucking werewolf help her and make her one of them? And please, can someone tell me how this woman can think it's wise to trust the word of a bloodsucking werewolf when he says that he will help her?
But since this is a romance novel and not a medieval CSI story, Juliana is the heroine and not Stupid Victim Of Serial Killer #1. Ulric trusts her, takes her back to his pack, where they learn that the Emma Holly trademarked Other Woman has taken up with interlopers to challenge Ulric's powers, Ulric kicks ass, Juliana finally realizes that shapeshifting vampires are like ohmigod so violent and scary, she likes Ulric anyway, and they live happily ever after. I've skimmed the pack politics in my above summary because frankly, I don't see why I am supposed to care about the introduction of the two interlopers (these two are also featured in the prologue). They aren't central to this story, maybe they are stars in the next book, I don't know. All I know is that the author has given me no reason to care about these subplots because they are introduced but never developed properly.
The one good thing about this book compared to the previous book in the series is that the main characters are not bland and flat this time around. None comes close to matching Nim Wei, the wasted villainess in Catching Midnight though. Juliana is often too stupid for her own good when it comes to running away from home and getting into situations she's way out of depths in, but at least she doesn't trip over her feet every six pages. Still, I find her motivations for most of her actions bewildering. But at least she has a sense of humor and she doesn't make herself a liability to Ulric. Do watch though as she slowly becomes a peripheral character in this story when pack politics take over the story. Ulric makes my eyes roll upwards in disgust when this man switches from whining about Gillian to saying that he loves Juliana in the short time he's sleeping with Juliana (oh please) but at least he's a convincing vampire/werewolf with all the bloodthirsty traits that come along with being a shapeshifting bloodsucker. He's not a nice and whiny "Why can't you love me?" hero - he's a gloriously oversexed monster that will bite and kill when provoked. Yummy. (Of course, the woman that will bite and kill when provoked - the Other Woman - is given the finger by the author, although in this case the Other Woman is only two-thirds of being completely humiliated, so I guess I should be grateful for small reprieves.)
A magnetic antihero aside, Hunting Midnight is filled with dangling subplots that run in all directions but go nowhere, characters that aren't as fully fleshed out as they should have been, and wallpaper medieval history (when a groupie tells Ulric, "Thou art a sexy bastard", I laugh, but I suspect some readers will weep at the author's mangling of medieval-speak with 20th century entymology). The sex is good, but the problem is, that's all it is mostly good at.
Hunting Midnight is a halfbaked story with too many underdeveloped elements. In short, it is sometimes erotic, but it's still a very average story at the end of the day.
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