It Happened One Midnight
by Julie Anne Long, historical (2013)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-224012-5


It Happened One Midnight is the... what, sixth? Seventh? I've lost count, but it's part of the author's Pennyroyal Green series, and the author seems to show no sign of delivering the story of Lyon and Olivia until everyone else in this place is married. Still, if this book is anything to go by, this may not be a bad thing at all.

Oh, and this one can stand alone quite well, provided you don't mind missing out on little details about our hero Jonathan Redmond's relationships with his family members.

So, Jonathan. He's one of the Redmonds - the more, shall we say, law-abiding and financially wealthy clan compared to the Everseas. Handsome, witty, a patron of gaming hells, and a lover of wanton widows, he seems to be one of the happiest sods in London. The truth is a bit more complicated. He wants... something more in life. He is very good at making money, just like his father, but Isaiah Redmond treats him like he's a silly boy without any sense in his head. Jonathan feels that there is something not right about his life, because he doesn't feel happy, but he isn't sure what he should be looking for.

Thomasina de Ballesteros is the daughter of a Spanish princess, if you ask her patron the Countess Mirabeau, but most people that attend to the Countess doubts that she's actually one. She's charming, gorgeous, and, since she has a questionable past, she's deemed available to any gentleman that can meet her price. Jonathan, like most gentlemen in town, is intrigued by her, but he realizes that there is more to Tommy than meets the eye when he stumbles upon her snooping outside the window of the Duke of Greyfolk's place. What follows is an adventure of sorts as Jonathan finds himself involved in Tommy's crusade to make the world a better place (really).

The best thing about this story is Jonathan. In fact, while Tommy is running around saving the world, Jonathan is the one experiencing some sublime character growth that makes him a most memorable and adorable hero. I always have a weakness for men on a mission, and Jonathan here finds a reason to care and fight for, and in doing so, becomes a far more content person than he'd ever been in the past. This guy is just right - he has the right amount of humor, angst, grace, and capability to turn him into that kind of guy who will smile at you and say things to make you laugh even as he cheerfully beats to death the jerks of this world that dare to make you hurt even a little. He loves for all the right reasons, and when he falls in love with Tommy, he does so with such graceless abandon that I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Tommy is a pretty straightforward character - she's another spirited heroine on a mission, and she's actually less capable than she'd like to believe. She has a painful past, and the author smartly refuses to have Tommy dwell and whine about her past. As a result, Tommy comes off as a survivor determined to do the right things to ensure that other people don't suffer like her, and I always enjoy following the stories of such broken but driven characters. Compared to Jonathan, she is a less interesting character (then again, the author always seems to be better at creating memorable heroes than heroines), but I do understand where she is coming from and why she can often seem unnecessarily brusque or defensive in Jonathan's presence.

The romance... oh my. Really, it's an "Oh! My!" kind of romance because it is just exquisitely amazing how the author approaches the relationship between Tommy and Jonathan here. It's a relationship that is built on friendship and a mutual sense of belonging to one another as much as it is about lust at first sight, and by the last page, I'm utterly convinced that there is nothing more right, or wonderful, than these two having a happily ever after together. The emotions just burn off the page, and I find myself especially captivated by every word in every scene by the last third of this book.

One quibble that I have about this story is how the first third or so can be quite slow in coming together. It is the late third, especially, that makes this book such a great read. Also, there are some very noticeable editorial boo-boos here, as punctuations can be iffy and there are several instances when lines belonging to different characters are squashed into the same paragraph. The author's books for Avon tend to be poorly edited, but the boo-boos are very noticeable here and can be quite distracting.

Still, by the last page, I've cried and laughed and blubbered so hard and so often, it actually feels petty to hold these quibbles against the book. The plot may have its share of "Really now, come on!" moments, but the emotions, the romance, and the whole "guy finds a reason to live and fight for - and becomes a hundred times more attractive" transformation of Jonathan Redmond are just too fine for words.

Rating: 91


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