Midnight Sun
by Kat Martin, contemporary (2003)
Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 0-8217-7380-1


Reading this book proves why sometimes there are men living in backwood areas like the remote Yukon wilderness - the better they are to stay away from us women so that we will never have to deal with such pathetic examples of macho bullcrap gone haywire. If only all those idiot heroines will follow their poster girl Charity Sinclair to the said Yukon wilderness where they will all never be seen again, the romance genre will be a much better place.

Charity Sinclair inherits some money and immediately decides to buy a cottage in Yukon for, as she puts it, an adventure. Her soon-to-be-ex boyfriend thinks she's mad, and she's miffed - that man doesn't know how to have fun. So Charity runs off to Yukon. In between indulging in insulting displays of rudeness ("My first real Indian," she thinks when she encounters her taxi driver), she realizes that her cottage is actually a ramshackle mess of planks hammered together. Of course, any idiot who wastes her inheritance this way could be counted on signing a contract that doesn't give her any chance at suing the seller off for fraud. No, she'll spend what's left of her money putting the place to orders. Eeuw, the plumbing! Oh, the cold! Realization sets in that Yukon isn't as romantic as she expects. Then there are the bears. Oh my God. Who would have thought there are dangerous creatures in the wilderness?

Then there's the rude, insulting McCall Ryan Hawkins who get really angry that someone dares to move in and intrude his peace. Never mind that Charity moves in after buying the piece of land - land that isn't his to quibble over - he walks right in and says some ridiculous things no sane man would say, including accusing her of squatting at the cottage. Because, you see, the world revolves about this Call idiot and it's conspiring to make Call unhappy, boo hoo hoo. Call is still grieving over the death of his wife and kid, so this is his excuse to act like a Neanderthal. I especially love how he spies on the heroine with a pair of binoculars when he is ranting and foaming like a rabid dog just earlier about how she is invading his precious privacy.

There are some long treatises on gold mining and DNA memory fingerprinting thingies that are written in a way more appropriate for a textbook than a work of fiction. When Ms Martin is not trying to cheat her publisher and publish bits of her unsold Grand Encyclopedia of Yukon History in her new book, she is creating scintillating drama of true passion, such as the splendid example below that gives me dry heaves:

Oh God. She felt so used and cheap and slightly sick to her stomach.

"Charity?" Call rapped softly on the door. "Are you all right?"

She swallowed, took a deep, steadying breath, pasted on a smile, and opened the door. "I'm fine," she said far too brightly, trying very hard not to cry. "Hopefully, you've been practising safe sex with everyone else you've been sleeping with so today won't be a problem."

"It's not the way you think. It was you I wanted. I knew you weren't the kind of woman who played around. I was trying to stay away from you. I thought if I slept with someone else, I'd be able to leave you alone. Dammit, Charity, I hadn't had sex in years. I thought it didn't matter. I thought any woman would do."

Later towards the story, the author stops trying too hard to push that contrived romance between Call and Charity and concentrate on the "suspense" part. While this "suspense" is far from suspenseful, at least I'm not subjected to silly love/hate "romance" and silly "love talk" (see above) every other page, and here, at least, is where Midnight Sun gains some semblance of readability. This is because Call is almost likable towards the end of the book, apparently because having unsafe sex with idiot city girls can magically transform you from jerk to sensitive new age tormented whiner. Charity stops being so stupid - a good thing - although she doesn't rise above being a stereotypical damsel in distress, unless you consider her tendency to burst into tears a good thing. The drawback? I am now subjected to Call's silly "I will never love again, ever!" schtick.

This book isn't as bad as most of Kat Martin's recent books. It's still a lousy attempt at romantic suspense, complete with trademark stupid heroines, heroes with women issues, and all the usual things in the formula, although Kat Martin thankfully doesn't add the ubiquitous serial killer into the mix. However, with this book a major improvement over her last few books, hopefully the next book will see the author getting back on track. Ditching that ridiculous archaic portrayal of female sexuality will be a good way to start.

Rating: 63


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