Midnight Sonata
by Dee Tenorio, contemporary (2006)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-101-7


Maybe it is my high expectations due to my enjoyment of Dee Tenorio's Betting Hearts, but Midnight Sonata fails to elicit any reaction from me. I just read this story and that's about the sum of my response to the story. I finished it, it's not bad, and, er, I don't have much else to say, really.

Thanks to a window that happens to let her look straight into his bathroom when he is showering, Genevieve "Evie" Parker has seen her new neighbor naked and he doesn't know that yet. Fortunately, her new neighbor isn't some out-of-shape fellow. Instead, he's a hunk named Skylar Remington. He's rich, which I suppose is why his parents named him Skylar - rich people don't care too much when people snigger at them. Evie is a single mother to her kid AJ. She is trying to deal with an annoying mother who won't get off her back - Evie is actually closer to her former mother-in-law Lily than her own mother, heh - and worrying that AJ is in need of a father figure.

Meanwhile, Skylar has bigger issues than his name. He is about to undergo heart surgery and he doesn't know how to deal with the realization that he isn't invulnerable so he drops everything in his life to sulk away in the house next to Evie's. Sky was the CEO of Remington Medical Industries until his current situation comes up. His brother, the even more unfortunately named Raven, is not pleased at all that Sky left everything to their mother to manage in Sky's absence. Yes, tell him off, Raven. What is the world coming to when an adult still needs his mother to take care of things, eh? Sky isn't willing to get into a relationship with Evie because of his upcoming surgery. Evie isn't willing to get into a relationship with Sky because she... um...

This is my problem with Midnight Sonata, actually. The characters' issues may be realistic, but the way they deal with these issues feel artificial. Maybe it's just me, but I may die in an upcoming surgery and I'm single, I'll be thrilled to have some kind of one-last fling thingie with some good-looking hunk. Hey, if my heart goes kaboom during an intense playing-doctor session, there can't be any better way to go, surely. Seriously though, the characters in this story often react in an manner that I find exaggerated. There seems to be no middle ground. Everything in this story is either black or white, yes or no. People are either very hurt or very happy: Evie's childhood isn't just unhappy, she can so many issues (absent father, addict mother, et cetera) that she can start her own magazine for dysfunctional people if she wishes to. Evie's reasons to hold Sky at arm's length after all feel like an exaggerated take on a familiar romance heroine's stereotypical behavior after her heart has been hurt before. Her former mother-in-law Lily's reasons for keeping the younger man Mickey (her late son's best friend) at arm's length feel more and more contrived as her hesitation drags on and on.

The set-up for Evie and Sky to date also feels forced. Lily and Evie have an relationship that doesn't feel as naturally spontaneous as it should be because they end up being very obvious catalyst for the other woman's romantic entanglements. Lily, Evie, and Sky end up coming off like marionettes controlled by Ms Tenorio in this story rather than realistic characters.

On the bright side, that kid AJ actually comes off like a genuine kid rather than an creepy clown trapped in kid's body. How odd that the kid comes off as more real than the adults. Everything else about this story feels very staged, like a stilted drama where the actors mouth off lines or behaving in ways that feel too scripted to be considered something one would spontaneously say or do in a situation. The characters are likable and they don't do stupid things to annoy me, but unfortunately not once during Midnight Sonata can I forget that I am merely reading a story and lose myself in it.

Rating: 68


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