This month’s TBR Challenge read is supposed to be one recommended by a fellow reader. In this case, I went for a 2003 paranormal historical(and RITA winner) recommended to me when I blogged about my hunt for something both romantic and creepy.
Shades of Midnight by Linda Fallon (aka Linda Winstead Jones) definitely fit the bill both for romance and for creepiness. This ghostly romance set in 1880s Georgia was one of those books that formed pretty vivid pictures in my mind. Though the book had its weak moments, lack of creepy atmosphere was not one of them and I would probably give it a B- if I were grading.
Here’s the setup: Lucien Thorpe has a gift for releasing earthbound spirits and when he receives a summons from Eve Abernathy to rid her house of a ghostly couple, he comes running. Lucien had stood Eve up altar a couple of years before, so things between them are strained at best. However, the compelling mystery of the ghosts in Eve’s home captivates them both and compels them to work together. All that Lucien and Eve know is that the home’s original occupants, Alastair and Viola Stamper, died thirty years before in a murder-suicide on Halloween night. Their spirits haunt the home, reenacting their last day alive, growing more vivid as Halloween approaches.
As it turns out, Alastair and Viola were quite the amorous couple so the ghostly reenactment of their last day involves some steamier scenes than your usual ghost story. And there’s something about the contrast between their passionate moments together and the death scene that Lucien and Eve see at night on the stairs. Even though we as readers get walked through the ghosts’ last moments several times in the story, the author manages to tell it in such a way that it holds one’s attention. As Halloween approaches and Eve and Lucien try to figure out what these ghosts need in order to pass over peacefully, the mystery surrounding the ghostly murder-suicide grows. I suspect many readers will guess at least part of the answer early on, but it’s still pretty entertaining reading.
And the present-day romance? As I started to read, I confess that I thought it would be too cheesy because Lucien and Eve were both very eccentric and very conscious of being eccentrics. However, the tension between Eve’s sometimes humorous attempts to be normal and hide her bookish, ghost-hunting self, and Lucien trying to be less absent-minded so that he can win back his beloved Eve ended up being kind of endearing. To put it bluntly, Eve and Lucien are both pretty dorky, but they’re also quite sweet. I found it a little hard to believe that Lucien would be so wrapped up in work at a haunting that he would have forgotten all about his wedding day, but since I was enjoying the book, I let that slide. It helped that many of the scenes involving the Eve/Lucien romance have a sweet, lighter tone to them to set them in contrast to the slightly darker world of the ghost story.
Less easy to let slide was the historical background of this paranormal. There were enough little touches to the story that I could believe it to be set in the 19th century, but little about this book convinced me that I was watching a story unfold in rural Georgia as opposed to anywhere else. Eve’s house stood out clearly in my mind, but the rest of the setting felt a bit vague. The characters also seemed to pay little attention to the social conventions of the time, something which in itself wouldn’t be unrealistic except that they didn’t seem to feel too many consequences for being so free and unconventional.
Even so, Shades of Midnight was a book from Linda Fallon that I’ve been wanting to read since I got it in October and even with its weak moments, I enjoyed it. The two sequels follow the same couple, and I plan to buy those soon, so I guess the net effect of this month’s exercise didn’t really decrease the size of my TBR. Sometimes I think that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
– Lynn Spencer