Midnight's Wild Passion by Anna Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Anna Campbell is an author I've followed with interest, because no matter how good or bad her books have been in the past (and IMO they range from nearly campily melodramatic to disturbing to excellent), I am totally unable to put them down until I've finished them. They're like crack for bookworms. First I read Untouched, which is riveting in all its over the top melodrama; I gulped it down despite the soap-opera-ish plot. Then I read Claiming the Courtesan, which I liked despite the fact that I totally HATE rape-filled books where the hero might as well be the villain--which left me feeling guilty and conflicted. Then I read another couple of books of hers which were just increasingly good, and not in a way that made me hate myself the next morning.
And this one is even better. Our hero, the Marquess (5 points!) of Ranelaw is a rake, and he's out for revenge. Godfrey Demarest seduced and ruined his sister many years ago, and now Ranelaw plans to ruin Demarest's daughter in revenge. Because what makes better sense in a revenge plan than totally destroying an innocent and uninvolved person? But in order to compromise Demarest's daughter, Ranelaw has to get through her chaperone first. Her not-obviously-yet-very-attractive chaperone, Antonia Smith. Yes, soon Ranelaw is distracted like a toddler by a lollipop, stops focusing on his original goal, and proceeds to woo Antonia instead. (If this reminds you of Anne Stuart's The Devil's Waltz, well, it reminded me of it too, but Campbell takes things in a different direction). Antonia Smith is not what or who she seems, however, and as their relationship develops, Ranelaw becomes more and more undone.
What I really liked about this book is that it is unmistakably the portrayal of two people falling in love. Not two people under a shared sexual obsession, or two people whose affection is undermined by immature tendencies to leap to conclusions, overreact, and throw jealous rages--things which lesser romances resort to, because romantic love challenged by genuine conflict (and genuine resolution) is difficult to convincingly portray. And Campbell pulls it off here, without a doubt.
This was almost a 5-star book, and I still would put it at 4.5 stars. The only problem I had with it was with the ending, where Ranelaw started charging around doing things that made sense only to him (or at least, they didn't make sense to me, but they might make sense to a man who thinks that ruining a girl to hurt her father is a good revenge plot), and then there is a very abrupt ending, and just when I was giving my e-reader a WTF? look about this, the book skipped to a really satisfying epilogue.
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