Title: Midnight's Kiss
Series: Elder Races
Author: Thea Harrison
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Reviewing: advance eARC
Reason for reading: I received an invitation to download the eARC in exchange for a review, and because it's Thea Harrison, I couldn't resist.
The Short Answer:
Another installment in a consistently, relentlessly fabulous PNR series.
From Harrison's website:
Ever since their scorching affair ended years ago, Julian, the Nightkind King, and Melisande, daughter of the Light Fae Queen, have tried to put the past behind them—and distance between them. But when a war breaks out between Julian and Justine, a powerful Vampyre of the Nightkind council, they find themselves thrown together under treacherous circumstances…
Kidnapped as leverage against Julian, Melly is convinced that her former lover won’t be rushing to her rescue. But when Julian gives himself up to save her, they both end up Justine’s captives. Armed only with their wits and their anger, Melly and Julian must work together to escape. But will they be able to ignore their complicated history, or will the fiery passion that once burned them blaze again?
On a scale of one to five, where one is "it isn't even a series" and five is "don't even think about starting here in the middle", I'd rate this at a two or three. Although the series is well along, the Elder Races stories stand alone pretty well. In my case, I happened to read the last two back to back, and they work really well as a two-fer. If you haven't read anything in the series, I would suggest backing up just one book to Night's Honor, which is the story of Julian's most successful progeny; and the climax of that story serves as the catalyst for Midnight's Kiss. Chronologically, they are very tight, with Midnight's Kiss picking up right at the end of Night's Honor. There is a bit of reference in both books to Julian's sire, Carling, but I think if you don't mind rolling with it, you won't be missing anything in plot points and only a bit of background in the way of Carling and Julian's relationship. (Her story is in Serpent's Kiss, novel #3 in the series, but if you're going to go back that far, you might as well start at the beginning. You won't regret it.)
The Whole Scoop
Well, I totally loved it. It starts out feeling very much like a "damsel in distress" story, but Harrison has a way of boomeranging these kind of things. Melly is doing OK, in some pretty dire straits, but just when it becomes clear that she's probably not going to be able to extricate herself on her own, Julian finds her. However, this is not a "white knight swoops her off and they ride into the sunset" sort of scenario. He zooms straight into a big mess, and what I liked best is that it takes both of them to get themselves out of it. It's one of those excruciating scenarios where they each have to watch the other get pushed to painful limits... on each others' behalf.
At the risk of exposing myself as a dork on a whole different level than my readers already know, I want to interject a little bit of dorky philosophy that I have found to be pretty useful in my adult life. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey, is one of the few, if not the only, self-help books I've found to be really resonant and really applicable. One of the things he posits is that interdependence is a higher state than independence (which is higher than dependence; interesting in terms of Covey's framework by not my point here). Western culture and in many ways, romance protagonists of both genders prize their independence above nearly all else in their lives, and finding their way to interdependence is a key theme in romance. The entire first half of Midnight's Kiss is an object lesson in the protagonists -- both of them-- coming to terms with their interdependence.
Beyond the heart-pounding suspense of the mutual rescue adventure which comprises the first two thirds or so of the story, the remainder will appeal to fans of epic fantasy in the political sense. Melly and Julian are members of two different, very powerful factions in this world, and their union must be handled delicately. And those that would challenge their position are dealt with ruthlessly.
I really liked the maneuvering around the power and the politics in this book. There are big stakes (heh, NPI for this vampire story), and Melly and Julian find their personal and political HEA in a most satisfying way, with a good handful of unexpected twists in the process.
On the meta side, I very much enjoyed the way Harrison gave a nod, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, to the current craze for motorocycle club stories and perhaps THE original romance trope, The Big Mis, in delightful and respectful ways. Now, if she can work in a secret baby, a MMA fighter, and maybe a sheikh into her next book, we'll have to award some kind of TropeMaster (TropeMistress?) honor.
I love this series and everything I've read by Harrison. There is no series sag here, and the books in general stand along better than many paranormal series. So if you're already a fan, run don't walk to your bookstore or e-shopping cart; and if you haven't started the series yet, your biggest decision should be whether you want to start at the beginning of the series, or right here with this one. It's a can't-lose choice.
Around the Blogosphere
If you have reviewed this story, feel free to leave a link in comments or let me know by email, and I'll be happy to edit it in.
Harlequin Junkie -- a new convert to Harrison's series
A Book Obsession gives it four out of five
a mini-review from BadAss Book Reviews (I'm not really sure if "Badass" is one word or two... filed under things I didn't know I needed to know...)