Whispers at Midnight, by Karen Robards

>> Monday, November 21, 2005

I haven't read Karen Robards in years. I have a huge pile of her books I read years ago, both her historicals and her newer romantic suspense titles, but I kind of lost interest in her years ago, probably because, while her One Summer is still one of my favourites, her other books have been blah for me. Whispers at Midnight (excerpt) sounded interesting, though, so I thought I'd give it a chance.

Carly Linton is hell-bent on starting over. After a bruising divorce, she moves back to her tiny hometown of Benton, Georgia, to start up a bed-and-breakfast in the old house she inherited from her grandmother. The whole town remembers her as the proverbial good girl, but Carly is tired of being good-she's ready to walk on the wide side, and she knows exactly where she wants to start.

Matt Converse, the town's former bad boy, is now the local sheriff and a pillar of the community. But he hasn't forgotten his wild days, or the magical night of the senior prom he shared with Carly years ago. When Carly's dog unearths a dead body on her property, Matt is forced to spend time there, and Carly decides to use her newfound wiles to seduce him. But when someone breaks into Carly's house and tries to take her away, Matt is the only person who can protect her from a mysterious enemy who's making it all too clear that Carly should never have come back to Benton.
This book suffers from an extremely slow start, but when it finally got going, about half-way through, it was actually pretty good. A B-.

When I say the beginning was slow, I mean sloooooooooooow. It took me about two weeks to get through the first 200 or so pages, and I'm a very fast reader, usually. I just kept putting it aside and reading something else, never able to read more than 10 or 20 pages at a time. It also didn't help that I got my M-Bag in that period, so I suddenly had a boat-load of much more interesting books calling my name. Though, to be honest, I'd already been struggling with WAM for a week by then.

That first half had scenes which were much too long, considering the action they narrated. For instance, after a short, exciting first chapter, setting up the suspense subplot, came a very long, very drawn-out scene narrating nothing more than Carly and Sandy arriving at Beadle Mansion, meeting Matt and Carly surprising a burglar. That single scene took about 100 pages and about a week to read. Then 50 more pages to tell us about Carly's first night, spent at Matt's house, in which these two kiss. Ugh, it was hard work to get through. And Carly came across as more than a little shrill in those first scenes, ridiculously hung up on ancient history. I mean, Matt had behaved like a skunk 12 years earlier, but her reaction was terribly over-the-top.

But then, gradually, the action started picking up and, by the time our two protagonists finally fall into bed together, I was zipping right along. I got very involved in their relationship then. I'm not a big fan of committment-phobic heroes, but I liked how Robards dealt with this. And Matt's pity-proposal and Carly's reaction to it were priceless!

The suspense subplot also picked up some steam about then, and it was a good one, scarier than I've read lately. So scary, actually, that it felt a bit weird that Carly was able to function so normally, especially after a certain episode, which would have been right at home in a horror movie. Man, that was creepy!

So, not the best romantic suspense I've read lately, but not a bad way to spend a few hours, either, as long as you don't mind skimming a bit in the first half!


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