Catching Midnight, by Emma Holly

>> Friday, April 21, 2006

This one's for AngieW's TBR challenge. This month we needed to read a book that's been in our TBR for longer than 6 months, and like Sandy, I went for an Emma Holly. This is one I received in July last year, so it qualifies.

Title: Catching Midnight

Author: Emma Holly

Year published: 2003


Deep in the Scottish woods live the children of the night. At times, they run through the wilderness as a pack of wolves; at others they take human form, pairing off to revel in the throes of sexual ecstasy. But when they cross paths with the world of the mortals, nothing will ever be the same...

1349. Orphaned by the plague, young Gillian is rescued from certain death by a pack of shape-shifting immortals. Once a human child, now Gillian is one of them herself, reveling in the pleasures of the flesh and the hunt. This ethereal beauty would be happy if only her heart did not yearn for the world beyond their caves...

Aimery Fitz Clare is mortal, second son to a noble house, and a master falconer. Little does he dream that his latest "catch" is more than she seems. Gillian has taken a falcon's form to escape her immortal keepers, only to find herself losing her heart to her latest captor. Aimery's kindness is a powerful seduction, not to mention his human beauty and warmth. Does Gillian dare embrace this forbidden love, and can it survive her jealous breathren bearing their fangs?
Why did you get this book?: I really like Emma Holly, and I adored the two short stories she wrote set in the upyr universe (Luisa's Desire, in the Fantasy anthology and The Night Owl, in Hot Blooded).

Do you like the cover?: Eh. Not particularly, but it doesn't really bug me, either.

I give it a few points for actually somewhat conveying the medieval setting, but I deduct some because it's the heroine who can shape-shift into a falcon, so she couldn't very well sit there bare-breasted while staring at herself, could she?

Did you enjoy the book?: Nowhere near as much as I loved the two short stories, but it was ok. Most of it was just very average, but I loved the hero enough to give it a B-.

My biggest problem with CM was that the universe didn't completely gel for me. There's a lot about the children of Auriclus and how they live apart from humans, not harming them, and the children of Nim Wei, and how they live among humans and interfere with their world, and how there's a kind of rivalry between them. There's also a lot (at the beginning) about Ulric's "pack" and how would be so adamantly against Gillian leaving, and blah, blah, blah.

All well and good (I did find it pretty interesting, really), but where I thought Holly failed was in giving all this world-building a relevance to the romance. It almost felt to me as if Aimery and Gillian's romance was completely separate from the manouvering and manipulations of the upyr world. Never did I feel as if their relationship was genuinely threatened by Auriclus, Ulric or even by Nim Wei (who was actually in the castle for most of the story!)

And another thing, as surprised as I was to feel so little danger to their relationship from outside influences, I was even more astonished when I saw how little threat there was from the inside: that is, I expected the fact that Gillian wasn't human to be some kind of problem. Maybe not the obstacle to their relationship, but I don't know, wouldn't you expect a medieval hero to at least be a bit taken aback when a supernatural being turns up in his bed?

Well, not Aimery, and not Edmund, either. Both of them seem to take the appearance of these obviously non-humans very much in their stride, and that just felt really weird. I might have been able to accept it if they had already been in contact with some kind of supernatural phenomenon, but to have them go from regular, mortal men to welcoming a kind of witch or sorceress or vampire into their beds... hmmm, hard to believe.

Other than that, I mostly liked the book and found it extremely readable. I especially adored Aimery. For once, we get a hero who's not the big man in the castle. Aimery lives in his brother's keep, and actually works for him, in charge of the keep's defenses. He's a war hero, and a man people find scary, but inside he's a real sweetie. He's caring and kind, and loves children and animals, and I loved how he behaved towards Gillian.

Gillian I didn't understand all that well. I never got that much of a sense of who exactly she was, and I think I got the feeling that she didn't really know who she was, either. Other than her curiosity about humans, she felt to me almost as this wild, animal, innocent, simple being, and I never got any sense of complexity from her.

What saves the romance here is the sensuality with which Holly writes. The chemistry between Aimery and Gillian is really well done, and so are the love scenes. And she did manage to convey a sense of their caring for one another, so this element ended up being pretty ok.

However, I think my favorite element in this book was the fascinating, complicated relationship between Aimery and his brother. I really liked how Holly wrote that mixture of jealousy, love, resentment and admiration that characterized their relationship, and the final scene between them was lovely.

Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again?: To the first question, no. I've read quite a few of Holly's books, from her erotica titles, to her historical romance, to her alternate reality stories, and I've liked what she's done in all three areas.

To the second question, definitely. I have the next two books in this series in the TBR (Hunting Midnight and Courting Midnight) and I'm really looking forward to All U Can Eat.

Are you keeping it or passing it on?: Keeping it.


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