Kiss of Midnight, by Lara Adrian

>> Wednesday, May 16, 2007

TITLE: Kiss of Midnight (excerpt, etc.)
AUTHOR: Lara Adrian

COPYRIGHT: 2007
PAGES: 432
PUBLISHER: Dell (Random House)

SETTING: Contemporary Boston
TYPE: Vampire Romance
SERIES: First book in the Midnight Breed series.

REASON FOR READING: It's embarrassing to confess it, but it was the way this series sounds pretty J.R. Ward-ish that made me want to give it a try.

He watches her from across the crowded dance club, a sensual black-haired stranger who stirs Gabrielle's deepest fantasies. But nothing about this night--or this man--is what it seems. For when Gabrielle witnesses a murder outside the club, reality shifts into something dark and deadly. In that shattering instant she is thrust into a realm she never knew existed--a realm where vampires stalk the shadows and a blood war is set to ignite.

Lucan Thorne despises the violence carried out by his lawless brethren. A vampire himself, Lucan is a Breed warrior, sworn to protect his kind--and the unwitting humans existing alongside them--from the mounting threat of the Rogues. Lucan cannot risk binding himself to a mortal woman, but when Gabrielle is targeted by his enemies, he has no choice but to bring her into the dark underworld he commands.

Here, in the arms of the Breed's formidable leader, Gabrielle will confront an extraordinary destiny of danger, seduction, and the darkest pleasures of all . . . .
THE PLOT: After the successful opening of her latest exhibit, photographer Gabrielle Maxwell goes clubbing with friends to celebrate. The club chosen seems a bit wilder than she would like, so she decides to leave early. But before she can find a cab and leave, a fight breaks out outside the club and Gabrielle is the only witness to a group of men dragging another one into an alley and tearing him to pieces with their teeth and their hands. In shock, all Gabby can do is take some pictures with her cell phone and run to a cab and tear out of there.

Being a good citizen, Gabby reports the crime she's just witnessed, only to be met with open scepticism when the cops can find no trace of anything bloody having happened in that alley. There are no other witnesses, and even the cell phone pictures, which to Gabby are very clear, don't seem to convince them.

The only one who listens to Gabby is that nice and sexy Detective Thorne who comes to her house one evening to pick up the cell phone for tests. What Gabby doesn't know, though, is that Detective Thorne is no detective. He's a vampire, just like the men whose crime she witnessed, and he knows very well what she saw.

Lucan is the leader of a group of vampire warriors whose mission is to fight against creatures like those murderers: vampires who've given in to Bloodlust and gone Rogue, killing humans indiscriminately. Gabby's photos would be quite useful to him and his comrades, and that's originally the only reason he comes to her house. But he soon becomes obsessed with Gabby, and when he discovers she's a Breedmate (don't worry, we're not talking destined mates or anything like that, here; a Breedmate is simply a human woman whose biology makes her able to mate with a vampire... any vampire) he realizes he's going to need to bring her over to his world.

MY THOUGHTS: It's undeniable that much of the plot of this first book in the Midnight Breed series is very reminiscent of J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood. We've got:

- Vampires who are not undead, but simply another race.

- The stories centre around a group of elite warriors, who live in a high-priced mansion together with their mates.

- The warriors are fighting a group of people who are enemies of their race. As the series starts, the war between the two groups, always simmering, is entering a more serious, high-risk stage, as the enemies start behaving in a more organized way.

- In the first book, we get the story of the warriors' leader.

- The heroine is someone whose biology ties her to the vampires, but she doesn't know it, so she's always felt like she doesn't belong in the human world.

- In the first book, one of the warriors dies in an explosion.

- The most intriguing of the group is a dangerous looking outsider, even from the inner circle of warriors (and his book will be the third in the series).

And I could go on. At some points I did feel like I was reading BDB redux, but on the whole it wasn't at all bad, since the feel of the books was completely different. I guess you could say Adrian writes a JRW kind of story, but without the cheese. Unfortunately, she also writes it without the sizzling energy that makes the JRW books so addictive, even as I tell myself I shouldn't be liking them, which is the bad side of the comparison.

Not that there's no energy here, not at all. I was actually quite engaged by the story, maybe except for a stretch there in the middle of the book which felt a bit slow and as if they were only going around in circles.

I liked Adrian's world. Her vampires have a unique history and Bloodlust is a very interesting idea. I was intrigued by the conflict it creates in her vampires, since it's a very real danger for every single one of them: they need to feed, but have to walk a very fine line, because feeding too much will make them into blood addicted murderers, while feeding too little weakens them (and makes them more prone to falling to Bloodlust the next time they feed).

Lucan, as one of the oldest of them all, is in even more danger, because his generation of vampires seem to give into it more easily. He himself has been fighting Bloodlust for a long while as the book starts, and it's the main reason why he believes he cannot be with Gabby in the most intimate ways.

Gabrielle is an interesting character as well. She's not really a misfit in the human world, as she has close friends and what is building up to be an excellent career, but there are certain aspects of her that just don't fit in well with others. They only make real sense once she finds out about the vampire's world. My only disappointment in this area was the ease and almost unconcern with which she abandons her entire life in the end. This felt a bit undeveloped.

Lucan and Gabby's relationship is very effective, though it suffers from that slow patch I mentioned, in which nothing seems to be actually happening with them. Adrian creates a real connection between them, and there are some very sexy scenes here. I was especially impressed by how erotic she made the actual bloodsucking, which is something that I often find kind of yucky. Here, it's all about intimacy and passion, and it was very well done.

I was surprised by how interested I was in all the stuff going on outside their relationship, including the goings-on with the Rogues. At one point, the warriors are betrayed by someone, and just as I was reading that, something came up and I had to go run an errand. And as I was driving around, all I could think of was "Who did it? Who betrayed them?". That's good stuff! Oh, and those Rogues? Scary as hell. Some of the scenes involving them are very definitely not for the faint of heart (or stomach), but work very well in this book.

MY GRADE: A B, and I'd probably have gone for a B+ if the middle section hadn't sagged slightly.

NOTES: The next book is Kiss of Crimson and it comes out in late May. So, if you like this, just a couple more weeks to go. That's the kind of publishing gimmick I can really get behind.

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