Midnight Rainbow, by Linda Howard

>> Tuesday, July 20, 2010

TITLE: Midnight Rainbow
AUTHOR: Linda Howard

PAGES: 226

SETTING: Costa Rican jungle in the 1980s (should I call this a contemp?)
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Losely related to other Howards, like Diamond Bay, Heartbreaker and White Lies.

REASON FOR READING: It's the only old Linda Howard I hadn't read before, and I found a copy at my library.

Grant Sullivan, tough, masculine and handsome, is a retired military expert entrusted with a mission in the Costa Rican jungle - to find hostage and socialite Jane Hamilton Greer.

When Grant rescues her in a rather cavalier and physical fashion, no love is lost between them. But gradually their mutual attraction and passion becomes apparent and the jungle smoulders in more ways than one.
Midnight Rainbow starts right in the middle of things. In the Costa Rican jungle, Grant Sullivan waits outside an evil and corrupt politician's mansion. Inside is the daughter of a very influential American, who's convinced Grant to come out of retirement to rescue his beloved daughter from a very messy situation (not only is the Costa Rican evil, there are secret tapes and spies involved).

Grant is not happy to be back doing covert operations. He had been recovering from years doing missions that took a lot out of him in the isolation of his farm in the middle of nowhere, and never wanted to go back. However, for reasons I never understood, he allowed himself to be convinced to take on the mission to rescue this woman, who as far as he's concerned, is either so clueless that she doesn't realise the danger she's in, or so amoral that she doesn't care.

Jane is actually neither. She's got into this trouble by helping out a friend, but is well aware of the danger she's in. What Grant has seen from his lookout in the jungle (Jane sunbathing by the pool, seemingly without a care in the world) is simply Jane pretending to be clueless to gain some more time to escape.

But the very night she's finally ready to make her move, Grant makes his own, and soon they're on the run through the jungle, desperately trying to get to safety.

I would have absolutely loved this book when it was published, or even a few years after that, when I first started reading single title romance. It is, after all, solid vintage Howard, with exciting adventure (a bit like Heart of Fire, which is among my fave LHs) and scorching hot chemistry.

Back then, the mean, mysoginistic hero would have been par for the course. I wouldn't have liked that aspect of the book, but heroes like that were everywhere. Other favourite authors (think Anne Stuart, Elizabeth Lowell) had heroes exactly like Grant. They had an instinctive distrust of women and would treat any woman they suspected of being easy cruelly and only speak to her with disdain. And of course, they always suspected the heroine of being easy... always. So, much as I wanted to bash their chauvinistic little heads in, I almost regarded their sexism as the price I had to pay to read romance, and was willing to be won over when they realised that oh! the heroine was actually a nice, innocent almost-virgin, and they had been wrong to think her a slag.

The thing is, heroes have got a lot better over the years. I've got used to reading about men who aren't quite as big judgmental pricks. So when Grant immediately assumes Jane is a slag, I wasn't amused. I absolutely hated the disdainful way he thought of her and talked to her. She's pretty cool and very resourceful (it was quite funny the way she kept producing actual food out of her rucksack, when Grant would have had them eating bland Army rations), and yet he keeps being a complete dick to her, even when it's clear she's fine.

I also got very annoyed with the heavy-handed author intrusions, which I saw much too clearly. Oh, dear the heroine's a divorcee! But of course, her husband never, ever turned her on, and neither did any man she ever met. No sexual feelings at all until she met Grant. Hmmm, how to get her naked? Let's drop an anaconda on her! All very transparent and laughable.

A big disappointment, I should have tried much harder to get a copy all those years ago. And now I'm afraid to reread Heart of Fire, another Howard jungle romance that is so far my absolute favourite of hers!



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