A Midnight Clear, by Kristi Astor

>> Monday, March 21, 2011

TITLE: A Midnight Clear
AUTHOR: Kristi Astor

COPYRIGHT: 2010
PAGES: 352
PUBLISHER: Zebra

SETTING: Edwardian England
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: None

He Was Her Forbidden Fantasy...

Miranda Granger arrives at the spectacular seaside resort The Grandview Hotel to spend the Christmas holidays, hoping it will be just the tonic she needs to forget her scandalous past. But when she crosses paths with Troy Davenport, the alluring stranger she met aboard an ocean liner, Miranda fears she will repeat the mistake that almost ruined her reputation many years ago. . .

She Was His Greatest Muse...

Troy Davenport has been struggling to paint the stunning woman he encountered by moonlight on the ship's deck. If only he could meet his muse again. When he learns she's staying at The Grandview, it takes a great deal of convincing to let him paint her. But once he begins he realizes he wants more than to capture her unique beauty on canvas. When they surrender to an all-consuming passion, Troy's past threatens to tear them apart--unless a Christmas miracle can save their love...
The book opens with artist Troy Davenport unexpectedly coming across a newspaper photograph of the woman he hasn't been able to forget since they shared a few forbidden moments on an ocean liner, a few months earlier. They didn't exchange names, and Troy thought he wouldn't be able to find her again. It turns out she's heiress Miranda Granger, and the society pages reveal that she and her family will be spending Christmas at the opening of a luxurious seaside resort.

In the months since he's seen her, Miranda has become Troy's muse, and he can't stop trying to paint her. He can't resist the idea of meeting her in the flesh again and having the chance to convince her to pose for him, so he wrangles an invitation to the resort.

When they finally meet again, Miranda is not particularly welcoming, even though the attraction is just as strong on her part. She has some stuff in her past that means her father is extremely protective of her, and not in a good way. He thinks she can't be trusted, and is an easy prey for fortune hunters. Fortune hunters such as Troy, he would think, even though in reality, Troy is the son of an extremely rich New York family. He and his father disagreed over his choice of career and his refusal to join the family firm, though, so he's decided to make his own way, under a new name. So as far as both Miranda and her father are concerned, he's an impoverished artist -one with a bright future, but at the moment, without a penny to his name.

This was the first book I ever purchased on my Kindle. I read the description, downloaded the sample, and clicked to buy as soon as I finished it. It was Boxing Day and I was on the bus coming back from Southport -it was such a thrill to be able to just click a button and have the book right there!

What sold me on this was as much the setting and the plot line. Edwardian settings make me think of the wonderful Judy Cuevas / Judith Ivopry already, and when you combine this with a set-up involving forbidden meetings on an ocean crossing, I just can't help thinking of Beast.

Well, the Edwardian England setting was as great as I'd hoped. Not quite Judy Cuevas, but vivid and distinct, and an excellent change after so many Regencies and Victorians. It's a really good time to set a romance, with social norms that were still restrictive, but clearly show some signs of the increasing freedom to come. I also had huge fun with the technology of the time -Troy driving a car, for instance.

The romance itself I was less enthused by. It's ok, but I found it hard to really feel the connection between Troy and Miranda. I think part of the problem for me was that Troy didn't feel very mature. If I had been advising Miranda, I would have warned her not to trust him. To me, what Astor wrote felt more like infatuation and an artist's obsession with a model than real love. I know we're told it's love, and it's the author's world and she knows what's what there, but I wasn't completely convinced by the end.

I also found the conflict between Troy and Miranda not as good as it could have been. There's an element there that was interesting, which was Miranda's doubts about whether she really is vulnerable to fortune hunters, and whether she's somehow unable to recognise one at all. Her difficulty in trusting Troy made sense to me because of this. Still, I couldn't help thinking that this would have been a much more interesting book if Troy had actually been just an anonymous artist and we hadn't had that knowledge that he was heir to a huge fortune and could always fall back on that. It wouldn't have meant that they would have ended up living in poverty, since Troy was clearly on his way to becoming a successful artist. Would Miranda have been willing to defy her father then? We didn't get to find out.

MY GRADE: A B-

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