Friday, October 22, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: A Midnight Clear By Kristi Astor

Zebra Historical Romance November 2010

352 pages by Kristi Astor


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.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~This review is also in the November
issue of the Season click HERE

This romance unfolds at a leisurely pace, beginning and ending with Christmas, bracketing a year in-between.
I loved the setting of the seaside resort, The Grandview, the author describes it well, I could picture it in my mind, and the Christmas setting makes the meeting of the hero and heroine all the more magical.
Takes place in 1908-09, at the height of the Edwardian Age, (1901-1914) Think the British ITV drama from the 1970's Upstairs, Downstairs, it began in the Edwardian Age.
Even though women have more freedoms, they are still hampered in by the strictures of society.
Miranda Granger lives under this yoke. She has brought up her two younger sisters, has a taciturn, overbearing father, and a broken heart. But more importantly, that broken heart is enmeshed with a deep secret.

Troy Davenport is the very essence of a young, handsome, no doubt penniless painter. When he spies Miranda's picture in the society pages, he cannot believe it is the woman he spoke to briefly on a ship some months before, the woman that has haunted his thoughts, his muse all this time. When he reads she will be at the Grandview, he manages to get an invitation.

This has all the makings of a classic romance tale, and Kristi Astor does not disappoint. Her storytelling style focuses almost exclusively and intimately on the hero and heroine, with a few secondary characters flitting in and about them. Troy is a bit of a bohemian, traveling where ever his muse takes him, dressed in frayed, older clothing, the smell of turpentine wafting about his handsome countenance, paint under his nails. Miranda cannot fathom his way of life, too carefree for her by far, plus she is shocked he looks so much younger than herself.

She tries to discourage Troy's attentions, he desperately wants to paint her, has ever since he saw her on the deck of the cruise ship.
It seems, Troy has a few secrets of his own. An effective use of flash backs flesh out the depth and reason for these secrets, of which I will not give away.

Things deepen between the two over the two weeks at the Grandview, the relationship grows as Miranda sits for Troy and as he paints, they converse. It is a wonderful to see these two people, obviously physically attracted, getting to know each other. But, to a point. They both keep things hidden. Their warm companionship culminates in a very passionate encounter in the glasshouse.
Miranda is frightened by the passion Troy stirs up in her blood, and she flees. But Troy is determined it will not end here.

Six months go by, and Troy rents a cottage in Miranda's little village, setting her world on its axis, she never expected to see him again. And again, she tried to fight the need, the desire. The secrets they both keep catch up with them, and interference from Miranda's younger, vindictive sister do not help. Another parting.

But then, it is Christmas once again. You can see where this is going, but, I went along willingly. Back at the Grandview Hotel, and the magical reunion between the two had a lump in my throat.

I was entirely swept up into this conventional romance, it hit all the right notes, the characters real, flawed, and their love at times, heartbreaking. Perhaps some may not care for the leisurely pace this romance unfolds, but it worked for me. I loved the tight focus on the couple, their hopes, dreams, and past disappointments. And their secrets.
And any romance novel that can make my throat close over with emotion, deserves a high mark.

3 and 1/2 stars out of four for the book

KOVER KUDOS: Very romantic and sensual and captures the book pretty close. The moon and the leafless tree give it a paranormal look, but, this book isn't.

3 stars out of 4 for the cover

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