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Devil at Midnight (Novel of the Upyr) Mass Market Paperback – November 2, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Launching a duology, Holly weaves together vampire lore, time travel, and uninhibited passion. 1950s teenager Grace Michaels is killed by her abusive father. She awakens in a place between life and death, from which a spirit guide sends her back in time to 1460. Mercenary Christian Durand is surprised by Grace's ghostly appearance, but that doesn't stop him from initiating unconventional sexual encounters with the generically innocent yet oddly worldly young woman. Her rival for Christian's attention is upyr (vampire) queen Nim Wei, who sexually manipulates Christian's band of warriors and makes a deal with Christian's cruel father in hopes of seducing Christian into being her undead companion forever. Explicit scenes of promiscuous sex and violence, sometimes in close proximity, will appeal to fans of Charlaine Harris and Laurell K. Hamilton, but may put off readers of more traditional romance. (Nov.) (c)
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About the Author
Emma Holly lives in Minnesota where the winters are long and people will use any excuse to warm up. According to Emma, humanity’s best inventions are hot showers, the printing press, coffee, chocolate, and bicycle shorts for men. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 2591, Minneapolis, MN 55402-0591.
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And yet, I'm totally torn on how I felt about the book on the whole and where book #2 seems to be headed. I both loved and HATED it, and I'll tell you why.
The only love that medieval soldier Christian Durand has known in his life is that of his friends and comrades in arms, until he is visited by a spectral young girl named Grace. Although she never tells him this, Grace is from hundreds of years in the future and her last memory before dying is of being battered by her angry, violent father because she kissed a boy. An 'angel' in a strange limbo realm agrees to show her someone who is her soul's dearest friend through time, and she finds herself stuck with Christian. Christian's father Gregori is also the leader of the mercenary army he fights for, and he's an abusive, cold and violent man, jealous of his son and looking for any opportunity to assure Christian's place under his boot heel. Christian and Grace bond, and the development of their romance is by turns incredibly sweet, original and sexy, which I wasn't really expecting because the heroine is a ghost. The author accomplishes this in a few different ways, and one of them involved Grace becoming corporeal at times - given the last few chapters of the book, I'm not sure I understood why this happened.
In the midst of this relationship, a mysterious minstrel has hired Christian's father's mercenaries to escort her to Florence, requesting Christian specifically, which of course sets his father against him and while this conflict is filled with tension, it builds for much of the book. Nim Wei, the self declared queen of all city dwelling upyr (and the minstrel in question) spins a web to seduce Christian, whom she has chosen as her next companion. When Christian doesn't respond to her advances, Nim Wei puts plan B into action, which involves having sex with all of Christian's men and letting him see what an incredible lay they think she is, with the idea that he eventually won't be able to resist her any more. And strangely enough, Christian does find her attractive and is turned on by this, although he resists because he knows there's something dark and evil about her and also, because he loves Grace. Uh, okay. It made my flesh crawl, but I guess it's unrealistic to expect that just because a man is in love, he's not going to be sexually attracted to another woman. Even when his lover repeatedly warns him about the dark magic that she feels emanating from the upyr. For all of her magic, Min Wei never knows about Grace, because even though the upyr are magical creatures, the specter is somehow caught between worlds.
Meanwhile, the upyr sleeping with (and feeding from) Christian's men thralls them into adoring her and also gives them strength and skills that bring the tensions between Christian and his father to boiling point. To cut a long story short, Gregori asks Nim Wei to have sex with HIS men to make them strong enough to defeat Christian's soldiers, and in exchange he will deliver Christian to her beaten and cowed and ready to be her new boy toy. Although she's initially repulsed and infuriated, when Wei tells Christian about this plan in hopes that he'll join her voluntarily and rise up against his father, he rejects her offer to make him what she is. And this is where it got a little too twisted for me, even though I like my share of angst with my romance.
The upyr wants to pay Christian back for his rejection of her, so she proceeds to have sex with all of his men, too, and of course, the entire army is still panting after her. Christian's men are back to their regular human strength while Gregori's men growing stronger until open war breaks out between them. Nim Wei orchestrates the entire thing, and knows that Gregori will strike against his son - the only way that Christian manages to survive the massacre that follows is because Grace merges her energy with his to give him supernatural strength and vigor. From the beginning of the book, we are introduced to Christian's brothers in arms, and collectively they're such a big part of why Christian is able to be an honorable, good man with integrity in spite of his father. In the last quarter of the book, we see each of them murdered by Gregori's men, while Nim Wei stands by and lets it all happen. Christian's grief and rage severs his bond with Grace and she's pushed out of his body and away. Even though she has disappeared and reappeared several times, for some reason he thinks that she's left him, too, and he can't handle it.
So what does Christian do? Because he wants revenge, he goes to Nim Wei and takes her up on her offer. She makes him upyr, and they have sex countless times in many positions, which apparently Christian thoroughly enjoys like nothing else. I think I almost threw up in my mouth a little. This is the good guy, the white knight who spent most of the book falling in love with a lonely, innocent young girl? At this point, I felt like the book took a very weird turn in terms of character authenticity and integrity.. And yes, likeability. Characters with faults can still be likeable. Christian doesn't give much thought to Grace until he kills his father and she rematerializes, right there in his father's room. Even though Grace knows immediately what has happened (including all the sex he had with the upyr), she forgives Christian without hesitation and they make love right next to his father's bloody corpse. As soon as they declare their eternal love for each other, Grace is yanked away and Christian is swallowed up by the grief/rage all over again until Nim Wei comes to collect him and they go off together.
Meanwhile, Grace wakes up in the hospital, having been resuscitated, so she obviously wasn't a ghost, just conveniently and temporarily dead. She remembers nothing of her time with Christian, but over the hundreds of years since then, he blames her for leaving him and builds up a lot of bitterness and resentment toward her. This felt extremely contrived to me. I understood why the author plotted certain elements the way she did, and the fact that Christian had to become upyr in order to live to see Grace again, but it really just ate away at the integrity of Christian's character and my belief in his feelings for Grace. I couldn't believe he'd served himself up to the evil bitch who basically set everything up just to get her hands on him, and then has the gall to nurse a grudge against the girl he cheated on. I can't love the book, even though I thought it was great up until Nim Wei decides to serve Christian and his comrades up to his awful father. It just got too twisted, dark and convoluted for me and it's hard for me to see how Emma Holly is going to fix it in the second half of the story.
In 1950 Ohio, Grace is 18. Her father beats her. The current beating causes her to go unconscious. Her spirit travels to 1460 Switzerland where she meets Christian. Grace is able to switch back and forth between ghost form and human form. She and Christian have a lot of sex.
Christian's father Gregori is evil and has Christian whipped for being kind to a puppy. Gregori is the leader of a group of mercenary soldiers including his son. Nim is an Upyr, an immortal race superior to humans who drink blood and avoid the sun. She hires Gregori's men to escort her on a two-week trip. She wants to seduce Christian, but he's not interested. Therefore she has sex with various other soldiers. When she drinks their blood, they become stronger for a while.
The plot didn't do anything for me. I wasn't engaged or entertained. It was plodding rather than interesting. There are bad guys and bad things happen. Grief causes the hero to do certain things. One storyline was evil dad wants son to be subservient to him so he kills everything the son loves. It's not a bad idea, but it wasn't developed well. It needed more.
Nim had an odd role at the end. We don't understand her thoughts and feelings and why she did what she did at the end.
Grace's last name was Gladwell in the beginning of the book. At the end it was Michaels. Was this a typo? It wasn't explained.
There is a lot of sex, including rear door activity. There are also gay men with each other.
Gregori asked Nim to seduce his soldiers to give them strength. He said he would then kill Christian's soldiers and give Christian to Nim. She does this. After Christian's soldiers are dead, Christian is grieving and goes to Nim. She said (page 287) "I did not know your father would go this far. I would not have wished it so." Come on. That had me shaking my head. She sounded like she wanted to be sincere but apparently she was not.
Christian became immortal so he could kill his father and Laroux. (He could have done that without being immortal.) We see him kill his father, but we don't see him get revenge against Laroux. Maybe that will be in a sequel, but it felt like the author forgot to finish it.
Then, I didn't like the jump in plot. (Page 305) Christian says to Grace "You shall stay with me forever." She says "Nothing could make me leave you." Then she disappears for 500 years. We have no idea what he is thinking, doing, or feeling. However, now he is immortal, and he lives for 500 years, coming to her time, when all of a sudden she shows up. He remembers her, but she has no memory of him. Her lack of memory was unsatisfying and not explained. It wasn't a fulfilling feeling ending. I understand their story will continue in the sequel "Angel at Dawn."
How did Nim know about Grace and how to find her but Christian didn't? Nim never knew about Grace in 1460 (at least it wasn't written about).
What happened between 1950 and 1956 with Grace's parents? And with Grace?
Story length: 322 pages. Swearing language: mild, including religious swear words. Sexual language: strong. Number of sex scenes: 10. Estimated number of sex scene pages: 45. Setting: 1950 Ohio, 1956 Texas, and 1460 Switzerland and Italy. Copyright: 2010. Genre: time travel paranormal romance.
Most recent customer reviews
The beginning drew me in. I loved the time traveling ghost idea. The early sex scenes are hot!Read more