Midnight’s Wild Passion
By Anna Campbell
Release Date: April 26, 2011
Ranelaw has no doubt of his ability to seduce his victim, but this lord who boasts of his ability to eradicate chaperones is unprepared for Miss Antonia Smith, companion to Cassie. Experience has taught Miss Smith more than she ever wanted to know about rakes. Disowned by her family and forced to assume a disguise of “irreproachable rectitude” for the past ten years, Antonia is determined to protect her charge from repeating the mistakes made by Lady Antonia Hilliard, the girl Antonia Smith once was. The battle is on. Ranelaw and Antonia are engaged in a duel of moves and counter moves, complicated by the growing attraction that threatens to destroy his perfect revenge and her carefully constructed identity.
I’ll admit up front that I am not a fan of revenge plots. Had I been less a fan of Anna Campbell, I might well have passed on this one for that reason. For several chapters, Ranelaw seemed more villain than hero. I was repulsed not only by his willingness to destroy the life of an innocent but also by the fact that he recognizes the heinousness of his own actions and yet is not deterred from his plan. The struggle between Ranelaw’s darker and better selves is powerful, and the outcome seems in question for much of the novel. Just when the reader thinks that love may redeem him, the rake resurfaces:
He’d stared into her eyes, dark with confusion and unwilling passion, and for one, stark, horrible instant, he’d wished to be that different man. He’d wished to be worthy of her.
Hell, no. he was perfectly happy with who he was. He had more freedom than anyone he knew. He took what he wanted and discarded it when he’d had his fill. His world held no limits.
To my surprise, I found myself as a reader seduced by Ranelaw’s guinea gold hair and shades-of-gray heart. Like Antonia, I came to realize that “a reluctant hero skulked inside the Marquess of Ranelaw.”
I did like Antonia immediately. Ms. Campbell is well-known for her hot, angst-filled heroes, but she is equally skilled at creating remarkable, courageous heroines. Antonia is such a heroine. Some of my favorite romance heroines are those whose deepest nature is at odds with the image they present to the world. I’m happy to add Antonia to the list.
The secondary characters are also memorable. Cassie is a dear—young, idealistic, and loyal, with a surprising streak of pragmatism that surfaces at a crucial moment. Cassie’s father and Antonia’s benefactor, Demarest, is also an exceptionally well-drawn character—a carelessly kind man and indulgent father, who is nonetheless shallow, selfish, and incapable of accepting responsibility for his actions. I’d love to see more of Cassie and of Antonia’s brother, Henry.
Although her new novel lacks the darkness of Ms. Campbell’s earlier, Regency noir stories, it has all the emotional intensity and sizzling love scenes that one expects in an Anna Campbell novel. It’s another AC keeper! If you are a reader who sticks to light-hearted romance, this book is not for you. But for those who love a passionate, poignant romance that shows the redemptive power of love, I highly recommend Midnight’s Wild Passion.