Friday, August 9, 2013

Stroke of Midnight

Stroke of Midnight by Olivia Drake

Laura Faulkner finds her life shattered when a piece of jewelry stolen from a prominent woman of society is found in her father's desk. Laura and her father escape after she stabs Alexander Ross, the Earl of Copley, in the face with a letter opener, and they live in hiding for years on the continent. Laura had fancied herself in love with Alex but when he refused to listen to her about her father's innocence she realized he had probably only been courting her because he suspected her father's involvement in the theft of his god mother's jewels. Years later Laura comes back to London after her father dies while on a visit in the city and through a bizarre string of incidents finds herself employed as a companion to a friendly, if absentminded, elderly woman named Lady Josephine who happens to be Alex's aunt. Alex recognizes Laura immediately and all the old feelings he had for her come rushing back to him. He has never questioned her father's guilt but he knows that if he wants to get in her good graces, and thus his aunt's, he must humor her in her attempts to discover who really stole the jewels.

Laura's attempts to find the true thief involve attending a lot of social functions as Lady Josephine's companion in order to listen in on people's conversations and snoop in private areas of houses. Since he truly believes her father is guilty, and knows that her father was in massive debt, Alex does not really throw himself into helping Laura. She believes that the culprit is the father of the woman who competed with her for Alex's affections and that he had been having an affair with the victim of the jewel theft. She manages to confront him and when he lays out the truth about her father, she is forced to realize that she didn't know her father as well as she had thought, but she still knows that he would never have stolen those jewels. As she gets closer to finding the true thief, and closer to Alex, it scares the culprit and he takes drastic measures to ensure his crime does not come to light and it is up to Alex to save the woman he loves and clear her father's name.

This book was part of a series that had a very loose basis on classic fairy tales and this one was Cinderella as Laura was given a pair of red slippers that she wore a couple times during the book and I suppose it could be said that exciting things happened at those times, but the shoes weren't really all that special and the fairy tale thing just seemed like a gimmick. Laura was smart, determined, and obviously a very loving and dedicated daughter, but I couldn't help but roll my eyes at her attempts to discover the truth. Snooping and eaves dropping? I guess since it did bring out the culprit in the end that it could be termed a success, but she really had not been all that close to discovering the truth or even suspecting the thief. Alex was a rather boring lord who apparently investigated crimes on the sly and his most redeeming quality was his obvious love for his aging aunt. He refused to accept any other explanation for the jewels being in Laura's father's desk even while claiming he loved her and did not really help her at all in her "investigation."

The jewel theft was definitely the main theme going through this book and provided the impetus for most of the meetings, discussions, arguments, etc... between Laura and Alex. I found it interesting enough, but would really have liked more of a romance between them, absent any investigation, especially since they didn't really connect over it as they were kind of working at cross purposes, with her trying to uncover the truth and him trying to protect his godmother and prove her father's guilt. He did not come across well in these circumstances. The eventual ending to this story was predictable as every romance with a mystery and a bad guy will end with someone being kidnapped and the other coming to the rescue at the nick of time. There was definitely an attraction between the two of them and quite a lot of sexual tension that didn't really lead to too much excitement in the end. The writing was fast and engaging, which was needed in a book that I found to be difficult to relate to.

Rating: Two people who disagreed and worked at cross purposes for two long and I just never got the feeling that they belonged together.

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