Stealing Midnight by Tracy Macnish 
(Zebra, $5.99, PG-13)  ISBN 9781420101706 
Rhys Gawain is a pathetic old man who is close as to being insane as one can be. He wants to solve the mysteries of death and thinks by experimenting on corpses from the local cemetery he will be able to find the answers he seeks. He pays grave robbers to supply him these bodies. He uses his daughter, Olwyn, as his assistant even though she is sickened by it. Her father’s mind is slowly deteriorating and she wants to escape her father’s harsh, cold estate where she’ll be free from ridicule. The people of Chester believe Olwyn is a witch with her long black hair that has streaks of white running through it. And because she has no mirror to look at herself in, she believes her father when he tells her she’s ugly.

Olwyn is in for a shock when the latest body that has been uncovered is actually still breathing! Rhys doesn’t care and wants to operate on the unconscious man. Olywn is able to stop her father, run away and carry the strange man on her horse drawn cart to a secret place where no one will be able to find them. Olwyn will be in for even more surprises when the man wakes up and accuses her of trying to kill him.

Lord Aidan Mullin has no idea how he has found himself naked and being taken care of by a woman who looks to be from another time because of the way she dresses and speaks. Aidan is grateful to Olwyn for rescuing him after she explains how he came to be in her safe keeping. For some reason he finds peace with Olwyn, away from all the responsibilities he must endure as the son of a Duke and a betrothal to a woman he doesn’t love but must marry because he ruined her. He wants to be someone else for a short while.  She he tells Olwyn his name is Lochrann, a nickname his deceased father gave him and what his twin brother Padraig now calls him.

Olwyn is not used to being around such a virile and handsome man. She will help him recover and when he is well enough, she will find a ship to take her to America where she can start a new life. But Lochrann wants Olwyn to stay with him, and when his brother Padraig finds him and brings him home, Lochrann refuses to let his beautiful witch out of his sight. She has placed a curse on him where he only wants her and no other woman will do.  Not even his fiancée, who will do whatever she can to keep them apart.

Stealing Midnight does have an interesting plot regarding grave robbers, a mad-scientist type of father, and a heroine who is very unique in her personality and looks. It also has an atmospheric gothic feel to it. With these combinations, you would think I would be impressed by this latest historical romance by Tracy Macnish. I wasn’t. I had such issues with Olwyn and the way Aidan treats her that I could barely finish it.

It’s bad enough that Olwyn’s father is crazy, but the reasoning behind it is pretty silly.He went off the deep end because of the death of Olwyn’s brother. Her mother decided that the Gawain household was not worth staying in and disappeared, leaving her daughter to the whims of her abusive father who, in order to keep Olwyn in line, tells her she is horrible to look at. He makes sure she has no one to turn to for help because of all the gossip about her being a witch.

I was not at all sympathetic to Aidan’s problems. They are so small when you compare them to what Olwyn goes through. He moans and groans because he has so much responsibility on his shoulders and what he has to deal with, especially in regards to Mira, his fiancée, who may look like an angel but isn’t. She’s a nasty piece of work. And I almost choked on my laughter because at one point Mira is described as being as adorable as a kitten.

Aidan is the worst kind of hero because he strings Olwyn along. One moment he can’t be with her and must stay away because she is not meant to be for him; then suddenly he is overcome with lust for Olwyn and comes to her at night to sleep with because she helps him sleep. He uses Olwyn as a body pillow just because it suits him. I was insulted for Olwyn, who really has no spine to speak of. Her reactions to things make more sense because of the way her father treated her but because of the type of woman she is, if Aidan wanted to treat her horribly, she would allow it.

Along with the purple prose descriptions of what the characters look like and the actual sex acts, as well as the secondary plot with Olwyn’s father wanting revenge, Stealing Midnight is more a sad comedy if anything. What should have been a luscious Regency romance where a woman finds her self-worth in the arms of a wonderful hero fell flat. From Olwyn and Adian’s traits, it's hard to see them having any happily-ever-after, and for this reader, a HEA is so very important when reading a romance. Stealing Midnight fails in this regard. 

--Catherine Anne

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