In the Midnight Hour
by Kimberly Randell
(Jove Haunting Hearts, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-515-12483-4
****
Despite a slow and somewhat awkward start, In the Midnight Hour is a highly enjoyable read that will certainly lead to a marked increase in the purchase of antique beds around the country. Kimberly Randell has written an otherworldly romance that is witty, sexy and, most importantly, leaves the reader with a smile.

As a man in New Orleans in the mid-19th century, Valentine Tremaine was a lover of legendary proportions. And the fact that he has been a ghost for 150 years has not changed him at all. Then, as now, Val loves women every woman. Regardless of shape or size, height or personality, to Val they are "creatures sent straight from heaven. God's supreme effort to outdo all the Devil's pleasurable vices."

Unfortunately, because his ghostly form is connected to the bed in which he was killed by an irate father, Val has had to forego the pleasures of the flesh a circumstance that after a century and a half has left him a very horny ghost.

Imagine his delight when Veronica Parrish purchases his bed. To his horror, Val finds that his long fast is not over because Ronnie is the one woman Val has vowed never to touch again a virgin.

For 20 years, Ronnie was the dutiful daughter of an extremely conservative small town politician in Covenant, Louisiana. That is until she almost married a man her father needed politically more than she did romantically. Her father, naturally, was less than pleased with her decision when Ronnie decided to follow her heart, despite the knowledge that her choice will forever alienate her from her family.

Now, six years later, as a senior accounting student with a 3.0+ GPA at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Baton Rouge, Ronnie is headed down the home stretch. It has not been easy, but after working two part-time jobs in order to put herself through school all she has to do is pass Professor Guidry's Human Sexuality class and the degree she has worked so long and hard for will be hers.

Of course, nothing ever works out the way it was planned, especially not when you are dealing with a well-intentioned ghost who changes the topic of her final paper for Guidry's class to Fifty Steps to Ultimate Sexual Fulfillment. Ronnie is certain that all her effort has been for naught. After all, what does a virgin know about sexual anything?

The relationship that develops is charming and fraught with sexual tension. Val's struggle to resist temptation is painfully delicious while Ronnie's attempts to seduce him are wonderfully funny. And her eventual acceptance of the limits of their relationship brought a tear to my eye.

Be warned however, that there are a few missteps. Randell's efforts to add a bit of danger to the tale are pitifully inept. She would have been much better off without it, although it did provide a chuckle or two. And much as I grew to like Ronnie, at times (especially in the beginning) I often found her angst more annoying than moving.

All in all, Randell has turned out a sweetly poignant romance with a fine cast of supporting characters as well as an admirable hero and heroine. This one's a keeper and I eagerly await her next novel.

And if you hear of any antique beds for sale, let me know!

--Walaika Haskins


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