Midnight Scandals - Courtney Milan, Sherry Thomas, Carolyn Jewel My review contains spoilers and they're are mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

Note: My review and rating is overall (3.5 stars) based on Carolyn Jewel’s “One Starlit Night” (3.5), Courtney Milan’s “What Happened at Midnight” (3.5) and “A Dance in Moonlight” by Sherry Thomas (3.5).

If you’ve read the little note on Courtney Milan’s website, you’d know that all three stories in this novella take place in Doyle’s Grange, Exmoor, time-frame spanning from 1813 to 1856 to 1896.

“One Starlit Night”, Carolyn Jewel

This a story about lovers reuniting. I actually loved this story in bits and places, there were emotional scenes that left me in tears. I understood why Crispin and Portia were separated, the reasons good but what I couldn’t understand how come in the last 10 yrs., Crispin took no initiative to really communicate with Portia, except for a few letters and calling her a ‘friend’.

Crispin is Portia’s brother, Magnus’s childhood friend. So he was hers, at first. Crispin’s estate borders on Doyle’s Grange, where now Portia resides with Magnus and his new wife, Eleanor. As I said, they shared a past. Crispin always knew he’d have Portia as a lover, since he never saw her as a sister, even in their childhood. It was one of those meant-to-be kind of relationships which I totally understood. But Portia’s background isn’t of the noble standing.

There were, of course, consequences of fooling around... a child, threats by Crispin’s snotty, autocratic father to Portia with something about Magnus’ future, she getting scared and aborting the child. Portia never told Crispin, he misunderstood, though he knew his father would never make Portia his DIL. Things fell apart, along with their relationship, even though they both were in love.

Life went on, at least for Crispin. He later got married at some point, though Portia never did. She never even had another lover. It didn’t feel like her life really ‘moved on’ in any sense. There were no communications except for in letters. His wife died too, about 2 yrs ago. Now, suddenly, he’s invited to Doyle’s Grange for Portia’s upcoming marriage. Here, Crispin finds that each glimpse of Portia and his old feelings rear its head. He wants to act on it too. He’s still in ‘lust’ with her it seems. Same can be said about Portia. She knew of his marriage etc., but seeing him again, after so many years… seems like nothing has changed between them.

And they end up having sex too in a few pages... just like that, which I didn’t like because there were still too many questions left unanswered at that point. Then, even though they had sex, it felt like Crispin has no intentions of working on the ‘feelings’ he’s/they’re having. I mean he’s a viscount for crying out loud and he could marry Portia if he wanted to, now that his father’s dead and he is a widower. He did exactly that in the end but not in a straight-forward way. I got frustrated at some point with all the talk-talk and not seeing enough actions. It felt like they were forever making excuses for their adolescent indiscretion, and not making enough efforts to do anything about their feelings. IMO, the story would’ve been wrapped up in around 3/4 chapters if there were less pages on Portia’s vain, shallow and self-centered SIL, Eleanor and if Portia and Crispin really talked to each-other about those years.

Then as CJ’s love of discussing hero’s previous sexual encounters begin to make appearances, I felt cranky. I mean, I understand before he got married. There was still the hurt, and maybe his father was still alive so Crispin couldn’t do anything. But WTF happened in the last 2 yrs since his wife’s death? If he’d always loved her (as he proclaims later on), why didn’t he take any step to find out if there’s anything left for them, instead of shagging those OWs? I didn’t like this. Big question but not good enough answer. I also felt sad for Crispin’s first wife. Seemed like she was a nice woman but never got what she deserved. Even Crispin knew it wasn’t well done, to marry someone just out of spite. Not that he was unhappy overall, but just not into her entirely.

It’s only when Portia and Crispin begin to talk is when I got into the story. Their past made me very sad. I felt for them, honestly, but the story overall left me unsatisfied. 3.5 stars.

“What Happened at Midnight”, Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan can write, I give you that but her stories don’t always work for me. I have NO idea why. In this story, I was plain bored for the most part. And I didn’t like the hero, John from the get go. Even though he turned around and became nice to the heroine, Mary, he didn’t inspire anything in me. Also, there were gaps in the story that were glaring, probably the novella syndrome. lol

Mary’s father was accused of embezzlement by his business partners and commits suicide. What happened here, as the story starts, is still confusing to me. Seems like Mary found him and did something cover things up, so that no one knows. They aren’t from a noble family, and even though Mary had the best tutoring of the comportment of a society lady from an expensive European school, soon it was proven that she can never be one. She was trying to steal away when one of her father’s partners catches her. They were ransacking the house to get her father’s account book and the money that were stolen. He was about to abuse her when John, the youngest partner happens by. By now Mary knows her engagement with John is a thing of the past and she’s correct. Even though he saves her from that man, later he makes sure to threat her. If she had lied about not knowing about her father’s actions, he’ll make her life hell.

Then I found out, he’s already been in love with her and their courtship was a dreamy thing. But where is the trust when she’s in this grave danger and he just bids her ‘good riddance’, literally? Wasn’t he supposed to give her the benefit of doubt and at least, help her? Well, whatever it is, he doesn’t do anything at all. Mary was also in love with John but she makes sure he doesn’t know it. I mean why would she after his threats? After this confrontation, she finally flees..........

18 months pass by and we don’t know how she *exactly* ends up in Doyle’s Grange as Lady Patsworth’s companion. The answer was never given. John is a farmer, a well-to-do one though. And he has innovative ideas about how to improve one’s farming. This led him to Exmoor, a farm of a man called Beauregard, to work on his drainage system. But John was also secretly searching for Mary. Seems like she send the account book later on, with pages missing in it. John is pretty sure she’s a fraud and a liar like her father and he won’t rest until he finds the money that’s supposed to be his nephew’s inheritance. Don’t ask me how he could invest his nephew’s inheritance like this because I have NO idea.

Anyway, he does find Mary in Doyle’s Grange, which sits close by Beauregard’s farm. But Patsworth or Sir Walter, an elderly man, it seems, zealously likes to guard his ‘possessions’, i.e. his wife and his wife’s companion. Lady Patsworth is somewhat a broken woman because of her husband’s oppressive and callous attitude. He doesn’t let her allowance, no meeting with her family or even anyone of this neighborhood. The guy was fugly in and out. I felt for Lady P. She was a virtual prisoner in the house, and so was Mary. She wasn’t given wages, which Sir Walter was ‘keeping’ for her. The guy did it all in the name of ‘keeping them safe’. Later it was revealed that he was paranoid about his wife cheating on him, just has he had done all their married life. Fugly SOB!

So, John is warned off the property as soon as he steps on it. But he has discovered Mary already and makes acquaintance with Lady P nonetheless. One day, while Mary was taking a much needed stroll, John happens upon her and begins about the matter of the money. That night, Mary does something desperate; to act as the ‘payment’, since the money was spend after her teaching in that school and so on. Mary knew that no matter what, her father loved her and she’s just being loyal to him. John doesn’t take Mary’s offering but he softens towards her. She reveals some of her times just after the trouble but John still doesn’t believe that her father was dead... Again, loads of confusing information in this part and I found my interest wavering. Later, Mary keeps meeting John at night, stealing away somehow, and start working to reinforce their friendship. But John still had an ulterior motive; to soften Mary up and bring out the truth by using her trust.

Can you blame me for not giving a sh*t about this man?

After a few days, Mary is feeling stronger with John’s friendship and finally decides to act on Sir Walter’s sleazy ways. Also, she wanted to help Lady P. They form a plan which involved Viscountess Northword, or our heroine of the first story, Portia, who is by now an elderly matron in her 60th years. There was also the matter of this ornament, which you can link with the first story. Oh, but I felt wistful. We also meet Crispin later as they work on their plan, which was to invite the Patsworths to dinner. Northword being the landlord, and a Viscount, a mere Sir such as Walter can’t ignore his invitation. It works, of course. Lady P is rescued by her brother. But the thing is that, we never get to know if she ever really was able to pay her husband back.

At night, that day, it was the cue for John and Portia to get back together and have sex... So, yes I was bored. But John forgets to tell her first that he was on to misusing her trust, though he has changed his mind ever since. And Portia seems like has another plan, for which she needs to be at London, alone, without John trailing her.

Yep he lets her go.

I’m glad it didn’t drag on and so glad for the nostalgic epilogue, that takes place 40 yrs later. I totally loved it. It gives us a glimpse of John and Mary’s life together so far. I always get teary eyed reading such stuff. Stories where time spans for a long time just makes me feel this way. It’s an odd feeling to see the young and vibrant couple I just read, getting old and frail, reminiscing about the past, returning to the place where a lot in their lives changed. Also the fact that the H and h of the first story have passed away by now. :( 3.5 stars.

“A Dance in Moonlight”, Sherry Thomas

The ending story of the novella which I also ended up enjoying much more than the other two. And it’s significant to me because I was more than ready to hate this story because of Isabelle. If you read my review of Ravishing the Heiress, you’ll have an idea just how much I hated that book, the story, Fitz the spineless hero and Isabelle, his long lost love came back to settle down with him. Millie, Fitz’s wife’s feelings can go down the drain! But... but if I start about that book, I’ll end up ranting again and there’d be no review for this novella, so let’s just hop on to that.

So the story picks up from where Ravishing the Heiress ends, also the previous novella by CM, because at the same time, John and Mary was passing by Doyle’s Grange. Doyle’s Grange was rented for the purpose of Fitz and Isabelle settling down together (cheating, yep... tsk tsk tsk!). Isabelle has been a widow for around 2 yrs, with two young children. Everything was set until the spineless moron decided that he wants to stay with his wife.

Isabelle just returned to Doyle’s Grange broken-hearted when Fitz turned her away because he’d fallen in love with Millie *snorts (after cheating on her for 8 yrs... la-di-da, my arse)*. She was about to move out when Ralston, who has noticed her for a while, decides to make an appearance. Now, Ralston might be a mere mister now, but he’s the heir of Duke of Perrin (and I think the Duke was mentioned in the trilogy once or twice). We were never introduced to Ralston though. He has never met Fitz in person, though heard of him plenty of times. Ralston is a cartographer; a sexy, handsome, a sweetpea cartographer if I might add. If you’ve read the blurb, you already know that he has an uncanny resemblance to Fitz, which is what drew him and Isabelle together. But Ralston, for me, was so much better a hero than Fitz. He was a genuinely good guy and kind to Isabelle, even knowing about the resemblance.

So, when he steps on the pathway, Isabelle mixes him up with Fitz (duh!), runs out and starts kissing hims senseless *eyeroll*. Ralston is both amused and aroused by this beautiful woman’s activities. He has surmised that she’s a young widow from her widow garb and though Ralston is interested in her, it’s not his habit to prey on young widows and wives. After Isabelle realizes that the man she’s been kissing so passionately isn’t Fitz (reddish hair, rather than coal black and green eyes instead of blue), she’s is shocked speechless... and then embarrassed.

After that, things start rushing. They struck up a friendship (and more) together faster than a rocket but as I said, I liked their interactions. There was an understanding between them that I thought was appealing. There were emotions and a few teary-eyed scenes when Ralston talks about his deceased wife, whom he had loved and lost at a very young age... All was well, until the part where they started sharing ‘naughty bits’ on their deceased spouses. One or two mentions would’ve been ok but it went on and on as Isabelle was very interested in the deceased Mrs. Fitzwilliam. But I hold no grudge, since none of them held any for each-other’s deceased spouses.

Isabelle, in this story, came off as a slightly different woman. I envisioned her a selfish, self-centered b*tch who just wanted to grab onto something to live a life of luxury after her husband died. I’m still mad that Fitz never really groveled to Millie, Millie is still a saint (ugh!) and that, Isabelle still had no real remorse over the fact that she was wrecking a home. But, she mulled over her actions later and understood that it would’ve been all wrong, especially now that she knows Ralston. As I read on her life story, some things became clear. She has had a good marriage but not the one she wanted. Then even Fitz, whom she thought a comfort after the sudden death of her husband (a fever that made her gravely ill as well), left her, leaving her alone. I think I felt where her vulnerability stemmed from. And now she’s not sure about the uncanny resemblance Ralston, the man she’s already falling for, has with Fitz and how to cope with it.

Then Ralston had to come face to face with Fitz. I was thinking there might be some secret plot of unwanted twins somewhere in the story but nah, nothing like that happened. I understood why he became so confused about his place in Isabelle’s life after meeting Fitz (he knew the whole sordid story). Is he just a replacement or someone much much more important? Everyone seemed to raise this question. I felt for the man, really. I also wished that Ralston had a full-length novel (with a better storyline) rather than that spineless creep, because he deserved one. Really loved this guy. 3.5 stars.

PS: Millie and Fitz were present here and I hated that... don’t get me started on them again *takes a deep breath*. I wish the story was totally focused instead on Ralston and Isabelle.

PPS: The Rowan tree that Portia planted was still standing strong in Doyle’s Grange, even though by the time of the last story, she had left this earth, along with Crispin. I keep thinking about it, just makes me sad.

Ignore me please. *sniffs*