Sunday, April 5, 2009

Review: Fire At Midnight

Title: Fire At Midnight
Author: Lisa Marie Wilkinson
Genre: Historical Romance/1703 England
Published: March 2009

Synopsis from back cover~

It is 1703 and Rachael Penrose is confined to Bedlam insane asylum in London after discovering her uncle Victor plans to kill her brother in order to inherit the family fortune. Victor leads a gang of criminals and uses French privateer/smuggler Sebastien Falconer as the scapegoat for his crimes. When Victor spread the lie that Rachael informed on Falconer's smuggling activities, Falconer vows revenge on the girl.

A dangerously ill Rachael finally escapes from Bedlam only to find shelter in Sebastien's carriage and ends up in his care. It is a twist of fate that will alter both their lives.

Believing she is in danger from Sebastien, Rachael meets up with his estranged twin brother, Jacques, a customs officer intent on bringing his brother, the famous privateer to justice. Btu the real criminal is still at large, and she and her brother are still in danger. Will she discover the truth and save both their lives... and her heart?

Since this is the author’s first novel I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had read the first two chapters online at the author's website so I knew that I was interested. But whether the story could continue to hold my interest was the real question. Fortunately it could and did hold my interest. The time period is not one that I read often but I found myself drawn into the era of the smugglers and privateers. The descriptions of life along the coast of England were vivid and made the scenes come alive. The depiction of the water thrashing the rocks, of the wind and rain blowing against those foolish enough to be caught in it. The author not only brought the characters alive but she also brought the landscape alive.

The heroine, Rachael Penrose, is a strong spirited heroine with a determination to find her baby brother and get them both to safety. But first she must escape Bedlam and her uncle. When the story opens Rachael is locked up in Bedlam and desperately trying to stay sane. The conditions are horrendous. Rachael talks of feeding the rats in her cell in the hopes that they will leave her alone. She has no way of getting in touch with anyone for help. When she realizes that her uncle has every intention of having her killed she knows she must somehow escape. Thankfully, she has help escaping since she has been drugged and is in no condition to get out on her own.

Once out of Bedlam she is on the run from the men her uncle has sent after her. She ends up not with the family that aided in her escape but in the care of her other nemesis, Sebastien Falconer. Before Rachael realizes who is caring for her she comes to feel not only gratitude for Sebastien but also a growing attraction to him. Rachael does try to get away from Sebastien once she finds out who he is. She is not only angry at him but at herself for being inexplicably drawn to him. They both try to fight their feelings for each other, thinking they are enemies. Rachael and Sebastien have not only each other to fight but also her uncle’s men and the customs officials who are lead by Sebastien twin brother. He is out to get Sebastien and will use any means, even Rachael, to bring his brother to trial.

Sebastien Falconer is a Frenchman and a privateer. He was raised by his paternal grandfather to hate all things English. His mother was English but left France when Sebastien’s father died and she took his brother Jacques with her to England. So to say there is rivalry between the brothers is an understatement. Sebastien wants only to clear his name so he can get back his ship and crew. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with Rachael other than revenge. But when she is practically dropped into his lap he decides to keep her with him until he can decide exactly what to do with her. His growing attraction to Rachael only complicates things and he must try to keep her safe from her uncle and his brother.

The story was fast paced with Sebastien and Rachael on the move a lot. At times it seemed like nearly everyone was after them and they barely had time to be alone before they needed to evade the current threat pursing them. The storm known as The Great Storm of 1703, also plays a role in Sebastien and Rachael's attempts to elude their pursuers. The plot is complicated with many players woven in and out of Rachael and Sebastien’s journey to safety and rescuing her brother. The secondary characters were interesting and true to their time period with the men holding the power and the women having a more subtle type of influence over the outcome of events. I enjoyed the way Wilkinson brought the conflict of Sebastien and his brother into the plot but didn’t let it overshadow the romance building between Rachael and Sebastien.

Wilkinson is a new voice in historical romance that I look forward to reading more of. Her next novel, Stolen Promise, is due out March of 2010. Until then you can read excerpts from Fire at Midnight at the author’s website.

Rating: A-


  1. I've been waiting for this one to come out for a while now it seems. I checked and it isn't on the shelves at Chapters.......but it's in my shopping cart :)
    I'm glad to see you enjoyed it. Both the storyline AND the cover appeal to me.

  2. Kristie ~ I'm not sure how easy this one will be to find in B&M stores.

    I like the cover too. Different and it fits the story.

  3. LOL, you've been on a roll girl!! :)

  4. I've gotten really lucky lately. Hope it doesn't change. No DNFs please. :)