I stumbled across a Lisa Marie Rice recommendation as one of the “similar reads” links on Goodreads. For a long time I didn’t take the plunge into reading her Midnight trilogy for a couple of reasons. First, the covers are unattractive and extremely confusing (just look at them!). It makes me weep to think of all the mediocre romance novels out there with amazing covers that dupe the reader into buying them and these are just the opposite. I can barely figure out what is happening on the cover of Midnight Run and Midnight Angel. Why the sundial/clock thingy? Is it because of the midnight part of the title? (FYI, clocks and time are not that important in the plot.) Second, a few reviewers emphasized that, in the case of the first book of the Trilogy, Midnight Man, that the protagonist was a major Alpha male. I mean major, as in uber-controlling, and they were concerned that some people would not like the book if that kind of character put them off.
Having read hundreds of romance novels over the course of my life, I have to say that while I love a strong male character, I guess the phrase “Alpha Male” still carries a caveman connotation, or at least the type of a relationship that your BFF in high school would slip you one of those special pamphlets from the nurse’s office.
In the hands of a good writer, the Alpha Male is nothing to fear. Lisa Marie Rice crafts her male characters from a similar stamp – yes, they are bad-ass, usually ex-Special Forces warriors, who expect to control every situation. Yikes! This could potentially be a disaster of epic anti-feminist proportions, but in Lisa’s hands she uses the vacillating point of view to show us what is going on inside the minds of our heroes. Let’s hear what she has to say about them.
“My men are brave and smart and built. And boy do they love their women! Their women are much more interesting than new weaponry, sports cars, and even plasma TVs in their eyes, and the fascination will last their entire lifetimes, I promise. It’s sex, of course, but also a whole lot more. My heroes genuinely like and admire their women, though in the beginning this is sometimes obscured by blinding lust. Once that first sharp edge of desire is over and they settle down a little—and that will take several years and a kid or two—they’re so bonded with their women that they couldn’t live without them.” (from her website)
It’s this utter fascination with the heroine that shines through and makes us go “awwww” even if they are killing a bad guy (to protect the heroine, natch). Lisa Marie Rice shows their lust and fascination with a woman who evokes feelings they have never felt before, as well as their utter commitment to keeping this newfound special person utterly safe. The heroines might not be able to kill a person with their bare hands 30 different ways, but they are not TSTL (too stupid to live) either, instead possessing intelligence and resourcefulness as well as bravery. Yes, they rely on the hero for his skill set and look to him for comfort, but lots of women do that with their best friend or their mom and manage not to accuse them of being too alpha, right?
Former SEAL John Huntingdon is known for being a deadly Black Ops commander who can see in the dark (hence his nickname, Midnight Man) but now he is simply looking for a new space for the thriving security company he built when he left the service. Elegant blond beauty, Suzanne Barron, enjoys running her interior design business out of the renovated factory she inherited, but her new tenant is not going to be discussing shades of teal anytime soon.
John is startled by the blaze of lust he feels for Suzanne and possessing her (and upgrading her building’s crappy security) becomes his new mission. The dangerous aura surrounding John is not exactly what Suzanne’s life has prepared her for, and after their first date turns into hot sex against the brick wall in her buildings hallway (have icy cold drink ready when reading), Suzanne doesn’t know how to handle the intensity of their relationship. While trying to make sense of what is happening between them, she unknowingly witnesses a murder and has a hit taken out on her. As she and John escape to the mountains, lust and attraction turn into something deeper, but with a killer on the loose, they might lose each other forever.
The second book of the trilogy brings up an innovative technique employed by Lisa Marie Rice. Unlike most trilogies where the books are clearly chronological, Lisa builds in deliberate overlap to her stories. So Midnight Run actually happens a little before and then during the events in Midnight Man.
Claire Parks is a good friend to Suzanne and is grateful to her for decorating the interior of her adorable new Portland house. After a long illness and tragedy in her childhood, Claire wants to grab life with two hands, which is what she has in mind when she heads out to a sketchy club with a new friend.
Lieutenant Tyler “Bud” Morrison is undercover at a club known for drugs and illicit activity and is startled to see a beautiful princess stranded by her companion and left to the wolves. Stepping in, he rescues her and takes her home, an act that sizzles with attraction and leads to an amazing night (weekend, really) of sex and companionship. Claire thinks Bud is a wonderful lumberjack or carpenter (since he’s helping her around the house and good with his hands *mrrrrooowww*), not realizing he is a police officer.
But when her wealthy father stops by, Claire discovers that the gorgeous man who has rocked her world is actually the police officer who rescued her from a kidnapper when she was a young, sick teenager. Bud gets no argument from Claire’s father about their relationship (her father admires Bud and his integrity), but instead he gets an earful about Claire’s delicacy and past health issues. Rather than being her passionate lover, he proposes and proceeds to treat her like delicate crystal. Can’t he see that he will lose her if he won’t let her be his equal?
Midnight Angel is my FAVORITE of the whole series, largely because I could eat the hero up with a spoon. Former SEAL Douglas Kowalski is a big, scarred beast of a man, one who usually sends elegant ladies running, but he secretly loves all things beautiful, especially music.
When his former commander and present-day security partner John Huntingdon insists that he accompany John and his wife, Suzanne, to a jewelry exhibit at the museum, he grudgingly makes the sacrifice. Suzanne designed the display cases and her friend Claire Parks and her family’s foundation arranged the exhibit, but it still seems like torture until he catches sight of the stunning redheaded beauty playing the harp and singing like an angel.
Claire and Suzanne’s friend Allegra Ennis agreed to perform at this special event as a favor to them, but it’s the first time she’s performed since her father’s murder, the same event that took her sight and her memories of that traumatic event. When gunshots ring out, Allegra finds herself tucked under the stage and sheltered by the huge, rock-hard body of John Huntingdon’s partner, Douglas, a man with an amazing bass voice whose playful banter was making this evening a lot easier on her.
Douglas thinks Allegra’s beauty and incredible talent puts her into the untouchable category, but he cannot deny the wash of lust and tenderness he feels for her. When he realizes she is feeling the strong attraction between them as well, not even well placed C4 explosives would tear him from her side, especially after he realizes that the bastard who hurt her and literally got away with murder might still be after her.
There is a lot to love about this series (I actually have it in ebook form and find myself rereading them about once every couple of months). The characters are well-drawn and Lisa Marie Rice knows how to describe lust and attraction (with a hint of something more) in a way that other romance authors would do well to emulate. On an interesting note, her sex scenes are interestingly realistic (as much as this genre can be), in that she sometimes depicts the heroine being a little uncomfortable or unable to satisfy the hero at that moment, which sounds odd in an erotic (or at least scorcher) romance novel, but it actually makes the scenes more caring in the long run.
Lisa Marie Rice is a pseudonym and her bio is a fun exercise in playful fiction, with the only “true fact” she lists being that she writes looking at the Ionian Sea and facing (in the far distance) the temple where Pythagoras (the theorem guy) taught. My best guess is that this puts her probably in southern Italy or Greece facing Crotone, the place where he taught, so I’m glad she has such a beautiful place to be suitably inspired for her writing. I would encourage her to set a book in that stunning locale, as I could easily see one of her fabulous Alpha Males meeting a beautiful heroine on assignment there.
Don’t be afraid of the alpha male. When done right, he can be a macho protector who is a perfect match for a feisty heroine.