July 23, 2013
TSTL heroine meets Clark Kent
There was so much jumping to conclusions in Stroke of Midnight that for a crazy moment I thought I was at a track meet. Where to start where to start? I decided to read this book after hearing some good things about it, and besides that I liked the cover. However, turns out this story is a great example of how different humans' tastes can be.
Let's begin with the plot. Our heroine, Laura, was at one time in love with our hero, Alex. He is an aristocrat, she is common folk. Then, as luck would have it, a set of really expensive jewels is stolen. A pair of earrings from this set show up in Laura's father's desk drawer. Alex jumps to the conclusion that her father stole the jewels and he accuses him of the crime. Now, this is based solely on finding them in the drawer. No one else is questioned. So, somehow Laura and her father escape prosecution by high-tailing it to Portugal, where they hide out for 10 years.
Fast forward 10 years. For some reason Laura's father returns to London. We don't know why. He is murdered. We don't know why. Laura returns to London. We do know why - she is going to find the killer. And, she has some suspects in mind. She has jumped to the conclusion that the Duke of Haversham has stolen the jewels, (we don't know why he would steal them, but Laura believes he was having an affair with the Duchess of Knowles, the woman with the missing jewels.) We don't know why Laura believes they were having an affair. But then maybe if it wasn't the duke it was his beautiful conniving daughter, Evelyn. Why would Evelyn steal the jewels? Well, she seemed to be some sort of rival of Laura, so because she wanted to to make Laura look bad, she steals the jewels and makes it look like Laura's father did it. At least that what Laura thinks.
So, Laura is off to London to find the killer. She has no money, she has no place to stay, she is a social outcast, but somehow she's going to break into society and prove the duke or his daughter stole the jewels and killed her father. No money, no home, nobody likes her, but her big problem is - what if she's recognized? Everyone will know why she came back to town. Her biggest worry is how she is going to keep people from recognizing her. The solution - why, she's going to wear glasses and keep her head down. It worked for Clark Kent didn't it?
Anyway, after escaping a creepy Bow Street runner, racing through London, our disguised heroine decides to do some window shopping. After all, a girl with no money should start picking out what she can wear to the society balls. But wait - who should she see? Why it's Alex, our hero. You remember him, he accused her father of thievery, he's responsible for all the dreadful things that happened to Laura and her father. But, she is worried that he might see through her disguise, so she jumps into the nearest carriage with a crest on it. Who should be in that carriage but Lady Milford, the local matchmaker. Well Lady Milford gives Laura a pair of shoes... I wasn't sure if I was in Oz or a Cinderella story. With a knowing twinkle in her eye, Lady Milford sets Laura up as a companion to Lady Josephine. Josephine is our old lady with dementia who says funny things. Any guesses as to whose aunt she is? Yep, Alex.
So we get to watch as Laura jumps to wrong conclusions, goes to places she shouldn't be and all the while Alex tries to stay one step ahead of her. He's trying to keep her from investigating because he's got a big secret. By the way, the woman with the missing jewels is his godmother and he's given his word to her that he won't tell anyone about something that she did. We don't know what. I thought Alex's choice of people he treated with respect was very questionable. Honoring his promise to his deceitful godmother over Laura, the woman he supposedly loved, was pretty dishonest.
Laura on the other hand was not only a TSTL heroine, but had all the earmarks of an immature juvenile TSTL heroine. There is one scene where she jumps to the conclusion that just because Alex and her arch rival Evelyn are talking to each other they are up to something. So, she decides that she is going to show them. She sets them up to be found together in a bedchamber by the neighborhood gossip. That will show them. I didn't get it. I thought it was a silly moment and made for a truly unlikeable heroine. And, by the way, it didn't work because Alex, who must have been a psychic, was on to her and didn't step into her devious plan.
I didn't enjoy this story - I found both the heroine and hero irritating, and their thinking was so convoluted it was laughable - and not in a good way. I guessed right away who the villain was, but not the reason behind the villainy. And, let me tell you when the reason is revealed it is truly a remarkable melodramatic, over-the-top confession. In the end I was disappointed, wishing for more than what I actually received.
Time/Place: Early Victorian England