Thursday, July 20, 2017

[Throwback Review]: "Midnight Rainbow"

Sometimes going back to revisit older titles can be fun -- or crazy bad. We're going to start a new review feature, which will run Thursday (though perhaps not EVERY Thursday -- but we'll try!] and looks back at older romances. Today Jen's starting off with an old Linda Howard.

romance novel covers, romantic suspense, Midnight Rainbow by Linda Howard
Midnight Rainbow by Linda Howard
Publisher: MIRA (October 19, 2015)
Series: Rescues, 1
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Passion and espionage meet in this fan-favorite tale from New York Times bestselling author Linda Howard

Grant Sullivan had been one of the government's most effective agents, and he's agreed to rescue Jane Hamilton Greer, a wealthy socialite possibly engaged in espionage. In the time they spent together, questions of guilt and innocence began to fade against the undeniable reality that two people from such different worlds should never have met.

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Jen's Review:

We all have those tropes we love in romance. I wasn’t quite sure how to identify the thing I really love until I heard Alisha Rai and Sarah Wendell talking on the Smart Bitches Trashy Books podcast. Alisha Rai said how much she loves the “cold emotionless super soldiers. Best, best heroes.” And every single part of me felt a sense of kinship and affinity with that statement. That is absolutely my favorite trope. I will take all the books about strong, emotionally distant men kneecapped by falling in love, and in return I will give you all the secret babies and second chances at love.

It makes sense that would be my favorite, I grew up reading romance in the 80s. And the strong, powerful soldier thing was a big deal back then. All my favorite heroes were pirates, soldiers of fortune, or super spies. Back in the day, Linda Howard wrote a series of books with these CIA-type dudes that I loved so much I still have a couple of twenty year old banged up paperbacks: Diamond Bay and White Lies. Last fall, Linda Howard’s whole backlist went digital and I picked up a third related book, Midnight Rainbow, for $1.99. A little Amazon sleuthing tells me that these three books were originally published in 1984-1987. [The rest of the old backlist is priced at around the $8, which seems ridiculous for a lot of reasons.] I was stuck on a plane this weekend and figured maybe I’d finally get around to rereading Midnight Rainbow, which I remembered to be a pretty decent romantic suspense.

The story starts with Grant Sullivan, who has retired to a farm in Tennessee to recover from his life as a mercenary. However, he’s been pressed by an old boss, Kell Sabin (Diamond Bay was his book) to take one last job. Heiress Priscilla Jane Hamilton has gotten herself into some hot water down in Guatemala and is being held captive be a warlord looking for some missing microfilm. Grant is hired to extract Jane and bring her back to the states. If you’ve seen the movie Romancing the Stone, you have a basic idea of the plot.

I’ll pause for a second to say that one of the primary reasons I think Linda Howard’s backlist is super-overpriced is that no effort has been made to update the story in any way. Along with the microfilm plot, which I assume no one under 35 could identify, there’s more than a few scenes with pay phones in small villages. Grant was drafted to Vietnam when he was 18, so late 30s when the book was written, but now that detail makes me think of my angry old Dad watching too much news and yelling at the TV. Honestly, though, given the rampant sexism from Grant, maybe it’s better than this book be clear about the fact that it’s an artifact of its time.

Back to our story. For me, the real problem was Grant, who was honestly a total jerk. He’s the perfect embodiment of the hero I remember from the 80s: total alpha male, but with a big heaping side of misogyny. This is a dude who literally thinks that women are worthless in every way. He is so dismissive and cruel to Jane, and even after they become lovers, he is quick to believe she will betray him. And, because it’s from the 80s, there’s that ugly hint that men just can’t control themselves. At one point, Grant tells Jane to

“Turn around, honey, while you still have a choice.” 

Ew. Grant is a man who is physically attracted to Jane, but he hates himself and her for that weakness. He fights their intimacy at every step, even as he is powerless to resist it. I thought this was super sexy when I was a teenager and read this; but this time around, I wanted more scenes where Jane kicked him in the balls.

The real star of this show is Jane. She’s still holds up as a great character. She knows she’s in trouble and is busy plotting her own escape when Grant arrives to help her. Jane doesn’t really put up with any BS from Grant, and she owns her weaknesses and fears. It’s almost impossible not to like a woman as fierce, independent, and strong as Jane. She’s quick-thinking and doesn’t just sit back and wait for men to save her. Several times, her ideas are the ones that save them both and it was refreshing and fun to read about this woman. I wanted her to be happy! Her attraction to Grant sort of made sense to me: he’s highly capable and that mercenary super-soldier thing is pretty hot. But her fierce attraction to him is also a revelation. She’d almost thought of herself as asexual, and Grant shows her just how great sex can be. Honestly, I was sort of surprised by the sex in this book. Compared to a lot of what you can read today, it’s not that explicit, but it’s straightforward and there’s lots of it. Basically, these two bone their way through a series of dangerous situations in Guatemala and Mexico before she gets back home.

Honestly, Midnight Rainbow was not a total nightmare. The plot is pretty okay even though it’s dated and Jane is such a great character that I kept on reading. Grant is a jerk, but she really loves him and the sex is off the charts. She whips him into shape and he learns he’s been an ass, and what more can you ask for from an 80s category romance?

5 stars for Jane, 2 stars for Grant = 

3 1/2 STARS! 

Thanks for the review, Jen! This was so much fun to go back and revisit an older release like this. I can't wait to see what other throwback reviews you try next!

Oh, I am 10000% cosigning Alisha's statement about emotionless super soldiers. They are my catnip, too. See: Ashwin by Kit Rocha and many of Nalini Singh's Psy heroes.

Confession: I don't believe I've read a Linda Howard. Ever. Or if I did, it was many, many years ago and I don't remember a thing. Which is entirely possible, to be honest.

Have YOU read Linda Howard? Do you have a favorite of hers? Even if your favorite is a crazy-sauce older title that gives you nostalgic feels (and perhaps some rage when reread now), I want to know about it!


Until Next Time,

*TBQ's Book Palace is a member of both the Amazon and Barnes and Nobles affiliates program. By using the links provided to buy products from either website, I receive a very small percentage of the order. To read my full disclosure on the matter, please see this post!

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