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Friday, October 7, 2011

Lara Adrian: THE MIDNIGHT BREED Series

Author: Lara Adrian
Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence3; Sensuality4; Humor2
Publisher and Titles: Dell     
            "A Touch of Midnight" (prequel novella, 12/2013)
            Kiss of Midnight (2007)    
            Kiss of Crimson (2007)     
            Midnight Awakening (2007)    
            Midnight Rising (2008)    
            Veil of Midnight (2008)    
            Ashes of Midnight (2009)     
            Shades of Midnight (2009)     
            Taken by Midnight (2010)     
            Deeper Than Midnight (2011) 
           "A Taste of Midnight" (novella, 2011)
            Darker After Midnight (2012, first hardback in the series)
            The Midnight Breed Series Companion (nonfiction guide, 6/2013)
            Edge of Dawn (2/2013) (This novel begins Part II of the seriestwenty years after Darker After Midnight.)
           "Marked by Midnight" (novella, 6/2014)
            Crave the Night (8/2014)
           "Tempted by Midnight" (novella, 10/2014)  

     This post was revised and updated on 8/30/14 to include a review of  Crave the Night, the 12th novel in this series. This newest review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of novels and novellas 9-11.  

            NOVEL 12:  Crave the Night           
     This is the second novel in Part II of this venerable series, and it is set in Boston, where Sterling Chase is the Breed Order's district chief. The Breeds are still reeling from Reginald Crowe's recent attempt to kill their leaders, and they're tracking down leads to Crowe's co-conspirators. One of their suspects is Cassian Gray, who manages La Notte, a club that has a regular nightclub on the first floor, but features BDSM rooms and illegal fighting cages on the lower levels. Leading the Breed team to find Cassian is Nathan, son of Hunter and Corrinne, who were featured in Deeper Than Midnight. Nathan spent his early childhood in the hands of Dragos and was subjected to years of horrific abuse and brainwashing. Although he is now a trusted Breed squad captain, he is also an emotional wreck who cannot stand to be touched by another person, not even his mother. Unfortunately, when Nathan's squad searches for Cassian at his nightclub, they discover that he is long gone. 

Jordana's favorite artwork
and an important clue

     Nathan's soon-to-be mate is Jordana Gates, a Breedmate who has been promised to another man—a man handpicked by her adoptive father, Martin. Martin adopted Jordana as an infant, even though he was, and still is, a Breed with no mate. Jordana knows nothing about her biological parents, but any regular reader of paranormal fiction knows that when characters are adopted, their true genetic heritage will eventually be discovered and will heavily influence their lives—and that is certainly the case with Jordana. All her life, Martin has been making decisions for Jordana and molding her into the women he wants her to be. Although she has submitted to Martin's wishes, when she meets Nathaniel, she realizes that she has to take a few risks if she wants to live a life of her own choosing.
     Nathan and Jordana shared a passionate kiss at the end of a previous book, a kiss that shook both of them to the core. Ever since that night, each one has been unable to stop thinking about the other, even though Jordan is engaged to another man and Nathan believes that he is too emotionally damaged to ever find true love. We know, of course, that they will eventually get together and head for their HEA, but it does take awhile for their situation to get settled. Don't worry, though…there are plenty of passionate bedroom scenes scattered throughout the book.  

     The plot is relatively predictable in general, with just a few surprises towards the end. In Edge of Dawn, Adrian introduced the Atlanteans, an ancient race of immortals with a major grudge against both Breeds and humans. Although it still seems weird to me that this is the first time that the powerful Atlanteans have emerged to confront the Breeds, I'm just going to accept it and go along with Adrian's flow on this. In any case, the Atlanteans play a major role in the resolution of this novel, but I don't want to go into any detail for fear of slipping in a spoiler.

     These "Part II" novels feature the children we saw being conceived and/or born in Part I. In addition to the Nathan-Jordana romance, this novel also includes a slender story tread about a romance between Carys (daughter of Sterling Chase) and Rune, one of the La Notte cage fighters. Also new to these newer novels is the Joint Urban Security Taskforce Initiative Squad (JUSTIS), a law enforcement group comprising both supernaturals and humans. The Breeds view JUSTIS as bothersome and inept, while JUSTIS views the Breeds as arrogant and ultra-violent. If you enjoyed the new direction the series took in Edge of Dawn and "Marked by Midnight," you'll probably enjoy this novel. It has the same basic formula as the earlier novels: a soul-mate romance set against a growing threat against the Breeds and the world at large. In the earlier books, the enemy was Dragos; now it is the Atlanteans. Here's a simplified version of Adrian's formula: Love + Danger = HEA + Victory for the Good Guys. Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt on the page for Crave the Night. Just click on the cover art or audio icon at the top of that page.  

     This vampire world is split between Breeds (heroes) and Rogues (villains), with beautiful, young human women always in danger but inevitably rescued by the good guys. The Breeds are made up of into two groups: the Order, which is led by Lucan and is the focus of the series, and the Enforcement Agency. Here is a quotation from Deeper Than Midnight that explains the differences between the two groups: “For as long as they’d existed, the Order and the Enforcement Agency had operated on their own terms, by their own brands of laws. Lucan had founded the Order based on justice and action; the Agency’s credo had been mired in politics and empire building from the beginning.” (pp. 14-15)

     The series villain, particularly in the later books, is Dragos, a psychotic, power-mad Breed who seeks to destroy Lucan and the Order and subjugate all humans. In other words, he is the typical megalomaniacal villain found in so many paranormal novels. Dragos first turns up in the background in the earlier books, but as the series moves along, he becomes the number one bad guy.

     Each heroine is marked (literally) by fate to be a Breedmate, with a physical mark somewhere on her body: a crescent surrounding a teardrop. The hero in each book has usually decided, for various reasons, to be alone. He is inevitably startled and dismayed when he discovers that the heroine is his Breedmate, and then, of course, falls deeply in love with her by the end of the book with many angst-filled interior monologues along the way.

     This is a well-written paranormal romance series, with strong immortal warriors and spunky heroines. The ongoing series story arc serves to connect the individual books, and it allows us to watch the characters grow and change as evolving events alter circumstances. In general, the early books in the series can be read as stand-alones, but the later books should be read in sequence as the details of the war with Dragos become more important with each book. 

     In Part II of the series (which begins with Edge of Dawn after a gap of twenty years), Lucan is headquartered in Washington, D.C., as the head of the Breed Order; Sterling Chase is the district chief in Boston; Tegan is chief in New York City; and Hunter is in charge of New Orleans. In fact, most of the heroes of the earlier books are district chiefs in major cities across the country. The heroes and heroines of the Part II books are the children born as a result of the matings that took place in books 1-10.

     Click HERE to go to "The Midnight Breed Character Guide," created by the Wicked Scribes Blog.

Here is a book-by-book list of the Breedmate couples:  

   > Kiss of Midnight: Lucan Thorne & Gabrielle Maxwell 
   > Kiss of Crimson: Dante Malabranche & Tess Culver   
   > Midnight Awakening: Tegan & Elise Chase
   > Midnight Rising: Rio & Dylan Alexander
   > Veil of Midnight: Nikolai (Niko) & Renata
   > Ashes of Midnight: Andreas Reichen & Claire Roth
   > Shades of Midnight: Kade & Alexandra McGuire
   > Taken by Midnight: Brock & Jenna Tucker Darrow
   > Deeper Than Midnight: Hunter & Corrinne Bishop
   > "A Taste of Midnight": Malcolm (Brannoc) MacBain & Danika MacConn
   > Darker After Midnight: Sterling Chase (aka Harvard) & Octavia (Tavia) Fairchild
   > Edge of Dawn: Kellan Archer & Mira
   > "Marked by Midnight": Mathias Rowan & Nova
   > Crave the Night: Nathan & Jordana Gates     
   > "Tempted by Midnight": Lazaro Archer & ??       

            NOVEL 9:  Deeper Than Midnight            
     As the story begins, the warriors of the Order are recovering from the horrendous battle that climaxed the previous book. Although they are still patrolling the Boston area for rogue vampires, their focus is primarily on destroying Dragos and his corps of assassins. To review: Many years ago, Dragos imprisoned one of the first-generation (aka Gen One) Ancients and has been using him for decades to impregnate a group of kidnapped Breedmates. Now, Dragos has his own army of home-grown, stone-cold assassins, all of whom are much stronger than the average vampire and each of whom has a particular supernatural trait, depending on his mother’s genetics. These assassins have been raised from childhood to be killers who follow Dragos’ every command. Each one wears an electronically enhanced collar that will detonate and destroy the assassin if it is tampered with.

     The hero of Deeper Than Midnight is Hunter, who was formerly one of Dragos’ assassins. After he tricked Dragos into releasing him, Hunter joined the Order and is now dedicated to killing Dragos. Hunter is a ruthless, taciturn killer who has never in his life felt positive emotions toward anyone. The heroine is Corrinne Bishop, one of Dragos' captive Breedmates who was rescued at the end of the previous book. When Hunter accompanies Corinne as a bodyguard on her homecoming trip to her family in Detroit (after her 75-year imprisonment), he discovers the heartbreaking fact that one of her family members has betrayed her. Corrinne turns to Hunter for assistance, and the couple leaves her splintered family behind and goes off to New Orleans in search of a Breed who may have a connection with Dragos. In the meantime, the Order is having problems with one of its warriors, Sterling Chase, who was formerly with the Enforcement Agency and who is beginning to show signs of going rogue. 

     As the story proceeds, it follows two plot threads. First is the love story, with the attraction between Hunter and Corrinne growing steadily and the angst level growing even faster. Second is the Dragos threat, with the villain poised to take down the Order with a diabolical plan that involves politicians, home-grown terrorists, and a spy (of sorts) within Lucan’s compound. Chase plays an important part in the resolution of the plot, which ends in a cliff hanger.

       NOVEL 10: Darker After Midnight       
     This book tells the love story of Chase (aka Harvard), probably the most highly developed character in the series. We have watched him travel a long and painful road: from his buttoned-down Enforcement Agency days, to his turbulent early days with the Order, to his fall from grace, to near-addiction, and now to redemption with a Breedmate of his own. Adrian is calling this the climactic novel of the series, and this is true in many ways. As the story opens, the Order Breeds are still on the trail of the evil villain, Dragos, who is in the final stages of implementing his plan for world control. In the first scene, the Breeds of the Order are fleeing their long-time Boston fortress, which has been made useless by Dragos' scheming. Now, they're headed for a Darkhaven (a Breed settlement) in Maine, where they must quickly regroup and continue the fight. In the meantime, Chase is in jail for his supposed involvement with the terrorists (Dragos' minions), who led the police to the Order's headquarters in the final scene of the previous book. Chase stepped forward to take the blame in order to give the Order time to escape.

     When a witness (Tavia Fairchild) is called in to identify Chase as one of the terrorists, Chase senses something different about her. Tavia is the administrative assistant for a U.S. Senator who has been turned into one of Dragos' minions. After escaping from jail and killing the senator and some other minions, Chase kidnaps Tavia and takes her to his deserted Boston Darkhaven. Tavia begs him to let her go because she needs to go home and get her medications, which she believes are keeping her alive and sane. She has suffered from anxiety attacks all her life and has been under constant medical surveillance ever since she can remember. Chase, meanwhile, is fighting off his constant bloodlust and trying to recover from a variety of injuries he incurred during his escape from jail and his battles with various minions and law-enforcement officers along the way. As Tavia's medications eventually wear off, it turns out that she isn't as human as sheor Chasethinks she is.

     The plot follows the couple as they take temporary refuge in Maine with the Order and then as they separate and make their way independently to Dragos in a climactic final scene. The story shifts back and forth from Chase, to Tavia, to Dragos, to the back stories of the various Breeds and their mates. One of the mates (Jenna) is having dreams about the Ancients, and those dreams will no doubt be the basis for the next few books. She is discovering all kinds of new information about the Ancients and about some mysterious enemies that they fought against. Within the story line that revolves around the Chase-Tavia love story, the levels of angst are understandably high. Chase believes himself to be losta victim of his growing bloodlust and his perceived failures in life. Tavia learns that her entire life has been based on lies and that her beloved aunt never really cared for her at all. By the end, Dragos has pulled back the curtain on the entire Breed culture, so future books will deal with the Breeds as they interact openly with the mortal world.

     Oddly, this book is much better as a stand-alone than it is as the climactic point in a relatively long series. The author spends a lot of time introducing all of the Order Breeds, their mates, and their children and summarizing everyone's back story. So if you're a new reader of the series, that's fine, but if you've read all of the previous books, you are just turning the pages, anxious to get back to the real story. Although watching Dragos put his nefarious plan into action was a white-knuckle reading experience, I really wanted more details about that evil process and fewer happy-family scenes at the Order's new headquarters. That warm and fuzzy story line, with its babies and Christmas decorations and sex for everyone, eventually got to be more annoying than heartwarming. The love story was satisfyingly full of anguish and lust, so that part of the story was fine for me. I guess that I'd have to rate this as less successful than some of the earlier books. Now that everyone is happily married and starting their families, the level of drama has dropped considerably. Maybe it's time to end this series and start a new oneperhaps with the new generation of Breeds as the protagonists. Click HERE to read chapter 1 (you'll have to scroll down a bit to find it). 

            NOVEL 11:  Edge of Dawn           

     This book is set twenty years after the end of the climactic Darker After Midnight, and it opens a new chapter in the series. As the previous book ended, the evil Dragos was killed, but before he died he set free all of the imprisoned rogue vampires, who immediately spread across the world inflicting murder and mayhem on the human population. This horrendous event set off worldwide wars and anarchy, with humans fighting against vampires and against other humans as the Order tried to bring the carnage to a halt. At this point in time, Lucan is still the head of the Order with the difficult job of keeping a tenuous peace between the supernatural and mortal worlds. The babies of the previous books are now all grown up, and they play their own parts in the Order's ongoing story.

     During the tumultuous twenty years since First Dawnthe name given to the first day the vampires were set loosethe Order has suffered some major losses, including Kellan Archer, whom we met in an earlier book when he came to live with the Order after his parents were murdered and his Darken was burned to the ground. Kellan has always been a loner, always somewhat stand-offish and sullen. The only person who was able to break through his emotional shield was Mira, adopted daughter of Nikolai and Renata. Eight years ago, Kellan and Mira had one passionate night together before he was killed in a warehouse explosion while on duty. Mira saw the explosion happen, and she has been mourning him ever since.

     As this book begins, hot-headed Mira gets herself in trouble by attacking an unarmed human thug and is punished by being assigned to guard a human scientist who is traveling to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony. When Mira arrives to pick up the scientist, she walks into a rebel kidnapping and is drugged and captured by the rebels. As she regains consciousness and opens her eyes, she is shocked to realize that the rebel leader is none other than her long-lost lover, Kellan. The kidnapping is the catalyst that kicks off the complex and action-filled plot

     Kellan is definitely not my favorite hero of this series. He has always been a self-involved, petulant, brooding mess of a man. Granted, his early history was tragic, but in this series, nearly all of the characters deal with with tragic life events. Mira, who was always a relatively strong female character, seems to lose direction in this book, turning into a libido-driven airhead. Over the years, she has built herself into a strong and respected warrior, but as soon as Kellan reappears on the scene she just melts away into a pool of lust. Now remember, Kellan turned his back on Mira eight years ago and has allowed her to believe that he is dead. Yet, she forgives him and jumps into his bed within a day of learning how he betrayed her by faking his death all those years ago. Mira has been in deep and bitter mourning for Kellan all this time, dedicating her life to punishing the ones responsible for his death. How are we to believe that this strong woman forgives her betrayer almost immediately and actually takes his side against Lucan and the Order? For me, Mira's weakness of character undermines the strength of this book. Click HERE to read chapter one.  

            NOVELLA 11.5:  "Marked by Midnight"           

     The story is set in London, where Mathias Rowan is a Breed warrior in the Order. Recently, the city has seen several murders, all involving young human men with black scarabs tattooed on their right hands. Neither the Order nor the Joint Urban Security Taskforce Initiative Squad (JUSTIS) has been able to determine the identity of the men or the reason(s) for their deaths. Mathias's friend, a Breed named Gavin Sloane, is a high-ranking member of JUSTIS who is also working on the case. When a new scarab-bearing victim turns up in the Thames River, he has a half-finished tattoo on his arm, so Mathias sets out to find the tattoo artist who did the work.

     Mathias soon finds a shop run by Ozzie, an elderly master tattoo artist. Also working in the shop is Nova, a young woman with a tragic history. Ozzie found her on the streets years ago and taught her his art. Now she is an accomplished tattooist, and she is the one who did the half-completed work on the latest victim.

     Up until this point, the story moves along quite nicely, but now everything changes. As the pace begins to accelerate, critical details are omitted, characters' motivations are unexplained, and the whole plot pretty much collapses in on itself. Within hours of meeting, Mathias and Nova are making passionate love, although they know absolutely nothing about each other. Meanwhile, we get bits and pieces of Nova's sad back-story, but not nearly enough to figure out exactly what happened to her and who was responsible. She has some kind of connection to the dead men, but that connection is never explained. It would have been helpful if Adrian had thought to include a prologue that filled in some details about Nova's background. 

     Although we learn the identity of the murderer of the man in the river, Adrian fails to explain why the killer did what he did. We never learn who the dead men are; we never learn the significance of the scarab tattoos; and we just plain don't have a clue as to what is going on here. All we know is that the killer is somehow involved in the underworld, but most of the "who?" and "how?" and "why?" questions are never addressed in any manner. 

     This is an unsatisfying, incomplete novella that cries out for more detailsmore like a sketchy outline than a completed work. Mathias and Nova definitely deserved a better story than this one. Currently, this novella is selling on for $2.99 on Kindle and $7.99 in paperback. In my opinion, the paperback price is way too high for such a brief and unfinished story (only 146 pages). Even if this story line is continued in the next book (and I'm not sure if it will be), this novella is an imperfect, underdeveloped product that does not in any way measure up to the other works in this series.  

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