Saturday, August 10, 2013

Review: It Happened One Midnight by Julie Anne Long


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In the first few chapters of the book, we are introduced to Thomasina de Ballesteros -- the most sought-after woman of the demi-monde. The darling du jour of all the lords and gentlemen of London. She is portrayed as beautiful and mysterious -- the woman who keeps herself just an inch out of reach from everyone. (And this makes her even more alluring.) Then we read about her crouching under the window of a duke with a knife in her hand. Then we read about her "midnight assignments" that have resulted in injuries.

Despite all these attempts at heightening the mystery of who she is, I wasn't certain I would like Tommy -- Julie Anne Long drags on the suspense of who Tommy is to almost the point of tedium -- at almost page 90+, I was ready to give up on her because, while we are made to believe she is interesting, I didn't find her interesting at all.

BUT, that seems to have been the author's intentions all along: without realizing it, we have been seeing Tommy from Jonathan Redmond's eyes. His best friend, Lord Argosy is in love with Tommy and speaks about her in the most dramatic verse. The betting books at White's are filled with wagers (aka wish fulfillments) about who Tommy would choose as her protector. And Jonathan Redmond was also not impressed with the Tommy he has seen so far.

...She was charming, Jonathan observed. Effortlessly charming, it seemed. She enjoyed charming. That much was clear.

It was also all a show, that much was also clear -- to Jonathan, at least. But it was a show he appreciated, as long as he could remain safely in the audience. He observed, amused and somewhat relieved to be completely ignored, while she allotted Argosy a few more champagne sips worth of flattery and warmth before drifting off to enchant another guest.

He wasn't about to meet the woman anywhere at midnight.
- p. 72

When Tommy finally reveals who she really is (starting at page 103), to quote the book: "boom." (p. 183) We are doomed -- doomed to love her despite our reservations. Doomed to fall in love with her as Jonathan Redmond does. Because Tommy is a person -- a very multi-faceted, very complex human being of flesh, blood, hopes and dreams.

"I am a person. You may speak to me as if I'm a person."
- Tommy to Lord Argosy, p. 222

* * *

And for a moment he lost himself in the quiet pleasure of watching her slim back, the quick deft movements of her white hands selecting saucers. Her grace was innate and subtle, as though she moved to silent music. By contrast, the colors of her -- the rich hair, the exotic eyes, the black brows -- were as vivid and surprising as her personality. And for a moment he indulged in simply baldly admiring her as if she were a woman he'd never before seen. He understood how she could have captivated the imaginations of so many men.

And yet none of them truly knew her.

...

The one with the bullet scar on one slim pale arm.
- p. 136

This is not the first time the author has written about a "fallen woman" -- there's Cynthia (Like No Other Lover) and there's Evie (A Notorious Countess Confesses) -- but what makes Tommy different; what makes her stand out is that she never actually fell: she started from the ground/the lowest point and is actually on the rise. The world believes Tommy to be something she isn't but she doesn't waste her time or energy correcting it -- she has more heroic things to do.

Underestimated. This is the word that applies to both Tommy and Jonathan -- and, perhaps, what ties them together. Jonathan is the youngest Redmond and, in everyone's eyes, he is still the young, immature, directionless Redmond who is content in making mischief and making merry. But Jonathan has been busy doing something his family would never believe he was capable of doing: he's busy setting up a venture and making his own future. No one takes Jonathan seriously -- his role is to be the "fun" one.

Tommy and Jonathan band together, like the misfits that they are -- Jonathan is initially wary of Tommy: is she playing a game? Is he just another pawn? What Jonathan doesn't realize is the marvelous gift Tommy has given him: the key to his future, in the form of three things: a string of pearls, her friendship, and her trust.

And Jonathan's gift to Tommy? His love and a deck of cards.

I am reminded of O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi where the well-intentioned couple sacrifice their most valuable possessions for the sake of the other -- but Jonathan and Tommy take it a step further: they sacrifice themselves for the sake of the people around them.

Their love story also provides a wonderful insight into the Redmond family and Lyon and Olivia Eversea's predicament -- the idea of worthiness, of purpose, of sacrifice -- Jonathan was very young when Lyon left and only understood that an Eversea's was responsible for the loss of the Redmond heir -- but, being with Tommy, loving Tommy, has allowed Jonathan to understand just a little bit why Lyon left. (Read p. 131)

It Happened One Midnight is book 8 of The Pennyroyal Green series -- and Julie Anne Long continues to elevate and enrich the series with each installment.

To find out more about Julie Anne Long and her books, click below:
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