Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fireworks at Midnight by Tara Quan

Recent college graduate and part-time cat familiar Dulcina “Sweets” Gato is having the worst New Year’s Eve in living memory. End of year expenses trigger serious cash flow problems, and her microwave just went up in smoke. To make matters worse, her best friend’s overprotective big brother is back in town, and his return threatens to put a huge crimper on her nocturnal activities. The only thing she can look forward to is Madame Eve’s 1-Night Stand service. After all, she’s sick and tired of being a 21-year-old virgin.

Enforcement Agent Mikal Knight is a warlock on a mission. Having finally scored a transfer to Washington, D.C., he’s now at liberty to pursue the object of his desires—his baby sister’s best friend. But first, he has a vigilante to track down and a mysterious matchmaking service to investigate. Sent on an undercover operation, he resigns himself to a pointless 1-Night Stand on New Year’s Eve. As luck would have it, his mystery date’s identity might let him kill several birds with one stone. 

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This series has quickly become one of my favorite by Tara Quan, if not the favorite. They're fast paced, have delightfully quirky heroines, deliciously hunky heros, and plenty of steam to warm up any winter night. This latest edition to the series fully lives up to the expectations set by the first two books and definitely does not disappoint, though for some reason that I can't quite define, this one fell just a tad bit short for me. That said, this one also has me a bit excited for the future of the series, for we get to delve into the workings of the magical community a bit more here and see how their self-governing works. This look inside gave us a glimpse of conflicts that have been simmering and may or may not be gaining prominence, as well as some hints about some possibly major changes that are in store. All of this speaks to a larger story to be told in this universe, which means more books (possibly even longer ones?), which is all to the good as far as I'm concerned.

We've met Ducina, aka Sweets, in the first two books, though mostly only in cameo scenes when she was talking with her friends who were the stars of their books. Never really enough to get any real sense of who she was or what she was really like. We finally get to really meet her and her friend Shelly here and both prove to be far more complex than had previously been indicated. Sweets in particular is seen to be quite mature for her age in many respects, though still fairly naive in others. She's been hiding her talent for precognition for years, claiming that it's her friend Shelly who's had the visions when she has to tell people about them, and has been living in fear that the deception will be uncovered. Nevermind the worry that some of her other unsanctioned activities will be discovered. Above all, she's lived in fear of the attraction she feels for Mikal and the future she keeps having visions of concerning them and unbenownst to him has been doing what she can to change their fate.

Mikal has known Sweets for much of her life and has been well aware of her precog abilities for many years. So far he has kept her secret, though there are indications that might change soon if he can't convince her to fess up to them herself. He's very alpha male, though of the sort that is a bit too given to arrogance and anger for my taste. That said, there's definitely something about his "you will listen to me" attitude that I find appealing, and like Jack Frost in the last book he knows how to use his magic in some very creative ways. Still, something about him just didn't entirely do it for me, which is likely why this tale seemed just a bit lacking to me as well.

The interplay between Sweets and Mikal is heated from the very beginning here as they can't seem to help striking sparks off one another. Sometimes they're sparks of anger, sometimes sparks of a very different sort. The main thing that can be counted on with these two is that there isn't likely to be any dull moments when they're together. Still, their romance seemed like so much of a foregone conclusion to me that other things in the book captured my interest a bit more. In particular, the longer insights we're given into how the magical community and its governance systems operate, and the hints of possible trouble brewing that gives me hope that the author will continue to explore this world, hopefully maybe even in a longer book or two. Of the original characters that have been mentioned, one--Mikal's sister Shelly--remains unpartnered, and enough was said about her in this book to indicate that an intervention of some sort is perhaps coming down the pipeline to help pull her out of the phobias she's falling prey to before its too late.

My speculations about the future of the series aside, don't let my somewhat-less-than-enthusiastic attitude toward this book keep you from reading it, especially if you've read the first two. You probably don't have to read them first, but you'll certainly understand more of what's going on here if you do. However you choose to read them, my recommendation is that you read them all, for I don't think you'll be sorry that you did, especially if you like paranormal romance of the magical variety. 4½ well deserved stars to an enjoyable read in a wonderful series.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review

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