More than one beautiful woman’s hopes have been dashed on the rocky shoals of Jonathan Redmond’s heart. With his riveting good looks and Redmond wealth and power, the world is his oyster—until an ultimatum from his father and a chilling gypsy prophesy send him hurtling headlong toward a fate he’ll do anything to avoid: matrimony.
Intoxicating, elusive Thomasina de Ballesteros has the bloods of London at her feet. But none of them knows the real Tommy—the one with a shocking pedigree, a few too many secrets, and a healthy scorn for rakes like Jonathan.
She is everything Jonathan never wanted. But on one fateful midnight, he’s drawn into Tommy’s world of risk, danger…and a desire he’d never dreamed possible. And suddenly he’s re-thinking everything…including the possibility that succumbing to prophesy might just mean surrendering to love.
I’m woefully behind on the Pennyroyal Green series – in fact, the last one I read might have been book three – but that didn’t matter when it came to reading this, the eighth in the series.
Jonathan Redmond is the youngest son of Isaiah Redmond, renowned businessman and investor. He views Jonathan as something of a wastrel and even when the latter tells his father that for the past couple of years he’s been making investments in small businesses and asks to join his father’s consortium, Isaiah dismisses him out of hand. It’s plain that he has terribly low expectations of his son and instead of encouraging him in his business endeavours, Isaiah tells Jonathan he must marry within the year or be cut off without a penny.
As is the case with most of the young, handsome and charming men of historical romances, getting leg-shackled isn’t exactly to Jonathan’s taste. But as things stand, most of the young women of the ton are throwing out lures, and he supposes that one is as good as another and prepares himself to choose a girl to marry from their number.
He is vaguely acquainted with Miss Thomasina de Ballesteros, the daughter of a Spanish courtesan who presides over the weekly salons held at the home of the eccentric Countess Mirabeau. Thomasina – “Tommy” – acts as hostess at these functions; she is vivacious, attractive and witty, having the gift of making whichever young man she is speaking to feel as though he is the only man in the room. Jonathan’s friend Argosy is smitten, as are many of the young bloods who attend the salons, but Jonathan takes a more cynical view. Possessed of an inordinate degree of charm himself, he is well aware of Miss de Ballesteros’ modus operandi and watches from the sidelines as other men moon over her and make bets as to who will be her next lover.
The highlight of the book for me was the superbly witty exchanges between the two leads. Both are highly intelligent and sharp-tongued with fabulous senses of humour, and I especially liked Jonathan’s ability to laugh at himself. He’s gorgeous to look at and knows it, but he’s not vain and frequently makes a joke of his attractiveness.
After he and Tommy have rescued Charlie from the mill
”I’m sure you always smell like starch and soap and bay rum.”
It startled both of them into a moment of awkward silence, the sudden inventory of how he smelled.
“You left out ‘and a certain ineffable manly goodness native only to you.’”
I really hope that’s the author taking a poke at the frequent references to the way heroines always seem to be able to describe exactly what scent is favoured by their men.
And then, when they are about to embark upon another daring rescue and Jonathan is wondering whether he ought to adopt a disguise:
”… a disguise will not be necessary. In fact, I think it will be most effective if you look exactly the way you do now.”
“Which is how…? Desire incarnate?”
But there is much more lurking beneath the banter, and it’s not long before Tommy has embroiled Jonathan in her dangerous scheme to rescue workhouse children who have been sold to work as little more than slaves in service, in mills and other businesses and who are being badly mistreated. It doesn’t take Jonathan long to guess at Tommy’s reasons for being so devoted to doing what little she can for these children – and he surprises himself with his own capacity to care about them. The scenes in which he interacts with some of these children – especially the rascally Charlie – are tender, funny and very genuine. That’s another thing that makes him such an attractive hero – he’s devoted to his family of course (despite his strained relationship with his father), but he discovers in himself a huge wealth of concern and caring for these poor, mistreated children who have no-one to care for them or about what becomes of them.
He finds that he cares deeply about Thomasina, too, and the way the romance unfurls gradually as the pair get under each other’s skins is a real delight.
Running alongside the hi-jinks surrounding Tommy’s exploits and the burgeoning romance is Jonathan’s determination to achieve success with his investment schemes and prove himself to his father. He shows himself to have a fine head for business and comes up with a superb marketing strategy to launch the printing business in which he is a partner by using the ton’s well-known appetite for juicy gossip.
I thought It Happened One Midnight was a thoroughly enjoyable read and it’s made me want to catch up with the rest of the series sooner rather than later. It was very well-written and I liked that the fluffy exterior had darker undertones dealing with issues which were certainly coming to the fore at the time. Jonathan was a wonderful hero – handsome, intelligent, wonderfully caring and possessed of a wit on which you could cut yourself shaving (!). He loved his family very much and was man enough to realise that life is short and sometimes you have to make your own happiness. He stood up to his father in a manner that allowed them to maintain a relationship and I thought, all in all, that he was a very mature, well-grounded individual.
Tommy was one of the more unusual heroines I’ve encountered in the pages of historical romances, but I felt that she wasn’t one of those who was written as ‘feisty’ for the sake of it. She had had a hard life and had learned to look after herself – often the hard way – and she found it genuinely difficult to believe that she had at last found someone who was prepared – and she could trust – to shoulder some of her burdens. The sexual tension between them was delicious, the love scenes were both romantic and sexy and I liked that neither character lost their sense of humour when they were in bed together. Out of it, Tommy matched Jonathan step for step and quip for quip, and while she may not have been the unspoiled virgin so often featured in romantic novels, they were a very well-suited couple and I can definitely see her making an excellent politician’s wife.
It Happened One Midnight is an entertaining and very enjoyable read that strikes a good balance between the romance and the more serious issues running alongside. Highly recommended.