I’ve been a fan of Shannon Mckenna for years now, and have read every single one of her novels so far. The thing I like most about her is that her plots aren’t just pure fluff and declarations of love – her books are jam packed with mystery, intrigue, suspense, and drama that could stand completely on its own WITHOUT the romance, which says a lot for a romantic suspense book. In “Fade to Midnight”, McKenna definitely lives up to my high expectations, and in many instances, surpasses them.
Fade to Midnight is Kevin’s story, the brother long thought dead and buried. In Edge of Midnight, Sean and Liv’s story, the mystery surrounding Kevin’s disappearance was explored in detail, but ultimately left unsolved. The body thought to have been Kevin’s wasn’t. Sean, at least, thought his twin could still be out there. With the release of this novel, we find out that indeed he is, but Kev now suffers from amnesia and carries brutal scars from his torture all over his face and body.
For eighteen years, “Kev Larsen” lives with a lower class Italian family headed by Tony Ranieri, who rescued him from certain death. After a near fatal accident involving a waterfall, the cloud over Kev’s thoughts and memories is lightened, and he begins seeing fragmented, horrific visions of his past. In the end, though, he can only come up with one name: “Ostermann”. The quest to find the man that tortured him leads him to Edie Parish.
I think the reason why Fade to Midnight rings as such a winner for me is because of the build up from the directly connected prequel, Edge to Midnight. Because I had some inkling of the intense and far reaching conspiracy that threatened Kev and Edie’s life, I was even more desperate for a fitting conclusion. The tension in this book builds and builds and builds until you’re close to bursting, and I was hooked until the very last page. The criminals are evil to the point of being comical caricatures, which Shannon neatly rectifies by revealing the horrible circumstances that brought them to become sociopaths in the first place.
There are some negative bits that irked me, however. One, the lack of closure at the end. Although it’s been eighteen long, hard years for all of the McCloud brothers, there’s not a single moment of hugs or heart-to-hearts mentioned here. At the very least I would’ve expected a scene between Sean and Kev, seeing as they’re twins and have been showing up in each others’ dreams intermittently since the beginning, but no… the last bit of dialogue exchanged between them is Sean telling Kevin to “watch his f**king mouth”. Ouch, McKenna. I know these McClouds are tough as nails and kind of ornery, but you couldn’t show even the smallest bit of a man hug? For me, this is a huge problem that leaves the stunning conclusion very lacking.
The second big problem is something I’ve noticed in all of Shannon’s novels: characterization. At their core, every single main male and female heroine is the same. The woman is soft spoken, meek, and stereotypically nerdy before they have passionate sex with their leading male and grow a tolerable amount of backbone. The man is the classic alpha male – highly trained in combat, headstrong, way more intelligent than the average guy, and extremely dominating. There’s a scene in every novel where the angry and frustrated man uses his strength to coerce the female into sex, and frankly it pisses me off. In the following scene McKenna always explains it away as them trying to work through their intense love and devotion without seeming like a pansy, but I don’t buy it. These aren’t teenagers or college students – these men are in their late thirties or forties. They should know better than that. And what makes it worse is that the women go for it, starting out resisting the machismo but backing down without much of a fight and ultimately loving it. Um, what? That is not tolerable behavior from a lover; that is the behavior that gets you a middle finger and a “F**k you”.
Kev Larsen started out as my favorite McCloud brother because he was more collected and less like a neanderthal, but by the conclusion, it’s pretty ridiculous how identical he is to his brothers. Eighteen years of solitude, dissolved in an week. He went through some pretty heavy stuff, so some change is understandable, but the magnitude of it leaves me pretty baffled. Still, if you take the book at face value and don’t try to over analyze everything like I do, then it’s an awesome, edge of your seat read.
If you’re new to Shannon McKenna, however, it’s definitely recommended that you read the other novels in the series first, as there are a lot of references in this book to prior events that could confuse and discourage new readers.