Gabrielle Maxwell is a photographer with a troubled past. Her biological mother was confined to a mental institution and later committed suicide after claiming to have been attacked by vampires and leaving Gabrielle in a trash bin as an infant. She grew up in the foster care system until finally being adopted at the age of twelve. Now she's trying to succeed in the art world, but she has no idea that her mother's rantings had a basis in reality, nor that she's being drawn to vampire hot spots, which she captures through the lens of her camera. Then one night, Gabrielle witnesses a brutal murder outside a nightclub that she photographs on her phone, but no one believes a word she says until a mysterious man shows up at her door, claiming to be a police detective. He stirs desires within her, the likes of which she's never experienced before, and when he finally reveals the truth to her - that she's a special type of human female known as a Breedmate - she embarks on a journey into a dark and dangerous world she never could have imagined existed.
Lucan Thorne is, himself, a vampire and a warrior, who battles those among his race who've given into the Bloodlust and turned Rogue, while protecting both vampire and human kind. He's drawn to Gabrielle from the moment he sees her across the darkened dance floor of the nightclub. When he realizes that she witnessed a Rogue attack - something that as a human she shouldn't have been able to see - he must go investigate. He gives in to the seductive pull he feels toward her until he sees her Breedmate mark. Then he knows he must keep their relationship platonic, as he has no desire to take a mate. However, her photos prove valuable to the Breed warriors, and when he realizes she's been taking photos of vampire lairs, he knows she's in danger. When Gabrielle is targeted by his enemies, Lucan has no choice but to bring her into his world. However, he's never known anything other than the life of a warrior and feels he has nothing to offer her as a mate even though the thought of giving her up feels unthinkable. There's also the fact that he's been skating far too close to the edge of going Rogue himself. Not to mention, it appears a Master vampire is assembling a Rogue army that could change the entire course of both their lives.
Kiss of Midnight is the first full-length novel of Lara Adrian's Midnight Breed series and the first I've read by her. The series came to my attention quite some time ago, because readers were likening it to J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. As a huge fan of that series, I've been looking forward to trying the Midnight Breeds. I thought that this book was a pretty good story overall and a respectable start to the series, although it wasn't perfect for me and it hasn't yet grabbed me in the same way that the BDB did. The Breed are basically vampires who descended from the Ancients, a race of aliens who crash-landed on Earth more than a thousand years ago. They are an all-male species who eventually discovered that they could procreate with some human females, who became known as Breedmates. The Ancients were a brutal, conquering people who were secretly responsible for some of the worst losses of human life in history. The author isn't really specific about how it came to be, but perhaps because of the intermingling with human DNA, some of the Breed eventually became more civilized. But there are still those among them, known as Rogues, who have given themselves over to Bloodlust, which causes them to indiscriminately kill and/or enslave humans, known as Minions. However, there are Breed warriors who've sworn to bring their lawless brothers to justice to protect both their own and humankind. But a mysterious Master has risen who is building a Rogue army that could threaten everyone. Personally, I thought that the parallels between this new-to-me series and the BDB are pretty minimal, mainly limited to both plot lines following a group of six warrior vampires, and in both cases, the vampires are living, breathing beings who are born not made. I also picked up on one similarity with Larissa Ione's Demonica series in that both her Seminus demons and the Breed bear dermoglyphs that tell the story of their lineage. Otherwise, though, I thought the Midnight Breed were largely a brand new mythology that sufficiently intrigued me that I plan to continue with the series.
Lucan is the leader of the Boston-based cell of Breed warriors. At 900+ years old, he's one of the oldest Breeds and a Gen One, which means his father was one of the Ancients. For all these centuries, he's been fighting the Rogues, and it's really all he knows. He has little interest in anything else - including taking a Breedmate - until Gabrielle happens across his path one night while he's hunting Rogues. He knows she's different when he realizes that she's seen things that no ordinary human should have, but he doesn't know just how different until he poses as a police detective to find out what she knows about the Rogues. Lucan is instantly and undeniably drawn to her, and when he secretly returns later to seduce her, he sees her Breedmate mark. Not really wanting a mate, he fights his growing attraction to her, but when it becomes clear that she's now a Rogue target, he has no choice but to bring her into his world.
Lucan is an uber-alpha who has little softness in him and who can sometimes be a jerk, which is not my favorite type of hero. I also wasn't thrilled with his first sexual encounter with Gabrielle, because he used mind control to get her to leave her door unlocked, then entered her bedroom while she was sleeping and initiated sexual contact while she was in a dreamlike state. His equating of her positive response to his earlier psychic suggestion of sex being the same as her giving actual permission was weak, and I felt like this was dubious consent at best. The other thing about Lucan that bothered me is that he doesn't exhibit much in the way of vulnerabilities. The only weakness I detected in him was that he seems to be slowly succumbing to the Bloodlust that turns his kind Rogue. However, there's no real resolution to this aside from him believing that Gabrielle's love might somehow prevent him from giving in to the temptation. The idea that a centuries-old vampire has nothing in his past that has given him any sleepless nights or caused him any genuine pain was extremely hard to believe. There was one incident in which he had to make an awful decision that affected the life of one of his closest friends, with whom he now shares some bad blood, but he doesn't appear to have dwelt on it much. This also meant that there was little for me as a reader to grasp onto to identify as something that shaped him into the man he is today. Additionally it was a little difficult for me to have him skating that thin line that separates Breed from Rogue. I simply prefer my heroes to be more clearly identified as heroic rather than living in a somewhat ambiguous area in between. Because of these things, Lucan didn't quite make it onto my favorite heroes list, but I've read far more frustrating heroes than he is. I think at his heart, he's a decent person, just not my kind of person. I was also able to give him a little slack because of the romantic gesture he managed to pull off at the very end of the story.
After her mother abandoned her in a trash bin as a baby, Gabrielle grew up in the foster care system and was finally adopted by good parents when she was twelve. Before committing suicide, her mother had ranted about being attacked by vampires, so everyone believed she was crazy. Gabrielle has tried to escape this legacy by pouring her energy into becoming a top-notch photographer. Following her first major art gallery showing, she goes out with friends to a nightclub where she accidentally witnesses a brutal murder, committed by several large men who appear to be cannibalizing their victim. When she goes to the police to report it, they think she's insane. A couple of days later, Lucan shows up at her door, claiming to be a detective who's interested in the grainy cell phone photos she captured of the incident. She experiences an immediate visceral reaction to him that later leads to multiple hot and heavy sexual encounters. She's also mysteriously attracted to photographing vampire hot spots, and when the Rogues find out and come after her, she discovers not only what Lucan really is but also that she is a Breedmate.
Gabrielle was a pretty good heroine, but I did have a few issues with her. She goes from being terrified of Lucan after witnessing him brutally kill a Minion to trusting him again in pretty short order without a lot of thought going into it. For the most part, she takes all the revelations that are thrown at her while barely breaking her stride. Then, toward the end, she does something pretty stupid that I could see the folly of from a mile away. I also thought that given her background, her characterization would have been ripe for her being a tortured soul. At the very least, a better emotional connection could have been drawn between her birth mother being viewed as crazy and Gabrielle being viewed as crazy by the police for making similar claims. However, despite these perceived weaknesses, she didn't irritate me, and she's very kind and gentle with Lucan, so I was generally OK with her overall.
Kiss of Midnight introduces several characters who go on to get stories of their own in the series. Most of them are Lucan's fellow Breed warriors. I have to admit, though, that the guys who intrigued me the most were the ones who were already mated, and then the author had the audacity to kill off the one I targeted as my favorite, which annoyed me. However there was a lot of shifting sand among the cast that will lead to future stories for some of them anyway. Dante (Kiss of Crimson) and Niko (Veil of Midnight) were probably the two lesser developed supporting characters, so I didn't feel like I got to know them all that well. However, Gideon, their tech geek, immediately grabbed my attention. He's mated to Savannah, and the author published A Touch of Midnight, a prequel novella, quite a while after the first several books to tell the story of how they got together. Rio, the classic Latin lover, experiences some turmoil in this book that could lead to an interesting story for him in Midnight Rising. One of the Breedmates, Danika, also has her life turned upside down, but gets a new story in the novella, A Taste of Midnight. Then there's Tegan, who, with his tormented past, is perhaps the most intriguing of the secondary characters. I think he has the potential to be a great hero if the author properly utilizes his backstory in his book, Midnight Awakening.
I did have something of an up and down relationship with Kiss of Midnight. It got off to a rather slow start, but once things started moving, I was fairly well engaged. The world building and the overall plotting were pretty good. I've already mentioned my issues with the characterizations, and I also felt that the romantic relationship needed a little more attention. Lucan and Gabrielle certainly had lustiness in spades, but when and how they actually fell in love - or why - is much more of mystery to me. They don't share anything that resembled a genuinely romantic moment until the final chapter. I really thought the author needed to dig a little deeper to make that all-important emotional connection between these two characters. Instead, it's mostly passed off as a magical, mystical thing that simply is, and that didn't really work well for me. Also a couple of the moments that were meant to be plot twists or big reveals fell a bit flat for me, because I correctly predicted them before they happened. In one of these cases, a person betrays the Breed warriors and that individual's instant confession and lack of self-awareness, apparently believing that all would be forgiven, came off as weak. Admittedly all these little things sometimes rankled, causing my feelings about the book to roller-coaster, but in the end, I liked it enough to go ahead and give it four stars. While Lara Adrian might not have completely wowed me right out of the gate, I'm certainly willing to keep reading and having the first eight books already on my TBR pile makes it an easy choice.
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