Aidan O'Connor is one of the most sought-after and successful movie stars of all-time, but after a string of cruel betrayals by family and friends, he has all but checked out on life and refuses to trust anyone. About to spend Christmas alone at his remote cabin in the mountains of Tennessee, he has no idea that his brother is out to kill him and to that end, has unleashed a powerful force that will wreak havoc on far more than Aidan's life. When a beautiful stranger Aidan saw in a dream shows up at his door in the middle of a snowstorm, asking for his help, he reluctantly lets her in. Although the woman stirs his desires, he has no interest in getting involved with her after all he's been through, but fate may have other plans in store for him.
Leta is a goddess of Olympus and a Dream-Hunter. Centuries ago, she engaged in a battle with Dolor, the god of Pain, who had just killed her husband and child. In the end, she captured Dolor and placed a curse on him, in hopes of preventing him from inflicting mayhem on any more lives, but a human has broken the curse, summoning Dolor to do his bidding. Only by killing Aidan can Dolor come into his full power again, so Leta swears to protect Aidan no matter the cost. She just didn't anticipate falling for the handsome actor. He seems to reciprocate her attraction, but getting him to trust her is another story.
Holiday Gatherings - Dark-Hunter characters past and present gather together to celebrate the holiday season. Aimee Peltier receives a surprise gift from the Were-Hunter she loves. Kyrian Hunter gives thanks for all his family and friends, while Nick Gautier battles loneliness and grief. Acheron spends Christmas in Katoteros with Simi and Xirena. There he must deal with his estranged brother, Styxx, before making a trip to Olympus to visit his newfound daughter, which brings on a premonition of things to come.
Upon the Midnight Clear was another offering in the Dark-Hunter series that felt like it was hurriedly rushed to publication. I've heard some fans say that the Dream-Hunter stories are the weakest in the series, and I'm beginning to see why. Upon the Midnight Clear was a reasonably pleasant diversion, but it didn't really offer anything new or unique to the paranormal romance genre or even the Dark-Hunter series. Neither the characters, nor the plot had a great deal of depth, and the Christmas theme was something of an afterthought, with the holiday only coming into play during the last chapter of the book. The cover blurb also suggested that the hero and heroine were stranded in a snowstorm, which is a trope I enjoy. However, even that was downplayed by Leta being in complete control of the storm, so technically they weren't really stranded. Overall, Upon the Midnight Clear was a decent read for what it was, but not a particularly memorable one.
Aidan and Leta were pretty typical Dark-Hunter characters, both having extreme issues in their pasts which made them rather tortured souls. After being betrayed by everyone close to him, Aidan trusts no one and is essentially hiding away in a remote cabin, avoiding all human contact. I thought that Aidan's backstory as to how he arrived at this place in his life after enjoying a successful career as a movie star would be interesting, but when some of the details started to emerge, they were initially muddled and confusing. It seemed like everyone close to him hated him and was trying to ruin his life for no good reason. As the story goes along, it becomes clearer that Aidan's brother, Donnie, and his nephew were the main instigators. They were quite simply jealous of his success and trying to take advantage of a nice guy. Still for Donnie to be obsessed enough to want to torture and kill Aidan, as well as willingly sacrifice his loved ones, seemed a bit extreme for the motivations given, and I don't remember it being mentioned as to why Donnie was in prison either. Donnie ended up being a pretty one-dimensional villain who was merely a bad seed.
Leta had lost her husband and child to Dolor, the god of Pain, centuries ago. She managed to defeat him and place him in stasis using a curse that only made it possible for him to awaken if a human summoned him with a blood sacrifice. At that time, Leta herself went into a sleep state and was only awakened when Dolor was. This was about as much of Leta's backstory as I understood. I never did figure out exactly why she was the only one who could fight Dolor. She does a pretty good job of it, but not without some help from Deimos who gives his assistance for no other reason I could discern except that he felt like it. Leta and Aidan shared a couple of tender moments that I enjoyed. As is typical with this series, they got together a little too fast for my taste, but they did have decent chemistry, fueled by their emotional responses to one another.
Upon the Midnight Clear shared a couple of common characters with other books of the series. The Dream-Hunter leader, M'Adoc, is Leta's brother, and as I mentioned before, Deimos helps Leta in her battle with Dolor. M'Ordant and Wink are also briefly mentioned. Despite these connections, Upon the Midnight Clear has little or no bearing on the overall series story arc. Considering that part of the story takes place in the real world with one human antagonist, everything just happened too easily to be entirely credible. The characters make choices with little depth of thought, including Aidan who comes to trust Leta too quickly for someone who has basically checked out on life due to extreme betrayals in his past. Still, for a short novel it was a decent read, and one I'm sure Dark-Hunter fans will probably appreciate.
Holiday Gatherings - Holiday Gatherings is a bonus 30-page novella that is found at the end of Upon the Midnight Clear, and from what I can tell, this is the only place it's available. It is a series of short vignettes showing nearly all the main Dark-Hunter characters, both past and future, celebrating Christmas. My favorites were the ones centering on Aimee and Fang, Nick, and Acheron. The whole novella was heartwarming, but the parts about these four characters were particularly tender and emotional. Holiday Gatherings was a fun way to catch up with some of my old favorite characters and get a few teasers for upcoming ones, and was enjoyable enough to make me bump up the overall book rating by a half star. Star Rating: ****; Sensuality Rating: 0
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