As the interior designer who worked on a luxury passenger train, Dora Wickers is trying to enjoy its inaugural trip on New Year's Eve, along with her banker boyfriend, Adam Morgan. However, the knowledge that he wants to marry her is weighing heavily on her mind, leaving her feeling boxed in. Adam is a great guy and she knows she should feel fortunate to have him, but she has grand plans for adventure, and throughout the entire year they've been dating, the mild mannered man has never seemed like the type who would enjoy such things. When the Y2K bug affects the computers controlling the train, leaving them stranded in the middle of nowhere, the independent Dora decides to head out into the wilderness to find help. She used to hike in the area with her family and thinks she knows where she is, but soon becomes hopelessly lost. As she quickly finds out, though, it's a good thing Adam insisted upon coming along with her, because he's far more capable than she ever gave him credit for. As he proves to be more like Superman than the Clark Kent she thought he was, Dora may begin to have a change of heart toward him and their relationship.
"Trouble at Midnight" is a stand-alone novella from Jill Shalvis about two people who've been dating for over a year, but despite talking about marriage, they've never quite made it out of the friendship phase. Additionally the heroine's knowledge that the hero wants to marry her is making her feel claustrophobic. She wants to have adventures, but feels that he's too much of a boring Clark Kent to ever go along with doing more exciting things. However, when the inaugural trip of the train they're riding on is interrupted in the middle of nowhere by the Y2K bug on New Year's Eve, she decides to throw caution to the wind and starts walking for help. When her hero joins her, he's able to prove that he can be a little more like Superman than she thinks.
This is a cute little story that I generally enjoyed, but I felt like it was too short to sufficiently develop the characters and their relationship in a fully believable way. Although I didn't get a great sense of the particulars, Dora was apparently told what to do for most of her life growing up, so now she's an independent woman who wants to call the shots, and what she wants is adventure. However, I kind of felt like her insistence upon leaving the stopped train to venture out into the wilderness just because she thought she knew the area from past hiking trips lacked maturity and was not well thought out. She also stubbornly keeps making bad decisions until Adam steps in and insists upon taking the reins. At this point, Dora balks a little, but he quickly impresses her with survival skills that she didn't know a boring banker like him could possess. Adam has apparently been in love with Dora for the entire year they've been dating, but has been biding his time, not pushing her to move faster, because he understands her need for independence. That's why he temporarily allows her to take the lead on their little adventure. Adam is definitely more of a beta hero, but I liked that he always knew where they were even though she didn't and he wasn't averse to taking over when things were rapidly going south. His grand gesture of granting her freedom was sweet and heartfelt.
Where I took some issue with the story, however, is that I felt like Dora's problems were a little too deep-seated to fully overcome with just one gesture like that. Not to mention, she clearly didn't know him as well as she thought she did. Also, they'd basically been in the friend zone for a long time and Dora seemed to have hang-ups about sex, so with all this in mind, the rapid progression of their relationship lacked that little extra spark that would have propelled it to a more deeply romantic place. Also when Dora makes her turn-around, Adam is concerned, and rightly so IMHO, that it may just be the adversity they'd shared talking, but his qualms fade with only a token protest, wrapping their romance up into a neat little bow. If you're a reader who can avoid taking things too seriously, this is a decent little story, but I couldn't help feeling it lacked a certain credibility to both the plot and characters. This was my first read by the rather prolific Jill Shalvis, and while she didn't quite hit it out of the ballpark with this one, it was good enough that I'm sure I'll give her another chance to wow me in the future. "Trouble at Midnight" can be found in the anthology Yours 2 Keep.
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