Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Midnight Melodies by Megan Carter

Publisher:               Bella Books

Midnight Melodies combines two stories. The first is about Bridget Sullivan and Ann Taylor who flee from London when Ann's family is in danger of discovering that the women are lovers. In 1912 they are sure that Ann will be committed to a mental asylum if not worse. They decide to book passage on the next ship to America and begin new lives there. It seems good fortune that the ship is the engineering marvel of the age, RMS Titanic, until it hits that iceberg and the women have to fight for their lives and those of the friends they have met on their voyage.

The story then switches to the present and Whitehall, Texas, where the town is preparing to celebrate its founding by erecting a statue to Bridget and Howard Taylor. The town has great affection for these two people who emigrated from England and became pillars of the community when they settled there. Many of the families would not have survived the Depression without their help and the town thinks this is an excellent way to remember their service. 

Erica Boyd, who is one of their descendants, has no problem with the commemoration except that it's tearing her family apart. Her grandmother is as determined to stop the ceremony as her mother is to see it carried through, but her grandmother won't explain why she opposes the plan. There is a family secret that neither Erica nor the town knows about until a historian hired by Erica's mother starts poking around, asking questions and making a lot of people uncomfortable. Erica feels her small town life spinning out of control more than usual and begins to fear that she may lose family and friends, not to mention her closeted relationship with the mayor, before the uproar settles down.

Midnight Melodies really comes off as two different books. The part of the story that is set in1912 is a love story and a history lesson. Carter gives a clear picture of what lesbians had to endure in that time and the dangers that they faced in society. It's also an adventure story as Bridget and Ann take off across England to escape their parents and then get caught up in the events of the most famous ship sinking that has ever occurred. Some parts of it are a little contrived, but the reader basically gets a good feel for the time and what happened. 

The second part of the book is what makes the book really worth reading. It's almost as if a different person wrote part two. Carter injects tremendous humor into this portion and has the reader laughing out loud at the antics of her characters. The view of small town life in the South is dead on, with all of its quirky people and convoluted politics. Erica's grandmother Gerti is priceless, not the kindly cookie-baking type that most often appears in stories, but a Bourbon drinking, Playboy reading firecracker who will tell you the truth in a minute. 

Erica's struggles to deal with a lover who is terrified the town will find out about them, a mother who wants to be the queen bee of society, and her grandmother lead to more than one riotous scene. There is also an interesting contrast between Bridget and Ann, who were willing to risk so much to be together, and Erica and her lover Alice who don't want to risk anything for their relationship.

Megan Carter, aka Frankie J. Jones, has written many books, usually standard romances. This one may go down as her best. She shows her mastery of her craft through the characters she creates and the way she presents them. Midnight Melodies is definitely worth reading.

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