AT the moment, Alix only desires to penetrate the British racing world with her carefully laid plans. But with the entrance of her estranged spoiled twin sister, her innocuous life takes a troubled turn as she was forced to play a role that may change the course of her future. At the same time, with the sudden recurring of memories about her forgotten past in France, things unfold out of her control with danger possibly looming in the horizon.
Diane Shute's debut novel, After Midnight, is that particular book one couldn't really classify outright just on its premise alone. Its blend of historical suspense, horse racing, family intrigue and romantic impressions, elements individually focused at one or two points which if not done right could go awry, left me so much engaged and wanting more.
It is admirable how Shute dealt with the unfolding of mystery. The suspenseful plot, which I could feel almost bursting on its seams with its pulsating quality, isn't controlled with a heavy hand, a lackluster methodical manner or with poor excuses. Interestingly enough, the disclosing of little revelations was done with a sort of negligent cool gesture, fluttering into place and cropping up unexpectedly, that it admittedly ups the ante of thrill and curiosity.
It could get confusing upon first reading (and for skimming readers, you'd be quite lost if you don't watch it) as characters seemed to jump in out of nowhere. With further reading (and with each main character having a turn in the narrative), things get brought to light and to how they fit into the puzzle.
It was a relish to get to know more about Alix, her manners, interests and how cool she is. I am most especially taken by her uncle. He is quite admirable and perhaps the true mysterious character in the book. His past life mirrors a dashing knight straight out of a fairy tale. The more I knew him, the more I am impressed. The parts about their old life in France was fascinating.
There's a kind of persuasive charm sweeping its pages; in the subtle possibilities despite the loss, in the gentle bittersweet moments, sporadic dry humor, in getting a kick on the ridiculous number of times Alix fell off her bed. The book will be a definite re-read and I am quite relived that the author didn't veer the direction of the story to a predictable formula but stayed true to the sentiments of the characters, especially Alix. And just about now, I am slapped with excruciating longing for a hinted sequel and quite eager for more.
As far as Alix is concerned, she has no past, she only has today, and her plans for the future: raising a dynamic string of racehorses that will take the 1830s British racing world by storm. Enter Lily, Alix's estranged twin sister, spoiled, defiant and recently married for money and social status. As Alix is forced into a position that threatens to alter the course of her future, she begins to remember details about the mysterious events surrounding her father's death when she was a child. When Alix seeks her uncle's help, it sparks his dangerous return to France to reclaim the lives they left behind long ago.
Title: After Midnight
Author: Diane Shute
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romantic Suspense
Published: September 2014
Publisher: She Writes Press
Rating: ♨♨♨♨ (4 cups - Engaging historical suspense with moments of sweet melancholy. If there's an intended sequel, I wish that book is published already!)