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Sometimes you really can judge a book by its cover. Judging by the swooning, cleavagey woman who seems to be in the initial stages of ecstacy, with a bit of soft purply lighting, "A Stroke of Midnight" looks like a fantastical romance novel. And that... is what it is.

The cover aside, Laurell K. Hamilton's latest Merry Gentry novel is, like many of her latest novels, a minor disaster. "Stroke of Midnight" is actually better than most of them, with the complex political machinations that Hamilton is so good at. But smothering those machinations are sex and a glacial plotline.

After the events of the third book, the human media has been called into the sithen for a press conference centering on Princess Meredith. But no sooner has the conference ended than a pair of corpses -- one human, one fey -- are found. Merry convinces the Queen to let her investigate the human way, and begins delving into whodunnit.

To make things even more complex, the Goddess has been doing wonky things with Merry's powers -- now when she has sex with fey, their powers are reawakened, and then become godlike once more. Needless to say, this is doing lovely things for her obedient harem. But Merry also has to focus on the mysterious murders -- and the plot that may be forming against her aunt.

Sounds intriguing? Well, in theory it is. Unfortunately, the entire plot is not only inundated in softcore porn, but it also takes place in about twenty-four hours. As a result, the plot is so drawn-out and glacially slow that I kept wanting to bang the book against my head.

And, of course, the sex. Hamilton's writing has gotten downright nymphomaniacal in recent years, and "Stroke of Midnight" is no exception. There's virtually nobody Merry doesn't have elaborate and varied sex with, or hasn't had sex with in the past, except for close relatives. Really, she must have supernatural powers if she isn't walking funny by now.

On a more serious note, though the sex has a part in the plot, it's so frequent and detailed that it all blurs together into one throbbing, ecstatic, orgasmic blur. These things are not Hamilton's strong point, and it sabotages the book to have so much of it made up by Merry's sexual gymnastics with men, women, fey, demi-fey, and anything else that walks and talks. (If she has sex to get pregnant, why women?)

And the writing is much in the vein of the sex scenes -- boring, filleresque and rather uninvolving. This is probably because Hamilton is setting it in one day, no more, and so she has to flesh it out with a lot of repetitive dialogue and endless internal pondering. The more supernatural scenes are interesting, but they are also nothing new to readers of this series. And at the end, it merely feels like a teaser for book number five.

What "Stroke of Midnight" does to redeem itself is revive some of those Machievellian power tangles. Sure, Cel is in his cell, but there is plenty of hostility and plotting. This is where Hamilton shines, and if there had been less sex and more plotting, this book might well have blosssomed.

"A Stroke of Midnight" has a few steps in the right direction, but they are baby steps. In the end, it feels deeply unsatisfying, more suited for a drinking game (if Merry has sex with a weirdly-appendaged fey, take half a sip) than for serious fantasy reading.
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on December 29, 2006
LKH seems to be working out her own fantasies and hangups in her most recent novels....instead of supernatural horror/thrillers spiced up with eroticism, we now supernatural erotica with just enough plotting to hold them together as stories.

The parallels between these books and her Anita Blake novels are becoming stronger and stronger...the characters and action seems almost interchangeable. Hamilton needs to get her hand out of her pants and get a grip on her storytelling mojo instead.
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on May 22, 2005
I LOVED this story! LKH caught me with the Merry Gentry series right from the first story, A KISS OF SHADOWS. Even though the story only covered a 24-hour period, a little bit more of Merry's connection to the Goddess was revealed. I liked the glimpses that we got into Doyle and Galen and in a perfect world, Frost would stop pouting! The only drawback? We now have to wait until Fall 2006/Spring 2007 for the next book!
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on May 2, 2005
This is an excelent book I love(and own) all of LKH's books. My advice to these
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on April 19, 2005
I usually read contemporary and historical romance, never having been a fan of the 'Fantasy' side of the romance genre. However, a dear friend of mine read this book and told me I just had to read it. What I found was more than I could have bargained for. This is not just fantasy. It is erotically charged and dream like, but so well written I could not put it down. This book will make your imagination soar.
Also recommended: The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd and Fire In The Ice by Katlyn Stewart
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on August 8, 2006
This book is nothing more than graphic sex scenes strung together by a few pages of leaden plotting. I don't know how a series that started off so strongly has degenerated to this. Save your money unless you want to read the same sex scene written over and over and over again. Everbody screams in orgasm, new nature forms spring up as a result, blood is spilled and the whole product is tired, tired, tired.
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on April 22, 2005
Decadent, hot and enthralling-who could ask anymore from a book.
Full of intrigue and imagination, you can not put this book down. I love the imagery it creates in your mind.
Other books to look for: Fire In The Ice by Katlyn Stewart and Men of August Heather's Gift by Lora Leigh (yummy books)
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