REVIEW: Never Stay Past Midnight by Mira Lyn KellyTuesday, August 14, 2012 1:00
I’ve enjoyed books by Kelly before, but after a few particularly good reads from the Presents line, following on a slew of “meh”s, I didn’t think I’d be lucky again. But I was. Apart from a soft middle, this book excels at characterization and writing style. It blends humor and real, believable human motivations to draw the reader in and root for both main characters.
The story starts just after Levi and Elise have shared a memorable night together. No, actually, a memorable hour. Levi is astonished and not a little put out when Elise is the one to get out of bed and say it was nice, thanks but she has to get home. Shaken to the core, Levi is forced to recall that he might not be God’s gift and that he’s usually the one to politely leave.
Elise is busy. She is trying to set up a yoga and Pilates studio with a friend of hers, and she’s also got some family problems. In between babysitting for her sister and looking after a puppy almost as big as she is, she doesn’t have time for relationships, and she’d hoped that some sexytimes with a man she picked up in a club, who turned out to be the club owner, would fill that gap in her life, at least temporarily.
But she’s forced to call Levi for help, initially with the dog, after a charming interlude in a Chicago park reconnects them and they slowly get entangled. Elise thinks it’s fine, because there’s a finite end to their affair. Levi is leaving Chicago for Seattle. He sets up clubs and then sells them and has made himself a tidy fortune doing it. It also suits his lifestyle and his way of thinking. He doesn’t want permanence, but his desire is deeper than the usual motivations displayed by many Presents heroes. This book started life as a Riva, Mills and Boon’s lighter, sexier version of the Modern line with sassier heroes and heroines and a younger outlook. Kind of romantic comedy with sex.
So neither of them want to get involved, but they find themselves doing so anyway. Heart over head, you might say.
The internal dialogues of each character are given space, and Levi’s and Elise’s motivations and developments are believable, enough that you are rooting for both of them, even though neither behave like saints or even without making mistakes that ordinary mortals do. At times they don’t understand each other, and even when they do, their problems aren’t magically resolved. They have to work through their real life problems as well as their internal conflicts to reach their happy ending.
The middle of the book, while cute, is soft, in that no new problems turn up, and the book is about them going about their lives, getting more involved with each other, and trying to remind themselves that this can’t last. While I enjoyed reading these parts, they don’t really add to the conflicts and the progression of the story didn’t escalate in tension, pushing the reader toward the end. While I like sharing their lives, I don’t feel any urgency to pick up the book and carry on.
The style is very good. I love the way Kelly writes about these two and gives each character a distinctive voice. The vocabularies are appropriate. For instance, while it’s part of Levi’s job to know about style and design, he doesn’t know the details of Elise’s clothes. Instead, he knows when she looks good and appreciates it.
The sex scenes are good. While I’m disappointed not to share their hookup scene and the subsequent fun in bed, Kelly more than makes up for it later, especially with a steamy scene in the club that has echoes of exhibitionism, but only in a playful way. The sex scenes also serve to charter the way Elise and Levi grow closer, accept each other’s needs, and learn each other’s bodies in a tender way that leads to a lovemaking scene that really works to show just how close these two have become.
And there is another character in this book – Chicago. I’ve visited twice and I have to say it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. Kelly takes the reader right into living there. Having written stories set in Chicago myself, I can appreciate how the place gets under your skin. Kelly depicts it lovingly, along with the lives of the people who live there.
There aren’t any jarring anachronisms, and there aren’t any overeager efforts to be “hip.” Nor are there any cheap surprises-that-aren’t-surprises. While Levi’s background is typical for a Presents/Modern hero, his reactions, instinctive and conscious, are deeper and more believable.
Despite one incident in the epilogue that made me smile, I don’t think it added a lot to the story, and I couldn’t really believe it, especially taking Elise’s and Levi’s carefully delineated characters into account. But don’t let that put you off getting this book. It’s one of the best-written and most engaging I’ve read for a while.
“You are so wrong for me.”Levi had to agree—he was. He was leaving Chicago in a few short weeks. He didn’t do commitment—ever. But everything about this night, this girl, was so good. So right. Until at 11:59 p.m. she got out of his bed, got dressed and left!
What had he done? Things had hardly started and she was off! Yet he was bored with simpering women he couldn’t get rid of. Elise was a breath of fresh air. How was he going to find her…and get her back in his bed—for the whole night this time? It seemed Mr. Levi-and-Leave-Them might have found the one woman to leave him begging for more.…
Read an excerpt.