Published: December 1995 (Avon)
Category: Historical Romance
I was at a standstill with Julia Quinn because I was waiting for my next Bridgerton book to arrive in the mail. I happened to be in the library and this was the only Quinn they had on the shelf, so it was meant to be. Apparently, Dancing at Midnight is the middle of a trilogy, between Splendid and Minx, and before Quinn wrote the Bridgerton series.
Belle is the heroine who plans on marrying for love, and nothing less. Even luckier for her, her parents support her decision and have let her turn down several offers. She visits her newly married cousin, Emma, the Duchess of Ashbourne, and while out reading, she accidentally trespasses on their new neighbor's land.
When a suitor tells Arabella he's willing to overlook her appalling bluestocking tendencies on account of her looks and fortune, she decides to take a break from the Marriage Mart. During an extended stay in the country, she never expects to meet Lord John Blackwood, a wounded war hero who intrigues her like no other man.
Lord John has lived through the worst horrors of war... but nothing could have been as terrifying to his tormented herat as Lady Arabella. She is intoxicating, infuriating... and she makes him want to live again. Suddenly he's writing bad poetry and climbing trees in the pitch-dark night... just so he can dance with her as the clock strikes midnight. And even though he knows he can never be the sort of man she deserves, he can't help wanting her. But when the harsh light of day replaces the magic of midnight, can this tormented soul learn to love again?
Lord John Black Blackwood was made a baron after his heroic acts in the war, and invested his money wisely over the past few years, coming out plump enough in the pocket to buy his own estate. Unfortunately, the estate had an awful name: Bletchford Manor. He carries a lot of guilt from when one of his men raped a young girl, and has nightmares about it, thinking that he may as well have been the rapist. When he meets Belle, his heart is lighter than it's ever been since that horrible night. She's smart, witty, beautiful, and bright in spirit. They flirt and Belle begins to believe that John's the one for her, but then he pushes her away because he's afraid of hurting her like he did that little Spanish girl he let down.
Belle fights back, going home to London and having Emma help her pass on the fake news that she's about to be engaged. John realizes that maybe he isn't the best man for Belle, but he will do his best for her. What if she married some nobleman who made her stop reading, or one who mistreated her physically? So he storms off to London to confront her, and she's actually honest about her plot to get him to chase after her, and they begin their real courtship, complete with poetry. That was one of the funniest parts of the book. Emma, thinking that John has a poetic soul, insists that he write her a poem, but he keeps plagiarizing and reciting other poets' work instead. She always catches him, and I crack up.
They do marry quickly, and Belle helps him get past his guilt. Besides trying to rename Bletchford Manor, which Belle kept mistaking for Blumley Manor, Brimstone Park ("At least Brimstone Park had some character to it. And 'bletch' rhymes with 'retch,' which conjures up images even more unfortunate than hellfire."), etc., someone from John's past is threatening their new life.
This was a fantastic, fun read, and included a lot of face time for Emma and Alex, who were so lovely that I had to run out and buy Splendid.