Don't know why it's called Midnight Mirage
I found this book in a box by a bus stop with a bunch of other generic looking romance novels. Now, I always love a free book or more and I’ve never read a proper romance book despite being more softhearted than my rugged exterior would suggest. I would have taken a bunch but I only had room in my back for one, so I picked ‘Midnight Mirage’ (Tagline: Just one man could satisfy her dreams!) Why that book? Because it has a doody holgram on the cover.
My rugged exterior.
Now, a quick look at the cover again. The man has a short-back-and-sides haircut, a tanned ripped top and a pair of brown jeans held up by a brown belt. He is groping a woman with long flowing blonde hair threaded with lose flowers and wearing a strappy 1970s(?)-esque gown. The background is a swirly thing, evoking sunsets and tropical climes, there is a rainbow and storks are flying. So of course, the book is set in eighteenth century London.
Not only that, but it’s a vaguely true story. First, the characters: Our heroine is Susannah Arne, a great tragic actress and the sister of Thomas Arne, the composer of ‘Rule Brittannia’. Susannah is married to Theophilus Cibber, spoilt son of the much ridiculed actor/manager Colley Cibber. (Colley Cibber will be featured a lot in this blog, he was defined as the emperor of Grub Street, a figure of fun, heavily ridiculed in the works of Fielding. I also have his biography to review at some point.) Theophilus also has a sister, Charlotte, a liberated crossdresser who has much fun, incidentally another true character. Finally, there is the hero, Tenn Sloper - I could find out less about him, but he really did exist.
And that is the point - this is a wonderfully researched book. A great deal of the novel takes place in and around the theatrical world of Eighteenth Century London. It brings to full and vivid life the tensions and the feuds of that life; including the historically accurate tension between Susannah and Kitty Clive. There is the drama around Charles Macklin, the Irish actor who was tried for manslaughter after jabbing his cane is someone’s eye. There is also the fascinating character of Charlotte, who’s free ways and crossdressing tendencies get her in trouble.
The love story is a good one as well. Theophilus Cibber is pictured as a selfish, vindictive, tosser who spends his wife’s money on gambling and has no theatrical knowhow. He dominates the infinitely more talented wife Susannah, who finds peace and joy in her own Lord Orville, Tenn Sloper. Indeed, we know that there were legal accusations of forced menage a trois and Theophilus and Susannah ran off with Tenn. The love story has definite roots in truth and is extremely excitingly written.
Charlotte (in pink)
But this is where the book becomes the romantic novel it is advertised as. The constant cycling of fling-hide-fling-hide-kidnapped-fling-hide-kidnapped etc... is rather repetitive. Also, the writing is adjective heavy, in order to make sure we have everything clear, which gets both confusing and irritating. I find a book that describes the big, large, shining, illuminating orb of the sun a bit wearying. We have to be reminded of Tenn’s hair (brown) and Susannah’s beauty (very) every few seconds, which can be a bit dull at moments but I enjoyed the book a fair amount.
I am very glad the book had a hologram on the front cover, because instead of getting some ol‘ tosh I managed to get myself a pretty interesting historical novel. Now, I find you can usually judge a book by it’s cover - I know a black book with a white band will be an Oxford Classic or a pink book with a cartoon woman with a glass of wine will be some kind of chick-lit. But for once I found that I couldn’t judge a book by it’s cover.