Reviewed: December 3, 2010
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Midnight Bay, Book 1
Rating: 3 Stars
Length: 384 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Scottish warrior Kenzie Gregor has seen centuries pass, but after spending so many years as one animal or another, he's now back in full...and fabulous...human male form. Along with his ancient friend, the Druidic priest Father Daar, Kenzie has moved to Midnight Bay to provide a safe shelter for his charge, William. William is a man cursed by a witch and stuck in dragon form. He's passed through time for Kenzie's help, desperate to regain his humanity.
As Kenzie is settling in Midnight Bay, he purchases a homestead he intends to turn into a working farm, accidentally displacing the beautiful Eve Anderson and her mother Mabel, a charming woman suffering from a progressing dementia. Kenzie is disturbed to find out he's bought the house out from under Eve and Mabel. He's drawn to Eve, friends with Mabel, and intent on making things right. He offers the women shelter and work, befriending them even as his attraction to Eve grows. His duty, though, and the risk of danger, keeps him from claiming her as his, until a magical attack by a vindictive witch stirs up a storm that alters the course of all their lives.
This is my first experience with Janet Chapman's writing, and there were good things about it. I was especially touched by the very genuine emotions and situations surrounding Mabel's dementia and all its implications. My grandmother suffered from non-Alzheimer's dementia in the last years of her life, and I found Mabel's condition and Eve's reactions and emotions instantly familiar and hauntingly bittersweet.
Kenzie was an anachronistic charmer. His character was well drawn and consistent, and I enjoyed the mix of confident warrior and befuddled man stuck in a time he can hardly understand. I wasn't quite as enamored of Eve, for while I understood her motivations and the varying stages of despair, hope, and acceptance she went through in relation to her mother, and the reasons behind her resistance to Kenzie, I didn't find her character to my preferences for a female lead in a paranormal romance. She was a little too closed off and bitter about men and a bit too smothering and close minded about her mother for me to enjoy her as a main character. Unfortunately, liking both characters is necessary for me to really enjoy a romance novel.
On a brighter note, this novel is richly populated by very appealing secondary and ancillary characters and I enjoyed them all very much, from the always hungry Daar to the man/dragon William, to Eve's best friend Maddy and all the rest. Especially Mabel. I loved her. Chapman creates quirky but real characters with individualism and depth.
I had some serious issues with the plot and mythos of the book, though. Moonlight Warrior is the first book in a series that is spun off from Janet Chapman's Highlander series and there was nowhere near enough exposition or world building for new readers such as myself. I spent most of the book completely lost as to what Kenzie is, why he's still alive, and what he's supposed to do as the soul warrior. Nor do I have a clue as to how he does it. Kenzie's past, as well as his family and friends, are introduced or referenced with just as little explanation.
While I was reading I felt like I got dropped into the middle of an existing series after missing the first few books instead of starting a new one. That's a significant problem. On top of the lack of exposition, Kenzie's current acts as a soul warrior were never explained and the scenes in which he battled the forces of evil were dealt with very perfunctorily and most were neither explained nor written out. Because of that, this book read more like a contemporary romance featuring a historical character with a paranormal life in the background than a true paranormal romance.
The strongest and most appealing aspects of this book were the varied and endearing characters. I have a sneaking suspicion that had I read Chapman's Highlander series, I would have thoroughly enjoyed this book, with only my issues with the character Eve as a detriment. As it stands, I'm unsure whether I'll continue with this series or go back and start the Highlander series first and hope it provides some answers and a more comprehensive world building. I enjoyed the characters and what I could grasp of the mythos enough to at least give one or the other a try.
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