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The Midnight Work    by Kassandra Sims order for
Midnight Work
by Kassandra Sims
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2005 (2005)

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*   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

Sophie Aubrey is your average American girl. She's a Ph.D. candidate in religious studies, lives with two roommates in the early stages of their careers, and spends most of her free time writing in her blog, running websites, and interacting with her tight clique of like-minded friends. When mysterious newcomer Olivier joins their exclusive group, she's intrigued. He writes poetry (sure, it's a little eccentric ... but it's poetry), has a voice that can melt frozen chocolate, and he's interested in her. So far so good - until she wakes up a vampire and realizes he's to blame.

Vampire romances have grown in popularity over the past few years. For the most part, authors strive to find new twists on the familiar, turn clichés upside down and consistently deliver fresh characters in intriguing situations. In The Midnight Work, Sims attempts to do the same by taking a typical young woman and turning her into an undead. If this scenario happened to you or me, we'd likely need a period of adjustment to get over the initial shock of this unexpected and bizarre situation. Not so for Sophie Aubrey. She steps into her new life (or is that death?) with the same casual aplomb with which she'd step into a new pair of high-heeled shoes. She's a little unsteady on her feet, but ultimately delighted by the turn of events. So delighted, in fact, that she runs out and turns her best friend into a vampire, too. After all, nothing's lonelier than a dinner party for one.

If this all seems far-fetched, well, it is. I suppose that's par for the course with a vampire romance, but most novels in the genre attempt to ensure the reader can at least identify with the characters and basic situations, if not with the life-after-undeath scenario. Unfortunately, these characters are so far removed from reality that it's hard to believe they're supposed to inhabit the same planet as the rest of us - even before a vampire strolls in and teaches them the fine art of blood drinking.

But beneath Sophie's bizarre fate lies another story, one with a rich background deeply rooted in history. Olivier was a Cathar faithful in the Middle Ages, member of a dualist belief system prosecuted by the Catholic church. Each time Sims delves into Olivier's history and gives us brief glimpses of the past, the story comes to life through vivid descriptions, beautifully written details and a thoroughly engaging atmosphere. It's too bad these forays into the past are so brief. Sims really shines when she leaves the present behind.

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