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Book Review: Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart

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First published in 1956, Wildfire at Midnight is one of Mary Stewart's best romantic suspense novels. With the ruggedly beautiful Isle of Skye as her backdrop, the author weaves a tale of madness and murder; deception and love; hope and forgiveness; it's a novel that is nothing short of spectacular.

Gianetta, named for her ‘disreputable and famous’ great-great-grandmother Gianetta Fox, makes a splash in London just like her relative before her. Beautiful but very shy she quickly catches the eye of Nicholas Drury a handsome but moody author. They are married within three months of their introduction.

Gianetta was ‘wildly, madly, dumbly’ in love. But Nicholas was expecting a modern version of Gianetta Fox and soon the two have parted ways. But even once the divorce is final Gianetta can not bring herself to stop wearing her wedding band.

Years later Gianetta is escaping from London and its memories to Camas Fhionnaridh in the Isle of Skye. But the relaxing vacation she had planned at a peaceful inn turns out to be anything but tranquil. Gianetta finds herself surrounded by an odd mix of characters including, of all people, her very ex-husband.

When a young woman is found murdered on Blaven — a mountain looming over the hotel — and then one of the inn guests goes missing, suspicion runs among the guests. Gianetta gets caught between Nicholas and the dashing blue-eyed Grant, and she knows in her heart that one of these men is a murderer.

One of the things I love best about this novel is the fact that Gianetta is so very human. She is this enchanting beautiful creature with all these wonderful flawed bits like everyone else. Gianetta is not perfect and her mistakes are easy to relate to. As you read you find yourself hoping that everything will turn out right for her, as you are meant to.

There is a chance that Wildfire at Midnight could seem dated, as it takes place in 1953. But the language still comes across as fresh and the dialogue charming. The references to clothes, hair, and life styles seem glamorous and alluring to me. While it lacks the swear words, blatant sex, and gore that can be found in any novel now it is still one of the most thrilling novels I have ever read.

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