Novella Review: After Midnight by Serena Bell


May Contain Spoilers


After Midnight was my favorite novella in the Heating Up the Holidays anthology.  It’s a sexy story with relatable characters that you want to find their HEA.  Both Miles and Nora are at the lowest point in their lives when they meet at a party on New Year’s Eve.  Their attraction is instant and combustible, but events separate them before they have a chance to swap their names, let alone their phone numbers.  Both are on the rebound, and Miles is under the threat of a criminal investigation, so both think that, perhaps, it’s for the best that they didn’t hook up.

Jump forward almost a year later, and Nora, back on better footing after being dumped by her cheating, douche of a boyfriend, is given the chance to discover the identity of her mysterious New Year’s Eve stranger.  Can she break through Miles’s defenses and make him realize that it’s time to give her, and himself, a chance at happiness?

I liked both protagonists quite a bit.  Miles has retreated from life as he faces an embezzlement charge.  Devastated when her girlfriend leaves him after the investigation comes to light, he is miserable.  He’s been released from his position at work without pay, and he’s just drifting along, hoping the criminal case will go away. He’s resigned that he’ll be charged for a crime that he didn’t commit, and instead of denying any misdeeds, he’s collapsed in on himself, which only makes him look more guilty.  He won’t run up to the rooftop and scream out his innocence.  When he reconnects with Nora, his legal troubles make him reluctant to pursue a relationship with her.  He’s afraid to level with her about the investigation because of how his ex reacted.  When Nora can’t say with 100% certainty that she believes he’s innocent, it seems to spell doom for their blossoming romance.  I was just a teeny bit irritated with Miles here; Nora doesn’t know him all that well, but she still wants to give them a chance, but that’s not good enough for Miles.  He wants her to believe with unwavering conviction that he’s not guilty, but he won’t come right out and say that he’s innocent.

Nora’s ex cheated on her for months before she found out, and then he mocked her for being too trusting.  Now, she doesn’t trust herself and that comes between her and Miles.  When he most needs her to empathically say that she’s certain he’s innocent, she can’t.  She’s already misjudged the one person she trusted so blindly, and she won’t allow herself to do that again.  I couldn’t blame her.  She’s just met Miles, and while he seems like a nice guy, who knows?  She’s given him so much of herself already, it makes sense that she wants to hang onto a little piece of herself – just in case she’s made a mistake again.

After Midnight is a wonderful story about getting a second chance and learning how to trust again, both in yourself and in others.  It’s a great choice for a holiday read, and I will be checking out more by this author.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

As leftover turkey and stuffing give way to stockings and little black dresses, this tantalizingly sexy eBook bundle offers up holiday-themed novellas from a trio of beloved romance authors. Lisa Renee Jones gives a dedicated reporter and a powerful businessman a chance to count their Thanksgiving blessings in Play with Me; Mary Ann Rivers presents Snowfall, the story of a woman who confronts a life-changing event—hopefully with a special man by her side—just in time for Christmas; and in Serena Bell’s After Midnight, an explosive New Year’s kiss leaves two strangers wondering whether they’ll ever see each other again. PLAY WITH ME by Lisa Renee Jones
Kali Miller has spent three years reporting fluff stories, waiting for the article that will launch her career to new heights. When she suddenly finds herself forced to take a job as an executive secretary at a Vegas casino, Kali meets the subject of what will surely be a shocking exposé: her boss, Damion Ward, the arrogant and undeniably sexy CEO. But after Damion invites her to help him plan a Thanksgiving charity event, Kali begins to see another side of the man. And when she surrenders to the exhilarating tension simmering between them, Kali hopes her story will have a happy ending.

SNOWFALL by Mary Ann Rivers
Jenny Wright can’t get enough of her erotic conversations with someone she knows only as “C.” Flirting online helps Jenny temporarily escape confronting the changes to her life as she slowly loses her vision. Jenny’s occupational therapist, Evan Carlisle-Ford, is helping her prepare for the challenges ahead, but the forthright, trustworthy man can no longer ignore his growing attraction to his fiercely intelligent client. Now Jenny must choose between the safe, anonymous “C”—or the flesh-and-blood Evan, whose heated kisses can melt snow faster than it can fall.

The clock is ticking down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, and all Nora Hart and Miles Shephard can think about is kissing each other—even though they met just minutes before. Then, as fast as Miles enters Nora’s life, he’s gone . . . and she never even gets the name of the man she thinks might just be “the one.” One year later, Nora and Miles are reunited. The chemistry between them is just as strong as they remember. But Miles broke her heart once before—and this time around, Nora’s not sure whether she can give love a second chance.