Midnight Caller (novella) by Haley Whitehall

midnight caller

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Life without love is painful, but in the Reconstruction Era South forbidden fruit can be deadly. A fiery romance between a widow and an African-American man has more consequences than either of them imagined.

Slavery has ended, but racial prejudice remains in Kentucky. Emma Bennett guards a secret that could destroy her life. Until now she never considered the price of her security. Becoming a well-respected member in Louisville had seemed a dream come true, but at what cost?

Her husband’s death from a carriage accident releases Emma from her loveless, controlling marriage. Now she has a chance to find happiness and raise a family. But before she begins courting again she wants to experience her freedom. At the advice of the leading socialite in town, she takes a black lover to fulfill her sexual needs. His raw masculine power awakens feelings she didn’t know existed. After the first touch, she craves more.

Frederick works as a roustabout by day and moonlights as a prostitute. He knows better than to fall in love with his white client, but Emma enchants him the first time he calls on her. To keep them both safe, he works hard to put up barriers. Unfortunately, he can’t protect Emma from the slimy Mr. Hawthorne, who wants her as his bride. Frederick vows to keep her safe even if his forbidden love costs him his life.

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Publisher and Release Date: Expanding Horizons Press, August 2015

Time and setting: 1866, Louisville, Kentucky
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 3
Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Vikki

I grew up reading novels about the American Civil War and the reconstruction period of American history, so when that period of history meets romance, it’s always a winner for me. My mother loved it, and I used to sneak her Frank Yerby books into my room to read, which were way too racy for a teenager! So I was delighted to receive a review copy of Midnight Caller.

Widowed Emma Bennett is shocked, yet titillated, when an acquaintance and leader of society suggests she use the services of an African-American male prostitute. Emma can’t imagine a pillar of society doing such a thing, but intrigued and desperate to have someone to hold her and fulfill her sexual desires, she arranges to have a man visit her that night.

Frederick works as a roustabout by day and a male prostitute by night. When he arrives at Emma’s house, her youth and beauty has him questioning his hard and fast rule of never becoming emotionally involved with a client.

Should this pair of unlikely lovers throw caution to the wind for a chance at happiness, or will the mores of society separate them forever?

Midnight Caller has a unique story line that immediately pulled me in. I had never read anything before about African-American male prostitutes, so I really didn’t know what to expect. The story is fast-paced with a nice mix of dialogue and narrative.

Emma Bennett is an enchanting heroine. She is a young widow with a huge secret that would totally ruin her in the eyes of polite society in Louisville. Ms. Whitehall does an excellent job of only giving away as much as the story needs to keep me interested, yet not holding back to the point that I became irritated. Her character made choices that personally I would never have made, and I am not sure someone in this time period would have made them either.

Frederick’s character is very straight forward, and I liked him. He works hard to earn a living, hoping to someday own a small farm. That is why he is willing to be a socialite’s boy-yoy. He is determined to remain detached from his clients, not wanting to endanger his heart. He also has his younger brother to watch over, so he is motivated to achieve his goals.

For the most part, I enjoyed Midnight Caller although the ending is is not very believable. Everything works out too easily, and I do not believe it could have happened in 1866. That said, this IS fiction and one thing I love about it is the ability to explore “what ifs”.

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