Kitty and the Midnight Hour, published in 2005, has all the hallmarks of its time: cover (tough girl pose, tramp stamp, ready-for-action braid, black leather), setting (a city, but not New York or LA), protagonist (middle class young white heterosexual female), plot (human woman faces tragedy and encounters supernatural beings), to subplot (romance with a mysterious guy who may be bad for her). It seems to be a very popular series, if the number of Goodreads reviews is any indication. This summer the tenth installment will be published.
Kitty is a Denver DJ who happens to be a werewolf. She was turned against her will not long ago, and is not fully reconciled to her fate. Kitty’s radio show, “The Midnight Hour”, accidentally becomes a talk show with a focus on werewolves and vampires after she takes a few strange calls on air. While her boss at the station loves the higher ratings, Carl, the alpha of Kitty’s pack, is unhappy with the attention Kitty is bringing to their community. Also displeased is the head of the local vampire clan. The existence of werewolves and vampires (who have worked out a détente) is an emerging secret (the NIH has even written a report on them) and Kitty’s show pushes Denver over the edge and into awareness.
Specially interested is a local police detective who is trying to solve a string of grisly murders that may be werewolf related. Kitty ends up helping her, which further antagonizes her alpha and the vampire leader, the latter of whom hires a bounty hunter to kill her on air. This scene, in which the assassin calls in to Kitty’s show as he enters the building and tells her exactly what he plans to do, was the best in the book: suspenseful and funny.
Kitty’s trying to find her place in the human world (improve her economic and employment situation) and the pack (move up from being on the bottom), and the book is strongest when focused on her journey. I’ve read a number of UF series with werewolves and I thought Vaughn did the best job I’ve read of portraying what it feels like to be a human in a wolf’s body and a wolf in a human’s body. Many readers put the book down in the early scenes because Kitty is so subservient to Carl (including sexually), which is a mistake in my opinion, because the point of the book is Kitty’s journey to higher status in both the human and werewolf worlds.
I did have some problems with the book, which I’ll list here:
(1) The gay best friend whose purpose in life is to serve Kitty and has no identity outside of Kitty’s needs.
(2) The only other female character who gets any development is a jealous scheming bitch who manipulates men and hates Kitty.
(3) Kitty is TSTL on at least two occasions. Sometimes I think the “Female Protagonist Meter” has two settings: (1) PASSIVE and (10) RASH.
(4) The subplot of a mysterious preacher who recruits vampires and is said to have supernatural powers is underdeveloped. Worse, it is highly derivative of the Fellowship of the Sun subplot in Charlaine Harris’s Living Dead in Dallas, published three years prior (fun fact: Harris blurbed it).
(5) Kitty is working on dealing with her werewolf life, true, but she doesn’t seem to have a trauma to overcome. Yet, in a brutal series of events, narrated dispassionately by Kitty, she was raped and later turned into a werewolf (a second invasion of her bodily integrity). Is sexual assault just so par for the course in UF that it doesn’t have any effect on characters who experience it?
(6) Kitty’s love interest has a mustache.*
*Ok, this is not technically a problem with the book, but it affected my enjoyment of it. Perhaps she’ll get him a razor in book 2.
I enjoyed reading Kitty and the Midnight Hour, although I felt nothing new here to anyone who has read Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Kelly Armstrong, and any number of other UF series with werewolves. In sum, despite some problems, which emerged with greater clarity as I was writing this review, this book worked for me as a quick enjoyable read: I liked the author’s voice, the main character, and the portrayal of lycanthropy. I plan to read more in the series.
You can read an excerpt here.