Wicked Winter Wonderland: Kristen Ashley's MIDNIGHT SOUL
by Madeline Iva
Kristen Ashley’s Fantasyland series has come to an end. Since I prefer my heroines with a little streak of edgy kick-ass, I was beyond thrilled see that Franka Drakkar, b*tch-cousin of leader Frey, is the heroine of MIDNIGHT SOUL, the fifth book in the series.
In the first book, Frey gets together with Finnie. I seriously loved this book. It inspired me. It’s set in a winter wonderland, and Frey is this hot, alpha, warrior dude–see Jason Momoa. While the heroine, Finnie, is as cute as a basket full of kittens. From the git go, Franka was pretty much the wicked villainess of the piece. Someone you loved to hate.
Yes Franka is back! She may be on everyone’s sh** list, but she helped to save their asses and save their world–so there. However, she lost her lover in the fight. He is gone, but he’s definitely not forgotten by Franka.
And who do we love more than a character we-love-to-hate? That same character crushed by love of course! Franka’s big, sad, wary eyes attract the notice of Noc–the latest in the Kristen Ashley collection of tall, dark, Alpha heroes.
Someone suggested David Gandy in the role of Noc–why thank you, don’t mind if I do!
[If you haven’t read the series–the premise is awesome! There is a parallel world to ours, and we all have a twin in this other world. Sometimes individuals from our world trade places with the twin of that world. Also, sometimes the doppleganger is kinda evil. Cue the sound of thunder and horses screaming.]
That Kristen Ashley picked a bad girl for her latest heroine had me all like:
Okay, but first I have to say it’s REALLY unusual for a Kristen Ashley heroine to be kinda wicked. The Rock Chick girls definitely have some serious mojo, but every Ashley heroine is like a really good chocolate Easter bunny. Never bitter and never hollow.
Some readers might saying, “But you’ve seen things Franka’s done. How are we supposed to like her? How? How? How?” Good question. How do you make people like a wicked character?
A) You have a character we like fall in love with her. Enter Noc, stage right.
B) You torture your bad girl character. That’s how.
And indeed as we open our story, everyone is hating on Franka and she’s giving back as good as she gets, until she’s offered a mountain of wealth as payment for helping, you know, save the world.
The caveat is that after she takes the loot, she’s supposed to scram. They want her gone, outta town, and like right now. There’s a moment where Noc thinks she’s won’t take all the furs, jewels, diamonds, and gold coin. He even tells ‘the gang’ she won’t take it. After all, Franka helped to save the world and sacrificed her lover in doing so. Surely she has strictly honorable intentions just like the rest of them and will turn it down?
Ha! She’s gonna take the loot. But Noc’s reaction really gets to her. Why at this point in her life, is anyone trying to think she’s a nice woman? She’s been fighting and clawing away for survival since she was tiny, which makes it very difficult for her to face two sets of eyes–the condemnation in everyone else’s eyes and the hope in his. Ashley lets us inside her heroine’s head and we find out that people really know nothing about her. She has her own hidden agenda.
While it’s a common trope in romance for the heroine to like a bad man we don’t see the reverse played out as often as I’d like. The men are not really bad, you know, they’re just misunderstood. Mmmhmmm.
Kristen Ashley has flipped the trope and flipped it good. I like the bad woman who is withdrawn and guarded with her emotions. It reminds me of my horrible youth and how hard it was to let anyone get beyond my blazing torch of bitchy to the soft creamy center of my core goody-two-shoes inside.
I like the guy who is interested in peeling back her exterior and who’s gut is saying People, you don’t get it. You don’t really see her. Only *I* really see her.
I appreciate that for Franka, who’s had her motives twisted and judged for as long as she can remember, it’s a very powerful thing to have someone see you in a nice way. It hurts–probably more than being hated.
Which is not to say it’s fun being despised. I highly related to Franka when she experiences the wretched moment where she just knows everyone–every single person wants her gone and gone now.
And when thanks to events, people finally do begin to understand her and are like Ooooh, poor Franka, it doesn’t matter to her. She’s still just as badass as she ever was. High five, Kristen Ashley.
When Franka faces down her personal enemy and even though everyone (probably feeling really guilty) rushes in to help and support her, she’s like – people, I got this. Her hurts may be exposed, but she is still powerful. She’s not gonna turn into a runny pile of soggy because at last people understand.
SO GOOD IT HURTS. Other complications ensue. Because this is a Kristen Ashley story there’s tons more of the book—I won’t spoil it for you. Not only does Ashley flip things around for once by having the girl be from Lunwyn and the hero from our world, but Franka also comes to our world instead of the reverse.
About one third of my joy in the first book of the series is being in the snowy, snowy Lunwyn–
with winter palaces, sleds, warm wraps, luxurious clothes, crackling fires, and a general overall sumptuousness.
In this book we do the opposite. We get a vice-cop, pizza, tacos & reality TV. (Can we go back to Lunwyn now?)
It’s a great encore to a great series. In letting her wicked aristo Franka and even poor Circe have a happy ending, Kristen Ashley is showing her own relentless need for an HEA. Cause Everybody deserves a happy ending! I was so overjoyed that finally even poor put-upon Circe finds Dax–who is a hunka hunka burning love.
I’ll leave you with that.
If you love Kristen Ashley the way we love Kristen Ashley but by some twist of fate you didn’t get this book, then my friends, you are in luck.
Oh look! ****A Giveaway****
All you have to do is like my fb page. But wait!!! What if you haven’t read WILDEST DREAMS–the first book in the series? Not to worry, my friend. I’ll toss it in with the other two books and you can settle in for some fun times.
You can also follow us at Lady Smut where we do our very best to explore the side of you that wants to be bad.
Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance. Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes. Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.