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Midnight Harvest    by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro order for
Midnight Harvest
by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2003)

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* * *   Reviewed by Liz Cooper

The year is 1936, and Ferenc Ragoczy, Comte de Saint-Germain finds himself once again in the middle of political and economic turmoil. Having been alive for four thousand years in his vampiric form, Saint-Germain is used to the shifting tides of power and the constant disagreements between nations. Although 'The Great War' has been over for many years, the situation in Europe seems more unstable than ever.

Saint-Germain has settled in Cadiz, Spain, so he can easily watch over one of his most profitable enterprises: Eclipse Aeroplane Industries, located in Cordoba. However, when Civil War erupts in Spain, and the government plans to take over his company, Saint-Germain must decide between fleeing the country or ending up imprisoned like other 'professional suspicious aliens'. Putting aside his dislike for flying, Saint-Germain and his faithful manservant Rogerio leave for America, and eventually settle in San Francisco where Rowena (one of Saint-Germain's former lovers) presently lives.

At a time when the country is still struggling to recover from the Stock Market Crash of 1929, Saint-Germain has been able to keep a few Americans in business through his investments and sound advice. One of those is Carlo Pietragnelli, who owns a profitable vineyard. Because he's a foreigner, Pietragnelli has received threats from a new group who call themselves 'The White Legion', and who focus on driving all foreigners out of business - or worse. When one of Pietragnelli's neighbors, a Japanese farmer, is beaten to death, Pietragnelli calls on Saint-Germain for advice and protection.

It's obvious that Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has done a great deal of research while writing Midnight Harvest. Both Spain and America come alive for the reader, as Yarbro incorporates just the right details to make the time period and the setting feel as realistic as possible. The characters are similarly richly developed. Saint-Germain is the epitome of a vampire: handsome, authoritative, powerful, and yet kind and intelligent as well. His lover, Rowena, is delightful. She's fifty years old, which makes her very unique as a leading lady. Equally endearing is the fact that Saint-Germain clearly adores her despite her age (although, of course, he is over four thousand years old himself).

Dealing with powerful issues such as bigotry and the white supremacy movement, the novel provides an intense and often moving reading experience. It also focuses on the rapid changes taking place in the 20th Century, and it's fascinating to read how those changes are effecting Saint-Germain. All the precautions developed by him over four millennia no longer seem to apply. As technology is more prevalent, it becomes more difficult for Saint-Germain to continue guarding his secrets, and his true identity. After all, how do you do something as simple and necessary as taking a passport picture when you're unable to leave an image more precise than a smear on film?

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has written another superb novel. Fans of the series will be delighted with this latest offering, although the novel also stands on its own. A provocative and deeply satisfying read, Midnight Harvest will leave the reader wanting to pick up each one of the sixteen Saint-Germain books!

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