Happy Holidays, book-people!
It’s been a good few months for book lovers and lovers of books. How do I know this? Because I have watched as Aestas has squeed and sobbed through new stories and I’ve noticed that she has been purchasing vast quantities of “fantastic books on sale” at a prodigious rate. To be honest, I’m just grateful that they’re mostly eBooks. Her library-sized collection of paper books will be a pain in the ass if we move. And you know who’ll be carrying those boxes.
But anyway, last night I found myself in need of a good book. Naturally, I asked Aestas, and she told me to read Night Owl. So, with little idea of what I was in for (something to do with owls, I assumed?), I grabbed my kindle and started reading. And then I did nothing else for the rest of the evening.
Now, I’ve read a fair number of Aestas’s books. A few I’ve loved, many I’ve liked, and some I’ve had problems with. As you may have seen, occasionally one will inspire me to write out some thoughts, which Aestas then posts. Lately, however, I’ve been holding out for a story that really grabbed me.
And this is the book I’ve been waiting for.
To give some perspective here, I read a lot of books. I also read a lot of different kinds of books, spanning everything from niche science fiction books to even the classics. Naturally this also includes stuff like Game of Thrones or the Fever series, historical fiction, assorted non-fiction, and of course some romance! And I feel like it’s important to explain all this, because I don’t make this next statement lightly.
Night Owl is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Period.
It’s a risky book to recommend to others, because it contains a great deal of raw, sizzling sexuality. Not everyone can handle this kind of heat but, for those of us who relish it, this book delivers. I can’t describe the sex scenes as “steamy”. Steam is soft, obscuring. The sex in Night Owl is so hot it burns, and there is nothing soft or obscured about it. It’s rough and merciless, sharply defined by a touch of desperate savagery, but at the same time it’s passionate. The words sear across the pages and leave your brain glowing from the heat. The lovemaking isn’t just for show, either. Instead, it’s integral to both of the characters, and it evolves in tandem with them and their relationship. I would argue that it’s actually a part of how they forge their relationship. To beat my “sex-as-fire” metaphor completely to death: each sex scene burns away little pieces of the facades that Matt and Hannah hide behind, revealing a little more of their true nature, to us and to each other, and leaving them permanently changed as a result. This book has some of the sexiest sex I’ve ever read, but it’s sex overlaid with a lot of meaning, and it is very, very good. That said, you may want to think carefully before handing the book over to your elderly aunt. After she reads it, you’ll have to make eye contact with her eventually, and doing so may be difficult after you’ve both read this book. You’ll realize that you know that she knows what you know, and maybe worse, she’ll tell you how much she enjoyed it. On the other hand, if you can give this to a friend, you really should because it is a really great story.
On a related topic, I consider myself a fairly manly man. I’ll be having a 40 oz rib eye steak for dinner tomorrow. That’s right. Forty ounces. Did I mention that I love steak? Anyway, I’m big and strong, I like fighter jets and explosions and climbing snow-capped mountains as much as the next guy, and I fucking loved this book. I FUCKING LOVED THIS BOOK. It left me in a tangle of feelings, and it was amazing. There was this manatee, and…and…yeah. That manatee. If you’ve been rooting around for a book you can give to the man in your life, or unspecified multiples thereof (hey, I don’t judge!), or you are a man yourself, then I would suggest that this could be the one.
In all seriousness, however, some of the romance books I’ve read do have a strong fairy-tale-for-women vibe about them, and I’m totally okay with that because men have been making stories like that for, I don’t know, thousands of years? It’s long past time for the ladies to start having their fun too. However, I strongly feel that the fairy-tale-for-women vibe is something that turns the occasional male reader away, probably because the mainstream world is still largely composed of narratives that are designed for men. It’s my guess that many guys just aren’t able to appreciate this relatively new form of literature in the same way that they do the more-common male equivalents (I’m looking at you, action movies).
Night Owl isn’t really gender-specific in that way. I really believe it can be read by anyone. Well, anyone who can handle SERIOUSLY HOT SEX. Hehehehe. Joking aside, though, the characters within this book have that little something undefinable and special that makes them feel real. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever finished a book and felt you just made a new best friend in one of the characters. For this, and many other reasons, it’s entirely possible to enjoy Night Owl simply as a dramatic novel because the writing itself is so damn good. The pacing is so tight you can practically hear the twanging as you turn the pages. That is, if you are actually able to tear your attention away from the story long enough to realize you are actually turning pages and not just firehosing the story directly into your brain. The dialogue is snappy and utterly delectable. The flow and rhythm of the words is superb. As someone who appreciates good writing in any form, this book was a real pleasure to read.
Yet, as I’m sure you will agree, there is a very important difference between writing something good and writing something well. A good book can be written very poorly, with plots that smell iffier than last week’s turkey stuffing and chunky dialogue being dragged along like seaborne garbage in the wake of a really engaging storyline. Then, on the other hand, we can also have books with impeccable writing, cleanly structured plots, and textbook-perfect use of all the right literary devices that we simply don’t give two rabbit turds about. In both cases, there’s always something holding us back from experiencing the ecstasy of reading a damn good book. It is so, so wonderful to be able to sit back, after reading the last line of a story, and realize that you have zero complaints. That’s what I felt at the end of this book. It was perfect. Night Owl is both well-written and good, and that makes it a rare and precious thing. I’ll definitely be re-reading this book, and that’s not something I do often.
There are several layers to the delicious cake that is Night Owl, and each one is uniquely enjoyable. As previously stated, the romance and the sex are incredibly well-written. The characters are fantastic. They have hidden depths, they’ll make choices that disappoint, surprise, and impress you by turns. You really get to know them as the narrative slowly reveals their inner strengths, flaws, and private demons. By the end of the story you’ll find that you’ve come to care deeply for them. Matt, for example, is the rare believable male lead. His fiery charisma and intellectual prowess is offset by flaws so genuine that your heart will probably break as you follow his struggles. This is particularly special, given the tendency for male protagonists in this genre to be a little too perfect. Hannah, on the other hand, is an adorable mix of amazing strength and warmth. She, perhaps more than any other character in the story, undergoes a series of intriguing transformations as the story unfolds. Even the side characters are memorable, and brought many smiles to my face. The plot is winding and complex, and the author does a really good job of bringing in little details that enrich the story without going overboard. I also appreciated the use of evocative description. For instance, I was much happier reading how Matt’s wealth affects his character, and how it makes Hannah feel, rather than how many thousands of dollars each gift cost him. That kind of character-focused subtlety pervades Night Owl, and if that’s something you like then you will enjoy the book.
There’s a believability to this book that shows the author to be a very insightful person. For example, the way that Matt’s all-consuming attraction to Hannah is written so perfectly captures the masculine, ravenous fixation that accompanies love. I have a hard time accepting that this is M. Pierce’s first novel. I’m not a stickler about spelling, grammar, or convention errors, but I do notice them. This book had only one mistake in it, a misspelling. One. That’s impressive. I wish there were other books out there by this author because I would read the hell out of whatever M. Pierce writes. Even a comparative analysis of the migratory patterns of jellyfish, you might ask? Absolutely. Cover to cover. I’m sure that I’ll wind up caring about those damn jellyfish more than is healthy, and find myself begging for a sequel.
So, that pretty much sums up my experience with Night Owl. I loved it, and I want more. I’d do filthy, unprintable, depraved things if I could just have a little more. Aestas tells me there are sequels coming, but not till next summer. I’ll have to find a way to survive till then. Maybe I can enter hibernation, like a bear, or build a time machine. If I figure something out, I’ll let you know. If you read the book, you’ll need it.
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