Fiction: “The Other Side of Midnight” by Sidney Sheldon

Other Side of MidnightAfter Up Close And Dangerous left such a ragey flavor in my mouth, I didn’t read anything for like, a week. But when I was ready to read something again, I was still in the mood for schmaltz. But I also wanted a known quantity – I really didn’t feel like taking a chance on an author I’d never read before. Fool me once, shame on you, and all that.

So instead of the library, I went to my mom’s house and borrowed a couple of her Sidney Sheldon books.

Mom has pretty much the entire Sidney Sheldon… collection, for lack of a better phrase? He didn’t really write series – his books are like, stand-alone soap opera-esque epics that cover a woman’s life and the crazy antics she and her lovers get into, and also sometimes murder. By the time I was in high school, I had pretty much read all of the John Grisham novels published thus far, as well as the Kinsey Millhone series and most of Dick Francis’s stuff. And I was looking to add … more sex to my violence, as I’m fond of saying.

And since Mom was the one who introduced me to Dick Francis and Sue Grafton and John Grisham, she really couldn’t tell me I wasn’t allowed to read Sidney Sheldon’s stuff. Besides, Nick at Nite was a thing and I was really into I Dream of Jeannie (created by Sidney Sheldon!).

By the time I was a sophomore in college, and I had read every book by Sidney Sheldon my mother owned. And here’s the thing – I could read one of those books in like, two days. It was amazing! And it wasn’t just because I didn’t have a full time job and plenty of free time, either – the plots of the books just grabbed me and wouldn’t let me put them down.

The Other Side of Midnight was Sidney Sheldon’s second novel ever published. And when I went to my parents’ house that day with a Sheldon novel in mind, that was the one I grabbed.

(And then I kept it at my apartment, and then I moved it to my new home in Auburn. A couple of weeks ago my dad was helping me with a basement window thing and when we were eating lunch, he saw that I still had The Other Side of Midnight – it was out while I was writing this review. And poor Dad – he looks at me and asks, “Are you really reading that?” And I had to say, “No, Dad, I already read it.” YOU TOLD ME TO BROADEN MY HORIZONS DAD THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT)

So what is The Other Side of Midnight about?

It is the story of two women, both born just after World War I. For much of the book, each chapter moves between what is going on with Catherine Alexander, a young woman in Chicago, and Noelle Page, a young woman in France.

At 18, Noelle enters Paris a young, naive girl and immediately runs into Larry Douglas, on break from flying planes for the RAF. They have a wonderful weekend in Larry’s hotel room, at the end of which, he proposes. He says he’ll be back the following weekend to marry her. But – I’m sure you can guess what happens – he doesn’t return. In spite of her heartache, Noelle manages to become a model in Paris – very lucrative – and escapes much of the horrors of the Nazi occupation. However, she does manage to use her feminine wiles for good, and is able to smuggle her Jewish doctor out of Paris to save his life.

Meanwhile, Catherine has been going to college and then gets hired as a secretary for a PR firm. She makes an impression, and is practically running the place while her boss gets promoted to work with … I don’t know, Department of War or something? I’m not looking it up, I still know where the book is but it’s on the other side of the house and I’m still lazy, you guys. Anyway, she and Bill Fraser (her boss) get along very well together, and start sleeping together.

One day, Bill sends Catherine out to Hollywood to be assistant director on a film promoting the war effort. At the studio, she runs into Larry Douglas (!), and he’s such an ass to her that she assumes he’s just an actor and not actually a pilot. But when he apologizes and sets her straight, they … get married almost immediately!

Back in France, Noelle has turned her modeling career into an acting career, thanks to her manipulation of one of the premiere directors of Paris. The theater-going crowd worships her, and her best performance is the one she gives off-stage. Because she has hired a private detective and paid him handsomely – and his only job is to keep tabs on Larry Douglas. She receives reports monthly, telling her that he has been stationed back in London, or that his wife has returned to Washington for her job. And Noelle files the information away, just waiting for the best time to strike.

Because you see, all Noelle really wants – not fame, not money – is to enact vengeance on Larry Douglas.

Sidney Sheldon slowly strings the two ladies closer and closer together – after the war, Larry becomes a pilot, first for Pan Am, and then privately for a Greek tycoon named Constantin Demeris. Demeris also happens to be Noelle’s latest partner. And how do you think Larry managed to be plucked out of obscurity to be Demeris’s personal pilot?

I’m not going to ruin the ending or the rest of the plot for y’all. Unlike a soap opera, this book does have an ending. And even better, it’s a satisfying ending. But the getting to that ending – there’s plenty of drama to keep you reading.

Now, I was unable to read this in two days – unlike when I was in high school, I couldn’t spend an entire afternoon reading the book. But it was definitely a quick read. If you’re a fan of romantic suspense and haven’t tried Sidney Sheldon yet, I think now is as good a time as any.

Grade for The Other Side of Midnight: 4 stars

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