A Kiss at Midnight
I’m a sucker for a fairytale especially if it’s Cinderella inspired, and Eloisa James’ new Fairy Tales series appeals to me for that very reason. The first of this series, A Kiss at Midnight is certainly a lighthearted Cinderella story with a few new twists and turns.
Three weeks after her mother’s death, Katherine Daltry’s father remarried and brought home a stepmother and stepsister for Katherine. Unfortunately for all concerned, he died soon after, leaving Kate in the hands of her stepmother, Mariana. And, like the fairytale, Kate becomes the maid-of-all-work and defender of the estate’s tenants, yet she has backbone and gives as good as she gets from her greedy, materialistic stepmother. When Mariana demands that Kate attend a ball posing as Victoria, her beautiful stepsister, with Victoria’s own fiancé in order to meet and get the approval of his relatives, even Kate is unsure she will be able to pull it off. However, to help a particular family of tenants, she, along with Lord Dimsdale, otherwise known as Algie, set out to convince Prince Gabriel that Victoria and Algie should marry.
Prince Gabriel Albrecht-Frederick William von Aschenberg of Warl-Marburg-Baalsfeld needs an heiress to fund the upkeep of Pomeroy Castle and feed its ever increasing inhabitants. When his older brother the grand duke succumbed to religious fervor, he expelled from his court all those he considered not quite as righteous as himself, leaving Gabriel with his cast off relatives and a menagerie of exotic animals to care for. While dealing with his immediate problems, his very own heiress, whom he’s never met, is slowly making her way to his castle for their betrothal ball. The prince’s only desire, however, is to be in Tunis excavating the city of Carthage instead of worrying about balls and relatives.
At first meeting, neither Gabriel nor Kate (posing as Victoria) is impressed with the other. He thinks she’s unattractive and overly bold, while she thinks he’s completely self-centered and vain. However, she’s the first to see the man behind the title and he’s intrigued. She, on the other hand, is more than attracted to his smoldering visage and sense of duty. Though furthering their relationship is pointless, neither can resist letting the small amount of time they have together go to waste.
As I began reading, I was confused at first regarding the time period in which the story was set. Ms. James’ Web site indicated that the book was set in “fairytale time,” which made sense because it seems a good mix of Georgian dress and bawdy humor, with some Regency manners and some modern dialogue. While normally things like this would drive me insane, it didn’t bother me here because of the fantasy elements within the story. However, if you’re looking for any semblance of historical accuracy, this might be one to avoid for the language alone.
One of the things Ms. James excels at is the creation of interesting secondary characters, which at times comes at the expense of the primary couple. Victoria and Algie were both scene stealers with their naively sweet innocence, along with Kate’s godmother, Gabriel’s kooky relatives, and the wicked stepmother.
When it comes to the hero and heroine, my feelings are mixed. The tension between the two is worth the read, as is the quick witted dialogue. However, the fact that Gabriel is steadily trying to seduce Kate while knowing his fiancé is still expecting to marry him bothered me quite a bit. Because of that, the point where the relationship gets intimate felt sleazy to me instead of romantic. Also, Kate is extremely loyal to the people on her father’s estate and has stayed so long to protect them, but as soon as she’s offered the first opportunity she makes the choice to leave.
On a whole, Eloisa James’ A Kiss at Midnight is a worthwhile read with interesting characterizations and witty dialogue. I found it truly a lighthearted, fun read that is good for summer. I look forward to the other installments of this series.