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Book CoverC2’s review of A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James.
Historical romance, released  by Avon 27 July 2010

The story of Cinderella is the jumping-off point for Eloisa James’ latest book, A Kiss at Midnight.  All the elements are there, if slightly altered.  We have a girl whose circumstances were drastically changed by her stepmother after the death of her father, a handsome prince in a castle, a godmother, a ball, glass slippers and even some rats…although not the rodent kind.

Since her father died, Lady Katherine has been living in an attic garret in her family home.  Her stepmother funnels all the money generated by the estate into clothes and jewels for her and her daughter so Kate does what she can to keep the estate and its tenants afloat – and avoid her stepmother as much as possible.

Imagine her surprise when she is summoned to her stepmother’s chambers and told she will be impersonating her stepsister at a house party being held at the castle of Prince Gabriel of the very very long name.  He is the family head of the stepsister’s fiancé and they must have his permission before they can marry.  Due to an odd set of circumstances, the stepsister cannot attend and Kate must go instead.  The set up for getting Kate to the castle is a little odd and a bit slow.  However, once she gets there things pick up.

Prince Gabriel has been exiled from his brother’s principality.  He, along with assorted misfit relatives and a menagerie of animals, have settled into the English countryside.  The house party is to celebrate his betrothal to a Russian princess…supporting a castle full of misfits is not cheap so Prince Gabriel’s brother arranged a marriage to a princess with an impressive dowry.

Upon meeting, Kate and Gabriel don’t immediately fall into each other’s arms but there are sparks.  Angry sparks.  Angry, amusing sparks and lots of enjoyable banter ensues.  I have to say I enjoyed the conversations between Kate and Gabriel a great deal.  Soon the attraction between them heats up but both know a relationship cannot be – he is betrothed to his princess and she is pretending to be engaged to his nephew.  Still, they can’t quite keep out of each other’s company so there are some bittersweet moments that nicely balance out the banter.

Also attending the house party is Henrietta (call me Henry) Lady Wrothe, Kate’s unbeknownst-to-her godmother.  Henry decides to play matchmaker for Kate during the house party and beyond, if necessary.

So most of the set-pieces of Cinderella are in place – girl, evil stepmother, (non) ugly stepsister, handsome prince, (non-fairy) godmother.  What’s left?  The ball, of course.

The Russian princess arrives and is very nice.  Gabriel enjoys her company and can see what a marriage between them will be…not awful.  But is he willing to settle for not awful?  Midnight approaches, there is a passionate rendezvous in the garden and then Kate must flee, leaving behind a glass slipper. What happens next??  It’s a fairy tale, faithful reader…you know how they always end.

I really enjoyed this retelling of a classic fairy tale.  It was a light and engaging and filled with fun exchanges – a bit reminiscent of comedies from the 30s and 40s.  If you are looking for a book with snappy dialog and sweet heat, look no further.

CSquareds C2 IconGrade: B

Miss Kate Daltry doesn’t believe in fairy tales… or happily ever after.
Forced by her stepmother to attend a ball, Kate meets a prince… and decides he’s anything but charming. A clash of wits and wills ensues, but they both know their irresistible attraction will lead nowhere. For Gabriel is promised to another woman—a princess whose hand in marriage will fulfill his ruthless ambitions.

Gabriel likes his fiancé, which is a welcome turn of events, but he doesn’t love her. Obviously, he should be wooing his bride-to-be, not the witty, impoverished beauty who refuses to fawn over him.

Godmothers and glass slippers notwithstanding, this is one fairy tale in which destiny conspires to destroy any chance that Kate and Gabriel might have a happily ever after.

Unless a prince throws away everything that makes him noble…

Unless a dowry of an unruly heart trumps a fortune…

Unless one kiss at the stroke of midnight changes everything.

Read an EXCERPT here!