When I saw Eloisa James speak at the National Book Festival last fall, she mentioned that she had a series of books based on fairy tales. I enjoy fairy tale retellings, and I was interested in reading one of Ms. James’s books, because I was happy to see a previously-neglected genre getting some recognition at the book festival. I decided to read A Kiss at Midnight, the first in James’s fairy tale series. It is a retelling of Cinderella.
This particular version is set in England in an unspecified (maybe 18th century) historical time period. The main character, Kate, is asked by her stepmother to impersonate her stepsister Victoria at an upcoming ball. Victoria and her fiance, Lord Dimsdale, need permission from Dimsdale’s cousin the prince in order to get married. The prince invites the couple to his own betrothal ball so that he can meet Victoria and give his permission. Unfortunately, Victoria has been bitten (on her lip) by a lapdog and her mother will not allow her to appear in public until her face has healed, so it is decided that Kate must impersonate Victoria at the ball. It’s a hard premise to summarize in one paragraph, but it makes sense in the novel.
Of course, once Kate meets Prince Gabriel, sparks fly. As Kate is impersonating her engaged stepsister, this naturally causes difficulties. Prince Gabriel has difficulties of his own, as he is engaged to a wealthy princess and believes he must marry for money to be able to support his relatives and continue running his castle. Fortunately, Kate’s godmother just happens to be staying at the castle as well. The plot has all the key elements of a Cinderella story, down to the glass slippers, but there are enough differences to keep a reader interested.
I would recommend this book without hesitation to anyone who enjoys romance novels. I have come to the conclusion, however, that I am not a reader who enjoys romance novels. I like a good love story, but I prefer books where there are other kinds of plotlines as well. I am giving this book three stars, although I suspect many readers would believe it deserves more. ★★★