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Tag Archives: Romance

A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James

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. ★★★



National Book Festival, Day Two

I enjoyed spending today at the Book Festival even more than yesterday.  For one thing, it was much less crowded and the weather was nicer.  Sunday was less crowded last year as well.  I stopped off at the book sales tent first and was able to get a head start on my Christmas shopping.  Although they had restocked, I was a little disappointed to see that they still had a much smaller selection than what I remember from past years.  Still, I am excited about the gifts I was able to get!

Charlaine Harris at the National Book Festival

As I was walking out of the book sales tent, I passed the Fiction and Mystery tent and noticed that Charlaine Harris was talking.  I decided to go in and listen, since I’ve heard so much about her Sookie Stackhouse series.  Her avid fans had a lot of questions about the end of the Sookie Stackhouse series and the first book of her new series, which will be released in 2014.

The next author was the highlight of the festival for me: Patricia Polacco.  I have been a Patricia Polacco fan since at least the first grade.  As a college student, I enjoyed re-reading some of her books that were inspired by East European folklore as I studied Russian.  It is a real privilege to get to see an author in person when you’ve admired them for most of your life, so this was the talk I looked forward to the most for this year’s book festival.  Despite my high expectations, the talk did not disappoint.  Patricia Polacco is an absolutely wonderful speaker.  Her latest book is about an art teacher that she had growing up and hearing her talk about it moved many of her adult audience members (including quite a few teachers) to tears.  I am hoping that the Library of Congress will post their video of her talk, because I would love to share it with the teachers in my life!

Naturally, I wanted to go to Mrs. Polacco’s book signing as well.  I already have a signed copy of one of her books, Thunder Cake, which was given to me by a friend about twenty years ago.  Today, I asked her to sign a book that Becca and I will give as a Christmas present.  I love getting to introduce new readers to authors that we loved growing up!

Patricia Polacco signing her book, Christmas Tapestry

After the book signing, I stopped into the Contemporary Life tent for part of Eric Weiner’s talk.  Then I went back to the Fiction and Mystery tent to see Eloisa James.

I’ll be honest: it was a toss-up between going to see Eloisa James and Junot Diaz, but I was getting tired at that point, and I thought Ms. James would be more entertaining to listen to.  (I haven’t read either author, although I was familiar with both names.)  I’m very happy with my choice though, because it made it possible for me to witness a historic event for the Book Festival-it turns out that Eloisa James is the first romance author to ever be invited there!

Now, I am happy to get to see such a first in person, and I commend whoever invited Eloisa James to be the first romance author-it was an excellent choice.  However, I am shocked that this is the twelfth annual book festival and they are only just now getting around to inviting a romance author!  I know some people look down on romance novels-some people look down on genre fiction in general, but there is plenty of it at the National Book Festival.  I couldn’t believe that for the past several years the organizers had devoted an entire tent to Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Graphic novels, without inviting one romance author!  I can’t imagine why they would want to ignore a genre with so many readers.

Eloisa James, the first romance novelist to be at the National Book Festival

That said, Eloisa James was a very good speaker.  She writes historical romance and also happens to be a Shakespeare professor.  Her latest novels are retellings of fairy tales.  I don’t read much romance, but when I do, it is usually historical romance, and I love retellings of fairy tales, so I may have to try out one of her books soon!  I figure any author that is also a Shakespeare expert is probably worth a try.

Overall, it was another great Book Festival!  I still can’t believe I finally got to meet Patricia Polacco in person!  Stay tuned for one last post tomorrow-I want to show you the books I bought!

Matches and Matrimony

Hello again, everyone.  It’s Elizabeth, newly back in DC after a trip home, with a review of the e-book I read on the plane rides back and forth.  I have owned a Kindle for about a year and a half, and I have really been enjoying the convenience of e-books.  Recently, I got an email from Amazon recommending a book called Matches and Matrimony.  I was intrigued by the description: a choose your own adventure novel inspired by Jane Austen.  It was on sale for ninety-nine cents, so I figured I should at least try it out and pass it on to you and my book club if it was good.  (Matches and Matrimony normally costs two dollars, and you can buy it for your e-reader here.)

It’s been years since I read a choose your own adventure story, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that this format translates really well to e-books.  You click options instead of flipping back and forth, and you can save your story at multiple points.  (I liked being able to do this when I was unsure what decision to make to get to the outcome I wanted.)  There was also a part at the beginning of each chapter where you chose activities so that your character would gain attribute points which would then affect the character’s responses to various situations in the novel, as well as which characters liked her.

Matches and Matrimony was set up a little differently than the choose your own adventure stories that I remember.  You are told at the beginning that there are nine different endings to unlock (endings correspond to which of Jane Austen’s heroes your heroine ends up marrying.)  The challenge of unlocking all nine endings made me approach the story a different way each time, which ultimately made the book much more entertaining.  It really helped me pass the time on the plane.

I was particularly impressed by the way that the plot managed to interweave and combine characters from almost all of Jane Austen’s novels.  The text, while definitely shorter, is very faithful to the original, so readers familiar with Austen will recognize many passages that follow the books, especially Pride and Prejudice, word for word. I feel confident that Jane Austen fans will enjoy this e-book.  I would also say that this e-book gives you a lot of entertainment hours for a very low price, so I can recommend it to anyone who is travelling or just on a tight budget.  I give this e-book four stars, because I definitely enjoyed it and read it several times.  ★★★★