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Stroke of Midnight
by Olivia Drake
(St. Martinís, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-1-250-00209-9
*****
Stroke of Midnight is the second installment in Olivia Drakeís Cinderella Sisterhood series. It stands perfectly on its own but is also charming enough that you might want to go back and read If the Slipper Fits, the first novel in the series.

Stroke of Midnight begins with the notorious Laura Falknerís skulking return to London after a 10 year absence. Her father is dead and her only purpose in returning to England is to clear his name. Ten years ago, Laura was living with her beloved father in a comfortable house in London, being courted by Alexander Ross. Laura felt like everything was wonderful until the day that Alex found a stolen, very valuable pair of earrings in her father, Martinís, desk and accuses him of a serious theft. Pleading innocence, Martin and Laura flee abroad, having no other option in the face of Martinís certain prosecution.

When Laura returns to London to try to find the remaining stolen jewels to prove her fatherís innocence, she must stay incognito as her infamy wonít help her cause. She ends up working as Lady Josephineís companion, a sweet, elderly lady who just happens to be Alexander Ross, now the Earl of Copleyís aunt.

Alexís still in love with Laura, and still kicking himself for the way things ended between them. While he doesnít doubt Martinís guilt after finding the earrings in his desk drawer all of those years ago, he was devastated by the consequences. When Alex instantly recognizes his dear auntís new dowdy companion as his Laura, heís shocked and thrilled. He soon realizes that Laura is as bullheaded and upset as ever, and sheís determined to solve her fatherís notorious crime. When Alex sees that Lauraís put herself in danger to do just that, he decides that he must marry her to keep her safe, but how will that work to protect his already broken heart?

Stroke of Midnight is a beautifully written Cinderella story with an intelligently plotted backstory. Laura is a beautiful heroine, sheís humble, hardworking, spirited and not bitter as she could be for her circumstances. She is determined without being headstrong to the point of stupidity as some Ďstrongí heroines are. I appreciated her character.

Alex is handsome, emotionally accessible and magnetically charismatic. The reader falls in love with him along with Laura, canít help it. Alex is unlike most traditional heroes as heís open with his emotions and his passions, and his seductive words. Itís impossible not to like him. Together, Alex and Laura are a wonderful team, excellent partners and a really fun couple to read.

Bravo, Olivia Drake, for writing a grown-up Cinderella story thatís easy to fall in love with.

--Amy Wroblewsky


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