Desperate Duchesses

Duchess by Night

Duchess in Love

A Duke of Her Own

Enchanting Pleasures

Fool For Love

Much Ado About You

Pleasure for Pleasure

Potent Pleasures

The Taming of the Duke

This Duchess of Mine

When the Duke Returns

Your Wicked Ways
 

 
A Kiss At Midnight
by Eloisa James
(Avon, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-006-162684-5
****
Even the author acknowledges that A Kiss At Midnight is much more a fairy tale than a historical romance. In fact, she estimates the era and admits to paying no real attention to historical details in her historical note. If one can enjoy this generic setting and rather fantastical story, the romance is engaging.

Based roughly on Cinderella, this story has all the elements, albeit a little skewed. The heroine is Katherine Daltry. She is a twenty-three year old virgin who has never had a Season. In fact, for the last seven years, since the death of her beloved father, she has been living in the attic and treated like a servant…not a cleaning servant, but rather as the manager and kindhearted custodian of her father’s estates.  She suffers indignities to protect her butler, housekeeper and the tenant farmers. Her step-mother is the evil Mariana Daltry, previous mistress and second wife to her father who is determined to rule the roost, spend money and see that her daughter, Victoria is married well. Victoria is one of the twists. She is not really the evil stepsister, rather she is a ninny who has been told her only asset is her beauty. Victoria is kind, though, and loves Kate in a way that is sweet.  She is also engaged to a very young dandy who happens to be a nephew of a Prince. Algeron, Lord Dimsdale, needs the Prince’s permission to marry in order to gain his inheritance.

So “once upon a time” Victoria is bitten in the mouth by one of her three yapping dogs and cannot attend a house party at the Prince’s estate, which is a castle in England.  Mariana forces Kate to agree to attend the party posing as Victoria in order to gain his permission to marry. This is one of those things that just didn’t make any sense…while Kate and Victoria are related by marriage, they don’t look alike. In fact, Kate will be forced to wear gowns that don’t fit, wear false breasts to make her look fuller, wear awful colored wigs to hide her hair and tell everyone that she has been sick as a way to explain her obvious weight loss.  

The Prince is Gabriel (with a load of middle names) of Warl-Marburg-Baalsford.  His majordomo is his illegitimate brother Berwick (called Wick) and they are younger brothers of the current Grand Duke of Marburg…a tiny country somewhere. Gabriel is not poor but he is not rich either.  He has an estate and is barely making ends meet.  He also has a ton of eccentric relatives and a menagerie of animals that include a lion, a monkey and an elephant. In order to feed them all and keep the estate in some order, he must marry money. The Grand Duke has arranged a marriage with a Russian princess who is on her way to him now. The house party will end with a betrothal ball.

And not to veer too far from the fairy tale, there is also a godmother – a real one.  Henrietta Wrothe is Kate’s actual godmother.  Her past included a brief love affair with Kate’s father.  Sadly for Henrietta, her father chose Kate’s mother; however, due to their friendship, Henrietta was made her godmother.  She is determined to help Kate find a husband and even infers that there is an unknown dowry out there for her to use as bait.

As one might guess, Kate and the Prince meet and are intrigued by one another.  Kate is filled with lust, even as she is appalled by his arrogance and apparently high-handed royal self.  She is still intrigued. The Prince is attracted and amazed that he has found one person who does not kowtow to him. They bond as only two people who aren’t supposed to be together can bond and complications abound.  There are some cute entanglements.  There are some highly sexual interactions and of course, the repartee between the two is witty and fun.  If one concentrates on their romance and forgets all the tricky situations, the romance is even believable. 

While I enjoyed this story on one level, mostly due to the talent of the author, there is no way this tale can bear up to any scrutiny.  Hence the key to enjoying A Kiss at Midnight is to remember…this is a fairy tale and anything can happen in a fairy tale; why even a monkey can become best friends with an elephant. 

--Shirley Lyons


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