Plot (from avonromance.com)
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 fiancée, 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.
Things I Loved
I read this book in July so my recollections are a bit fuzzy but this was both my first proper Regency and the first romance novel I read where I felt like the descriptions of sex weren’t realistic. (To be fair, I’d only read Nora Roberts and Jennifer Crusie before that…Nora’s sex scenes are kind of ridic and Crusie’s sometimes verge a little on the rape-y for my taste.) It’s a retelling of Cinderella set loosely in Regency England–it is a fairy tale after all.
What don’t I love about Eloisa James? Her books are the perfect blend of emotional authenticity, historical accuracy, and sheer ridiculousness. The catalyst for this particular story involves Kate’s stepsister, Victoria, being temporarily disfigured after her rat terrier bites her (in the dog’s defense, she was trying to feed him meat from her own mouth). Victoria’s fiancé needs to gain his cousin’s permission to marry–only his cousin is the exiled prince of a European principality who has moved half of his subjects and a veritable menagerie of animals to England. Since Victoria can’t be seen in public with an inflamed lip, the obvious solution is to make Kate go to the Prince’s ball disguised as Victoria. Even though she looks nothing like Victoria.
Enter: hideous clothing, wigs, wax breast enhancers, French letters, saucy godmothers, fireworks, near-drownings, secret trysts, secret gardens, and some very appalling behavior.
And Gabriel, the prince in question, who is devilishly handsome, madly in love with Kate, and engaged to a princess. He believes his marriage will be the best solution for his political situation. Kate, because she’s awesome, doesn’t put up with his bs and–when he inevitably realizes his mistake–she makes him grovel, which makes her my kind of woman.
Also, bonus points for fairy tale retellings! I am a huge fairy tale geek. HUGE. (Like, written as-yet-unpublished journal articles on YA novelizations of fairy tales.) I originally bought this because it was featured as an e-book deal on the SurLaLune Fairy Tales Blog, and I figured that $1.99 was a great price for a questionable Cinderella retelling. It was absolutely worth every penny.
None for me personally! It is a bit on the ridiculous and fluffy side. While Eloisa James is usually meticulous in her historical accuracy, she says in the afterword that this series is sort of fantastical so she was a little bit looser in her language here. The sex scenes are fairly explicit (less than Tessa Dare but more than Georgette Heyer) as well. So if you like sex-free and/or rigorously accurate historical romances, this series might not be for you.
2/4 chili peppers (1 being a step above a sex-free gentle romance, 4 being an all-sex-and-no-plot romance). Proceed with caution if you’re more Georgette Heyer than Ellora’s Cave.