A KISS AT MIDNIGHT
by Eloisa James
[Reviewed by Charlotte M. Liebel]
Eloisa James is the author of A Kiss at Midnight delivering a spicy dialogue in historically challenged fairy tales of London castles among several generations of the elite class and foreigners. For those of us inclined to dismiss the melancholy adaptation of Cinderella as a dimwitted pastime, imagine what you’re missing and revolutionize your imagination. Are not some of the most brilliant tales the object of fantasies remarkably told by ancient authors?
Pause to reflect upon Kate – the darling of this Avon Historical Romance. The reader experiences the grand manner of an earl’s granddaughter subjected to the loss of both father and mother. Kate is born to a loving family that is suddenly taken from her life. Thrown into a new family, Kate is to be raised by the wiles of an arrogant and uncouth step-mother – her father’s new wife. She has two daughters of her own and is ignorant of showing affection to Kate – a most intelligent person in her own right – who handles duties of the household.
A facial infection dampens her step-sister’s beauty just as she is about to attend the prince’s invitational ball to receive his approval of his nephew’s fiance. The step-mother requires Kate to impersonate her step-sister and to attend the prince’s event with her step-sister’s fiance.
The event becomes complicated. For one thing, Kate is not a raving beauty, though pretty, nor is her figure as well-endowed as her step-sister’s. Clothes must be altered, wigs must be assigned, glass slippers – a trademark – must be ordered. So much to do – so little time.
The guests arrive at the royal palace and mingle. The occasion lasts for several days. Unexpectedly, Kate’s godmother arrives and recognizes a family resemblance. They bond after she sees through her disguise and Kate’s family background surfaces for a big surprise because her godmother knows her family history.
To complicate matters even more, romance blossoms between Kate and the prince who is, incidentally, betrothed. The prince is charming when he wishes and rude on a whim. So Kate, an independent thinker and outspoken, holds her tongue to represent her step-sister’s gentler personality. She has similar attitudes as the prince and, on occasion, she blurts out tart remarks and displays a surprising intelligence and wit. The prince and she struggle to keep apart but he finds her so attractive that his spoiled upbringing ignores his better judgement and flirts with her.
Dialogue is spontaneous and charming. The story has moments of wit, and foolish and comic scenes. The novel A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James is artistic and spirited. Expect to laugh and cry in one sentence as the flavor of language and moments of nostalgia break your heart for the young heroine’s plight. She has developed strength and courage. This young lady does not fear nor easily weep. Prepare to be charmed.
Imagine the scene wherein the Prince cannot restrain his amorous advances and takes the lovely Kate into his arms. She observes that the “wild energy she felt in him poured into his kiss, into a demand that she had no hope of denying.” Can love be like this as she fights desire but cannot quite stop the inevitable. “She thought kissing was about a brush of the lips, but this….felt like silk and fire.” In fact, “He tasted like fire.” And without further contemplation, we read that “She leaned into it, opened her mouth, feeling a tremor go down her back again.”
The remarkably contrived language of people of different classes and countries meet at the palace and conversationally surprise the interests of men, women, and audiences. To this extent, the storyteller holds readers captive with juicy gossip, sibling rivalry, romantic banter, steamy scenes, and seductive moods. The art of conversation has the distinction of moving the story fast and with interest.