Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James (audio)

Book Description:
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. 

Eloisa James is a hit or miss author for me.  This was a miss, so I'll limit this to a short review.

On audio this romance was almost excruciatingly painful to listen to. The narrator, Susan Duerden was all right from a technical standpoint, but her choice of accent on the hero to the breathy helplessness of the heroine in the throes of passion had me rolling my eyes.  I came near to chucking the whole thing, yet I persevered and finished it.  If I had been reading it instead of listening, I never would have finished it.  The plot itself did nothing to make the book more endurable either.

Beautiful cover, though.

This Cinderalla romance starts off with a convoluted plot - typical of what I've previously read by this author.  It takes a while to get used to who is who and there are always too many side characters to keep track of.  Kate Daltry, our heroine, is the daughter of a deceased wealthy gentleman who remarried shortly after the death of Kate's chronically ill mother.  We find out he never loved her, and his second wife turned out to have been his mistress for many years.  It turns out that Kate's stepsister (who is a nice girl - she isn't evil) is really her half-sister.  Their father left all his money to his wife, who in turn gave it to her daughter as a dowry.  The evil and vain stepmother winds up treating Kate like a servant, but Kate bears up well and is good and kind and all the usual stuff like in a fairy tale.

Kate's half-sister, Victoria, is engaged to be married to a very young man, Algernon - Algie, who has gotten her pregnant.  She isn't the brightest, but she is nice - though she cries a lot.  She is considered very beautiful though a bit eccentric.  She wears wigs all the time (this takes place during Regency times, I believe) in all sorts of odd colors.  She also brings her three little yappy dogs with her wherever she goes.  Due to an unfortunate infection on her lip (ew gross), Victoria cannot join Algie to be presented at a ball to meet his cousin, Prince Gabriel Albrecht Fredrick William von Aschenberg - who is a prince from some small country in Europe that is now living in a castle in Lancashire.   It's still a bit unclear to me about why he is living in England in the first place.  Gabriel is short on money and engaged to a Russian princess with a huge dowry.  By marrying her he can take care of all his many relatives who live with him in the castle - as well as a menagerie of animals, including a lion that eats dogs.  There was no end to this bizarre tale.

Marianna, Kate's evil step-mother decides to send Kate instead, posing as Victoria.  This is the first of many implausible plot points.  No one is going to realize they are two different people?  Algie is in on the ruse, but once they arrive at the castle, there are going to be plenty of people there at the ball who have previously met Victoria, won't they notice a difference?  Kate is reed thin - as we are told over and over in the book, to the point where I imagine she must look starved.  Victoria, on the other hand, is on the rounded plump side.  These people may be snobby aristocrats but they're not blind or dumb!  Sure enough, there is one person there who sees through her disguise...her fairy godmother - of course!

At the castle Kate meets the Prince who takes an instant fascination to her.  Why?  She's nothing much to look at, none of her clothes fit because they're all borrowed from Victoria, she wears false wax boobs (because she is flat chested and Victoria isn't) and she's always wearing these ridiculous wigs!  Why in the world would Gabriel drop everything and risk scandal and an advantageous marriage for this ... this... nobody?  He finds out soon enough she's not really Victoria Daltry, and he assumes she's some illegitimate child to a nobleman.  He keeps trying to seduce her, even though he knows she's a virgin.  Does Kate ever tell him who she really is?  No.  She keeps hemming and hawing and wringing her hands about what to do! He promises he'll take her to paradise - do everything to her except deflower her.  *rolls eyes*  After much protestations and shocked sensibilities she eventually decides to let him - all on the night of this big ball in which his fiancee is being introduced to Society (having just arrived from Russia.)  Kate waits upstairs in his room, taking a bath, reading magazines, doing her nails, blah, blah, blah (okay, I'm exaggerating) while he runs upstairs during breaks to ravish her!  What a joke!

The next night she attends another ball at the castle and this time she goes as herself.   She's finally wearing something that fits and her own hair!  She is the most beautiful girl there.  The Prince can't take his eyes off her, it's obvious they love one another when they dance, yet... he's engaged to the Russian Princess.  At midnight Kate flees after a kiss...

Deflowered and no longer a virgin, she leaves the castle and the Prince forever since she knows he can't marry her because he needs the money for his family and castle.   It's a hopeless situation, except her godmother, who just so happens to be at the castle and recognizes who she is immediately, (even though she hasn't seen her since she was an infant,) takes Kate into her care and lo and behold - it turns out Kate's really an heiress!  How convenient!  

Some weeks later Gabriel shows up, unmarried (he couldn't go through with it with the Russian princess) and asks Kate to marry him - and she has money too!  Now they don't have to worry and be poor!  But, he planned anyway to support them with his bestselling book on ancient archeology and the legend of Dido and Aeneus. *cough*

And so you have it, I'm leaving loads of this outlandish plot line out, but I found it hard to like any of the main characters in this book (I did actually like the godmother).  Gabriel was selfish for most of the story until the very end, Kate was an idiot to go along with this dumb plan to begin with and then give into the Prince, Victoria was TSTL, same with Algie.  Two of Gabriel's friends weren't bad, I liked them, one being his illegitimate half brother and the other someone named Toulouse.  A side plot with a girl who was accused of molesting a nobleman was diverting, but basically this was one unbelievable story!


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