I don’t know what it is but there is something about a romantic fairy tale that just draws me in. It could be the stories about a person of the lower classes finding love with a handsome prince or princess. Maybe it’s that a beastly man can have a magnanimous transformation completely due to the effects of the love from a steady woman? Or a woman deemed ugly suddenly finds confidence and beauty in herself because one person believes in her? Fairy tales have this mythical aura about them that make anything possible when you add love into the mix. Love stories in general suck me in, but I get tired of reading about fairly ordinary people sometimes. I like the stories of slumbering princesses being woken with true love’s kiss, princes willing to fight a dragon for their lady-love, etc etc. Fairy tales at the end of the day are EPIC love stories. Who can resist them? I’m lucky that I’ve found a fellow blogging friend, Kelly of Reading With Analysis, who is also highly in love with fairy tales. We both started reading A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James and started discussing. (Kelly discusses her thoughts on A Kiss at Midnight here) I bought the remainder of the books in the series currently available and read them while on vacation in August. I’m super late in posting my thoughts on the series, but it’s better late than never!
The first book in the series A Kiss at Midnight is a re-imagined Cinderella story. Cinderella, or Kate in this novel, is forced to remain an unmarried woman in her stepmother’s home for several reasons. First, her father bequeathed his entire fortune to Kate’s stepmother and stepsister, leaving Kate to survive on their whim (those who know the story of Cinderella know where this is going). Secondly, due to the greedy nature of Kate’s stepmother, Kate realizes she must stay at the home to try and be a buffer for all of the servants and estate folk. Kate sacrifices her dreams of happiness to do what is best for those around her. When an injury prevents her stepsister from making her debut at a royal party, Kate is forced to don a disguise and go in her stead or see those she cares about lose their positions. It is at this party that she meets His Royal Highness, Prince Gabriel. Gabriel is doing his damnedest to support a menagerie of animals and people who have been thrown out of his brother’s court. To this extent he has promised to marry a foreign princess with a huge dowry. However when he and Kate share a kiss at midnight everything changes…..
I really really really really love Kate and Gabriel. The two are both willing to 100% sacrifice their own happiness for the betterment of those around them. They are both self-sacrificing characters to a degree that while deserving of their own happy endings, refuse to accept them if everyone around then can’t have one too. To watch them both grow as individuals from the effects of their love for each other was wonderful. Kate has been led to believe that she’s not attractive and not worth anyone’s time or attention. After hearing this for years, it’s set in as the truth in her mind. Gabriel (and Kate’s godmother Henry) try to continually make her see what she looks like through their eyes. Their efforts eventually pay off and the results are magical. The last 80 pages are absolutely wonderful and so well written that I couldn’t wait to continue on with the series.
Final Thoughts: I wish Kate didn’t have to be one of those heroines that doesn’t realize her own worth and potential without being prodded by others, but understand its place in a Cinderella retelling. Definitely a great start to a wonderful series.
4 out of 5 Stars
A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James
eBook: 384 pages
As an added bonus James wrote a novella to pair with A Kiss at Midnight entitled Storming the Castle. It revolves around Wick, Prince Gabriel’s illegitimate half-brother/butler. Kate and Gabriel have just had their first child, Jonas. Jonas is unfortunately a sickly baby getting thinner and thinner which has set the castle in a tizzy. Wick has sent away for nursemaids and doctors hoping someone will be able to help young Jonas through this mysterious illness. Phillipa Damson, gentry from a nearby village, answers the call for help to escape her pending marriage to a rather large bottomed idiot whom she’s lost her virginity to. She arrives at the castle and is able to diagnose the baby’s illness as simple colic. She remains at the castle for the foreseeable future caring for the baby and falling in love with Wick. Wick refuses to begin a relationship with her however due to their differing social statues. It’s up to Phillipa to make him realize that love is more important than social rankings. Will she be able to convince him?
I’ve loved Wick since first reading about him in A Kiss at Midnight. He always had a great head on his shoulders and his relationship with Gabriel was extremely touching. I have to say that I’m slightly disappointed with his story. Phillipa is a great match for him, but her story is…..kinda stupid. Her fiancée has loved her since he was a boy, truly. There are lines in the story where she says she can see the love he holds for her in his eyes. He seemed to get shit on simply for having a large bottom and being a bit on the dumb side. If he had mistreated her I could understand her sudden unwillingness to marry him. I do hope to see Wick again in the future, as his epilogue made me smile a goofy grin.
Final Thoughts: For a novella I guess I shouldn’t be expecting tons of character development.
3 out of 5 Stars
Storming the Castle by Eloisa James
eBook: 100 pages
Book two, When Beauty Tamed the Beast is a re-imagined version of Beauty and the Beast, which just so happens to be my favorite fairy tale! Piers Yelverton plays quite the beast in this tale. As the Earl of Marchant, he lives in a secluded castle in Wales where his medical diagnostician expertise is well-known. Piers’ father, determined to continue on the family line, looks for a wife for his son. Piers’ temper precedes him, however, and rumors abound as to his treatment of those who seek medical help there. Rumors also swirl around Linnet Thrynne, who the Ton believes to be pregnant although there is no truth to the rumor. Even so, Linnet becomes betrothed to Piers by his father in the hopes that her “pregnancy” will give the Earl an heir. Will Linnet and Piers ever be able to live together despite Piers’ temper?
As of the date of this review I’ve read all the books in the fairy tale series. Piers and Linnet hands down have the best story. Their relationship of sparring wits was such a pleasure to read and kept me snickering throughout the whole book. Piers is exactly like House (yes, the House from the TV show), with his bum leg, short temper, and incredible medical diagnostic skills. Everyone pretty much allows him to run rough shod over them due to their fear of his anger. In comes Linnet with her high society manners that hide her bluestocking, intelligent wit. When her and Piers start going at it, he quickly realizes that this woman could be trouble. Piers knows that his penchant for misery and unhappiness is self-made and Linnet forces him to re-evaluate its worth. Linnet on the other hand realizes her courtly manners and practiced flirting mean nothing to this untamed beast. If she truly wishes to earn his heart she must be herself, forget what society dictates, and force him to see how much he needs her. I seriously want to just keep gushing over this book and these two characters. They’re not your ordinary romance heroine/hero, aka the female in need of rescuing and the hero to do it. In essence the roles are reversed here, making Linnet the savior.
Final Thoughts: As I expected, James’s superb writing wooed me into loving this book. Ok, ok, so did Piers.
5 out of 5 Stars
When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
eBook: 384 pages
Before reading book three, The Duke is Mine, I suggest reading the novella Winning the Wallflower. The heroine of book three, Olivia, attends a ball with her friend Lucy. Lucy has just been bequeathed a fortune from one of her relatives and is now free to look for a better engagement for herself. Lucy’s problem though is that she’s extremely tall and not very confident in herself. She is engaged to a man of trade who she believes to be the most handsome man in the world, the only problem is that he is disdainfully distant. When he calls on her he barely speaks to her, he has never tried to kiss her or show any emotion with her. When her parents force her to break her engagement with him, she decides to confront him and his cool nature hoping that he’ll open up to her and save her from being thrown back into the arms of fortune hunters. How will the ever calm Cyrus react to this new confident Lucy?
I have to admit, I really liked Lucy. I give her a ton of credit for demanding that love be part of her life and not settling for less. For a woman of that time period, it wasn’t a common occurrence for love to be part of the marriage equation. Marriage was simply a social, economic, and political decision. Women didn’t have the ability to choose their beaus like they do today. I’m happy that James wrote a heroine that didn’t let her parents push her into making rash decisions and chose instead to follow her own conscience. Cyrus on the other hand proves to have a good head on his shoulders when he decides to re-evaluate the way he acts. Lucy gives him a major talking to that forces him to step back and regroup. His life up to this point has been exactly how he’s planned it to be and with Lucy’s sudden change in demeanor, he questions the value of his former plan.
Final Thoughts: Great novella! Definitely worth the $.99 I paid for it!
4 out of 5 Stars
Winning the Wallflower by Eloisa James
eBook: 100 pages
Book three, The Duke is Mine, is really The Princess and the Pea. Tarquin, the Duke of Sconce, has quite the problem. His mother, the matriarch of the family who wrote a widely acclaimed work on manners and decorum, is searching for a suitable Duchess to complement her son. Tarquin’s first wife was prone to mood swings and wanton in her behavior, definitely not desirable characteristics for a Duchess Tragically, she drowned in an accident along with their son, leaving Tarquin heartbroken. Now, Tarquin’s mother has arranged for the Lytton sisters, Georgiana and Olivia, to come to the estate and test Georgiana’s worthiness as a potential match for Tarquin as Olivia is already betrothed The problem is that Tarquin can’t take his eyes off of Olivia. The opposite of her sister, Olivia is headstrong and unconventional, making Tarquin second guess his mother’s attempts to woo Georgiana. Will cutting Olivia from his thoughts be enough to resist her pull on him? What will Tarquin’s mother make of his actions?
Of all the books in the series, I had the hardest time connecting to this one. One of the main reasons I took issue with this book was because of the character of Olivia’s betrothed, Rupert. Rupert had a difficult birth and was left without air to his brain for some time. As such he has developmental issues and is on the slow side. The fact that there is a slow character in the novel is not what I take umbrage it’s the way the other characters, including his own father and betrothed, mock him. Rupert is a super sweet character who wants to go off to war to prove the worth of his family name before he takes over the Dukedom and starts a family. He cares for an abused dog, Lucy, and is just super kind to everyone he meets. The fact that almost every character in the book makes fun of him in some way really pissed me off. Making fun of handicapped people in any capacity is not ok and should never be used as a plot point. I think it was really poorly done and in bad taste.
Final Thoughts: Thankfully each of the books in the series, reads as a stand-alone novel. With that being said, I’d skip this one altogether.
2 out of 5 Stars
The Duke is Mine by Eloisa James
eBook: 400 pages
Book four, The Ugly Duchess, is a new version of The Ugly Duckling. James Ryburn, the heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, has it all. He’s handsome, rich, and the most wanted bachelor in the Ton. It therefore shocks everyone when he marries Theodora Saxby, a plain woman by society’s standards, considered “mannish” by many. Theo knows this, and is skeptical, but eventually accepts his proposal. When she soon learns the object of his desires was not her looks or wit, but instead her dowry, she is outraged and they separate. Can James convince her that he actually loves her for who she is, or is he destined to live life apart from the “ugly Duchess”, who transforms into a beautiful swan?
::Sigh:: I really wanted to like this book. I liked the direction of the story and was SO happy when Theo finally found confidence in herself and became a fashion icon. She seemed to finally get some steel in her spine only to lose it when James came back from being a pirate. I really wanted her to find a new person to love and kick weak-minded James to the curb. Honestly, he leaves her FOR YEARS. She repairs the debts his estates had, deals with the gossip that his abandonment incurs on her, and remains a faithful wife. James on the other hand becomes a pirate without a care in the world, wooing women all over the globe. It’s honestly just ridiculous. The double standard just pissed me off.
Final Thoughts: Had Theo been given a new lover to love after James left her this would have been a five-star book.
3 out of 5
The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James
eBook: 384 pages
So there you have it. The entire Fairy Tale series by Eloisa James to date! On October 30th, James’ newest novella, Seduced by the Pirate is being released. It’s directly related to The Ugly Duchess. Even though the last two books didn’t impress the hell out of me I’m still sticking with the series. After all, who can resist a fairy tale?
This is my forty-second completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge