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 fiancee, 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.
We all know what happens in Cinderella, so the real fun in this novel comes from the characters. We have Prince Gabriel, who is probably the only romance novel hero who manages to be dark, masculine, and totally sexy while swanning about in yellow satin breeches. Kate is intelligent, capable, and down-to-earth, which is a nice change from the usual starry-eyed fairy tale heroine. As always with James, there is a lively cast of secondary characters, my favorite of which was the bawdy, horny lush of a fairy godmother.
I have to admit that this book uses one of my least favorite romance plot devices, which is “We shall never be together, so let us forget our problems in one glorious fuck and then I will run away in tears,” and towards the end I got a little tired of the angsting since we all knew that a happily-ever-after was on its way. When it does come, it’s a bit of a deus ex machina, but again – this is a fairy tale. Magical surprises are the whole point.
Overall, I thought this was wonderful. If you’re looking for historical accuracy and nail-biting tension, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for froth, sparkles, castles, ballgowns, elaborate wigs, and glass slippers (oh, and the glass slippers are SO wonderful), this is perfect. I savored every page. By the time Gabriel and Kate ride off into the sunset, I believed that they loved and deserved each other and all that was left was a contented sigh from me.