Fairy tale romances

I’m a sucker for epic tales of our human experience.  Epic poetry, mythology, fairy tales–you name it–I love them all.  I’m also a sucker for romance novels, which, despite their bad rap, are often epic in their own way, so I’m even more blown away by the successful combination of epics, myths, legends, or fairy tales and romance novels.

You know my type.  I went nutso for Disney’s Enchanted.  Real life combined with fairy tale elements?  Heck to the yeah!

Romances (especially historical ones) are heavily steeped in fantasy, anyway, and the additional elements from fairy tales add a fun little twist on the genre.  Anyway, I’ve been on a fairy tale-influenced romance novel kick for the past few weeks, and it prompted me to buy this one:

Cover image, A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James

A Kiss at Midnight is a Cinderella story (no, not the Hillary Duff version).  It’s got all the classic elements: orphaned girl mistreated and forced into labor by her evil stepmother, a prince, a glass slipper, a fairy godmother, a happily ever after (eventually).  I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though it has some elements that, considered separately, I do not enjoy.  I hope I’ve piqued your interest, because I’m about to list those elements.

  1. We have the somewhat ubiquitous female character who does not recognize her own beauty but whom everyone else instantly accepts as gorgeous.  Don’t get me wrong: I go gaga for the admittedly overdone Darcy trope–at first the hero can’t see any beauty or bearing in the heroine, but, as he gets to know her, he slowly discovers that she’s the handsomest woman of his acquaintance.  But Kate has a form of stepmother-induced dysmorphia, and I tend to be easily annoyed by dysmorphic characters.  It’s like when your rich friends complain to you about how they don’t have enough money… it’s damn annoying.
  2. The entire time Gabriel (our hapless hero) is pursuing Kate (our heroine), he is on the cusp of announcing his betrothal to another woman.  That betrothal happens to be of the arranged marriage sort, and the two who are to marry have never actually met, but the important thing is that Kate considers Gabriel somewhat off-limits.  It is sometimes difficult for me to enjoy stories that embroil the characters in a ‘make the most of what limited time you have with each other’ sort of feeling.

OK, so I didn’t like those two things very much at all, but they count as nothing when the story and its characters are considered as a whole.  Kate is a wonderful character with all the can-do determination and wry humor I could ever want wrapped up in a package made complete by a dose of insecurity and familial loss.  I loved her fierce loyalty to her home and its retainers and to her ‘stepsister’ and the dogs.  And I LOVED the dogs.  Tangent: This is so bizarre, but I will almost certainly finish a book, even if it is terrible, if it has amusing pet antics.  Frisky cats and capering dogs (or horses… really, any fun animal will do) cover a multitude of story sins, as far as I’m concerned./tangent  Gabriel was also a lovely character with depth and motivations galore whose decisions made sense (even stringing along Kate in favor of the faceless soon-to-be betrothed made sense, in a way).  The secondary characters are fan-freaking-tastic from the somewhat dim Algie to the delightful fairy godmother-esque Henry (and her brilliant but perpetually drunk husband Leo).

The story follows the typical Cinderella arc–downtrodden girl gets to go to a ball (in this case, a house party), meets a prince, falls mutually in love with said prince, and has to run away into the night for some reason, after which the prince runs her to ground and brings on the happily ever after.  This particular version shakes things up a little with several moral questions that all follow the same basic line: should one follow one’s dreams or one’s duty, and can the two ever be the same thing?

All told, this story is a great example of fairy tale romances.  It is funny, charming, and very romantic.  If you’re interested in discovering more about the book, check it out on Goodreads here.