So, whilst changing out a romance endcap a few months ago I was confronted with a list of books both by and recommended by Eloisa James. I couldn't say who the recommended authors were anymore (sorry) but her books looked interesting. Georgian duchesses, fairy tales, and a few with vaguely Shakespearean names. Hmmm.... After poking around on the web and discovering that James is a Shakespeare professor (really) I decided to give one of hers a shot. Forty-eight hours and several NOOK purchases later, I'm a fan.
A Kiss at Midnight, the first in James's new Fairy Tale series. In this retelling of Cinderella, Kate is the poor relation, trying to keep her father's estate afloat in the midst of her step-mother's profligate spending. A quirk of fate (in the form of an unruly pug dog who nips her step-sister Victoria's lip) Kate finds herself at Prince Gabriel's castle, disguised as Victoria and trying to gain Gabriel's consent so Victoria can marry Gabriel's cousin. Gabriel himself is due to meet his betrothed - a rich-as-bedamned Russian princess - so he can get married and then get back to his archeological dig. But there's a little thing about godmothers and glass slippers.... This is delightful, a lovely mix of fairy tale and Regency reality. There's even a bit about Dido and Aeneas introduced through Gabriel's interest in Carthaginian archeology. I had to give it five stars on Goodreads - well-written and well-constructed.
From there I snarfed down the little novella, Storming the Castle, in which Gabriel's illegitimate half-brother Wick (real name: Jonas Berwick), find his own heroine in Miss Phillipa Damson. She turns up at the castle out of the blue to offer her services as nursemaid to Kate's and Gabriel's new baby. Who unfortunately has a WICKED case of colic. Phillipa has her own secrets, ones Wick winkles out of her since he can't let Phillipa alone. Since I liked Wick best of all the ancillary characters in A Kiss at Midnight I was really pleased to see him have a happy ending. Although I was subject to a series of inappropriate giggles at a certain line - "Lovely Phillipa, is this tiddle-taddling?"
When Beauty Tamed the Beast - which, I'm going to be honest, I didn't like quite as much as A Kiss at Midnight. And it's not because of the story construction. The plotting is excellent and the writing is really good. Maybe too modern on the medical language, but it scans well. What I didn't like were the characters of the hero and heroine. Piers is built on the Dr. House model - surly, grouchy, and always must get his way, right down to the bad leg and cane. I had trouble actually getting past that personality. And then Linnet herself comes off as a complete idiot for most of the book. Very different from Kate and Phillipa. Linnet and Piers fit the personality types of Beauty and the Beast, but it didn't make them likeable.
James had one more novella available for the Fairy Tales series, Winning the Wallflower, which I had already picked up because I noticed it was free for NOOK about a week ago (hey, these things are only 99 cents, so a bargain in any case). And let me say I was surprised - the characters are tangentially related to the heroine of the next Fairy Tales book, The Duke is Mine, which is due out in February.
It's still a wonderful little novella, all about taking charge of your own life and getting a second chance to do everything right. Poor Lucy (a friend to Olivia, the heroine of the next book) has always been a wallflower, too tall, too plain, not enough money, etc&etc. She accepts Cyrus's proposal because he's likely her last chance - and he's likely to inherit a dukedom, which makes her mother happy. Fate lands her a windfall and so she breaks the engagement - only to find that Cyrus is determined to win her back, to let go all his elaborate plans and fear of scandal to fight for her. Very sweet.
Do you think I'm going to read more Eloisa James? You betcha I am.