Talking to her stepmother, to Kate's mind, was like peeing in a coal-black outhouse. You had no idea what might come up, but you knew you wouldn't like it. (7)
In this fractured fairy tale version of Cinderella, Kate Daltry is cajoled into disguising herself as her younger stepsister, Victoria. Victoria has recently been bitten in the face by one of her tiny dogs, at exactly the same time she's meant to accompany her fiance Algernon to meet his uncle Gabriel, a prince, in order to get permission for them to actually get married. But Victoria can't possibly meet her fiance's uncle with the dog bite so Kate reluctantly agrees to go in her stead and pretend to be her. Little does Kate know what kind of shenanigans she'll get herself into, with both her rediscovered godmother and Gabriel, soon to be Prince of her heart. Even after revealing her true identity to Gabriel, she knows that they can never be together because he is a prince and she is just a poor orphan. Not to mention the fact that he's already engaged.
The VagFan ladies—especially Kiala—have talked about Eloisa James a lot, so I looked to see which ebooks of hers might be available through my local library and this was the only one. I am getting ready to read Desperate Duchesses for my VF Rewind, but got this one a few weeks before I even started that, so I went through it first.
I actually really liked it. Number one—and I've said it before—I love fractured fairy tales. Gaga for them. Second, the whole masquerading as someone else was very Shakespearean, although at least here Gabriel realized that Kate couldn't be who she was pretending to be. I thought Kate and Gabriel were very well matched. They were both witty and quick, and she actually challenged him when he tried to push her. Here's an example of that:
"It may be rubbish to you," Kate said fiercely. "But I told you my reasons and you—you simply rode over them roughshod, because you think that anything you do is acceptable."I appreciated that she called him out on his privilege. Not a lot of heroines do that in lady lit, and especially not in period lady lit. There was also a point at which he went off to deal with an issue and asked her to stay where she was, and she responds by saying, "Sod that," and walking in the opposite direction. A girl after my own heart. I'm contrary too.
He blinked at her words, sinking in.
"Don't you?" she demanded. "In your narrow, arrogant little world, you can snatch a woman's wig simply because you want to, and you could tear off butterfly's wings too, no doubt, and father children on milkmaids, and—"
"For Christ's sake," Gabriel said. "How did we get from wigs to milkmaids and butterflies.?"
"It's all about you," she said, glaring at him. (190)
I LOVED Henry, Kate's godmother. She was the perfect blend of snark and godmotherly advice and matronly inappropriateness. It seemed a little farfetched to me that she would have allowed so long to pass without being around Kate as her godmother, but it didn't make me pause long because I was excited to keep reading.
This book was one in a long series of ones that I read back to back that had male leads who had shoulder-length luscious hair. Like I said in my review of Visions of Heat, I love a shaggy man as much as the next girl, but there just aren't that many men that look good with long locks.
I didn't care for the constant emphasis on how unattractive Kate was, in general and in relation to her sister. It seemed unnecessary.
But the two big issues I had with it were 1) the whole "I'm turning twenty four in a few weeks and then I'll officially be over the hill." For real, that's not that old. Even in the Regency era. It made me feel, as a twenty seven year old single woman, like I should just pack it in right now. And 2) the fairy tale tongue-in-cheek references. At first it was cute that they were playing it up and mentioning fairy tales, but at a certain point, I thought to myself, "I GET IT! Stop hitting me over the head with the fairy tale thing!"
Despite those few irritations, I recommend it, and am looking forward to reading more in this series and more from Eloisa James.