Eloisa James isn’t just a very successful Romance novelist. Ms. James is also a Professor of English Literature. I think this combination is one of the most successful pairings in the modern Romance genre. There is an intelligence, a literary feeling to Ms. James’ work that I find very appealing. It’s not that I think other Romance authors are lacking in intelligence, talent or anything else, it’s just that Ms. James’ background in academia, her research in England of an earlier century and knowledge of past social mores and the workings of the aristocracy lends an air of authenticity to her writing. She also has found the most quirky and interesting things about the past to insert into her stories. In an earlier novel she used the fact that powdered hair-dos would have been incredibly uncomfortable, and that the mode of dress for young women both in and out of the bedroom was so structured and restricting as to probably make intimacy almost impossible. This is not something that I remember ever being considered in other novels. We tend to think of the past as being…well…romantic. There were no burps, no wind being broken, no hurried trips to the bathroom. Can you imagine how hard it would have been to hike all those layers up in order to just pee!!! Wow!
Anyway, I just finished Ms. James’ novel, A Kiss at Midnight, a retelling of Cinderella. There is a prince, Gabriel. There is a poor displaced and orphaned daughter, Kate. There is an evil step-mother, Mariana. There is a godmother, Henry. But there is only one step-sister, Victoria, a very sweet, shy and “pregnant out of wedlock but hiding it” debutant who has to stay home from the Ball because her dog bit her lip. See, some different twists and turns. But it’s the differences that make this re-telling so wonderful. There’s also some pretty great dialogue. As Ms. James tells us in her “Historical Notes” at the end of the novel, she takes more license with language in this “fairy tale” than in more historically accurate novels. Maybe it’s this modern language and syntax set in times past which made this story so interesting. Whatever it was, I was captivated and entertained for all of the 368 pages. Good job, Eloisa. I would love to have had you as an English Lit prof. I think you would have made even Chaucer and Robert Burns understandable.