A Lady By Midnight
by Tessa Dare, historical (2012)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-204989-6


Let's say hello to Kate Taylor, the resident Beauty with a Birthmark heroine who spends her time wondering whether she will be loved. A music teacher in Spindle Cove, she has friends who adore her, but you know how it is. Like Ariel the Little Mermaid, she walks around town singing sad songs about how the man that catches her fancy, Samuel Thorne, spends his time showing her his rear end, so to speak. Oh, when will she be part of his world? Thorne really likes her, but he has a sad past, you know, and he will share this sad story at pivotal moments when he's being an ass, because deep inside he's just a little sniveling boy who's afraid of getting hurt.

You may suspect that this is a Cinderella story from the title. In a way, it is, as a bunch of colorful but noteworthy folks, the Gramercy family, make a detour from what seems like a spin-off series in the making to surround Kate and tell her that she's a long-lost member of the family. It's a really sad story involving Kate's star-crossed parents marrying and then being torn apart by illnesses and nasty family members, just like a Bollywood movie. Now that Kate is on the way up, is her chance at having a happily ever after with Thorne completely obliterated for good? Unlike Cinderella, however, Kate doesn't have an expiry date for her night at the ball, only, this time, her Prince Charming is standing in the corner, too absorbed in self-pity to play the smallest violin in the world. He really likes Kate but he thinks he can't love, so he's going to drive her away, reel her back in, drive her away again, and on and on.

Thorne is a whiny, self-pitying twit who is such a wuss that he can't man up and cut the heroine loose. He's no good for her when she's just a nobody, because he's a man with a sad past so he's incapable of love, boo hoo hoo. And when she's a lady, he's still not good for her because she's now a lady and therefore, she's out of his reach. Anything to keep the attention on him, naturally.

And yet, at the same time he deliberately forces a fake engagement on her - to protect her from her new-found relatives, by his logic. After all, it is so kind for him to help her. He has no intention to making the engagement real. In fact, he plans to flee, er, depart to America soon. This means that he will leave Kate behind, to be known by all as the mousy spinster dumped by him. But does this matter? What's important is that he gets his jollies from knowing that he nobly tried to do the right thing for Kate. Additionally, Thorne makes several decisions for Kate that could have jeopardized her standing with her new family. He claims to be protecting her, but he's just being that selfish ass who wants to keep Kate hanging on to him despite claiming that he wants her to be happy without him.

Once Thorne's had a good taste of Saintly Kate's honeypot, however, he transforms into a determined suitor who wants Kate to join him in America and become a farmer's wife, when she's already set to become the long-lost belle of the ball, so to speak. This guy's timing is impeccable, I tell you. It's a good thing that Kate is in love with him and will rather become a farmer's wife than to enjoy a life in comfort, because if I were her, he can go solo to America and marry a bison for all I care. Thorne's tedious crybaby act outwears its welcome three chapters into the story and he keeps up the act for about two-thirds of this book.

And then we have Kate. Oh, Kate, never a more perfect creature ever existed. She gets smacked around by circumstances, at one point getting whacked by a hateful old lady - why is everyone looking at me? - and falls victim to several types of natural calamities here. All the better for Thorne to come to her rescue, I guess. She doesn't do anything here other than to be very understanding about Thorne's treatment of her and smiling like a benevolent saint as she forgives the Garmercy folks for the things that they had done to her mother and her. Seriously, when she realizes what they had done to her mother, she actually waves off the whole thing because she is, you guess it, so understanding about human foibles. If Thorne is a ridiculous drama queen, Kate is all but missing that scene where she stands under a cone of light in a darkened chapel, beseeching God to forgive the Garmercy twits in a violin-soaked song specially composed by Alan Menken.

By the epilogue, the author practically fetes Kate with the adoration of many. Let sappy ballads of happiness play as Kate has finally found her family! But given that Kate's happily ever after involves her getting knocked up non-stop by that twatwaffle of self-pity parties, Thorne, I don't know whether I can personally consider this a happy ending. I suppose other readers may beg to differ.

A Lady By Midnight has some funny moments involving the Gramercy kids, who end up stealing the scene many times from Kate and Thorne, and there are nicely done scenes here that would have tugged at my heart if Kate and Thorne weren't such over the top ridiculous characters. Too bad that anything good present here is buried under all that cheese and corn raining from the sky every time Kate and Thorne deign to speak or move.

Rating: 63


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