Meredith's Reviews > A Midnight Dance

A Midnight Dance by Lila DiPasqua
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Nov 22, 11

bookshelves: 2011, fairy-tales, historical-fiction, romance
Read from October 20 to 24, 2011


Originally published on The Librarian Next Door:

Growing up, the one thing Sabine Laurent wished for many than anything else was Jules de Moutier. As a young woman living in Paris, she and her twin sister Isabelle were exposed to the very best of the aristocracy at their father’s prestigious theater company. Hiding behind the scenes, Sabine and Isabelle dreamed of their own happy endings while waiting for the day they would be able to take their place in society. That day never came. After political unrest riled the aristocracy, Sabine’s father mismanaged the family’s funds and they fell into poverty, while Jules’ father was accused of being a traitor, stripped of his lands and title, and executed. Years after a brief fateful meeting, Sabine and Jules meet again – only this time, there is nearly a decade of unresolved discord between them. Sabine is determined to exact revenge on Jules for his family’s role in her misfortune, but Jules is ruthlessly trying to prove his father’s innocence and won’t let anything – even a woman as beautiful as Sabine – get in the way.

Lila DiPasqua’s latest novel, A Midnight Dance, is a twist on the classic Cinderella story that takes inspiration from Charles Perrault, the author of the original Cinderella fairy tale, and the tumultuous history of France under Louis XIV. Sabine and Jules’ story is told against the backdrop of 1658 France, shortly after an uprising of the aristocracy threw the country into chaos. DiPasqua weaves the real history into her novel, which not only helps ground the romance in an actual place and time, but also (quite nicely) connects back to the French origins of the Cinderella story.

This Cinderella tale begins just as the Cinder girl – Sabine, trying desperately to save her family from poverty – meets her Dark Prince, Jules, who is on a quest of his own to restore his family’s name and good standing. In A Midnight Dance, DiPasqua imagines what happens after Cinderella and her Prince come face to face, telling the story of their relationship after that first initial attraction. Many of the fairy tale’s elements are subtly disguised, so that the novel can stand on its own without being subject to constant comparisons with the original. One aspect I really liked was the absence of an obvious fairy godmother figure. Without magical intervention, Sabine and Jules make their own happy ending, taking advantage of various situations and fighting for each other.

Of course, Sabine and Jules also spend a great deal of time fighting with each other as well. They’re clearly attracted to one another, but they’re both so focused on their own agendas and they’re both so stubborn and determined that they often bump up against one another. It’s especially interesting to watch Sabine and Jules wrestle with their feelings. For Sabine, Jules is the man she once idolized whose family then became the cause of her own family’s downfall. Meanwhile, Jules is sensitive about any betrayal, perceived or real, and he almost lets his lust for revenge get in the way of his lust for – and happiness with – Sabine. Both have to learn things they didn’t know about their families and rethink preconceived notions before they can realize that holding on the past is holding them back in the present. It makes the ending all the more satisfying when they do get it right.

On a somewhat related note, I would be completely remiss if I did not mention that DiPasqua has written one of the sexiest and most sensual historical romances I’ve ever read. The passion between Sabine and Jules is so strong and so palpable that the feint of heart will probably actually swoon. It gets your heart pounding, your adrenaline pumping, your toes curling and every other romance cliche you can think of, without falling into any of those cliches.

And then there is the mystery and intrigue surrounding both Sabine and Jules’ families. A unique added twist to the Cinderella story, A Midnight Dance is also part thriller, as Sabine and Jules work to discover the fate of Sabine’s twin Isabelle and the plot behind Jules’ family’s fall from grace, two seemingly disparate events that eventually come together. With some clues sprinkled in the earlier chapters, DiPasqua keeps you guessing until the very end of the novel. Even after answers are revealed, you still find yourself wondering who’s telling the truth – something made more complicated by the fact that both the “victims” and the “perpetrators” aren’t so easily defined. Everyone has their sins to account for and some characters are forced into desperate decisions by the manipulations of others. Like real life, it’s incredibly messy.

A Midnight Dance is the first Lila DiPasqua novel I’ve read and I’m excited to see what she comes out with next. Her website promises future novels that will follow supporting characters from A Midnight Dance, including one with Jules’ brother Luc. As a lifelong fan of all things Cinderella, I was delighted to read DiPasqua’s unique twist on a familiar tale, a novel that is filled with fantastically flawed characters and a passionate romance that has you rooting for the inevitable happy ending.
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