Lila DiPasqua since I started reading her anthologies based on fairy tales that have a nice erotic twist to them. A Midnight Dance is her first full length loosely based on Cinderella. This takes place in 1658 on the outskirts of Paris, France. Our Cinderella is Sabine Laurent, whose father once owned a grand theater. Sabine and her twin sister, Isabelle used to watch from the wings of the stage. During that time, the young Sabine developed a crush on Jules de Mouiter. She nicknames him her Dark Prince and dreams one day she’ll become his Dark Princess. She writes all of this down in her diary. Isabelle enjoys writing as well. The Laurent family is a very literate and artistic one. But the Laurents are soon left desolate because of the high taxes they can’t pay. Sabine father dies and Isabelle goes to work as a maid for some lord, where she dies in a fire. Sabine knows deep inside Isabelle isn’t dead and will try and find her. She must also find a way to pay the taxes owed to the Crown before she's thrown into prison.
Jules has found himself in a precarious situation as well. For the past five years he has turned to privateering in order to repurchase his family’s land that was stripped away from him. His father was framed for a horrendous crime and Jules plans to find villain responsible in order to restore his good name. Sabine and her merry band of amateur thieves come across Jules and his band of fighters in the woods. Sabine has overheard that Jules has a few cases of silver. She’ll get Jules and his men to drink wine laced with a sleeping powder and steal the silver and return home. At first she has no idea that it’s Jules she must trick, but when she does, she’s more than happy to get her revenge because she blames him for her misfortune. When Jules father was convicted as a traitor, the lands her family owned was reverted to the Crown. Very coincidental, no?
Jules has no idea who Sabine is. She gives him a fake name and says she’s a prostitute. Sabine doesn’t expect to have sex with Jules, but one thing leads to another and Jules gives her a nice passionate tumble on the forest floor. Jules is shocked since this prostitute is not one in truth. She’s a virgin! He figures out her plan and she offers Jules her body for a few days until she can come up with a way to escape. Jules falls for her sweet words, mainly because he can’t get enough of her body and the amazing sex they both have. Soon Jules can’t think of letting Sabine go (the power of Sabine’s magical hoo haa is very strong) and she’s feeling the same, but guilt eats away at her because she must betray him in the end. And then when Sabine does get the upper hand on Jules, thanks to her former theater troupe, Jules will stop at nothing until he gets his silver back and makes Sabine pay for her deceit (by plunder more of her magical hoo haa).
A Midnight Dance is steamy to the max. Lila has this wonderful skill at writing love scenes that are borderline purple prose, but never venture far into that territory. I also was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first time Jules and Sabine were intimate together. I’m usually not a fan of the heroine and hero getting it on within minutes of meeting one another, but it really works here. Jules and Sabine bond very quickly over this amazing sexual combustion they have together. Think of fireworks going off and rockets red glaring all over the place. And even though Jules and Sabine are having sex every which way and every free moment they can, it doesn’t overpower the story to the point where it gets ridiculous.
The mystery regarding Jules’s father and his betrayer was well done. There’s a serial killer who enjoys carving up women and has targeted Sabine. I found this killer too one-dimensional and silly for my tastes. But the strengths in A Midnight Dance are Sabine and Jules and their connection, which I believed right from the start.
For a full length debut, I’d say this was a pretty sold read which has some of the best love scenes I’ve read this year. Lila is really making a name for herself in the erotic romance genre. I would recommend you give A Midnight Dance a read. The way Jules introduces Sabine to his way of lovemaking and how she receives it should interest those who are looking for a good smoldering romance. (August 2nd, Berkley Trade)
Final Grade: B