{Review/Giveaway} THE MIDNIGHT MASQUERADE by Marcia Lynn McClure

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O P E N I N G   L I N E:

She was tired—oh so very, very tired. Never—not in all her life—had Evony Elorietta known such thoroughgoing fatigue. As she trudged out of the dark woods still veiled in the shadows of early sunrise, out across the expanse of cold, dew-drenched grass and onto the main road of the village, Evony wondered how she would ever endure a day that was only just beginning. Every bone in her body ached—every muscle throbbed in misery, every inch of her flesh begged for respite. Yet there would be none—at least not until she had finished her stitching—finished the near thirteen hours of sewing she now faced under the ever observant, incessantly critical eye of seamstress Agnes Teche. 

After such a long, chilled, and sleepless night spent in watching—peering through the darkness and into the rooms of the inn in the woods, until her eyes were too dry to watch any longer—after listening to the shallow, often vile conversations, until her ears hurt from the foul ferment of it—Evony dreaded sewing for Mrs. Teche more than ever before. The woman was a banshee of an employer. And yet, she was grateful Mrs. Teche had had the keen eye to recognize Evony’s superior skills with needle and thread—for how else would Evony have managed to feed Mikol and Tressa—to shelter them—to keep them hidden?
(pg. 2, US ebook edition)

The fairy tale lover in me rejoiced to see a new take on one of my all-time favorite tales, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. It's been done before, yes--and done well at that. ENTWINED by Heather Dixon and PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL by Jessica Day George immediately come to mind. Both are more literal interpretations of the tale. MIDNIGHT MASQUERADE, however reminds of me more of THE PRINCESS CURSE by Merrie Haskell. The main character is an outsider looking in, not one of the twelve cursed princesses. It is also completely its own tale. The heroine, Evony, is entwined in the lives of the princesses in a mysterious way that adds a fresh spin to the classic tale.

Evony and her siblings live on their own, albeit in poverty. Evony works for a local seamstress, where she's paid only enough to survive. One day, after handing over the last of her money for breakfast eggs, she's nearly run over by a nobleman and his horse. She later finds out he is Prince Stavos, come to crack the curse and receive a princess' hand in marriage as a reward. Evony helps him to the best of her ability, but can't stop herself from falling for him...even though he can never be hers.

Romantic and lush, McClure introduces readers to a new version of a classic tale in an intriguing way. The book is a fast, easy read that you can fall right into. Readers will truly feel for Evony and her plight, and also come to love Stavos. My only complaint with the novel came when the POV switched to Stavos. I understand that McClure was attempting to keep things mysterious for as long as possible, but it annoyed me that Stavos seemed so flummoxed by things when we saw his narrative, only to have always known the answers later on. I didn't like the mixed nature that came from this. It was my only major annoyance, however, and I genuinely enjoyed the novel and the way the tale was re-spun. In fact, one of my favorite aspects is the way the book doesn't rely on magic. The tale is told in such a way that something like this could certainly have occurred in real life! In this sense, it reminds me of one of my all-time favorite fairy tale retellings, HEART'S BLOOD by Juliet Marillier, which takes all the magic out of Beauty and the Beast to create something grounded and realistic. The fact that McClure also chose this route is exciting and more original in an often-done genre than you might expect!  If you're a fan of fairy tales and/or The Twelve Dancing Princesses, THE MIDNIGHT MASQUERADE is right up your alley!

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

Pretty girl in a dress? Okay with me! Especially since this is a fairy tale...and The Twelve Dancing Princesses, no less! Of course there must be a pretty girl in a dress!

I like the unusual way she was masking her face before removing it for the photo, since the ball is masked and plays right into this image.

I also like seeing all that snow...it adds to the atmosphere. Brr, I wouldn't want to be wearing a pretty dress in that weather and dancing endlessly, would you? 

I would love to see a little more oomph in the typography, which, despite the bright color, fades rather than pops, but it's still legible, so hey!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Marcia Lynn McClure
Release Date: July 29, 2013
Publisher: Marcia Lynn McClure
Received: For Review

Stavos Voronin was not as blind-eyed as many nobles and royals. Evony’s physical gestures—even the simplest movement of her hands—revealed that she had not always been destitute. The same was true of the children—of their polished manners and the boy’s knowledge of horses and tendency to be bold and fearless of strangers. 

Ah yes, Stavos enjoyed a good mystery. After all, interest in the inexplicable circumstances surrounding the royals of Abawyth was the very thing that had lured him to the kingdom—the enigma of Abawyth’s twelve sleepy princesses. And yet now—now his mind was all the more intrigued. Not only was the obscurity of what had caused the profound and baffling torpidity of Abawyth’s princesses laid out before him, but also he found his curiosity intensely piqued over the riddle surrounding the very lovely Evony and her siblings. 

As Stavos strode through the village resting on the outskirts of Abawyth Castle, his mind reeled with possibilities. His musings were drawn back to why he had come to Abawyth at all—to solve the conundrum surrounding the twelve beautiful princesses of Abawyth kingdom—to solve the seemingly impenetrable crux and thereby win the hand of one of Abawyth’s princesses, as his father, King Letholdus of Ethiarien, had commanded.
Marcia Lynn McClure’s intoxicating succession of novels, novellas, and e-books, has established her as one of the most favored and engaging authors of true romance. Her unprecedented forte in weaving captivating stories of western, medieval, regency, and contemporary amour void of brusque intimacy has earned her the title “The Queen of Kissing.” Marcia, who was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has spent her life intrigued with people, history, love, and romance. A wife, mother, grandmother, family historian, poet, and author, Marcia Lynn McClure spins her tales of splendor for the sake of offering respite through the beauty, mirth, and delight of a worthwhile and wonderful story.
Visit Marcia on her website and follow her on Twitter!

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