I was interested in the historical background of France as I usually read British historicals but broadly this one didn't do it for me
Talented author, Parker J. Cole, has launched into the Historical Romance genre with her captivating debut story set in pre-revolution Paris. As the title implies, this is a Cinderella themed romance that features Lilas Moreau and Bastien, Duc de Languedoc (Duke of Languedoc). Lilas is the fille des cendres (cinder girl), and Bastien takes on the role of her reluctant lover.
One of the most intriguing points of this story is that both the heroine and hero are people of color. That is important, as well as a unique aspect of this story as you will discover. It has a lot to do with how French society of the late 18th century regarded people of color. Were they accepted as titled citizens with elite positions? Through the character of Bastien, we get to see how he regards himself as a titled Duke, and his place in society. As I said, that’s just one aspect of this compelling story. While Bastien is dealing with his dilemmas, Lilas has her own ordeal to handle. Her life is being threatened. Lilas and Bastien go back a long way. She was a servant in his father’s household. A family secret comes to light, and Lilas discovers that her life will drastically change as her status rises from a lowly servant to a daughter of a count, and Bastien’s on-again-off-again betrothed. I’ll leave that right there, so that you can discover how all of this came to be. In true Parker J. Cole style, this well-written story challenges the changing dynamics of family life and societal norms with a dynamic storyline that is smooth and seamless. The story also has a robust cast of complex characters.
Heading the list of characters is the famous Queen, Marie Antoinette, in a minor character role. Two characters stand out in their minor roles. They are the Comtesse de la Baux, Lilas’ stepmother, and Soeur Calme, (Sister Calm), a Nun who has taken a vow of silence. They are the raison d’etre that Lilas’ life is in danger. Mystery, romance, and mayhem all wrapped up in one engrossing story. I love, love, love the Epilogue that houses Lilas and Bastien’s HEA! It is set in Haiti. When you read the story, you will discover the significance of that setting.
THE DUKE’S DEFIANT CINDERELLA is an excellent historical debut for Ms. Cole. I recommend it for your reading pleasure.
I enjoyed this unusual historical romance. It isn't often I find one set in pre-Revolution France, and this is the first I've read that involved people of color. When the story opens, Lilas is a servant in the home of the Duc de Languedoc. She came to them from the orphanage she was left at as a baby. As a mixed-race child, she suffered a lot of bullying at the orphanage and later from the other servants on the estate. Her only friend was Bastien, the duc's son, who was also mixed race. Bastien stands up for her when he can and comforts her when he cannot.
In the opening chapter, we discover that eighteen-year-old Lilas is the long-lost daughter of a comte, and she is to take her rightful place in her father's home. At the same time, Bastien is informed by his father that Lilas is his betrothed, an arrangement set up by their fathers before she was born. Bastien has a difficult relationship with his controlling father, and rather than accepting Lilas as his wife, he leaves on a Grand Tour. Lilas feels betrayed as her only friend deserts her in her hour of need.
Four years later, Bastien returns to France. His father is dead, and he is the new duc. His first order of business is to convince Lilas to break their betrothal. He wants a wife with an impeccable background, not one who used to be a servant. He feels it is necessary to restore the family's honor after his father was banished for marrying a Maroon for love. He also wants someone he would have no chance of falling in love with, as he remembers his father being a broken man after his wife's death.
Lilas, whose arrival in Paris four years ago revived the scandal of her parents' marriage, is now well-versed in society's behavior. However, she is now more famous for her art, even gaining the queen's patronage. She's dismayed by Bastien's return and wants nothing to do with their betrothal. Determined to retain her independence, marriage is the last thing she wants.
Unfortunately, their betrothal becomes public knowledge, bringing them to the queen's attention. They are forced to play the part until they can find a way to safely part ways. Neither counted on their sizzling attraction, and each fought hard against it. Several times I wanted to reach into the pages and shake Bastien. I thought his treatment of the woman who was once his best friend was unnecessarily cruel. To repeatedly tell her that she wasn't good enough to be his wife was a terrible thing, especially when he would turn around and be sensitive and supportive.
Meanwhile, Lilas is caught in a battle with herself. She is still hurt and angry over how he left her, but she can't deny the feelings he stirs in her. Sometimes she thinks he returns her feelings, but then he'll turn cold again. It doesn't help that her stepmother frequently plays on her fears by suggesting that Bastien has ulterior motives.
When circumstances make it advisable for them to marry, Bastien suggests a marriage of convenience. One that will remain unconsummated, allowing them to seek an annulment after a while. But being together all the time strains the control Bastien has worked so hard to cultivate. When that control finally snaps, Bastien must decide whether to admit his feelings or continue to fight them.
Since their betrothal became public, Lilas has received several warnings that she is in danger. Bastien's unexpected arrival foiled an attack outside the dressmaker's. Someone slipped a sleeping draught into Lilas's drink on their wedding day, prompting Bastien to take them out of Paris to his family estate. There a collapsed balcony railing shows that danger has followed them. Though the culprit was not a surprise, the motivation was not what I expected. The final confrontation was intense and heartbreaking. It had the benefit of breaking through Bastien's fears and showing him his feelings for Lilas. I loved Bastien's emotional confession. The epilogue was a terrific wrap-up, giving a glimpse of their lives a year and a half later.
I would just like to say…more historical romances NEED to take place in 18th century France pretty please!? It was such a fascinating era and a perfect place for a love story. I love an arranged marriage plot and Lilas and Bastien clearly have feelings for each other but deny them for so long because… REASONS. The intrigue was tool notch and the chemistry was there from their first moments together! Highly recommend for romance veterans and newbies alike!
Lilas and Bastien have had a strong bond since childhood. But an arranged marriage is something neither of them want. Pressured by the queen, can they resist the attraction between them?
I was immersed in this story right from the start. Lilas and Bastien are strong characters but in denial about their feelings. The passion crackled between them, and the suspense subplot added interest.
Thanks, NetGalley, for the ARC I received. This is my honest and voluntary review.
Lush and decadent writing. I love seeing historical romances about people of color, and this story set in Paris is one I haven’t seen before. I had some technical issues with the file, but it was worth pushing through for a really lovely book with compelling characters.
An arranged betrothal…
By royal approval!
As the servant girl who discovered she was the long-lost daughter of a comte, Lilas Moreau is no stranger to scandal. Now, more famous for her art, she won’t have her independence threatened by the return of her betrothed, Bastien, Duc de Languedoc. As a new attraction sizzles between them, Lilas is relieved he wants to end their secret marriage contract. But a summons from the queen means they’re forced to continue their charade!
She couldn't believe that he didn't want her. He insisted that they break their betrothel.
Lilas and Bastien are meant to be together. Why couldn't they see it?
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. This in no way affects my opinion of this book which I read and reviewed voluntarily.