ONCE UPON A DREAM
Deep in the mind of every reader lurks the shadow of a half-forgotten favorite fairy tale. In this captivating Cinderella story, the girl who sweeps the cinders is a defiant Irish beauty, her slipper is a tiny gold locket and her prince is not a prince at all, but an English duke with a love of poetry.
Lucy Kincaid has not only lost her mother, her father and her beloved home, but has gained an obnoxious stepmother and two very vain, very stupid stepsisters. By threatening the lives of Lucy's dear freinds, "Aunt" Eunice forces Lucy into servitude. Her only respite are her secret walks along the shore. One day, she recited poetry as a man looked on. When he asnwers with an English accent, she flees.
Raphael Montagu AKA Rafe, eighth Duke of Southwell, never planned on owning Kincaid Court. When he discovered that his cousin had torn it from the hands of its owners, he promised Eunice and her two daughters a Season in London to find husbands. He is unaware that a true daughter of the housefold exists, or that she is the mysterious woman from the cliff that he has been searching for.
With a little help from a fairy-godmother who wants her son to settle down, his own irresponsible brother, and maybe even a little fairy dust, the two are pushed together at the last ball of the Season. At the stroke of midnight, Rafe's "Egeria" disappears, leaving only a tiny, gold locket. Yet even after Rafe has found Lucy, this time in Ireland, all is not "happily ever after."
Ms. Kingsley has woven a delightful tale-complex in its deceptive simplicity. Lucy and Rafe are too alike, and too stubborn, to realize what they have in each other, but Ms. Kingsley aptly brings the two together in a sparkling gem of a well-known fairy tale. After all, Cinderella never had it so good. SENSUAL (Apr., 413 pp., $5.99)