Title: A Waltz at Midnight
Author: Christa McHugh
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: February 27, 2012
Rating: 3 out of 5
I’ve always been a sucker for Cinderella stories, and the novella A Waltz at Midnight is no exception. This novella runs short, as it’s only about 21,000 words long, and it reads really quickly, no doubt because of the epistolary format. In fact, it reads more like an extended short story than a novella. The narration is broken up by letters between the hero and heroine, and while I enjoyed the different format, I quickly found myself focusing primarily on the letters and skipping the narration. That said, A Waltz at Midnight is a sweet love story, and I look forward to reading more of Ms. McHugh’s work.
The novella is set in New York just after the Civil War ends. Susanna Parkwell is from South Carolina, but when the war ends, she and her wounded Confederate soldier brother find themselves penniless. They’re working at their Aunt’s boarding house in New York and keeping low profiles in the hopes that no one will realize that the brother served in the Confederate army. The boarders are for the most part spoiled young ladies attending school, but one of the ladies has befriended Samantha and asks for her help rejecting an unwanted suitor.
Theodore Blakely is being forced by his father to court Charlotte. He’d rather be an artist than work in his father’s firm, so he decides to send Charlotte a rude letter in the hope that she’ll reject him, releasing him from his family obligation. Unfortunately, Charlotte enlists Samantha’s help in responding to the letter, and Samantha’s reply intrigues Theodore. He and “Charlotte” exchange a series of letters, managing to fall in love. But when he writes that he plans to meet the woman he believes to be Charlotte at a ball, Samantha and Charlotte scramble to find a way to send Samantha to the ball.
This was a very sweet romance, and Samantha’s letters to Theodore demonstrate a great deal of intelligence and spirit. Because of the brevity of the novella, the majority of the text is taken up by the letters, and I felt that the narration suffered in places in comparison with the letters. The story is fairly tame in terms of sensuality – the hero and heroine exchange one kiss – so this is a story you could easily recommend to your grandmother. I would like to see more of Ms. McHugh’s work, because this was a very romantic story with a setting I don’t usually enjoy reading about, yet it totally worked for me.