Marry Me by Midnight Cover
Title: Marry Me by Midnight
Author: Heat: Re
Genre(s): Romance Historical
Tropes: Opposites Attract No Strings Relationship
Tags: f-m victorian england jewish light femdom businesswoman class differences heiress orphan
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Synopsis from the Creator:

From an author known for her “powerful and passionate” work comes a story with an enchanting twist on Cinderella (Eva Leigh, bestselling author): a charming heiress must marry to save her family’s business, but the man she dreams of is the one she can’t have.

London, 1832: Isabelle Lira may be in distress, but she's no damsel. Since her father’s death, his former partners have sought to oust her from their joint equity business. Her only choice is to marry—and fast—to a powerful ally outside the respected Berab family’s sphere of influence. Only finding the right spouse will require casting a wide net. So she’ll host a series of festivals, to which every eligible Jewish man is invited.

Once, Aaron Ellenberg longed to have a family of his own. But as the synagogue custodian, he is too poor for wishes and not foolish enough for dreams. Until the bold, beautiful Isabelle Lira presents him with an irresistible offer . . . if he ensures her favored suitors have no hidden loyalties to the Berabs, she will provide him with money for a new life.

Yet the transaction provides surprising temptation, as Aaron and Isabelle find caring and passion in the last person they each expected. Only a future for them is impossible—for heiresses don’t marry orphans, and love only conquers in children’s tales. But if Isabelle can find the courage to trust her heart, she'll discover anything is possible, if only she says yes. 

Review: Marry Me by Midnight, by Felicia Grossman

[fa icon="calendar"] Aug 16, 2023 11:01:33 AM / by Suzanne

We've been fans of Felicia Grossman's books since the beginning, but I think she's outdone herself with Marry Me by Midnight. Since the death of her father, businesswoman Isabelle's place in the family surety business is at risk. She needs to marry, but she also needs to make sure the man she gives that much control to won't steamroll her or squander her money. Fending off the advances of the Barab brothers, who own the other half of the business, she hatches a plan: she'll hold a series of balls at which she will entertain suitors from the Jewish community... and pick one by midnight at the final ball.

To himself and the community, Aaron is nothing special. After years bouncing from job to job, he's now the custodian of the synagogue at which Isabelle attends services. He's not particularly smart, has no special skills or connections. When Isabelle spies him entertaining children with stories and candies, however, she sees something truly special in him: a deep kindness and capacity for love. Unfortunately, that's not what she needs in a partner. He could be useful in her mercenary husband hunt, however, so she enlists him to help her weed out the marriage candidates. At the end, Aaron will get 200 pounds, enough to guarantee him a fresh start and the financial stability that will allow him to secure the thing he wants most in the world: a family to love.

Aaron is an absolute marshmallow who sometimes tries to pretend to be stern. It fails spectacularly. Isabelle ruthlessly suppresses all emotion in order to maintain her place in the community and in her business. Grossman flips the usual historic romance gender dynamic and allows Aaron to be his squishy, family-oriented self. All he wants is people to love. He's very clearly going to be in more of a caregiver role, which allows Isabelle to be her ambitious self. They're so perfect for each other. (Also she's big into making him beg, even when she's on her knees. It is very good.)

Of course, the couple face obstacles both internal and external and their relationship takes place in the larger context of Victorian England where Jewish success is limited or resented. Grossman adeptly handles the complexities of intra- and inter-community maneuverings and manages to convey the high stakes of Isabelle's marriage choice while also presenting a compelling and central romance. I'm not terribly well-versed in Jewish romance, but in my reading experience, Sephardic Jews are less represented than Ashkenazi Jews. The interplay of the two "sides" of the community--including language--was an added layer of complexity that really grounded the novel in time and place.

I listened to this novel thanks to Hachette Audio. Justine Eyre's narration was excellent as usual, even if I'm always mildly surprised to hear steamy scenes in her voice. I haven't been reading much historical romance recently and while at one point a couple of years ago I found myself rather tired of Justine Eyre, this time it felt like a return to a subgenre I once claimed as one of my favorites.

Marry Me by Midnight is the subversive, swoony, sexy, Jewish Cinderella retelling you've been craving.

Topics: review