Michelle Smart beautifully parallels the Cinderella fairy tale in the second volume of the Cinderella Seductions series, The Greek’s Pregnant Cinderella. Tabitha Brigstock toils in Vienna’s Basinas Palace Hotel as a cleaner after her evil stepmother and beloved father’s widow, seizes control of her wealth and property and kicks her out of the Oxfordshire family home. Tabitha’s fairy godmother comes in the form of a wealthy elderly Basinas Palace Hotel denizen, Amelia Coulter. In appreciation of Tabitha’s care and company when Amelia was ill, she gifts Tabitha with a Basinas-hosted 40 000-euro Viennese ball ticket, and a dress and shoes fit for a princess. Widower and billionaire Giannis Basinas takes one look at Tabitha (he insists on describing her as “exquisite,” which annoyed me to no end; I have a feral spinster antipathy for the word) and is enchanted. They dance, drink champagne, and share a passionate night. In the morning, while Giannis makes coffee to share with Tabitha, she sneaks away. Giannis is angry and hurt, but in the weeks ahead, can’t get Tabitha out of his mind.
Giannis is furious when Tabitha appears in his hotel office weeks later, in the uniform of one of his cleaning staff, to inform him she’s pregnant. He is cold and ragey, but pulls the a-child-needs-two-parents-we will-marry-for-the-child’s-sake routine, all the while side-eying Tabitha and cutting off any affection or companionship they might share. Because she is duplicitous and not to be trusted. They travel to his Santorini home to marry. Thankfully, Giannis is never a chest-thumping he-man, nor cruel, or cutting. He remains aloof, but polite and, eventually, there are glimmers of affection and compatibility between them. Tabitha, in turn, is honest and caring, doesn’t let herself be a doormat, and takes joy in the beauty, rest, and care she experiences. Giannis has a lovely, boisterous Greek family, loving, protective, humorously nosy, thanks to four overwhelming sisters, and makes for a lovely contrast to the usual abandoned-child HP hero issues.
Unfortunately, Smart builds her conflict around Giannis’s (mis)trust issues. Giannis’s wife, RIP Anastasia, has so many sins heaped on her she makes the proverbial scapegoat look like he’s lounging on a chaise longue, catered to by fanning servants and others who peel his grapes. Anastasia, says Giannias, was a gold-digger and freeloader (unlike the ever-toiling Tabitha); she was a liar and adulteress. Thankfully, she and unborn baby, which was NOT Giannis’s, were conveniently taken out by a car accident. Poor Giannis carries the scars of mistrust. Other than that, he’s a pretty nice guy and Tabitha, droll, beautiful, honest Tabitha, falls in love with him. He is caring, affectionate, and fun to be with, but there’s a part of him that remains aloof. Tabitha won’t stand for this and … badness ensues.
I wish there was more to their differences than the evil Anastasia. What kept me reading was Giannis and Tabitha’s exchanges. Smart can write mean dialogue and great banter; her heroes taking on snooty Victorian tones and diction, while her heroines go for bathos and flat colloquialisms; one such moment from Pregnant Cinderella, after Tabitha has announced her pregnancy to Giannis:
” … but you would have to be the most audacious of fools to try and pretend something so easily disproved.”
“And you would have to be the most audacious of arrogant twonks to think I would let you decide anything on my behalf!”
Definitely, Tabitha 1 (who can resist “twonks”?); Giannis, like the inarticulate, awkward Darcy, 0. It’s moments like this and a lovely, grovelly HEA that held my interest and will see me return to Smart’s HPs. With Miss Austen, we find The Greek’s Pregnant Cinderella offers “real comfort,” Emma.
Michelle Smart’s The Greek’s Pregnant Cinderella is published by Harlequin Books. It was released on June 18 and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-ARC from Harlequin Books, via Netgalley.