Guest contributor Connie Brockway is a best-selling romance author, eight-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA award, and two-time recipient for My Dearest Enemy and The Bridal Season.
What romance reader worth her salt doesn’t swoon over one particular fairy tale? And what romance author worth the name hasn’t written a take on her own favorites at least once (or twenty times)? Fair few, my friend. Sometimes we honor these stories with respectful retelling, sometimes with tongues firmly in cheek, and every now and then by going completely off the grid. Fairy tales speak to those memes we carry in our DNA: the beast tamed by love, the impoverished (in all ways) heroine raised to a position of power and happiness, the hero faced with an impossible task but who nonetheless pitches headlong into the fray to protect his beloved. We all want the same thing: to be the sort of person who inspires loyalty, heroism and love—and a few fairy tales.
Here’s this month’s list of romances based on fairy tale tropes, plus an add-on I couldn't resist.
Teresa Medeiros wrote her riff on Beauty and the Beast to hysterical effect in the wonderful The Bride and the Beast. As the last virgin standing (so to speak) in Ballybliss, our plus-sized heroine, Gwendolyn, is the logical choice for the superstitious townfolk to sacrifice to local monster, “The Dragon.” When she’s delivered to his lair, the dragon (our hero, of course) is flummoxed by the unwanted guest but helpless to release her if he wants to pursue his dark plans for revenge. Bright, witty, sarcastic and fun, this is Ms. Medeiros at her best—which is very good indeed.
Eloisa James’s tender, sometimes bittersweet, love story Once upon a Tower is an homage to Rapunzel (with a bit of Romeo and Juliet thrown in.) When the very young, self-controlled Duke of Kinross meets demure and silent Edie at a ball, he thinks he’s met his soulmate. Forthwith, he presents an offer for her hand to her father who accepts. Unfortunately, what Gowan mistook for reticence was simply the flu, and the girl to whom he is now wed is... unexpected. The marriage bed is not a friendly--let alone fun--place in James’s sweet tale of challenged young love, which ultimately leads to Edie fleeing to her tower. The slow unfurling of these two very young hearts journeying toward maturity and understanding is filled with exquisite insight and romantic moments that will have you sighing.
In her futuristic YA Cinderella story, Cinder, Marissa Meyer offers us a cyborg heroine in place of the standard Disney youngster. Instead of sweeping houses, Cinder--who has amnesia regarding her childhood--works as an unpaid mechanic in the markets for her evil stepmother. There she meets the handsome prince and falls in lust, er, love. What follows is political intrigue, plagues, lunar wars, a look-see into Cinder’s own mysterious past and, yup, a ball. This is the first book in a series and a fabulous kick-off for the reader who wants a touch of cyberpunk to their fairy tales.
And since we’re talking romance writers, I have to direct your attention to An Invitation to Die by Helen Smith. This is not a romance novel but, as almost its entire cast is composed of romance authors or those intimate with romance authors (readers, agents, publishers, bloggers etc.), I’m including it. Perennially unemployed Emily Castle, a gifted amateur sleuth, signs on for a weekend helping out at the annual Romance Writers of Great Britain conference where wannabe romance writer and much hated romance review blogger Winnie ends up dead. Quirky, whimsical, smart, and engaging. Yes, it’s way over the top and wincingly familiar in places. But, it’s always fun. I flat-out loved it. A must-read for romance readers. But beware! You might learn too much! --Connie Brockway