Saturday, September 15, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Once Upon a Waltz by Carola Dunn, Karla Hocker, Judith A. Landsdowne -- Regency Romances

The three novellas in this compilation are fairy tales. I can only identify one as a direct retelling. The stories contain all the elements of traditional fairy tales but are set in Regency England. 

In "The Firebird" by Carola Dunn, Reynata, a young werefox, is secretly in love with her neighbor, Aldwin, Lord Drake. One stolen waltz and a dashing rescue leaves Aldwin feeling the same. However, he can not marry the girl because she is a nobody. Nursing a wounded heart, Aldwin decides to join the army. Reynata fears Aldwin won't make it to Spain if his evil younger brothers have anything to do with it so she asks her foster mother, a wise woman, to cast a protection spell on Aldwin to keep him safe from harm until he is safely away. The spell goes wrong and Aldwin turns into a beautiful golden bird. It seems everyone wants the beautiful firebird not knowing his true identity. Reynata feels guilty and vows to rescue the one she loves from his cruel fate.This story is very unusual. It's very much a traditional fairy tale with unexplained magic and danger lurking everywhere. The final chapter contains some very random moments that I wish were explained a bit more. I found the lack of explanation very frustrating. Even so, I liked the story though not so much as a normal Regency story.

"The Dancing Shoes" by Karla Hocker is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses without the evil. Minna Elfinstone is a teacher at Miss Forster's seminary for young ladies where young ladies of the middle class are brought to be refined and hopefully meet gentlemen from the best families. Miss Forster runs her school with an iron fist and the girls never get the dances they are promised. When the senior girls' dancing slippers are discovered worn out, Miss Forster leaves Minna in charge of discovering the mystery. Minna discovers a mysterious passage and secret midnight dances at the Brighton Pavillion. Minna finds it all a bit disconcerting because she has the feeling she's been here before in her dreams. Most unnerving of all is the handsome, sardonic chaperone. Will real life end like one of Minna's dreams? Could she leave the girls to marry? This story is very simple and sweet. It's a realistic sort of fairy tale with some unexplained magic. I object to the story taking place in three nights because I don't believe in love at first sight, but I enjoyed the period details and the sweet story.

"King Thrusbeard" is a fable featuring the charming Earl of Lanningsdale who has come to London to be reunited with his childhood friend Missy. Lady Artemis is now in her third Season without a husband. She has driven away all her suitors with her sharp tongue and the Dowager Countess fears her beloved only son will have his heart broken. Disappointed, but not brokenhearted, the Earl decides to woo his Missy with his tongue. Lady Artemis has returned from boarding school with radical ideas about men wanting to enslave women. Artemis refuses to marry. She wants only to have her own establishment in London. Unfortunately, her father is bankrupt and is unable to provide for his daughter. He drags her off back to the country, hoping that it will make his daughter more humble. The Earl fears Lady Artemis may be under an evil spell and he wishes to undo it. The Earl is terrible at magic and his mother begs him to leave well enough alone. His valet is firmly convinced that Elias should stay far away from magic after an unfortunate experience. Elias refuses to listen and his magic backfires. What happens next will show Artemis both humility and true love. I liked this story best of all. The heroine was unappealing and bratty at first and then there is real development in her character before her about face. She has to go though some rough times first and I liked that though the cause was magical, the effect was very real. There are some great details about being poor in the period as well as beautiful descriptions of the land. Even better is the valet who provides comic relief. The fairy tale ending is worthy of a sigh.

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