Friday, 8 July 2011

Book Review: A Happily Ever After of Her Own by Nadia Lee

Title: A Happily Ever After of Her Own
Author: Nadia Lee
Release Date: 5 October 2009
Length: Novella
Source: review copy received from author
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's siteAmazon, Excerpt

Grade: 5 stars

Novellus perfectus!
Goodreads appetizer: Melinda Lightfoot, a preschool teacher with an unusual ability to flit in and out of fairy tales, never thought she would get into trouble...

...until the Fairy Tale Police arrest her while she is in Beauty and the Beast. They offer her a deal: Find Beauty, who left the story when Melinda trespassed into it, or be charged with the ultimate crime -- Fairy Tale Killer. If that's not bad enough the Beast tags along in search of his true love, and Melinda starts falling for the fairy tale prince. She must choose between doing the right thing and having her own happily ever after.

Warning: This title contains the following: Fairy Godmother, the Wicked Witch, dysfunctional fairy tale families, ax-wielding executioners and a happily ever after (or two).

My thoughts: Imagine yourself reading one of your favourite novels and then plouff you are suddenly in it! And changing the course of the story! That is exactly what happens to Melinda Lightfoot, an American, girl-next-door preschool teacher, who is suddenly on the bench before a tribunal accused of trespassing in a fairy tale!
She was punctual and loved her students; missing class without calling in so the school could find a suitable substitute was simply unimaginable. Then again, even if she could have called, what would she have told them?

"I’m in Fairy Tale Jail for trespassing, kidnapping Beauty from Beauty and the Beast and ruining a perfectly good happy ending."
And from there the story unfolds...

I have to say that Nadia Lee gripped me right from the beginning, the imaginative start to this novella sucked me in and I read on wanting to discover more about the classic fairy tale characters and learn what would happen with Melinda and the mandatory fairy tale HEA.

Here we get the real deal, what readers don't know about fairy tales: that Fairy Godmother has two sons: Edward (the cursed prince of Beauty and the Beast) and Charming (yeah, you guessed it right, the irresistibly handsome prince). The evil Wicked Witch is Fairy Godmother's baby sister and it was Edward's own aunt who cursed him because he deigned to call her Auntiee Beet! Really, you never knew this was what actually happened, did you?

A Happily Ever After of Her Own is a little gem of a story: it is incredibly original, witty and tongue in cheek funny, entertaining and of course romantic. I loved how it broke all the conventional rules and became such a modern retelling yet stayed true to the spirit and message of fairy tales. It showed a mocking glass to old and beloved characters but did it in a witty and adorable way.

The hero aka cursed prince right after he saved Melinda:
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, thanks to you. You saved my life.”
He grunted. “It’s in my contract.”

Really! Can you imagine any prince acting this way? Grunting and uttering these words? Nadia Lee's dialogues are voluble, the repartee entertaining and witty.

"I want a lawyer."
"That is not the right response,” the judge sais sternly. "You plead either guilty or not guilty."
"I have rights."
"You do not. This is under Fairy Tale Jurisdiction."

"What is this, this circus?" she gestured at the guards. "Why hasn’t my sister upgraded to something more dignified? Like trolls?"
"We couldn’t agree on pension benefits," Fairy Godmother said from her seat on the judge’s right. A spotlight shone over her. "After Snow White unionized those dwarves, the trolls followed suit and, well..."
Maybe it is just my legal background, but these terminus technicus and legal mambo jumbo just made me erupt in chuckles! Really! Fairy Tale Jurisdiction and the dwarves establishing a work union? To die of laughter! :-D

What made the story even better and whole was that Melinda was not merely a character there to support and make the fairy tale right, A Happily Ever After of Her Own was just as much her story as it was about the fairy tales. She is such an ordinary character that you immediately feel for her and sympathize with her.
Police porcupines surrounded her. Their nervous energy was giving her a headache, and she raised a hand to her temple. They immediately leapt back, quills bristling and shields raised. She rolled her eyes. What could a preschool teacher do besides give them a timeout?
She is just like you and me, and who wouldn't dream of appearing in a fairy tale? :-D

The hero, the cursed prince Edward, aka The Beast starts off as the arrogant prince but Nadia Lee gave him life by fleshing him out and making him a three dimensional real character instead of the cardboard stereotypical prince. His perception of "... and they lived happily ever after" (i.e. that all Happily Ever Afters are hard work) brings reality into the magical, overly rose fairy-dusted unrealistic tales and shows that even princesses and princes have to work at their HEAs:
"Happily ever after does not mean they don't experience exasperation with each other, or are somehow exempt from life's hardships and misery. Living happily ever after is hard work, but you do it because you want to stay in love with the other person. Because your life without this one other, very special person would be something not full, but only half-alive."

I won't spoil the suspense, just say that the romance is tingle inducing and heartwarming. And Nadia Lee spins her own take on the old Beauty and the Beast tale masterfully, bringing you original twists and turns, always leaving the usual pattern and never making the story predictable :-)

Verdict: A Happily Ever After of Her Own is a delightful and entertaining, original and laugh out loud funny, modern fairy tale retelling. If I had to sum it up for those who haven't read it yet I would say it is a contemporary romance meets fairy tale meets Shrek kind of story! You get the cheeky and witty humour of Shrek with all the sweetness and magic of old fairy tales.

A definite keeper, one that everyone should read and will enjoy no matter if they are romance or fairy tale lovers, they will equally love A Happily Ever After of Her Own!

Plot: 10/10
Characters: 9/10
Ending: 8/10
Writing: 10/10
Cover: 10/10

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