Once upon a time...
...in a world far removed from the days when fairy tales were new, five bestselling authors spin versions that take the classic stories into a new dimension. You'll recognize Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and other enduring characters, but they'll exist in realms beyond your imagination, where the familiar is transformed into the extraordinary and otherworldly.
J.D. Robb – Taken in Death
Genre: futuristic romantic suspense.
An open and shut case, if you believe the security video. A woman comes home just before midnight, and leaves a few minutes later with her children. Leaving a dead nanny behind. Eve doesn’t hesitate for a moment, and sends out an Amber alert for both children. And when the parents come home early, it should all have wrapped up nice and quickly.
But looks are deceiving, as Ross and Tosha MacDermit where still in Australia at the time of the murder/kidnapping. Eve does believe the shocked mother’s horrible story about her evil twinsister. Maj has always accused Tosha of killing their mother at birth, of stealing her rightful powers, just by living. She has tried to kill and injure Tosha as early as she can remember, and when they were twelve, Maj killed their father and was found laughing, while sitting on his dead body and drinking his blood. Maj has been imprisoned ever since, and Tosha was raised by family. She has officially deleted Maj from her personal records, and has moved from Sweden to America to escape her memories and her twinsister. At last, the bond between them has died, after Tosha consciously suppressing it.
And now Maj has appeared in her life again, kidnapping her children, Tosha’s most beloved “possessions”, in order to hurt Tosha the most.
And Eve and her loyal team are involved in a race against the clock, to find the children before they are hurt or killed. Maj is clearly psychotic, and she loves killing, and has even cannibalistic tendencies. She seduced her shrink into helping her escape, and as a thank you, she killed him after cleaning out his bank accounts.
A little toy will help Eve find little Henry and Gala, like leaving bread crumbs in the forest to the candy house …
“The evil witch killed Darcia”. The first sentence and I was captivated till the last sentence of the book. As it is a novella, it was very fast paced, a race against the clock to find the kidnapped children. They were brave in the face of evil, and they kept faith that the Good Witch would find them in time.
It is short, but all of J.D. Robb’s signature skills are put in this story, and I gobbled it up in a few hours. It was thrilling to follow all the crumbs, to learn about Maj and to witness everything. This is a nice retelling of Hansel and Gretel.
Mary Blayney – If wishes were horses
Genre: historical romance.
This story centers around a magical coin, which has been used for earlier anthologies. It is currently owned by a maid, Martha Stepp, who is working in a big castle. Martha offers the coin to people she knows she can trust not to think her insane, who can certainly use a wish. With the warning, that the coin has its own strange way of making the wish come true, and not in the manner the wishmaker expects or wants.
Martha doesn’t want to be a maid forever; she would love to have a real adventure, and a husband and children of her own. If she can’t have that, she will strive to become a housekeeper in a grand house.
One of Martha’s hobbies is trying which seat or bed is the best in the house. It is an innocent hobby, until she is almost caught when the Major comes home from the war, with his servant. Sergeant Jack Tresbere has secrets of his own, but when he recognizes Martha as the one who got away from him whey they arrived, he is certainly interested in her. But Jack thinks he is not suitable marriage material, and he has no idea how to talk to a woman, having lived his entire life in the army.
It was fun getting to know Martha and Jack, and how they both wanted the other, but were afraid to act upon it. Until Martha got fired when she was discovered in another bed, and Jack went after her.
A nice story, perhaps a retelling of Goldilocks?
Elaine Fox – Beauty, Sleeping
Genre: paranormal romance.
Cassandra is 5 years old, and prone to horrible nightmares. When she has one, her father takes her downstairs with him, and they watch some old television together. One night, she sees a picture of a man who has mysteriously disappeared. He looks just like the Night Prince in her favourite story book. But Cassandra just knows that he will be waiting for her, and they will be living in his big house together someday.
Michael Prince is an upcoming tv newscaster, and he got on the wrong side of a fairy. When he was born, his parents did not invite aunt Malva to the christening party, and Malva cursed Michael to die from a poisoned spindle. His other aunt Amelia managed to alter the curse to sleep or something like that. Of course Michael never believed in the curse, and anyway, he had no idea what a spindle was.
Turned out, it was not a part of a spinning wheel he had to be careful of, it was a person (or Faery as he later found out) named Deirdra Spindle who did not take it kindly when he did not date her again or exclusively. She cursed him, Michael disappeared without a trace, and has been in some kind of other dimension ever since. He has no idea how much time has elapsed, but he does know that his father eventually had him declared dead, and has empted the house of his things. And now his house has been sold to a stranger.
The good faery Astrid who sometimes keeps him company tells him this person is important to him, and then she disappears. What does it mean? How can he communicate with Cassandra as he is like a ghost to her?
Cassandra has recently won the lottery, this enabled her to buy the house of her dreams. Her ex-boyfriend is not happy with that, if not for his money, what can he offer her that she wants? Cassandra likes him enough, but is not in love with him, to the desperation of her mother. What is not to love about a rich, handsome, gallant man? She should jump at the opportunity to marry him! And with this big house, she needs a man to help her!
Cassandra is determined to do it all alone though, it is her house. The house of her Night Prince, whom she has never forgotten. And when she senses a presence in the house, she is determined to find out what, or who, it is. Michael gets more and more presence in the present time, but he also looses big chunks of time, just when Cassandra starts believing…
A very charming faery tale retelling, I enjoyed it very much. I admired Cassandra for wanting to do things her way, and not just accepting a marriage proposal under pressure. There is not much background on Michael though, just that he was a rogue, having a different woman every week. So why she fell for him, I have no idea, he has not redeemed himself or something, just spend 30 years in limbo, not again, but also not accomplishing anything. And why he fell for Cassandra? Because she was the one who could finally sense and see him?
So, a nice and sweet story, but lacking the romance for me. There has to be more to a couple than something like destiny. Obviously, this is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty.
Mary Kay McComas – The Christmas Comet
Genre: contemporary romance.
Natalie knows what it is to live on the streets. She was 5 when she was rescued and adopted by a nice couple. But she never forgot what it meant, and how much difference a little help can make in a person’s life. And so Natalie has a dayjob, and after work, she cooks for the homeless, and hands out the food and clothes and whatever else they need. She also volunteers at the local church and homeless centers as much as she can. With little care for herself and her own bills, which will bite her in the behind soon enough.
One of the local cops likes nothing as much as arresting her for breaking local laws, and messing up her stuff. Lucky for Natalie, there is a good cop, Paul Morgan, who looks out for her and helps out where he can.
Finally, Paul gets up the courage to ask Natalie out on a date, he has been in love with her for years now, and she is very happy to accept him. But there is a lot of trouble before they will be able to have a real date …
Even as a retelling of the Matchstick Girl, this short story made me cry. Natalie is just to good to be true, with helping others while not taking care of her own financial needs first. How can she keep on helping if she is getting evicted, or her car breaks down? Very naïve, and believing and the good of people. She was a real nice person, but okay, a bit too good for my tastes. It is a very short story, so little background on Paul, but I liked his character.
R.C. Ryan – Stroke of Midnight
Genre: contemporary romance.
Sydney’s father loved her mother as the light in his eye, and after her dead, he was desperate. Thinking if he married a woman with two daughters of her own he would give Sydney a nice family who would help him raise her. But after his death, the widow sold all his artwork, and the country home, and they moved to the big city. Where Sydney had to get a job to help pay for college for her two step sisters. And to provide for her stepmother as Margot thought she deserved.
Sydney would love to be a painter like her father was, but does not believe she is any good, as her stepmother keeps telling her. Sydney has a day job as an English teacher, and in the evenings she gives art classes at the community center. She is used to working at least two jobs, and she loves helping people, to her stepmother’s dismay. She should be out there, dating doctors and lawyers and such, like her two own daughters are doing.
When Sydney finds 5.000 dollars in one of her father’s old painter shirts, she decides to do something she wants, for a change. She is going on vacation to Ireland, to the small village her father was born and that he was talking about to her all the time. Margot is furious when she finds out of course, that money could have been used in better ways.
On the plane to Ireland Sydney finds herself sitting to a nice but a bit shabby man, and they strike up a conversation. When he finds out she is going to his home town, he offers her a lift, and after a bit of hesitating, Sydney accepts. She likes him, and when he offers to take her sightseeing the next day, she is happy to see him again. But shouldn’t Cullen go back to his own life now he is back home? But Cullen tells her he is still on vacation too, and has the time to spend with her.
He takes her to the river Glass, where her father used to paint a lot, and Sydney is totally captivated by the beautiful scenery, and starts painting, while Cullen just takes a nap waiting with the picnic basket. They spend a verrry nice day together, and Sydney is a bit sad he can’t stay the night. She would have liked to make love to him again, and just lie in his arms.
The next day Cullen proposes, and he wants to get married that same day. Sydney is overjoyed and she accepts, but when she tells Margot, the woman puts a lot of questions and doubts in her head, and she tries to leave for America while Cullen is in Dublin on business.
Will he find her in time?
Another sweet little fairy tale, a retelling of Cinderella. I just can’t believe in the enormous rushing here, I have no idea why it was so important that they married that very same day. It is not being explained, although Cullen and his background are told about.
I enjoyed the journey and discovery of Ireland along with Sydney, but that hasty proposal just confused me.
© 2013 Reviews by Aurian