Friday, May 2, 2014

Book Review: Desperately Ever After

By Melissa Amster

As the mother of a three year-old girl, hearing about princesses all day long is par for the course. Lately, she's been all about Sofia the First or Anna and Elsa from Frozen, with some Ariel and Jasmine tossed in for good measure. So hearing about what happens to some well-known fairy tale princesses after they meet Prince Charming is intriguing to me because no one can truly live happily ever after, right? Thanks to Laura Kenyon's debut novel, Desperately Ever After, some pressing questions are finally addressed.

Imagine what might happen if our most beloved fairy tale princesses were the best of friends and had the dreams, dilemmas, and libidos of the modern woman. How would their stories unfold after the wedding bells stopped ringing? Set in a fictional realm based on New York City, DESPERATELY EVER AFTER sprinkles women’s fiction with elements of fantasy, and encourages readers to rethink everything they know about happy endings.

Years after turning her husband from beast back to man and becoming his queen, Belle finds out she’s finally going to have a child. But before she can announce the wondrous news, she catches him cheating and watches her “happily ever after” go up in flames. Turning to her friends for the strength to land with grace, she realizes she’s not the only one at a crossroads:

Cinderella, a mother of four drowning in royal duties, is facing her 30th birthday and questioning everything she’s done (or hasn’t) with her life.

Rapunzel, a sex-crazed socialite and one-woman powerhouse, is on a self-destructive quest to make up for 20 years locked away in a tower.

Penelopea, an outsider with a mother-in-law from hell, is harboring a secret that could ruin everything at any moment.

One part
Sex and the City, two parts Desperate Housewives, and three parts Brothers Grimm, DESPERATELY EVER AFTER picks up where the original tales left off—and reimagines them a la Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. With the wit of authors like Jennifer Weiner and the vision of ABC’s Once Upon a Time, the women of DESPERATELY EVER AFTER rescue each other from life’s trials with laughter, wine, and a scandalous new take on happily ever after. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

All Laura Kenyon had to do to entice me was mention two of my favorite TV shows. That would have been enough, but then she tied them in with some of my favorite fairy tales. I knew that this would be a must-read! I'll admit that the story started off slow while trying to build up the backgrounds of each character and explain their relationships. However, once it picked up the pace, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way through. There's even a cliffhanger that ties into the next book in the series. After having just a glimpse at that next book, I'm already excited to read it.

The story made me think of a few different things. One was act two of Into the Woods, where all the characters are still wishing for something even though they presumably got their "happily ever afters." Then there's an article online that has pictures of Disney princesses and fairy tale characters, also after getting their "happily ever afters," showing how life isn't so perfect for them after all. View at your own risk, but not in front of young children. Finally, the lyrics to "Fairytale" by Sara Bareilles. (The music video is really clever, so check it out sometime.)

I liked Laura's modern twist on fairy tales. She seemed to have a lot of fun creating new lives for the characters and coming up with some interesting background stories, as well. I especially liked the twist she afforded to Penelopea (a.k.a. Penny). I enjoyed seeing all the characters interact, as well as how the secondary characters, such as the fairy godmother and the Perez Hilton character, fit into the story. I wish she would have given Belle a different name because I kept associating her with the Disney version, even though her story was completely different. I figure if Once Upon a Time can use Disney names for their characters, there's no harm in Laura doing the same. It was just unsettling for me to picture my favorite Disney princess in such a way. I hope she talks more about Dawn and Snow in the next book, as well as adding some new characters who weren't in this book.

The only criticism I have is with the proofreading. I wish more had been done because I noticed little errors here and there. It was also hard to tell who was speaking sometimes and that got confusing, even after reading the same section of dialogue several times to try and figure it out.

If you are looking for a fun and gossipy story to satisfy the holes left when Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives had their series finales (or even if you're going through Once Upon a Time withdrawal come season finale time) look no further than Desperately Ever After.

Here's my dream cast:
Belle: Lea Michele
Cindy: Megan Hilty
Rapunzel: Emma Stone
Penny: Nazanin Boniadi
Dawn: Christina Hendricks
Ruby (fairy godmother): Melissa McCarthy

This novel also inspired me to write a short fiction piece for my personal blog.

Thanks to Laura Kenyon for the book in exchange for an honest review.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the review, Melissa! I love your dream cast ideas, and rest assured, Dawn is front and center in Book Two. (She's actually got one of my favorite storylines!) On my way to check out your short story now :)
P.S. Belle's name actually comes from the original French tale, "La Belle et la BĂȘte." (Don't want any copyright trouble with Disney!!)

Vicki said...

Love the sound of this book, and love Melissa McCarthy!!