The Magic of Fairy Tale Retellings

Source: Pixabay

I’ve been thinking a bit about why we love fairy tale romances. The classics tend to have that same general vibe. Girl meets boy, obstacle appears, boy and girl overcome obstacle and they live happily ever after.

At least, the fairy tales that seem to stand the test of time seem to have that rhythm. From Snow White to Cinderella, to Sleeping Beauty to Beauty and the Beast to Rapunzel. They all give you that instant love and happy ever after.

Interestingly, the classic tales tend to be short and look primarily at the obstacles. The falling in love part is kind of glossed over. You sort of have to make it up in your head why the couple fell in love. What do they see in each other that makes them happy with each other? The key part is that you know they end up HEA, so something really awesome must have happened to connect them.

I think that’s one reason fairy tale retellings are popular. Because the original tales gave so little character development and reason behind these great love stories, it’s fun to make up the why behind what was happening.

I remember when I was writing The Princess, the Pea, and the Night of Passion , that I had to really think about what that story would entail because the original had so few details. There was little to be said about the prince and princess involved in the original. The key obstacle–the queen who was determined that only bloodlines and titles mattered–was the primary focus. And then as you look at the story, you realize just how boorish this princess is. What person of any manners or breeding complains incessantly about the room their host provided them? The story only works if this princess is the worst type of princess ever–rude to the point of insulting another sovereign’s accommodations.

Yet, we totally remember the tale, because this real princess and the prince do marry and live HEA. All because she’s a complainer. The real marriage that would have been would likely have been miserable:

Prince: How is breakfast?

Princess: The porridge was too hot, the coffee is too cold, my tooth hurts, and there’s a stain on the table cloth.

Yeah, not fun. Though the fairy tale tells us it all works out. Because maybe the two are just perfect.

Prince: Yeah, same here. We should get better servants. We’re too good for a garbage breakfast like this.

Princess: Indeed we are.

And though perfect, that wouldn’t have been kind of miserable as a reader. I enjoyed creating characters who were likable in my version of the Princess and the Pea. I loved Adara and her story of running from a life where she felt trapped. The idea that she wasn’t dressed like a princess because she was incognito due to being on the run seemed the perfect segue into this framework of the original tale.

I also had fun actually having the prince and the princess get to know each other, both as people and in a more intimate fashion. And having the Queen overhear the princess’ “complaints” rather than having the rudest princess on the planet was a lot more fun, too.

So, what’s been a favorite fairy tale retelling you’ve seen? And what did you like about it? Share in the comments.

Does True Love Exist?

Feeling a little blasphemous today, and thought I’d ask the question that feels almost like a rebuke to the romance genre. I mean, I love the idea of true love. I mean, who doesn’t love that scene in the Princess Bride when Miracle Max asks Westley what’s so important for him to live for and he says, True Love.

I mean, Wow. Heart strings appropriately tugged.

And of course all the fairy tales of note are solved by true love’s kiss.

But in the real world, is it really out there?

That’s a tough one. The romantic in me likes to think that there are lots of couples out there experiencing true love. Folks who accept each other for who they are–warts and all–and love and laugh through life.

But, I must admit, I’ve seen a lot of relationships fall apart recently and it’s dampening my confidence.

So, have you found true love, or have you seen it in the lives of people you know? Share in the comments.

The Bad Fit Guy

One of the interesting things that we sometimes see in the beginning of some romance novels is the bad romantic partner. He’s the guy who doesn’t appreciate the heroine. He doesn’t get her, often treats her bad, and she, at some point, realizes that he’s not the one.

Source: Pixabay

Sometimes she has to meet our hero to see that the bad guy is, in fact, a bad guy. Sometimes she realizes it on her own, after she’s had enough of his poor treatment. There is some last straw event where she just says: I’m out.

These feel cliche, and maybe they are a little bit, but the truth is, the bad guy is sometimes needed. Sometimes, it takes having someone treat you in a way that you don’t want to be treated, to realize just how much that doesn’t work. While I don’t advocate hooking up with a bad dude to get that experience, I do think it can sometimes provide the clarity that’s needed to realize what you want.

It’s sort of like when you take a job, think it might be a good fit, and it goes OK. And you do it for a while and think it’s fine, but then you see the cracks–the crazy hours, the toxic boss–and realize you have to get out. That you never want to work at a place like this again. And while the experience isn’t great, you learn from it what you don’t want. You learn to see warning signs–things you missed when you signed on for this job. And when you moved forward, you find a job that is a better fit. Something that is more in the sweetspot of what you want and are a good fit with.

Certainly, I wouldn’t wish a bad relationship on anyone. If you find a good one from the getgo, or continually get good ones, kudos. But, for those who got a bad apple, don’t worry. It’s typically a good learning experience. [And bad apple is different from psycho or abusive stalker type. No one should have to go through that.]

I think some of the best heroines are those who’ve come through the fire of bad guys, and know they’re worth more. And then they find it. A lot of the heroines of my fairy tales are more relationship novices. But, I have to say that one thing I like about Nikki (from the short Nikki and Mike) –as well as Tina, from Winner Takes All–is that they’ve seen the bad guys and know they don’t want them. They start with that notion that they’re worth more than half-assed, and their confidence grows. And then they start to visualize what they want and grab it. And that’s a good thing. That’s something I want for all the folks out there.

Life-Saving Love

I’ve been reading about the Miami condo collapse and found it so incredibly upsetting. When tragedies like this happen, you keep asking why. And you hope that some miracle will find at least a few of the people OK. So, I’ve been reading a lot of the coverage to see if they’ve found any more survivors or if they have any understanding of why this horrible thing happened.

I ran across this story in the Washington Post story about Erick De Moura, who lived in the collapsed building, and was all set to go home when his girlfriend convinced him to stay at her place, even though he had an early morning meeting and needed stuff from his apartment for it.

Thankfully, he stayed. And he was not at home when the building collapse. She loved him and asked him to stay and he loved her enough to say yes, and it turned out to be life saving for him.

It’s a wonderful story amid such tragedy. It reminds us just how fateful a simple choice can be, just how it can change everything.

I’m glad for Mr. De Moura and his girlfriend. It’s a nice spark of warmth in this awful situation.

Unforgettable Love

Source: Pixabay

Sometimes, as people get older and continue to be happy with their partner, they make the statement that they’d do it all over again–in terms of getting married, being with that person.

It’s a great sentiment. One I wish more people had after years of marriage. But the sentiment is always rooted in fact, in feelings and memories that the couple have built up over time. There are no regrets because they know what happened.

But what if you did it all over again not because you remembered how great your spouse was, but because you didn’t remember them, met them again and fell madly in love again? That’s the true story of what happened to a Massachusetts couple.

The husband had Alzheimers, but his daily interactions with his wife, whom he thought of as one of his caregivers, sparked him to propose again. He fell in love with her again. He knew she was the one a second time.

It’s romantic in so many ways. Despite the sorrow of the fact that his condition is deteriorating, his love is not. His love is there. He still sees in her what he saw when he proposed the first time. If only we could all have that level of love for our partners.

Read more about Peter and Lisa Marshall’s story here in the Washington Post.

Keeping Love All in the Family

When it comes to love and family members, things can get tricky.

While a family member falling in love with or marrying your ex is typically the stuff of soap operas, it can happen in real life, too. The most soap opera-ish example that comes to mind is Erica Kane [on All My Children], who wed both Travis and Jackson Montgomery, and even became more popular with the brother match than her original lover. It happens in real life, in recent years with Hunter Biden falling for his dead brother’s spouse.

And most recently, it happened, in a stranger way. Another one of those stories that seems more like fiction than real life. According to the Daily Mail, an Indian woman had a heart attack and died at her wedding. The groom instead married her sister! It was shocking enough to merit a news story. That’s definitely some type of family dynamic!

What are your thoughts on love within families? If the old relationship is over, can family members move on with one who already had a bond with someone else in the family. Or is that always an “ewww” situation?

Let’s chat in the comments.

Real Life Wild Love Stories

While it’s super fun to imagine new romances and all the twists and turns they could convey, sometimes real life has you beat.

I recently came across this love story that was in response to Jimmy Fallon’s #RealLifePlotTwist about a woman who almost hit a man. She thought he’d be furious after the near miss, but he asked her out and it was love!

How charming.

That’s a great real-life love story.

What are some real-life love stories that have touched your heart or seemed like they could have been dreamed up by a romance novelist? Share in the comments.

The Funny Way Fictional Romance Diverges From Real Life

In my regular life, I happen to work in a field where I come across a lot of random press releases and news stories. I saw one the other day that made me think about the ways that romances seem to differ from real life.

The study found that in real life, women use ex girlfriends as a shortcut to judge the fitness of a potential mate. If his exes seem normal, attractive, and still get along with him, it’s a sign he’s a good mate candidate. If those stars don’t align, it’s time to head for the hills. Or so says the researcher. (You can read about it here:

This made me think of some of romances in general, and how heroines almost never follow this rule. They find men they can change, or they don’t ask questions about past romances, or they discount all those other women because they’re the one who he was meant to be with and the past doesn’t matter.

It’s inane for real life. I mean, really, looking at a guy who has left a string of broken hearts–or worse, a guy who can never seem to get close to anyone–is probably asking for trouble.

But that’s the thing that’s so great about romance. Even though our rational brain is telling us, this has no reason to work out, the story is so compelling and so immersive that it all makes sense. The brooding and deep seated trauma of childhood make our hero better–not totally f***d up and in need of years of therapy, as would be in real life.

And of course, I’m not saying that all romances of fiction lack reality. Many are normal characters who make normal mistakes and have serendipitous love. But, there’s also a whole bunch that would be doomed to failure were there not a deft author pulling strings from above.

When you read romance, what do you prefer–romance that veers toward real life, or romance that’s more fantasy land?

When Romances Get a Boost by Pop Culture

The Bridgerton phenomenon on Netflix helped Julia Quinn’s wonderful romance series find renewed life, which is wonderful. I read all 8 books of the original series, plus three books in the spinoff series (I got them from the library, which didn’t have the fourth book, and I got busy and forgot about it until just this moment, so I’ll see if the library picked it up or just go out and purchase it).

Another romance writer is getting an unexpected boon from her other endeavors. Georgia voting rights activist and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is getting three of her romance novels reissued. Abrams wrote the novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery in the early 2000s. Back in November, when Abrams was lauded for her work to help get Joe Biden elected, there were several memes going around letting folks know that Abrams also wrote romance novels.

I suspect this created the resurgence in interest in the books that has led her publisher to reissue them. Whatever the reason, I say, kudos.

I love it when romance books get a boost. I picked up two of the books in the series back in December and enjoyed them. Abrams had an easy style and spun an, ultimately, satisfying yarn. I’m glad others will get a chance to read them or consider picking them up.

There’s a lot of great romance novels out there, and it’s wonderful when some get more exposure so that fans can check them out and discover their next great read.

So, if you could decide which romance novel got some extra love and attention, what would you pick? Share in the comments.

What Kind of Series Do You Like?

Hello all. I hope you’re doing alright.

I thought 2020 was challenging. So far, 2021 has been just as challenging for me and mine. It’s been a year of coping with the mental health chaos left behind from 2020, and trying to right the ship and self care.

As I’ve been trying to ensure self care, I’ve been reading a few book series, and the question came to mind about what kinds of series people like. In romance, many series are different couples, but all tied together by a thread of a few characters. Maybe all the brothers in a family have a romance, or a group of friends each get a different romance book. However, some romance series are continuations, one couple, as they struggle through different situations–and often an alternate partner who can create a triangle.

They’re both good approaches, and I see the merits in each of them. As I think through the idea a bit, I believe I’m more partial–for romance, at least–of the connected stories, rather than the continuations. I like seeing each couple live happily ever after at the end, and then checking in with my previous HEA couples. For other genres, I think I prefer the continuation series. I like one big long series that keeps going. If the focus is romance and the series continues, they always introduce a foil, a potential mate who one MC is drawn to when the other does something kind of sketchy.

I hate triangles because I never pick the right guy. I’m not down with sketchy stuff, and so when dude one does something shady, and dude two is waiting in the wings and is a pretty good match, I’m not here for dude one. Yet so many people are. (A history of my wrong guy in popular culture: I was Team Jacob in Twilight, I was Team Noel in Felicity; I was team Jax in the General Hospital Sonny/Brenda/Jax triangle). Don’t hate me.

So, now that I’ve unnecessarily spilled my history of bad choices, let’s get back to the question at hand. What’s your favorite type of series?