Some stories are just baked into our hearts. We search the night sky for the second star to the right, so we can fly straight on till morning. We find balconies to stand on just so we can ask wherefore art thou Romeo. And when we try on a new dress and spin in front of a mirror, feeling beautiful—suddenly beautiful, like a surprise—we half expect to see a fairy godmother standing behind us with a magic wand. Each of these two romances puts a twist on a timeless tale, giving readers fun of falling in love with some of their favorite stories all over again.
Dex MacLean has a smile like sin and a body like a Hemsworth—all wrapped up in a kilt. Forget eye candy, the man’s a whole eye meal, and he’s been Stacey Lindholm’s summer hookup at the Renaissance fair for the past two years. But when Ren fair season is over and Dex's band is back on the road, Stacey feels a little lonely and reckless—and kinda drunk—and ends up sending a message to his fan page that she’ll deeply regret in the morning. Yet when the reply comes, her regrets start to fade. Through emails and texts, she finds herself falling for a man she’d dismissed as a shallow but sexy playboy. Maybe there’s more to Dex, maybe he’s a man worth loving after all.
Or . . . maybe not. Because there’s someone else behind the emails that kickstart Jen DeLuca's second novel, Well Played—a certain band manager who has always been in the other MacLean’s shadow. There’s a good bit of Cyrano de Bergerac to Dex's cousin Daniel as he woos Stacey: his humor, his kindness, his passion for her and his honesty about everything except for his name. But the heroine, delightful as she is, reminded me less of the beautiful Roxanne and more of Sleeping Beauty. She’s been sleepwalking through life ever since her plans for the future got derailed, staying in her small town where everything’s always the same and the rest of the world speeds on without her. It isn’t until love wakes her up that she finds the courage to chase after the life she wants. Stacey and Daniel find love easily—it’s recognizing it that’s hard. It’s a lesson Cyrano de Bergerac taught us that still rings true as this warm, funny, sincere couple stumbles into love, making us believe it once more.
At the start of Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts by Nancy Campbell Allen, you might struggle to see the Cinderella story there. Bold, outspoken—loudly spoken—Emmeline Castle O’Shea seems worlds away from Disney’s demure princess, and not just because she’s living in a steampunk version of Victorian London. As an activist for supernatural shifters, the first interaction we see between her and the hero consists of him dragging her away from a protest so he can throw her into jail. He hauls her over his shoulder, kicking and screaming; she threatens to bite him. You don’t exactly hear “So This Is Love” playing in the background.
But though Emmeline is vivid and daring, at her heart is a wellspring of courage and kindness, filled with a commitment to helping and protecting those society likes to target and torment. And while Detective-Inspector Oliver Reed doesn’t initially seem to fit the mold of a chivalrous hero, he’s driven by a code of duty and honor that most princes, no matter how charming, could only hope to match. This is a story that stands—jumps, leaps, flies, races—all on its own, with plenty of plot points to dazzle and amaze (including a murderous conspiracy and a number of deadly, damning secrets), but in the end, it keeps returning to the core of who the characters are and what the Cinderella story means. Courage and kindness are rewarded. A valiant man overcomes every obstacle. A brave, adorably wonderful Gus Gus saves the day. And at a ball, surrounded by the most important figures in the land, love conquers all. This story is a dizzying, madcap adventure that will have you looking at happily ever after in a whole new way.