Sunday, July 5, 2015

"Desperately Ever After" (Book 1) - Review by Emily Rasely

"Desperately Ever After"

Book 1: Desperately Ever After Series

by Laura Kenyon

Review by Emily Rasely
Editor's Note: This is the first book in a series that had a lot of excellent reviews and been touted by many as 'not the romance novel you were expecting'. It's had acclaim in fiction-fantasy and humor categories, which is something unusual all by itself. I've been looking forward to seeing what our reviewer Emily has to say about it.
Jacket description: 

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.
Laura Kenyon’s Desperately Ever After series sits at the crossroad of traditional fairy tales and Sex in the City. In an alternate New York City, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Beauty all struggle with their lives a decade or so after “happily ever after”. What happens, after all, when Beauty’s relationship runs its course?  What does romance look like for Cinderella and her prince after 10 years of running a kingdom and parenting 4 children? Questions like these are what this book is all about--with a little bit of magic, some glass slippers, and a fairy godmother or two. 

Too often, the debt modern romance novels and romantic comedies owe to fairy tale narrative structures goes unacknowledged.  However, Kenyon refreshingly takes readers beyond the familiar arc of courtship, love, and marriage. There aren’t enough stories about what relationships look like in practice. Desperately shows that post-honeymoon relationships certainly looks different than before and explores whether that difference is bad, interesting, fabulous, boring, or great. , 

By far, the highlight of this book is the friendship between the princesses. This element is particularly well developed and delightful as each have made incredibly different choices in their lives. This book gives them the time and space here to think about their decisions.  While some of them make changes in their lives and others choose to stay the course, each make informed and thoughtful choices. Both the princes and princesses are three dimensional characters with names, personalities, faults, hobbies, desires, and goals. It’s easy to empathize with them and the pressures they function under.  

 As a page-turning subversion, this novel will let fairy tale enthusiasts read beyond earlier endings of well-known tales. This makes it an ideal entry point to fairy tales for a wide range of readers interested in dipping their toes into the well of Perrault and the Grimms.
Disclosure: A complimentary copy of the book was sent by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Emily Rasely works with teens in a library by the sea and is a recovering academic who writes, reads, and thinks mostly about fairy tales, gender, queerness and cats.  When not playing minor-key Celtic tunes on her fiddle, she avidly tracks down obscure fairy tale anthologies and voraciously hordes anything written by Catherynne Valente.  As ever, she pursues that culinary Questing Beast, the perfect guacamole.

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