Cinderella with a Modern Twist, by Annie West

by Annie West, author of Protected by the Prince (Harlequin Presents Extra, February 20110)

Do you have a favorite fairy tale? One you read as a child that still resonates with you?

I’ve spoken to several writer friends and been fascinated to discover how often themes from a loved fairy tale creep into our stories. One friend in particular writes the most tortured heroes who need redeeming and saving from themselves. The tale she loves best? Beauty and the Beast!

Looking back on my books I’ve noticed several have a transformation theme.  If you read carefully you’ll often see elements that relate to The Ugly Duckling, The Frog Prince and Cinderella in particular. Not in all my stories, but I do enjoy exploring the changes that occur when a character’s outlook on the world and themselves alters.

Protected by the Prince was no exception. I realised early that this was a Cinderella story and I revelled in the chance to enjoy the all the delicious fairy tale elements. From the characters to the setting and even some of the clothes, this was my own Cinderella fantasy come to life on the page. Take Prince Alaric, described from the point of view of my heroine, Tamsin:

‘Cinderella, I presume?’

The voice was deep and mellow, jolting Tamsin out of her reverie. Warily she lowered the volume enough to peer over it.

She froze, eyes widening as she took in the man gazing up at her.

He’d stepped out of a fantasy.

He couldn’t be real. No flesh and blood man looked like that. So mouth-wateringly wonderful.

Numb with shock, she shook her head in automatic disbelief. He could have been Prince Charming, standing there in his elaborate hussar’s uniform, her discarded shoe in one large, capable hand. A bigger, tougher Prince Charming than she remembered online casino from her childhood reading. His dark eyebrows slashed across a tanned face that wasn’t so much handsome as magnetic, charismatic, potently sexy.

Like Prince Charming’s far more experienced and infinitely more dangerous older brother.

Eyes, dark and gleaming, transfixed her. They were…aware.

I had a wonderful time writing that scene! The interesting thing is that I didn’t begin writing it thinking I’d follow the Cinderella idea. This was simply going to be a scene between a debonair prince, hiding his serious self, and a feisty heroine out to convince him to take her and her work seriously. Somehow, when I started writing, it took a Cinderella slant and that just seemed right.

As I wrote, more and more fairy tale elements appeared. The wonderful castle perched high above dark forests on the side of a mountain. A quaint cobble-stoned town where the night markets are scented by mulled wine. A sleigh ride through secluded forests to a remote lodge just perfect for seduction. Even a glamorous ball where Tamsin is transformed from bookish professional to dazzling seductress.

I think though what made the story live for me wasn’t the show of fairy tale trappings. It was the sense of characters growing and changing, learning to accept each other and themselves as they hadn’t done before. My Cinderella and her Prince Charming have to work for their happy ending.

Tamsin is an expert in old books who’s learned not to put her trust in men but in her work. Alaric, a man who supposedly has everything, hides his struggle against the dark shadows of survivor guilt.

Despite her reclusive background, Tamsin is no shy, retiring violet, but a woman determined and brave. Even when it comes to transforming her appearance she does it in her own, distinctive style. In Alaric she finds her soul mate. As for Alaric, he discovers a woman who smashes his preconceived views, challenges him on every level and yet helps him heal. This is a story about transformation but not just on the surface. By the end of the book Tamsin looks a bit different but the real change is in her heart and attitude, and Alaric has changed just as much.

Have you noticed fairy tale themes popping up in other romances? Do you have favorite fairy stories or modern interpretations of them?

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Comments ( 27 )
  1. Tweets that mention Cinderella with a Modern Twist, by Annie West at I (Heart) Presents --
    February 7, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Harlequin Books, AnnaAdams. AnnaAdams said: RT @HarlequinBooks: Cinderella with a Modern Twist, by Annie West at I (Heart) Presents: […]

  2. Anna Campbell
    February 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Annie, great to see you here and congratulations on the release of PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE which has been getting great reviews everywhere, I’ve noticed. Congratulations particularly on that fabulous 4.5 star review from RT. I’m not surprised they loved this wonderful fairytale romance – I think it’s one of your best. And oh, man, did I sigh over Prince Alaric. He’s gorgeous! Hmm, wonder WHICH friend writes Beauty and the Beast. She sounds wonderful and talented and… Yeah, all right, I’ll pull my head in, LOL! Another thing I love about PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE is how how created that exquisitely beautiful alpine kingdom for Alaric. There’s not enough snow in romance, I say!!!!

  3. Annie West
    February 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Hi Anna, OK, I admit it – you write fabulous beast stories. I think one day I’ll try my hand at one. So far I haven’t attempted it, though there was definitely a frog prince along the way – and it needed more than a kiss to transform him!

    Thanks – I’m still smiling about the reviews I’ve been reading for Tamsin and Alaric.

    As for snow in romance – you know, you could be right. Maybe it’s because I’ve just gone through an Australian heatwave but a wintry story appeals. Those European winters always used to hook me as a reader (and still do, even after living through a couple). They can be just magical when you’re not actually snowed in.

  4. Abby Green
    February 7, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Hi Annie – I loved this book. Tamsin was so gorgeously understated and Alaric made her blossom back into the woman she was meant to be. I love Cinderella because that’s the quintessential fairy-tale romance but I have a soft spot for Sleeping Beauty, The Princess and the Pea and Beauty and the Beast…they’re all so brilliant. Sigh. Can I go back in time and be read to again?!
    x Abby

  5. MichelleDouglas
    February 7, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    Alaric and Tamsin’s story is so deliciously magical, Annie. The tone and the mood were spot on and I savoured every wonderful scene. Loved all that snow and sighed in envy over the castle.

    I love the Cinderella fairy tale, but I think my fave is The Ugly Duckling. There’s just something so right about that story. 🙂

  6. Vanessa Barneveld
    February 8, 2011 at 1:40 am

    Hi, Annie! I loved that scene. Alaric’s observations gave me a little giggle and it made me wonder just why Tamsin was hiding herself behind those drab clothes.

    I’m a Cinderella girl through and through. Except I was never sold on the glass slippers. A little impractical, don’t you think? The tiara, I can definitely do. 😉

    Congrats on another wonderful Presents, Annie!

  7. Annie West
    February 8, 2011 at 1:45 am

    Hi Abby, I’m with you on sleeping beauty. There’s something about that awakening theme which is really enthralling. It’s one that shows up quite often in Presents, don’t you think?

    I’m wondering which other fairytales are well suited to romance. There’s the ugly duckling which is so much fun. Bluebeard might be good for a gothic romance, well, minus the romance…!

  8. Annie West
    February 8, 2011 at 1:47 am

    Hi Michelle, I’m so pleased you enjoyed this book. Thank you. Isn’t the Ugly Duckling terrific? There are so many movies (and books) based on that misfit feeling and finding your own true place and blossoming into the person (or swan!) you were meant to be.

  9. Annie West
    February 8, 2011 at 1:57 am

    Hi Vanessa, how terrific that you enjoyed that scene in the story. It was one of my faves and enormous fun to get down on paper (for some reason I remember writing that long handed before typing up). I chuckled all the way through typing it.

    Glass slippers would be so hard to walk in. Someone told me that in the original French story they were made of fur and somewhere along the way the translation went haywire. At least fur would be supple!

  10. Vanessa Barneveld
    February 8, 2011 at 3:17 am

    Wow, from fur to glass, Annie? That’s quite a leap!

  11. Annie West
    February 8, 2011 at 4:17 am

    Vanessa, well I’m not vouching for it (my French fairy tale expert is from home at the moment) but that’s the story I heard. At least they’d be more comfy than glass shoes – imagine the blisters if they played a polka at the ball!

  12. Kandy Shepherd
    February 8, 2011 at 4:52 am

    Hi Annie, I love both “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cinderella” themes in romances and I have a feeling when I read PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE it will become a favorite Cinderella story for me.
    BTW, I really like the title, it conjures up such a feeling of chivalry and “safe haven in his arms” and I know that means a really satisfying happy-ever-after is on its way!

  13. Sharon Archer
    February 8, 2011 at 5:01 am

    Annie, I agree whole-heartedly with Kandy about that title – PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE does sound chivalrous! Perfect for a Cinderella story!

    The whole book is a gorgeous read but I do especially love that scene where they meet for the very first time! Just magic!


  14. Serena
    February 8, 2011 at 5:27 am

    Hi Annie,
    Oh who doesn’t like a fairytale with a happy ending! I LOVED this story! One of my all time faves 🙂

    BTW a note about glass slippers. A cousin of a friend has the most DIVINE clear plastic slippers with blue pearls in the heals and blue pearl and crystal pom pom on the top. Just the most gorgeous shoes you’ve ever seen. I do think you’d have to have nice feet though. And maybe something daintier than my perfect size tens :-/


  15. Annie West
    February 8, 2011 at 5:39 am

    Kandy, I wish I could take credit for the title, but it wasn’t my invention. Like you, though, I do like the strong sound of it and the hint of chivalry. It’s nice to see those old story themes are so popular still.

  16. Annie West
    February 8, 2011 at 5:40 am

    Ah, Sharon, that scene is my fave too. So glad you enjoyed it!

  17. Sarah Morgan
    February 8, 2011 at 6:27 am

    At the moment my favourite fairy story would have to be Sleeping Beauty because the thought of being able to lie down and just sleep and sleep until I’m woken up by an incredibly sexy rich man who wants to kiss me is astonishingly appealing.

    I loved Protected by His Prince, Annie, for all its wonderful grown up fairy tale elements, but also for the characters who were just gorgeous. Alaric was especially yummy (yummy sexy, not yummy gingerbread :))

  18. Annie West
    February 8, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Hi Sarah, you don’t know how much I share your fantasy about being able to simply lie down and sleep and sleep. Being woken by an incredibly sexy, rich prince would be fantastic, but even the sleep would win me over right now.

    I’m thrilled you enjoyed this book. Laughing here at your definition of yummy!

  19. Annie West
    February 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Serena, hi! Somehow I didn’t see your message slip in there. I’m fascinated by those clear shoes with coloured pearls and crystals! They sound outrageous. I’d love to see them. Is there such a thing as perfect feet?

    Wow, so happy to think Tamsin and Alaric’s story is one of your all time faves! That’s a real honour. Thank you for letting me know!

  20. Helen Bianchin
    February 8, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Protected by the Prince is a great read, Annie.
    Loved Alaric and envied Tamsin.
    More please!

  21. Annie West
    February 9, 2011 at 3:15 am

    Hi Helen,

    Can you tell I’m grinning from ear to ear at your comment?

    As for more…well Alaric’s debonair cousin Raul gets his story later in the year in ‘Prince of Scandal.’ I just couldn’t seem to leave this fantasy behind and had to write another story there.

    Thanks for popping by.

  22. Heidi Rice
    February 9, 2011 at 4:17 am

    Wow Annie, you had me at…. Like Prince Charming’s far more experienced and infinitely more dangerous older brother!

    That delicious thought sent a serious shiver down my spine. Yum! Always found the heroes in fairy tales a bit bland… But not anymore.

  23. Annie West
    February 9, 2011 at 5:10 am

    Heidi, that’s actually my fave line in the whole book. Of course I had to share it. I was so chuffed when I came up with that description as it was pure Alaric for me.

    What I like about traditional tales is the way you can interpret them, even into modern settings and make the hero just as you’d like him!

  24. Desere Steenberg
    February 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Heidi took the words right out of my mouth ,could not have said it better !Great post thanks for sharing Annie

  25. Annie West
    February 10, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Hi Desere,

    Heidi doesn have a way with words, doesn’t she? Glad you liked the post!

  26. Serena
    February 10, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Hi Annie,
    The shoes are made by Azurée. I’ll send you some links. Not sure if I’m allowed to post them here?

  27. Sunnymay
    February 15, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    I’ve read the excerpts leading only to one conclusion, this book is hot stuff. Love the playfulness of Alaric toying with Tamsin’s emotions and slipping on her shoe that had dropped was sweet. When he just happened to look up her skirts while on the library ladder, you cracked me up. Who says you’re never to old to look at pretty women.