Cinderella with a Modern Twist, by Annie West
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?