Prince Charming

February 12, 2012 at 8:15 am (Book Commentary) (, , , , , , , , )

“Not that he was famous here in the Greater World – he wasn’t (unless you counted that whole Prince Charming thing [every girl was looking for one, or so he was told]). ” (p. 18)

I just finished a book that was very meta. In a genre that I haven’t read in decades. I had the library put a hold on the book, not understanding completely what genre it was, because of a review I read recently. I think the review was in The Walrus which is a Canadian Arts & Culture based magazine. The Walrus article was about the Harlequin publishing empire – which should have given me a clue to the genre of the book. I read (and enjoyed) a lot of Harlequins when I was in my early teens and knew nothing of romance and love. I very seldom read romances now!

What led me astray was the fairy tale premise. I’m a sucker for a good fairy tale retelling (no matter the genre [be it young adult, mystery, children or urban fantasy]).

Fairy tales are trying to be next big thing. No, people/publishers/movie makers are trying to force fairy tales into being the next big thing. They’ve made all the money they can off the vampires.

Just look at television where Grimm and Once Upon A Time are vying for attention. Look at movies over the last few years – there has been tales about Red Riding Hood, The Beast and (soon) two versions of Snow White.

I like Grimm best but then I’m a mystery, cop show fan. Once Upon A Time is too soap opera, that is, too much night-time soap opera. There are too many pretty people.

It’s my opinion why the fairy tale genre doesn’t quite make the the transition from page to screen. It gets prettied up too much. In Beastly, a take on Beauty and the Beast, the beast is too pretty – his descent into beastliness makes him look romantically dangerous not ugly.

What I liked best about this re-telling was that the book was itself a romance for book geeks (very meta).

I could spend the whole blog just quoting what I enjoyed most.

Quotes that spoke to my core beliefs, like these:

“Books opened minds. Books expanded horizons. Books didn’t brainwash.” (p.59)

“We need to know that all kinds of books exist. Books that make us fall in love. Books that scare us. Books that are so full of lies they make us angry.” (p. 71)

The story grabbed me from the first page. I loved that the Greater World was represented by Los Angeles and referenced Disneyland. I loved the idea of multitude mythical Kingdoms. I’d love to read more about the various side characters, such as Griselda, the witch with the Gingerbread house.

The opening scene is a book fair. I’ve never attended one but always have wanted to (mostly for the free books just like Charming). We meet our main characters immediately – Prince Charming, now a book seller and Mellie, evil stepmother to Snow White and leader of PETA.

No, not that PETA.

This PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Archetypes. You know what I mean? What comes to mind when I say Hansel & Gretel, Cinderella, evil stepmothers, or wicked witch of the west?

Or Prince Charming. We all have different definitions of how our Prince Charming would look and act. This book describes mine almost to the T – I desire a mature man who worships books as much as I do.

A man who knows of what I talk about when I reference Grimm’s Cinderella against Disney. I am a dilettante connoisseur of fairy tales – I’ve read the originals, the poetry, the criticisms and every re-telling I can find. I read, it’s what I do best.

Maybe, because I am like these fairy tale characters, I don’t feel complete if I’m not searching.

“… everyone in fairy tales is searching for something spectacular, something important..” (p. 232)

Mellie (Melvina), Snow White’s stepmother, hates books; she considers them lies and abominations. Prince Charming (divorced from Ella and raising his two young girls away from his father’s old fashioned chauvinist Kingdom) lives for books, worships books and beyond that, understands the power of stories.

“Books had been his retreat since boyhood. He loved hiding in imaginary worlds.” (p.6)

Of course, these two are going to be attracted to each other.

At first, Mellie, a practiced listener, can only rant about the damage that fairy tales have done to her reputation and her life. Books, that tell lies, must be banned.

Prince Charming (Dave, yes Dave) explains how Mellie can use books to change peoples’ impression of her and the archetype of the evil stepmother; how books can be used for PR here in the Greater World. It has, after all, worked for Vampires. Vampires went from being seen as bad/evil to being seen as sexy. For an example, go watch Vampires Diaries and see all the romantic, to die for pretty vampires dressing up in magnificent gowns and going to balls while also attending high school (so realistic – yes, that is sarcasm).

After all, it worked for the Wicked Witch, even though:

“… She wasn’t that misunderstood. She had a lot of very powerful magic, a terrible temper, and a willingness to take her anger out on anyone who got in her way.” (p. 87)

Thus, an idea is born. And a Romance brews.

The book, itself, is divided into four sections. We have The Idea, The Rough Draft (the largest section), The Final Manuscript, and The Book. Which, in book speak, could be idea, exposition (the largest section), conflict and resolution?

One major setting the author gives us a glimpse into presents a stereotypical writing world as writers, would be writers, screen writers and wanna be writers converge in a LA coffee shop.

This story is not just a romance between two people; it is also a romance between reader and writer as set in a book-laden Magical Kingdom.

For me, one of the best surprises was discovered on the copyright page where the true writer is revealed. A woman whose writings I’ve enjoyed reading before; a woman who, maybe, has made me enjoy the stereotypical romance story once again.

Looking for something to read this Valentine’s Day?

Wickedly Charming

Kristine Grayson

Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks, 2011

Plus, Harlequin has free e-books here. Want something racier- go here.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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