Welcome to my stop on the Jenni James Faerie Tale Collection tour with Singing Librarian Books. It is my great delight to spotlight & review book #4 in the series, also known as Cinderella. You see, the story of Cinderella was the first story to completely capture my imagination as a child. I became Cinderella, and Prince Charming became my first book boyfriend. As I grew older, other fairy tales and love stories captivated me too but Cinderella still has a special place in my heart.
Series: Jenni James Faerie Tale Collection
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Fairytale, Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: StoneHouse Ink
Publication Date: July 31, 2013
Number of pages: 236
Cinderella (Faerie Tale Collection #4)
When Prince Anthony spies Eleanoria Woodston outside her family home dressed as a servant, he knows something is amiss. Pretending to be John, his cousin’s outrider, he decides to take matters into his own hands and figure out why Ella hasn’t been seen at court. And more importantly why the daughter of one of the wealthiest families in the kingdom dresses like a pauper.
Ella has had her own bout of trials, including losing her beloved father and facing the wrath and jealousy of her stepmother and stepsisters. Becoming a servant doesn’t seem all that bad until the handsome John comes into her life, now he appears to be upsetting everything. Never before has she been so unsettled. Just his presence is making her dream of a life beyond this one.
When John invites Ella to the ball and she grudgingly accepts, he wonders if he’s truly losing his mind. How would he ever pull off pretending to be John while obviously hosting the ball as Anthony? Especially when the stubborn girl has made it quite obvious she would never attend a ball with a snobbish prince.
Other Books in the Series:
Books Still to Come:
13. Return to Netherland 22. The Ice Queen
14.Captain Hook 23. The Forgotten Princess
15. Princess Red 24. King Thrushbeard
16. Princess with the Golden Touch 25. The Swan Princess
17. Princess and the Pea 26. The Goose Girl
18. Rose Red 27. The Light Princesses
19. Thumbelina 28. Princess Nightingale
20. The Ugly Princess 29. The Princess Who Never Laughed
21. Diamonds and Toad 30. The Disenchanted Queen
ELLA PICKED UP THE last basket of clothing, her arms strained from attempting to carry the heavy, wet mass the twelve or so feet to the drying line. Thankfully, her stepmother had the gardener place the line closer to the house and in its shade, due to the sun fading her clothes, or Ella would have had to walk even farther from the washing room. Most fine houses used the drying lines inside, but Lady Dashlund preferred to have hers outside on warm days, so making the work twice as hard for Ella.
As Ella shook out the last of the petticoats, she overheard her stepsister Jillian shriek.
Oh, dear. She probably saw a mouse.
Ella sighed and quickly snapped the lacy fabric onto the line. Tossing in the remaining pins, she picked up the basket and ran toward the large manor home. No doubt they would all be in an uproar, and upset if they could not find her.
Another shriek rang out, loud and shrill, as Ella slipped off her outer shoes in the entrance near the servants’ quarters and hung the wet apron to dry on one of the wooden pegs mounted upon the stone wall. She could clearly hear her stepmother shouting by the time she managed to wrap another clean apron around her waist and head up the servants’ stairs.
Brushing and smoothing her dress with her hands as she went, Ella tried to remain calm. That summer, it had been especially difficult to keep the mice population down. The whole kingdom suffered from the vermin, and her stepmother and stepsisters seemed to take the sight of them the hardest. Ella was the only one of the four brave enough to try to catch them, and she had better do so quickly before her stepmother’s temper got the best of her family. That was all she needed—Lady Dashlund in a foul mood. Then the whole house would pay for several days.
As she rounded the corner into the large, immaculate corridor, her feet tread upon the fine, lush carpet her father had chosen. The sumptuous rugs from the Orient lavishly displayed throughout the rooms were one of the final improvements he had made to the house before he passed on a few years back. Her heart lurched. Oh, how she missed that man. How there were days when she truly needed him near her.
Ella approached the drawing room and attempted one last time to make herself presentable before she entered. She was rather surprised to hear joyous sounds coming from within. Taking a step into the room, she beheld Jillian and Lacey laughing quite loudly and dancing about together like small girls.
Finding her stepmother across the way near the rose-colored settee, she walked up and curtsied. “Is there anything I can do for you? I heard the shouting and came as quickly as possible.”
Lady Dashlund shooed her with a wispy white handkerchief, a rather large smile upon her face. “No, no. We are not in need of anything. We are all quite elated. You are welcome to continue with your chores—we will call you when we need you.”
It was then that Ella noticed the small missive in her stepmother’s hand. They must have had some good news. Curious, but not willing to risk Lady Dashlund’s wrath, she simply said, “Yes, milady.” Ella nodded, dipped into a short curtsy, and turned to go.
“No.” Miss Lacey Dashlund halted in mid-twirl and put her foot down to catch her balance. “Ella cannot go just yet. We do need her, Mother. Think—the duke is coming here in only a few minutes. We need everything to look splendid! He is coming! He is coming! And this time—this time I shall finally secure him.” Lacey squealed and shrieked loudly, and then picked up her sister’s arm and began dancing about again.
“Girls, enough,” scolded Lady Dashlund, though she was smiling. “It is time you freshen up and stop gallivanting around or you will be quite flushed when he comes.”
Miss Dashlund twirled Jillian out in a final spin and then giggled with her as they stopped their play. “Oh, is it not the most glorious day?” She smiled and waltzed her way to the settee, clasping her mother’s hands within her own.
“Yes. It is.” Lady Dashlund grinned at her daughter before turning toward Ella. “Will you please let Cook know to send up tea as soon as the duke arrives, and make sure she adds a little something special—something to make him stay this time.”
“Oh, and when you are through, please sweep off the front step. We do not want him walking up to the house when it looks such a sight.”
“Yes, milady.” Ella curtsied again and rushed from the room. She would have to be quick to clean off the whole of the front steps before the duke arrived. Lord Gavenston rarely came late. In fact, more often than not, he was early.
She hoped for his sake and Lacey’s that her stepsister would not blunder this meeting like she had previously. Ella winced. Lacey was always incredibly graceful—unless His Grace was around. And then, quite simply, she became a bumbling buffoon and would somehow or another cause great catastrophes. Hopefully, this time all would be well. Ella crossed her fingers for luck just in case. After all, the sooner Miss Dashlund was gone from the house, the fewer chores Ella would have to do for her silly stepsister.
“OH, NO! YOU ARE not getting me to step foot into that house.” His Royal Highness Prince Anthony chuckled as he drew in the reins on his beautiful horse, causing him to stop in his tracks about a half mile down the road that would eventually lead them to Lady Dashlund’s rather exquisite manor. The manor, he could tolerate. It was the family that made him shudder.
“But you promised,” Lord Gavenston replied, drawing in his rather fine black as well.
Anthony shook his head. “No, I did not. I promised to accompany you on some errands, Cousin. I did not promise to waltz myself into that home and be prodded and fawned over like some ninny. Why, those girls could cool the east, lowering the temperature a whole two degrees with their eyelash fluttering alone.” The prince ridiculously fluttered his own lashes. They were on the most glorious of roadways, with fine green hills and rows of delicious apple and sturdy oak trees, some of the greatest lanes in all the kingdom, and here he was—looking the fool instead of enjoying the marvelous countryside.
Zedekiah laughed. “You are quite awful, you know.”
“I kno-ow!” he replied in a singsong voice, the type reserved for pantomimes.
“And you look like a nincompoop.” Zedekiah clicked his tongue and tapped his mount to press onward. “I, for one, would not wish to be seen with you if you are to act this way.”
“I cannot. I simply cannot do it,” Anthony replied as he tapped his horse as well. “My mother would have my head if she knew I had even spoken to them, let alone stepped in their house—and you know it!”
“This is why I had to sneak you away, so you would accompany me.” Zedekiah looked over as Anthony came up. “The queen forces me to run these errands because she and Lady Dashlund were schoolgirls together. She does it to pay particular courtesy to her longtime friend. But she would rather be dead than seen conversing with the woman, which is why I, as the duke, must be her go-between. And honestly, I wish anything—anything—other than this task.”
“I pity you, but I cannot risk it. They would devour me in a heartbeat.”
“Come! You have not been here for ages—a good five years at least. They may have grown since then.”
The prince crowed. “Yes, and this is why you need me to hold your hand. Because they are such proper ladies and behave so well! No, my mother has told me anecdotes about what the family has done to the royal castle alone. I have sheets and sheets written to me of nonsense this Miss Dashlund has done—do you have any idea how much it cost my mother to host them the last time they came? The number of shrubs she had to replace because of that girl’s foolishness?”
“Which is why I need someone with me now. I would rather come out of there in one piece!” Zedekiah begged. “Please?”
Anthony stared at him as their horses rounded the corner of the lane. The great house was about forty feet in front of them. He looked up and then reached over, his hand waving his cousin to a halt. “Who is that on the steps?” he asked quietly as both horses stopped.
“I do not know.” Zedekiah peered at the girl Anthony indicated. “She looks like a maid of some sort. Why?”
“Because I could swear it is Ella.”
I’ve read a lot of Cinderella retellings. Little known fact about me – I actually collect them. Some involve magic. Some don’t. But all (well… most) have the same basic elements: a prized daughter now treated as a slave, the nasty stepmother & stepsisters, a handsome prince, and a royal ball. Cinderella by Jenni James fits cozily into this classic pattern.
The story playing out between Ella and John/Prince Anthony is sweet and sincere and built on a friendship that reaches back to childhood. I enjoyed reading Anthony’s perspective, particularly as he went back and forth between “John” (when he was with Ella) and his role as Prince. He wasn’t afraid to show emotion when the situation called for it – no royal stoicism here – and I especially admired how he and Ella supported each other during their various struggles.
I also very much enjoyed the storyline involving one of Ella’s stepsisters. I’m not going to go into much more detail than that so as not to spoil anything – except to say that it brought some delightful humor as well as hope into the mix. The epilogue added that final touch to the book as well, extending the age-old “and they lived happily ever after” into something with a bit more substance.
Bottom Line: Jenni James’ version of Cinderella is perfect for fans of the movie Ever After. It is a retelling that focuses on the power of friendship, of courage, of hope, and of course love. While it’s not my favorite redo of the story that has captivated me since childhood, I did enjoy it. Cinderella is sweet and clean and full of some great kisses, and it’s a book that I can easily recommend to YA readers with no reservations.
(I received a copy of this book in exchange for only my honest review.)
My Rating: 3.5 stars / Liked it!
KissingBook Level: 3 / May forget to breathe on occasion
Jenni James is the busy mother of ten kids (7 hers, 3 her hubby’s) and has over twenty-five published book babies. She’s an award-winning, best-selling author, who works full-time from home and dreams about magical things and then writes about what she dreams.
Some of her works include The Jane Austen Diaries (Pride & Popularity, Emmalee, Persuaded…), The Jenni James Faerie Tale Collection (Cinderella, Snow White, Rumplestiltskin, Beauty and the Beast…), the Andy & Annie series for children, Revitalizing Jane: Drowning, My Paranormal Life, Not Cinderella’s Type, and the Austen in Love Series.
When she isn’t writing up a storm, she is chasing her kids around their new cottage and farm in the tops of the southwestern mountains, entertaining friends at home, or kissing her amazingly hunky hubby. Her life is full of laughter, crazy, and sunshine.
April 18–Beauty & the Beast–Singing Librarian Books
April 19–Sleeping Beauty–Bookworm Lisa
April 20–Rumplestiltskin–26 Countless Possibilities
April 21–Cinderella–Reading Is My SuperPower
April 22–Hansel & Gretel–Katie’s Clean Book Collection
April 23–Jack & the Beanstalk–Wishful Endings
April 25–Snow White–Katie’s Clean Book Collection
April 26–The Frog Prince–Smiling Book Reviews
April 27–The Twelve Dancing Princesses–Mel’s Shelves
April 28–Rapunzel–Reading Is My SuperPower
April 29–The Little Mermaid–Wishful Endings
April 30–Peter Pan–Singing Librarian Books