Reimagining Happily Ever After
By Laura Kenyon
Like so many women today, I grew up on Disney movies and fairy tales. My mother says I saw “The Little Mermaid” in theaters at least a dozen times, and I know I made my family listen to every sing-along I could find during our four-hour drives to Cape Cod (sorry guys).
Even as late as high school, my friends and I often debated who among us was Sleeping Beauty, who was Jasmine, who was Ariel, who was Snow White, and so on. The arguments grew quite heated at times, and the verdicts were usually based purely on looks … but hey, isn’t that exactly how true love works in fairy tales? He’s handsome! She’s gorgeous! They kiss and their lives are going to be filled with butterflies and rainbows and infinite happiness forever after! It’s nauseating enough to make you root for the evil witch.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to launch a crusade against “happily ever after” or tell parents they shouldn’t let their daughters admire cartoon princesses. (I’ve actually laid out my opinion on that subject here, and it might surprise you.) But us adults know that real relationships take work. We know people fall in and out of love. We know life occasionally hurls giant boulders in our paths and we have to either turn back around or plot a way around them.
So where are our fairy tales?
For me, for example, I consider my husband to be better than any Prince Charming on record. But if you were to make a movie about our lives … well, let’s just say not all of it would be family friendly. There would be screaming matches, angry silences, and long, rainy walks with Snow Patrol crooning through the clouds. And for the most part, these moments would not be due to any evil witch or warlock. They would happen because someone’s tone of voice was a little bit off. Or someone kept checking their phone at dinner. Or someone was stressed about something else and just couldn’t put it aside at the door.
But at the same time, there would also be bright, colorful, wonderful scenes. There would be white lights and happy songs and nuzzling on a balcony in Tuscany. There would be a montage of tickling matches, snowball fights, babies being born, and puppies being cuddled. And in the long run, those happy scenes would far outnumber the others. But it would certainly be a different kind of fairy tale.
This is what I was thinking when I started writing Desperately Ever After, the first book in what grew into a three-novel series. I wanted to know what happened to these characters after the wedding bells. And more importantly, I wanted to know something that the original stories never told us—how they felt. What would they have said if they had the freedom to do so? If their choices weren’t marriage, poverty, or spinsterhood? If they had the luxury of deciding between the designated hero, someone else, or (gasp!) no man at all?
At the same time, I had no interest in doing the sort of modern fairy tale retelling where Cinderella has two evil roommates and works in the mailroom at Prince Charming’s Fortune 500 company. Nor did I want to take the jaded-artist route. In my opinion, there’s a difference between examining the characters Disney hid behind a rose-tinted lens, and leaping to the opposite extreme entirely. Making them more realistic is not the same as making them miserable. If that was the case, what does that say about us?
What I wanted to know was simple. Could Sleeping Beauty really have actually fallen for a complete stranger who found her in a bed and was presumptuous enough to kiss her? How did Rapunzel fare when she got out of her tower? Did Beast truly change when he was cursed or did he go back to his old ways after the honeymoon period wore off? Did Cinderella just jump from the frying pan into the fire when she traded indentured servitude for the confines of a royal life?
That’s why when it comes down to it, Desperately Ever After is about a group of women coming to terms with how their lives have turned out. They may be dealing with infidelity, temptation, aging, regret, stress, or the constant need to sacrifice their own dreams for the greater good. They may pretend they feel one way because they think it protects them, when really they feel the complete opposite. They may ignore problems that are right in front of their faces, or they may fabricate problems that don’t exist at all. Either way, it’s about real life and friendship and how one could never work without the other.
Pre-order a copy of Skipping Midnight between now and November 15, and you could win one of two enchanting prize packages inspired by the Desperately Ever After series!
Prize Pack 1 (US only)
A signed paperback copy of all three novels in the series: Desperately Ever After (Book One), Damsels in Distress (Book Two), and Skipping Midnight (Book Three)
A stunning “Live like there’s no midnight” charm bracelet, custom made by My Initial Charm and inspired by the Desperately Ever After series
An assortment of treats for your next girls' night in (sorry, rampion not included!)
A snazzy memory box to ship it all in ;)
Prize Pack 2 (Worldwide!)
This fantastic set of six wine charms, handcrafted by Etsy artist Sarah VandenBrink (specifically for this giveaway!) and representing each of the six main characters: Belle, Rapunzel, Dawn, Penelopea, Snow White, and Cinderella.
To enter, please e-mail your proof of purchase (a screenshot will do) to laura (at) laurakenyon (dot) com by midnight November 15, 2016. Be sure to include your mailing address so you’re entered into the right contest(s). One winner will be selected via random drawing for each giveaway on November 16. Good luck!
Pre-order link: http://amzn.to/2dKeH5g