Published by City Owl Press on 13th September 2022
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Only Anna knows the truth about Cinderella: The pauper turned queen wasn't the victim, but the bully.
Anna fled when the castle guards came to arrest her mother and sister on Cinderella’s orders. But leaving them in bondage at the Fairy Godmother’s workhouse? Out of the question. Disguised as a young man and taking the name of Ansel, she’ll do whatever it takes to free her family and set the record straight.
Will, a former royal huntsman, was nearly killed for dissenting Cinderella’s rise as queen in the wake of the sudden death of the king and his son. He hatches a plan to take Cinderella down, and encounters Ansel, who wants revenge just as much as he does.
Drawn together by a common goal and burgeoning feelings neither can ignore, Will and Ansel enact a plan to assassinate the queen. But when that goes awry and buried secrets come to light, they’ll have to choose: continue running from their pasts or accept themselves in order to forge a new future together.
Turn the classic Disney fairytale on its head, the years of conditioning of thinking that evil lies only on the side of the stepsisters and the stepmothers and what you’ll get is a funky mish-mash of Cinderella and Snow White (a wee bit) in ‘The Ugly Stepsister’.
My rating comes solely from how breathlessly inventive I found van Dyke’s take on these 2 tales, where Cinderella is now the evil queen and her plain-looking stepsister Anna Schneider is the misunderstood one desperately clawing her way out of the exiled place she’s found herself in. Worn down, tired, dressed as a man and evasive at first with her motivations, her deception can only go as far as the discerning eye can see.
But Anna isn’t the only one with a concealed identity–somewhere along the way, she meets the dodgy Huntsman Will who really isn’t all that he claims. In a surprisingly steamy (and welcome) take on the prince and the stepsister, I knew I was on for a ride as their relationship developed and grew through the action-filled scenes.
The motifs of the fairytale remain delightful inserts in this story: the glass slippers make their appearance not in a way you’d imagine, the ‘true love’s kiss’ stays in a way that’s both cheesy and like a foregone conclusion, fairy godmother who’s a little more like a sinister Wizard of Oz.
In many ways, ‘The Ugly Stepsister’ needs no introduction as it’s familiar (yet unfamiliar) to everyone who has an inkling of how these fairytales take their course. As a result, there’s so much and also nothing to say about the tale here…have that go, and then marvel that HEAs come in many forms.