Bookish and the Beast Book Review

When it comes to romance, the partner whom we end up with may be the person we least expect.

Bookish and the Beast, by Ashley Poston is the 3rd book in the Once Upon a Con trilogy. It was published in 2020.

Rosie Thorne is stuck in her small town and hates it with a passion. With her mother recently deceased, she and her now-widowed father are drowning in medical bills. The only way to reduce the debt was to sell her mother’s beloved collection of rare Starfield books. In addition to dealing with the stress that applying for college, Rosie cannot get the mysterious Starfield cosplayer that she met at the previous Excelsicon out of her head.

Vance Reigns is your classic Hollywood bad boy and nepo baby. Though fame and money have provided avenues that are not open to other young men, there is a downside to this lifestyle. After one too many run-ins with the paparazzi, he is shipped off to a small town to let the fervor cool down. The only upshot is that the house he is staying in has a library. But just because it’s there does not mean he will use it.

In their first meeting, Rosie and Vance get along like oil and water. But as they are forced into each other’s company, they begin to see that there is more beneath the surface.

I loved this book. Out of all the books in this series, this is my favorite. I loved the cultural references that Poston sprinkles throughout the stories and the easter eggs related to the Disney adaptation.

Rosie and Vance’s relationship has a nice pace to it. Both are initially so caught up in their own worlds and drama that they are unable to see the value in the other. By the time they get together, it feels right.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Bookish and the Beast is available wherever books are sold.

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The Princess and the Fangirl Book Review

Others who are older and wiser than us will sometimes say that we cannot understand another person until we walk a mile in their shoes.

The Princess and the Fan Girl, by Ashley Poston, was published in 2020 and is the second book in the Once Upon a Con trilogy. Based on the Mark Twain fable/fairy tale The Prince and the Pauper, the book follows two young women who look remarkably alike.

Imogen Lovelace loves the television series turned film adaption of Starfield with a passion. Her goal at this year’s ExcelsiCon is to get the keeper of the proverbial keys to revive the IP’s now-dead female lead, Princess Amara.

The actor playing Amara, Jessica Stone, would like nothing more than to leave the character behind in the rearview mirror. While she wants to be respected for her work, she loathes fame and constant attention.

When the script for the next film is released, Jess believes that she is responsible for the leak. The only way to find out the truth is to switch places with Imogen. While both believe that this plan will be simple to execute, they have no idea what they are in store for.

Though the narrative starts out a little slow, it picks up at about the halfway point. Instead of putting it down and moving on to the next book, I am glad I pushed through. It is a lovely story that just because we think we know someone does not mean that we actually know them.

My favorite part of the tale was that Jessica is out and proud. Moreover, her romance proves once more that love knows no bounds.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Princess and the Fangirl is available wherever books are sold.

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story Review

When it comes to history, there are two kinds of stories. The first is a staid and boring set of facts that are straight out of an academic textbook. The second brings the past to life in a way that engages and excites the audience.

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story was released last weekend on Netflix. This prequel to Bridgerton takes place in two different timelines. In the present, Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) is dealing with a crisis on two fronts. Her only legitimate grandchild and heir, Princess Caroline of Wales, has died in childbirth, taking her newborn with her. With all of her other grandchildren born outside of the bonds of wedlock, it looks as if the line will die with this generation.

The narrative then flashes back to the past and a 17-year-old Charlotte (India Amarteifio). She is about to marry George III of England (Corey Mylechreest), a man who she has never met. It appears that their marriage has the external trappings of a fairy tale. But not everything is as wonderful as it seems.

Her only confidant is Lady Danbury (played by Arsema Thomas as a young woman and Adjoa Adoh as an older woman).

I binged watched the series last weekend. It is so good. It gives the audience the opportunity to know Charlotte as a human being, not just as Queen who is always surrounded by her courtiers.

My favorite aspects of the program are the female gaze of the camera and it’s humane approach to mental illness. Being that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I appreciate the efforts of the screenwriters. George’s mental health problems are treated with respect and understanding which is still sadly lacking.

My only problem was that Violet Bridgerton‘s (played by Connie Jenkins-Greig as a girl and Ruth Gemmell as an adult) is an afterthought. I understand that she is the youngest of matriarchs in this world. But it would have been nice to see a little more of her.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Geekerella (Once Upon a Con Series #1) Book Review

There are two perspectives on fairy tales. The first is that these are antiquated stories that are out of touch with our current culture. The second is that with a little tweaking (with a nod to the original narrative), the tale can still feel relevant and modern.

Geekerella (Once Upon a Con Series #1), was published in 2017. Elle Wittimer’s favorite television show is Starfield (basically a version of Galaxy Quest). It was also her late father’s favorite show, they used to watch it together. With both of her parents gone, this Cinderella girl is under the thumb of her less-than-maternal stepmother. When she comes upon an opportunity to enter a cosplay contest that promotes a big-screen reboot of the series at ExcelsiCon, she eagerly enters.

Darien Freeman is a fanboy of Starfield and used to fan conventions on a regular basis. But his present status as the heartthrob of primetime teen drama makes that impossible. When he is cast as Federation Prince Carmindor, the lead male role, he jumps at the chance. Darien wants to prove that his acting skills go beyond what is expected of him. As ExcelsiCon gets closer, he meets a young lady who pushes him in unexpected directions.

This book is adorable. I completely got Elle as a character. Normally, there are two arcs for the “geek” girl. The first is that she is kept in her lane. The second is that her reputation (and physical appearance) are changed when she is suddenly seen by the popular guy (a la She’s All That). Thankfully, Elle is given room to move which is both organic and refreshing.

I appreciated that underneath the Darien is much more than he appears to be. He is not just the 2D prince who is the end goal of our female protagonist. He is fully human. He wants more than the image that the press and fans have given him. His want to succeed and grow as both a person and actor drew me to him and made me root for him.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Geekerella (Once Upon a Con Series #1) is available wherever books are sold.

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Thoughts On the Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story Trailer

When we think of Kings and Queens, we think of fairy tales and happy endings. The truth is that under the finery and the fancy titles are complications based on tradition and rules.

The trailer to the Bridgerton prequel, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story was released earlier this week. The series takes the viewer back to the early years of Queen Charlotte‘s (Golda Rosheuvel) marriage to King George III (James Fleet).

Chosen sight unseen to marry the then-22-year-old King (Corey Mylchreest), 17-year-old Charlotte (India Amarteifio), she is initially resistant to the match. Though it appears that their marriage is based on love, there are a few obstacles that stand in the way of that happiness.

I am looking forward to the series. Queen Charlotte, though an important character in the world of Bridgerton, is peripheral to the original narrative. Given her place in history, I am curious to see where the story will go.

Am I looking forward to it? Absolutely.

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton story will be released on Netflix on May 4th.

Spare Book Review

Most, if not all families, have a black sheep. That person’s fate is sometimes sealed by the response from their loved ones. Hopefully, they are accepted and loved for who they are. But if they are, this person has a tough choice to make. They can either live their truth or hide who they are to fit in.

Spare is the memoir/autobiography by Prince Harry. Published at the beginning of the year, the narrative starts the day before his mother, Princess Diana, was killed in a car crash. Up to that point, he was a happy child who did not have the responsibilities of his elder brother, Prince William. That all changed on that fateful day in August 1997. Her death sent him on a difficult path of emotional discovery, growing up (and naturally making mistakes by extension), mental illness, and finally figuring life out on his terms.

Obviously, the book is solely from his perspective. Until we know the thoughts and feelings of the other parties, we can only go by the information we have.

It is telling that the book is dedicated to his wife, Meghan Markle, his children, and his late mother. What I took from it was that he was never truly allowed to grieve the loss of Princess Diana. Compounded over years and decades, this leads to behaviors that under other circumstances, would be thought twice about before proceeding. It didn’t help that he was growing up in the spotlight and every youthful mistake was tabloid fodder.

I admire Harry for having the courage to follow his heart, even if it means estrangement from his father, brother, and the rest of the Windsors. I’m sure that the decision was not easy. But if it meant the choice between being happy, so be it.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Spare is available wherever books are sold.

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ARC Review: The Duke’s Secret Cinderella

Cinderella is one of those stories that is part of our culture. Though the bones of the tale can seem archaic, that does not mean that modern writers can try their hand at making it accessible for the present-day audience.

The Duke’s Secret Cinderella, by Eva Devon, is out today. Rafe Dorchester, Duke of Rockford, is told that it is high time to marry. His title and fortune have marked him as one of the most eligible bachelors in the country. But Rafe is not interested in marrying for the sake of producing an heir and a spare. He wants a love match and a true partner.

Charlotte Browne is an orphan. Her stepfather’s version of being a dutiful parent is forcing her to earn her daily bread as a household servant. Cruel and cold, he is not above cutting corners when it suits him. Her only solace is her friendship with her stepsister and the comfort she receives from the other household staff.

Their meet-cute is completely unexpected. He thinks that she is a lady. She cannot tell him the truth. Their first kiss opens a door to passion that cannot be contained. Charlotte accidentally drops a blue ribbon as she leaves, knowing that revealing the truth would endanger her stepsister’s chance of a good match. Despite the mystery that lies before him, Rafe is determined to discover the woman who has conquered his heart.

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I don’t read books of this nature very often because it gives false hope and teaches the wrong message about what a woman should look forward to.

That being said, I loved it. Rafe and Charlotte’s chemistry is on fire from the first time they meet. She is intelligent, independent, and caring. She is also a little jaded, which I think has been missing from previous adaptations. Rafe could have been the standard “prince charming“. But he is real, human, and fully aware of the privileges that life has afforded him. In my experience, there are very few male romantic leads in this genre that believe in social justice.

I also appreciated that Charlotte’s stepfather is not just there to be the antagonist. Though his motives and reasoning might be a bit questionable, he stands on his own two feet as a character.

The narrative is a descendant of Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998). I don’t know if the author purposefully chose this path or if it slowly came about as the tale developed. Either way, it is the perfect homage to the only version of Cinderella that I think is worth watching.

I could not stop listening to the book. From the first chapter, I was immediately hooked. There were several points when I had to stop what I was doing and just listen. It is that good.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Duke’s Secret Cinderella is available wherever books are sold. Thank you to Netgalley for the review copy.

P.S. I loved the twist. I did not see it coming at all.

The Accidental Empress Book Review

Since childhood, we have been told that in fairy tales, the hero and heroine (usually a prince and princess) live happily ever after. The reality is that the world in which the highest levels of society live in (royalty included) can feel like a gilded cage. There are rules and traditions that can seem archaic and frankly weird to the average person.

The Accidental Empress, by Allison Pataki, was published back in 2015. The novel tells the story of Empress “Sisi” Elisabeth of Austria. At fifteen, she met her future husband, Franz Joseph I of Austria. He was supposed to be her older sister’s husband. Instead, they defied tradition and married for love.

But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie of Austria, was a dominant figure in her son’s life. Sisi often found herself fighting not just for her husband, but for a sense of autonomy. Her life at court was night and day from the rural estate that she grew up on.

The only way to survive is to use her brain and figure out how to live in a world that can only be described as dog-eat-dog.

I truly enjoyed this book. Told from Sisi’s perspective, the story starts with a naive young girl and ends with a woman who has learned how to play the game. Along the way, there is love, heartache, growth, and the sometimes harsh lessons that come with figuring out who you are.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Accidental Empress is available wherever books are sold.

Flashback Friday: Victoria & Albert: The Royal Wedding (2018)

A wedding is something to celebrate. A royal wedding takes that concept and explodes it tenfold.

The 2018 PBS TV movie Victoria & Albert: The Royal Wedding told the story of the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert from the inside out. Hosted and narrated by Lucy Worsley, the viewer is given a micro view of the often unseen and underappreciated details that made the day what it was.

I find this topic fascinating. Though outwardly, it is straight out of a fairy tale, there is obviously much more than the happily ever after. The number of moving parts that could have ground everything to a halt is a topic that deserves the spotlight.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Disenchanted Movie Review

Most fairy tales end with the words “happily ever after”. While this is certainly a satisfying conclusion, there is always room for more.

The new DisneyPlus movie, Disenchanted, was released last weekend. The sequel to Enchanted, it has been fifteen years since the first film ended. Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and Giselle (Amy Adams) are happily married and have a baby girl of their own. Robert’s daughter Morgan (played by Gabriella Baldacchino) from his previous marriage is now a teenager and dealing with what we all went through at that age.

The story starts when the family leaves New York City for the suburbs of upstate NY. The nice way of describing their new home is that it is a fixer-upper. While Giselle tries to make friends with Malvina (Maya Rudolph), the town’s unofficial social queen, they are visited by Edward (Jason Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel).

The gift they bestow leads Giselle to make a wish for her previous fairy tale life. As usually happens when this kind of yearning, it all goes to h*ll in a handbasket. It is up to Giselle and Morgan to save the day and return their world to what it was before.

I loved the movie. It was entertaining, funny, and the perfect follow-up to its predecessor. The easter eggs are fast and furious in the best way possible. As with Enchanted, Disney is lovingly mocking itself while recreating a narrative that fans know and love. My favorite character is Malvina. Rudolph is clearly having fun with the role, hamming it up to the nth degree.

All in all, it was a blast to watch and well worth the fifteen-year wait.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would also not be surprised if it was on any top ten lists at the end of next month.

Disenchanted is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

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