By the Book (Meant to Be Series) Book Review

The haters to lovers trope is one that had been used many times, by many authors, in many different ways. The figurative beauty of this well-known narrative arc is its ability to be dynamic and uniquely moldable to a new perspective.

By the Book is the second book in the Meant to Be Series. Written by Jasmine Guillory and published in May, it is essentially a modern-day rom-com version of Beauty and The Beast. For the last three years, Isabelle has been working at her NYC-based publishing company, hoping to be noticed by her manager. In her mid-twenties, she is one of the few African American employees and starting to become disillusioned.

While on a work trip to California, she finally seizes upon an opportunity to get the appreciation she deserves. Beau is a well-known author who has been radio silent on the status of his manuscript. She decides to try to talk to him in person. When Isabelle finally meets Beau, she discovers that his reputation of being impersonal and hard-headed is not too far off from reality.

Getting Beau to open up is a bigger task than Isabelle initially expected it to be. But as they spend time together, both Beau and Isabelle learn that each of them is lost in their own way and may find what they are looking for in one another.

This book had me at hello. It was delicious, romantic, funny, and held me by the lapels from beginning to end. Guillory holds tight to the Disney narrative while remaking it in her own image. I loved Isabelle’s spunkiness, Intelligence, and drive. Beau, as the leading man, has his own troubles, making him relatable and enough of an asshole to challenge both the reader and his future other half.

Do I recommend it? Of course.

By the Book (Meant to Be Series) is available wherever books are sold.

Beauty And The Beast Ballroom GIF by Disney - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Buccaneers: A Novel Book Review

Marriage is a risk. Though you are saying “I do” to that person, you cannot know if this relationship will last decades or burn out before it really had a chance to begin.

The Buccaneers: A Novel, was co-written by Edith Wharton and Marion Mainwaring. Wharton passed away in 1938 while writing the novel, leaving it unfinished. Mainwaring picked up the baton decades later and finished the story.

In the 1870s, a group of five American heiresses have come of age and are ready to enter the marriage market. But because they are “new money”, they are looked down upon by the establishment. At the recommendation of their governess, the young ladies turn their eyes to England. The men they marry are titled but lack the funds to maintain their ancestral properties. While some live happily ever after, others question if they made the right choice.

I truly enjoyed this book. The first half has a fairy tale-esque quality to it. The second half reveals the reality of this world and the experience of marrying into another world that is so different from your own. It forces the characters to make decisions that they would not have made if they had married a local boy.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Buccaneers: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

The Princess Movie Review

The stereotype of a fairy tale princess is as follows: a damsel in distress (who may or not be unconscious) waits for a man to rescue her and save the day.

The new Hulu movie, The Princess, takes this stereotype and smashes it into pieces. When we first meet the title character, simply known as The Princess (Joey King), she is laying on a bed and wearing a beautiful white wedding dress. Opening her eyes and sitting up, her hands and legs are chained together. After refusing to marry King Julius (Dominic Cooper), she must fight against an army to save her family and her kingdom. Aided by Linh (Veronica Ngo), they join forces to stop Julius before he takes what is not his by any means possible.

The Princess is easily one of my favorite films of the year. This is my kind of princess. She is a badass, she is intelligent, and is not afraid to fight for what is important to her. It is a glorious, bloody, and gory 90-minute tale of a young woman who is not waiting to be rescued. We need more stories like this.

Do I recommend it? 100%.

The Princess is available for streaming on Hulu.

You Got This Fight GIF by Disney Princess - Find & Share on GIPHY

A Prince on Paper Book Review

Love sometimes comes when we least expect it. It also comes from the one person who we do not see coming.

A Prince on Paper, by Alyssa Cole, is the third book in the Reluctant Royals series. Published in 2019, it follows the love story of Nya Jerami and Johan von Braustein. After a family scandal, Nya left home for New York City. Returning for a wedding, she discovers that she is not the only passenger on the plane. Johan, whose stepfather is the King of Liechtienbourg does not exactly have the cleanest of reputations. Johan’s best friend is the groom and Nya’s cousin is the bride. Their first meeting does not go well.

In order to protect his country and his younger half-brother’s future as King, Johan fake proposes to Nya. She accepts, knowing that it is nothing more than a ruse. But as they spend time together, the engagement becomes real, as do their feelings. The question is, are they bold enough to reveal what is in their heart or will they walk away?

First Kiss Love GIF by Disney+ - Find & Share on GIPHY

On a scale of 1-10, the hotness factor is a six, whereas the previous books in the series were a nine or ten. However, Cole’s writing is so easy to read that it made that number not seem so bad. I appreciated that both Nya and Johan came with emotional baggage, which made their relationship seem real and fraught with enough complications that I needed to read on.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

A Prince on Paper is available wherever books are sold.

P.S. I love that Johan is a redhead. It’s about time that redheaded men got some love.

Sam Heughan Ew GIF by Entertainment Weekly - Find & Share on GIPHY

Flashback Friday: The Royal House of Windsor (2017)

The image of royalty is that of fine clothes, jewels, titles, and opportunities that the average person does not have. But anyone looking closely would see that that experience is far more complicated than what the media portrays.

The Netflix six-part miniseries, The Royal House of Windsor, aired back in 2017. It tells the story of the British royal family starting during World War I and ending in the present day. Going into great detail, it reveals the family trauma, the scars, and the behind-the-scenes drama that is only that is generally kept from the public.

I liked this series. Adding onto what is already known, it is a deep dive into the Windsors and reveals the humanity underneath the press and the imagery that is created by the PR machine. It’s that humanity that allows us to see them as someone we can relate to as opposed to someone who is the image of far-away perfection.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Queen Elizabeth GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Throwback Thursday: The White Princess (2017)

When we are told of fairy tales, of Princes and Princesses, of Kings and Queens, most of the narratives end in the same way. The reality of this world is not as black and white and far more complicated.

The 2017 Hulu miniseries, The White Princess (based on the Phillipa Gregory book of the same name), is the story of the marriage of Elizabeth of York (Jodie Comer) and Henry VII (Jacob Collins-Levy). It starts off as a marriage of convenience, to end a decades-long civil war. The obstacles are many: Henry’s controlling mother, Magaret Beaufort (Michelle Fairley), Elizabeth’s love for another, and the belief that a missing York heir could unseat Henry from the throne.

If this union cannot bring England together, it could mean another generation who will know nothing but bloodshed and death. When a young man appears, claiming to be Elizabeth’s brother and the rightful heir, the fate of the nation rests on the shoulders of the young Queen. Does she follow her heart and the husband whom she has fallen in love with? Or does she choose her family over Henry?

This series is so good. The acting is superb, the drama is nailbiting and the power behind the throne is the women. What they lack in rights and a voice, they make up in intelligence, fortitude, and a backbone is nothing short of badass.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The White Princess is avaliable for streaming on Hulu.

Happy 10th Birthday, Once Upon a Time

Fairy tales are part of our childhood. Stories of heroes and villains, princes and princesses, witches, wizards, dragons, etc. fill our young minds with images of faraway places where magic, true love, and happily ever after are the norm.

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of Once Upon a Time. The show starts as many narratives of this ilk start. Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) is racing to awaken his beloved, Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) from the sleeping curse placed upon by The Evil Queen (Lana Parilla). As with the traditional tale of Snow White, she is awaked by true love’s kiss. It appears that their life together will be long and happy. But the Queen is not done with her stepdaughter. She places an ever greater curse on the land, taking away their memories and tearing loved ones apart.

But there is a light in the darkness. A savior will arise, break the spell and give the Queen what is coming to her.

The beauty of this series is that it took the basic characters that we have come to expect and flipped them on their heads. Everyone within this world is human, and complicated. The female characters are empowered, capable, and not even close to their damsel-in-distress predecessors. The baddies are not just evil for evils sake. They have made choices, for better or for worse, that have led them to become considered evil by others. The stories we think we know have new layers, jagged edges, and twists created seven seasons of some of the best television I have ever seen.

Happy 10th birthday, Once Upon a Time!

Tokyo Ever After Book Review

Many girls dream of becoming princesses when they are young. But what happens when you discover that you are a princess?

This is the jumping off point of the new YA novel, Tokyo Ever After. Written by Emiko Jean, the book was published last month. Izumi “Izzy” Tanaka is a high school senior living in a small town in California. One of only a handful of Asian-Americans students in her school, she is used to the not so polite questions and stares she receives from her her classmates.

Raised by her single mother, she never knew her father. That is, until her best friend does some digging. Izzy’s father is the Crown Prince of Japan. Before she knows it, she is in Tokyo, meeting her father and family that she never knew existed. The world of the Imperial family is an ancient one, bound by rules, traditions, and expectations that are a 180 from the middle class life she knew in the United States. Torn between the life she knew and the life that she could have, Izzy has to make a choice.

The narrative is somewhere between What a Girl Wants and The Princess Diaries. I truly loved this book and Izzy as a main character. The tension between her want to fit in with her new relations and being true to herself felt very relevant to me as a reader. I loved the details of the Imperial Palace, the images were so visceral that I felt like I was there with Izzy.

Do I recommend it? Yes .

The Heir Affair Review

Fairy tales end with the line “they lived happily ever after”. But as anyone who has ever been married can tell you, the wedding is only the beginning.

The Heir Affair (the sequel to The Royal We), by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, was published last year. It takes place right after the first book ended. Nick and Bex are newlyweds, but life is not all sunshine and roses. The scandal that nearly ended their engagement has forced them to go into hiding. When they are forced to return to London, Bex knows that she and Nick must face the music. Adding to their troubles is the revelation of a family secret and a question of succession.

I loved this book. I didn’t think it would have possible to top The Royal We, but somehow the authors were able to. As a reader, I was able to relate to the characters because it is the story of an imperfect family, who, at the end of the day, are no different than any other family. I wont spoil the ending, but I will say that it humanized these people, instead of elevating to images of royal perfection.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Flashback Friday-Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001)

In our world, when we think of princesses, we think of a certain type of character. She is a dainty, angelic young woman, usually a damsel in distress who is waiting for her beloved to rescue her. She has no agency, does not have much of a character arc, and walks off into the sunset in some version of happily ever after.

In 1995, Xena: Warrior Princess premiered and destroyed the stereotypes. An off-shoot of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena (Lucy Lawless) is a warrior princess with a less than clean past. Seeing the need to redeem herself, she fights against evil with the help of Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor).

Back then, this show was revolutionary. As a female character, Xena (and Gabrielle by extension), broke the mold. She was everything the classic princesses were not. There was also an element of romance between the main characters, opening the door for LGBTQ characters and viewers.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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