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Friday, September 04, 2009

Friday Flashback

From October 2002:


Once Upon a Kiss by Nora Roberts, Jill Gregory, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Marianne Willman. Paranormal romance.







I just have to mention that I look forward to this anthology with great pleasure every year. They're fairy tales for grown-ups, and don't we all need a little more magic? I know I do.

  • "A World Apart" by Nora Roberts
    Dara Joy, Annie? Hmmm. That didn't occur to me, but I will say this is one of the few stories that I wouldn't have identified as Nora's if it didn't have her name on it.

    This one took me by surprise. It's different in tone from Nora's other Once Upon A... stories. I've been waiting quite a while for another hilarious story like Art of Deception, and I finally got it. I laughed at least once a page, & interrupted whatever my husband was watching on tv at the time to repeat "this is just a perfect story!" over & over again.

    Kadra was a great heroine---strong and confident, even when faced with a world so different from the one she knew. I loved her fascination with the gun.

    Harper was a good match for her. He was strong and confident as well, and because of that, not intimidated or put off by Kadra's strength. His disadvantage in not knowing what was going on was balanced by Kadra's disadvantage in not knowing his world, and they both were intelligent enough to accept the other's help where it was needed.

    While I'd of course love to read more about these two, and about Kadra's world, I didn't feel that the story was unfinished. It worked very well in the novella format.

    Still, I think if J. D. Robb needs any more projects, more about this world, or even just about Kadra & Harper, would be a good place to start. Well, that & the comic book series about Nemesis.


  • "Impossible" by Jill Gregory.
    Annie, you're sounding like cover blurbs again! I'm in awe.

    A story within a story---pretty good trick in novella-length! I always like the chain-of-events stories, where you change one thing and the end result seems completely unrelated. Butterfly flaps its wings resulting in a thunderstorm on the other side of the world. In this case, a spell on the castle resulting in Erinn and Tynon falling in love and ending the feud between their clans.

    More humor here---Erinn being a bumbling, frustrated witch. I liked her right away. She knew she was inept, but she kept trying. That, and her compassion, made her a heroine worthy of the name.

    The spell on the castle was very interesting. The real castle could only be seen in glimpses at sunset, and life went on as usual for the people still in the castle, except that they couldn't leave it. I'd initially thought the woman Erinn saw in the mirror meant they could see into the real castle through the mirror, but it was the spirit of Olivia.

    Even when the castle was restored, their impossible tasks weren't over---they had to convince Erinn's family to end the feud and accept Tynon into the family. I was surprised when Erinn's magic seemingly worked properly for once when the swords all flew away, but laughed aloud when they came back, not surprising Tynon.


  • "Sealed With a Kiss" by Ruth Ryan Langan.
    This one starts out sad , with Arianna, as the oldest daughter, bartered off for her family's safety. It's especially tragic, because there's no bad guy. She's resistant, of course---what 17-year-old would want to be married to an elderly man? But her father's only trying to protect his family and his people, and while the old man could have asked for something else in trade, he is promising to defend them.

    It stays sad when Arianna's plan to get out of the marriage could end up with Lachlan being beaten or worse. I cringed when she apologized to him, then screamed. She was so desperate. And then to find that it was for nothing anyway.

    When they finally made love, it was bittersweet, with the knowledge that it would be the only time they'd have together.

    The man she thought was Lachlan saving Arianna at the cost of his own life, and her vow to fulfill her duty, brought tears to my eyes.

    But of course all was well in the end, and Arianna was able to follow both her duty and her heart. Ahhhh.... Very satisfying in the fairy tale tradition.


  • "Kiss Me, Kate" by Marianne Willman.
    I need to preface this by saying I've been a fan since I read Court of Three Sisters back in.... 1994?? Was it that long ago? Anyway, I was thrilled when the first Once Upon A... book came out and included stories by two authors I already liked. (I learned about Jill & Ruth's wonderful stories from these anthologies---better late than never, right?)

    And we're back to funny again.

    Good eye, Annie, catching all the clues Kate should have caught that something out of the ordinary was going on.

    The frog's ongoing efforts to get Kate to kiss him just cracked me up. As did Miss Golunka (!!) trying to get Kate to fall in love with Michael so that she could have the prince for herself, and the flies disappearing in the store.

    I kept being surprised by Michael. I first thought he was supposed to be a distraction, and Kate was meant to fall in love with the frog prince (hey, it happened in The Frog Prince!). Then I thought he just wanted Miss Culpepper's land to restore his family's estate. When it turned out that he was the new Guardian, all the pieces fell into place.

    Poor Sophie! She must have been so frustrated when after the double spells on Kate & Michael, they stubbornly refused to act on them and fell in love on their own instead.

    I'm with you, Annie---it made a nice circle when Kate & Michael had their own twins, and named them Honoria and Trixie (nice that she didn't get stuck with Agatha!). Wonder if one of them will marry a fairy prince?!

Once again, the Once Upon A... anthology is just a real treat. Not only are all the stories entertaining on their own, but they're in an order that makes it a pleasure to read the book straight through. It starts out with a bang and a lot of laughs, then keeps a bit of the humor and adds the seriousness of a feud, then moves us into a more emotional, bittersweet mood, and then pulls us up into humor again with a more serious undertone. I'm probably babbling, and I know I'm not saying this as well as I could---hopefully I've managed to get across the gist of it.
You can read the entire thread here.

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