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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Utterly Charming by Kristine Grayson

Utterly Charming by Kristine Grayson
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (308 pgs)
Heat Level: sweet
Rating: 3 Books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Bestselling author Kristine Grayson's fairy tale romances bring the classic stories into the present day, where fairy tale characters must grapple with the complexities of modern life as well as their own destinies.

This time when Sleeping Beauty wakes up, she wants nothing to do with the man who kissed her. Consoling Alex Blackstone, the rejected suitor who is a brilliant magician but inept when it comes to women, falls to modern career woman and lawyer, Nora Barr. Nora now has to deal with Beauty's evil stepmother, and the discovery that Alex just might be her own personal Prince Charming...

If Mr. Disney and director Ron Howard could team up to update and tweak a live action story of Sleeping Beauty with more twists than a Twizzler, they’d probably choose to base it on Utterly Charming.

Nora is the skeptic who has a dash of the magical believer in her courtesy of her father. It’s that balance of independent woman with a white knight tendency and a strong moral and ethical back bone, and the little girl dreaming of princesses, magic and the power of love hidden inside that made her a delightful heroine. She confounds the hero but delights his sidekick. She annoys the villainess yet challenges her too. Nora also has to deal with her mother and an ex-husband. Add to that the responsibility she takes on when she not only wakes up the sleeping beauty but decides that the men in the story are so daft, only another woman could successfully help the poor girl. Nora had no idea what she was getting herself into.

Blackstone is the hero. He’s not a very hands-on type in this story nor is he a major player. He’s supposed to be but his role for the most part is pretty passive. He is on stage to create some flash and fire and to bewilder and confuse Nora with thoughts of interest and attraction but he is not a mover and shaker of the plot. He sets the story in motion initially but then steps back to let Nora have the spotlight. When he does show a reaction to the heroine, it’s not very dramatic or pointed. It’s more a mystery to me and to the heroine. Blackstone is confused a lot during the story because the man has to face a huge reality – he’s a man of the 21st Century with magic steeped in the past and who has a frozen ideal about Emma, his sleeping beauty, and her place in his life. How he faces his actual wants and needs and what he does to change things was interesting. The hero can be romantic and he enjoys the grand gestures of romance but he has a lot of growing to do when it comes to courting the woman destined to be his.

I actually liked Sancho, Blackstone’s buddy and partner in crime. Being mysterious worked well for his character and I liked his twisted sense of humor. In fact, most of the giggles and chuckles I got were from whenever he was in a scene. I also enjoyed his knowing things that Nora and Blackstone were too clueless to notice or realize. I got a greater sense of internal emotional pain from Sancho than I did for any other character. I actually would like to know more about him.

Ealhswith is the villainess. I can’t even begin to figure out how to say that name. It drove me a bit batty. Then again, she drove everyone nuts with her evil plots and tendency to use magic to create chaos at her whim. I never got the impression that people were truly fearful of her -- just annoyed, bothered and accustomed to her petulant ways. Sure, she is a force to be reckoned with but for all her machinations and dastardly actions, her character seemed traditional and anti-climactic.

There were other secondary characters, that being Nora’s mom, and the surprise helper for Emma, the catalyst for this tale. The other character I won’t disclose is a cute touch and made Nora’s mother more interesting. I certainly liked the affect it had on the heroine. The Fates put on a brief appearance and once they got to the business at hand, they were alright. The initial scene where everyone first came upon them was unnecessary to the story and it could have been omitted.

The wrap up of the book was pure romantic fairy tale and it embraced the elements that make those stories timeless. There was the amazing revelation about the heroine, the hero’s realization of what true love really is and who has captured his heart, the evil lady vanquished for now, and even one of the cats gets its own kind of purrfect ending. The happily ever after between Nora and Blackstone is as sweet as a vanilla cream puff and just as satisfying.

Utterly Charming is a delightful and endearing tale. For readers who look for stories to read as they cuddle amongst pillows in comfort, and want to enjoy an uncomplicated romance that is entertaining and cute, they will find that and more with Utterly Charming. I credit Ms. Grayson for surprising me with this fresh and fun interpretation of one of my favorite fairy tales.