I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett
Published by Harlequin on June 24th 2014
Genres: Adaptations, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Young Adult
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What really happened after the clock struck midnight? Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She's tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother's noble family—especially now that the family's wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It's hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane's burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family's struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane's stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire. When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate…. From the handsome prince to the evil stepsister, nothing is quite as it seems in Tracy Barrett's stunning retelling of the classic Cinderella tale.
I feel like you can tell I was raised during the 1990s golden era of Disney because I will read the heck out of any fairy tale re-telling. There’s something a little bit magical about those familiar stories that we all know being adapted and changed. I love reading different authors’ takes on these tales. Initially, I was interested in reading The Stepsister’s Tale by Tracy Barrett because of the cover. I will always be lured in by a pretty dress cover. The appeal began to rise when I realized that Barrett’s book was a retelling of Cinderella from the point of view of one of the stepsisters, who always seem to get the shaft when it comes to this story.
The Stepsister’s Tale is told from the point of view of Lady Jane Montjoy, the older stepsister. Jane has been keeping it together for so long. Living in a crumbling mansion with her mother and sister, Jane keeps food on the table by milking cows and picking berries as well as making cheese. She does this in secret from her mother, because her mother believes that is not how a lady should behave. Jane, however, is getting weary. Granted, her sister Maude helps by collecting eggs from the chickens and also cleaning as well. However, it’s a struggle to hide their hard work.
One day their mother comes home from the market with a man and a young girl in tow. The man is her new husband. The young girl is a beautiful, bratty child named Isabella. Isabella is accustomed to the finer things in life, so when she lives at the unkempt house, she experiences culture shock. Meanwhile, the man dies – leaving Isabella in the care of her stepmother along with Jane and Maude. Of course, the Cinderella story happens but not quite in the way that you would expect. There’s some twists that Barrett throws in that I happened to really like.
Jane is a stout sort of girl. She believes herself ugly because she is not small and delicate like Isabella. She does not have fine dresses. Instead, she’s got work roughed hands and toned arms from all that she does to provide for her family. I liked Jane’s character. Granted, I feel like I always like the main characters I read about. However, she’s very selfless. She is tired of pretending, yes, but she keeps the facade up to protect her Mamma. She continues to work herself to the bone to keep her family alive. Jane doesn’t put on airs or think that she’s better than what she is. She’s the kind of person you can actually respect. I am absolutely a Jane fan is what I am saying.
Tracy Barrett’s The Stepsister’s Tale does not lack romance – whoo hoo! There is definitely romance, but it’s not really centered on Cinderella and the prince. Instead, it is focused on Jane and a boy from the forest, Will. At first they don’t get along because they assume things about each other. Over time though it develops into friendship and then into something more and YES this was one of the better things about the book.
I am not sure why I am not 100% in love with The Stepsister’s Tale. There are things that really recommend the book — like the lesson that first impressions are not everything. There’s girl power and friendships. There’s family duty. There’s a portrait of selflessness. Yet, I felt like the pacing was kind of slow for the beginning of the book. I wasn’t super into the book or super invested. It’s a good read though, but a vacation sort of book, not the kind of book that immediately is the best thing ever. I’d still recommend it to fans of fairy tale retellings.