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Happily Ever After. What if the fairy tales got it wrong?

Why do we love fairy tales? Some say they embody universal tropes that pass along the traditions of social messaging. Watch out for those who are different. Fear the unknown. Obey your mother, or the big bad wolf will eat you. Use good manners and be polite, and a fairy (or a prince or an enchanted frog) will rescue youchild-643229_640

But that can’t be the answer because fairy tales aren’t actually all that traditional. The ones our grandchildren hear are not the same ones our grandparents told, and they certainly bear little resemblance to their early versions. If the stories don’t change constantly, their meaning becomes irrelevant. All you have to do is go back and look at the original versions to see what I mean. In one of the earliest known sources for many of our familiar fairy tales, Giambattista Basile’s The Tale of Tales/Il Pentamerone (1634), Cinderella is a conniving girl who murders her first stepmother in The Cinderella Cat, but still ends up marrying a prince. In Charles Perrault’s original version from Stories or Fairy Tales from Past Times: Tales of Mother Goose (1697), Little Red Riding Hood strips naked, climbs into bed with the wolf and is…er…eaten. (Contemporary readers would have understood the reference, because the term for a girl losing her virginity was elle avoit vû le loup — she has seen the wolf.) In Basile’s The Little Slave Girl (Snow White), a girl cursed to die at age seven grows to adulthood in an enchanted sleep while encased in a glass coffin, only to be awakened and enslaved by her jealous aunt.

So…given the way fairy tales have evolved—you only have to take a look at the kickass heroines in modern interpretations of Cinderella such as Ella Enchanted or Ever After—it’s clearly not respect for tradition that makes us love fairy tales. No, I think it’s the one thing fairy tales have had in common since their earliest beginnings: the ending. We’re suckers for the happily ever after.

I was an adult before I realized that’s also what’s wrong with fairy tales. I’m not in them. Only two people in each story get that HEA, while everybody else in the entire friggin kingdom…doesn’t.

And that’s the real problem with fairy tales. They’re the lottery. We know, objectively, that the odds against being the powerball winner are a bazillion to one. But why shouldn’t that one be me? So we buy millions of lottery tickets anyway. And we know just as objectively that the odds against being the ones silhouetted against the sunset with the words “happily ever after” across the page are just as unlikely.

But you know what? You might not ever win the lottery or live the fairy tale. Along with Cinderella and Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, you might wake up one day and realize you’ve wasted time with the wrong prince. Lucky you! It’s time for your after-the-happily-ever-after. And this time, you’re not stuck with someone because little animated rodents like him or her or some shoe fits your foot. You’re choosing the person who matches the person you’ve been working so hard to become. You’re a grownup, and you’ve earned it.

So what happens after the happily-ever-after? Patricia Sands has an answer that’s both sobering and enchantingly affirming in Book 2 of her Villa des Violettes series.

Review 3:

A Season of Surprises at the Villa des Violettes (Book 2 in the Villa Des Violettes series)

  • GenreContemporary fiction
  • Author: Patricia Sands
  • Blurb:

The Love in Provence characters are celebrating a glorious spring on the Côte d’Azur. There are sweet-smelling blossoms, buds bursting into bloom, explosions of golden mimosa, dazzling sunshine, a shimmering sea … and a worrying disappearance! A hidden past is uncovered and shocking truths are revealed. But life goes on. Kat and Philippe welcome their first B&B guests to the Villa and continue to be busy with other demands, all the while keeping hope alive as police search for their friend.A special request from Simone and an unexpected appearance turn a planned motorcycle trip in Corsica into so much more. Springtime at the Villa des Violettes is filled with secrets and surprises.

My Review: 5 out of 5 stars

Springtime has arrived at the Villa des Violettes, along with secrets and surprises.  Luckily, the theme of the book, indeed of the series, isn’t one of them.

J’accepte la grande aventure d’être moi. —Simone de Beauvoir

After sleepwalking through two decades of marriage, Kat has moved to France, fallen in love with Philippe, and accepted ‘the great adventure of being me’. Together, she and Philippe have faced hardship and danger, emerging with their relationship strengthened. In the Villa des Violettes series, they are focussed on their future, and especially on their new venture, the guesthouse Villa des Violettes which is just about to open.

As part of Kat’s active engagement in her new life, she’s built a new family in Provence. In addition to her new husband Philippe, she’s formed crucial alliances with other women. Indeed, with 95-year-old artist Simone as the matriarch, and the young orphan Delphine, Kat finds herself stepping into the matronly role.

But letting others into your heart means opening yourself to heartache. So when Delphine disappears, Kat and her new family rally around. What they learn is devastating. Delphine’s background as an exploited child is one she’s tried to leave behind. Her friends fear that old enemies have recaptured her, and are determined to do all they can to find her.

As Kat and her new family learn more about this horrific industry, they are shocked by the scope of its reach and its ready adoption of modern technologies to snare their victims. And for Kat, the realization is even more devastating. Her beloved France, the place that has healed her soul and given her a second chance at a happy-ever-after, also houses the same true evil as almost anywhere else in the world.

As her new family tries to stay strong and have faith that Delphine will be found, Kat finds herself doubting her choices and even her own eyes as she thinks she spots Delphine on several occasions only to lose her again. But even more than in the earlier books, one of the strongest characters is the setting itself. The wild beauty of Provence provides healing and new experiences even as Kat and her family try to process their fears for Delphine and their grief at the stories of other victims and their families.

I’d actually like to end this review with the same lines from my review of Book 1 in this series. If you like a beautiful love story in a gorgeous setting, with grownup characters who are all too flawed, human, and weighed down by emotional baggage…do yourself a favor. Don’t read this gorgeous book until you’ve treated yourself to the whole Love in Provence series, as well as Book 1 of Villa des Violettes. There is a world of new friends waiting for you, and some adorable puppies as well.