Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shakespeare and Fairy Tales

From Shakespeare we get some of the most famous quotes and sayings. From fairy tales we get some of the most famous stories and plots. Both offer a wealth of inspiration for writers, including Sarah Strohmeyer, author of "Sweet Love," "The Cinderella Pact," and "The Sleeping Beauty Proposal."

In "Sweet Love," Julie Mueller, a divorced single mother of a teen who lives above her parents in a two-family home. She's a workaholic and seeks career advancement to make amends for everything else she finds lacking in her life. When Julie's mother signs her up for dessert classes, she's sure there's a catch. And there is: one of her classmates is none other than Julie's childhood (and although she refuses to admit it, adulthood) crush, Michael. Strohmeyer begins the novel with Shakespeare's Sonnet 56, which begins, "Sweet love, renew thy force...," and "Sweet Love" is truly a novel about renewed love. Readers follow Julie as she shifts through her feelings for Michael, for her mother, and even her career. Through the sweetness of desert, will Julie be able to erase the bitterness that's grown in her over the years?

There's a depth and maturity in "Sweet Love" that only seems fitting as it's inspiration is Shakespeare--in fact, a quote from one of his plays or sonnets appears at the beginning of each chapter and he's quoted by some of the characters as well.

The same, or perhaps the opposite, could be said about "The Cinderella Pact" and "The Sleeping Beauty Proposal." While I enjoyed both of these books just as much as I did "Sweet Love," they were fun and frivolous--just like a good fairytale.

"The Sleeping Beauty Proposal" is about a girl who's boyfriend, after four years, finally pops the question. Except, he isn't asking her to marry him. And he's not asking her on national television. Instead of admitting to family, friends, and co-workers that she basically got dumped, Genie Michaels decides to "wake up" instead of waiting for Prince Charming's kiss to get her life started.  And let's face it--if you've grown up on fairytales, there's most likely a little (or perhaps huge) part of you that is asleep waiting for Prince Charming. So, Genie lets everyone believe her boyfriend Hugh did propose to her, and begins planning a whirlwind wedding. Although the deception weighs heavily on her conscience, this crazy decision helps Genie blossom into the woman she's always wanted to be. And she didn't need a man to accomplish any of it! "The Sleeping Beauty Proposal" is fun, crazy, and will have you laughing through each step of Genie's adventure. It's a modern day fairytale at its finest.

"The Cinderella Pact" is an equally fun, crazy, and full of laughs. BookPage described the book as "A big, cheery story with enough fairy tale and froth to let us escape the mundane, and with enough intelligence to make it worthwhile." I couldn't disagree even if I wanted to! Here lies the story of Nola Devlin, an overweight thirty-six year old woman with a secret identity. Her secret identity is that if Belinda Apple, a skinny, British ethics columnist who everyone in Nola's life seems to swear by. So much, in fact, that her two best friends decide that the three of them should follow Belinda's advice to "indulge their inner Cinderellas" and transform their lives for good--starting with losing the extra pounds they carry around. No way is Nola going to admit she doesn't take her own advice, so the Cinderella Pact is born and the three embark on a journey that takes them to places none of them could have ever imagined. As Nola struggles to balance her two identities, she finds herself stuck between two men and in a hairy situation at work. Covering up her lie with more lies just makes things more complicated, and Nola is left wondering if she'll ever truly get her Cinderella moment.

("The Cinderella Pact" is now a movie on Lifetime, although the name has been changed to "Lying to be Perfect.")

All three books are witty and engaging. For me, "Sweet Love" especially defied the conventions of average chick lit, making it my favorite of the trio. Currently I'm reading another Sarah Strohmeyer (I went all out at the library after Emily Giffin recommended her on Facebook), "The Penny Pinchers Club," which starts out with a housewife under arrest for digging through a dumpster.  Totally a sign that it'll be just as much fun!

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