Now if this was a modern day fairy tale, the hero might be a handsome young widower, hiding from the world in his castle and managing to avoid any meaningful romantic entanglements. Unfortunately, Sawyer Ellis would have stepchildren who think they know best, and most of the time it seems as if they do.
The heroine could have recently moved into the wisteria-covered cottage by the strawberry field. Sophie would be a thoroughly independent woman, as well as smart, self-obsessed, vulnerable and vain. She might be about to find out if her heart is made of gold. Sophie would have her doubts, but we’d know better.
It’s obvious to us they’ll need help from a fairy godmother, although she might not be as theatrical or mature as Cinderella’s. Her name would probably be Lily. Lily Rose. And normally she would get things very, very right. Except this time somehow it would all go very, very wrong.
But the setting is only a small Cheshire village, drowsily nudging Wales. A village known as Fools Castle. And in real life, in the present day, nothing like that could ever happen here. Could it?
Every so often, it’s lovely to be surprised by a book – to like it so very much that you really want to tell people about it. Especially those people who might think they wouldn’t like it. Because, I’ll be honest, I had my doubts – I’m not a massive fan of magic and fairy tales, and don’t read many stories featuring fairy godmothers. But – having escaped into it for the last couple of days – I have to tell you that this book was a little gem, beautifully cut and polished, and sparkling in every way.
I first discovered the author through a Christmas novella, The Little Book Of Lost Hearts (here’s my review), which I’d thoroughly enjoyed – and then, sadly, forgot that the author had promised a new book based in Fools Castle during 2014. As Valerie-Anne says, life got in the way (as it does), but Four Sides To Every Story – published for kindle on 24th June – takes us back to Fools Castle at last, this time with Nettie’s brother Sawyer centre stage.
I’m not going to tell the story beyond the description above, because I’d like you to discover it the way I did. But this really is a book with a bit of everything. There’s magic of course, and some of the loveliest little details – floating above gravel so as not to hurt your feet, the ability to restore clothing damaged in the tumble drier, and how lovely it would be to glow from within like lovely Lily. There’s a rugged hero in Sawyer – not the curmudgeon I originally thought he was, but a man who’s experienced real tragedy in his life, and has a damaged soul. He also has just the right amount of designer stubble and dishevelment to make him thoroughly fanciable, and he writes books… and he’s doing his utmost to be a good father. Then there are the children – especially wonderfully drawn Lexie – who somehow know Lily is a little different. Then there’s the terrifying mother-in-law, there’s Sophie who’s definitely up to something, and the homely housekeeper with a heart of gold. There’s romance galore, and misunderstandings, and heartbreak – and a quite brilliant ending that had my heart in my mouth and a tear in my eye.
I was right in what I said when I read this author before – she writes quite beautifully, with wonderful descriptions and a gentle humour. Don’t be put off by the hint of magic and fairytale – it’s really perfectly judged, and quite enchanting. A lovely, lovely read – and thank you to Valerie for remembering my earlier review and giving me the chance to read it before everyone else.
Valerie-Anne Baglietto wrote her first fairy tale aged four. A story about a little boy whose mother’s nose was incredibly long and spiral-shaped. It should have been obvious where her interest lay, but her debut novel The Wrong Sort Of Girl turned out to be a straightforward rom-com, winning the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer’s Award. Valerie-Anne had three more novels published by Hodder & Stoughton before motherhood took over her life.
Experimenting one day, when all of her children had started school, she began work on another fairy tale, but for adults this time. Once Upon A Winter turned out to be a #1 bestseller in the Amazon Fairy Tale and Contemporary Fantasy charts in the UK. Valerie-Anne realised writing modern, slightly magical romances for grown-ups of all ages was too much fun to give up, so she wrote a few more, along with a couple of longish short stories for the Belinda Jones’ Travel Club Sunlounger anthologies.
Valerie-Anne contributes to the Novelistas Ink blog (as well as bossing the entire group around) and is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. She lives happily in North Wales with her husband, three children and a headful of convoluted plotlines. A few of her friends suspect there may also be fairies hiding behind the skirting boards.
Valerie-Anne has an excellent website, and can be found on both Facebook and Twitter.