Once Upon a Christmas is a collection of fairytale retellings and features stories from authors Andrea Boyd, Mikal Dawn, Toni Shiloh, Angela Ruth Strong, and Jaycee Weaver. The collection includes retellings of classic fairytales such as Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, and A Little Mermaid.
A fairytale is basically a story about magical and imaginary beings and lands. It's usually written for children. Many of us grew up hearing, reading or watching classics such as Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty--at least, Walt Disney's version of them.
A fairytale retelling takes one of these familiar stories and creates a new story. There will be elements of the original story but it may not look like the Disney version you're used to.
That's because authors who write fairytale retellings have to be careful about copyright laws. They are not able to include anything unique that another author or screenwriter did first and have to stick very closely to the version that is in the public domain.
Because of the nature of the book, it was necessary to review each story before giving my overall impression of the collection.
In this story, a rare sleeping disorder keeps Talia from performing, but when Philip recognizes her gift, he’ll do whatever it takes to see her onstage.
Talia works at her family’s theatre and despite a love and gift for performing; she’s unable to do so because of a rare disorder that sometimes results in her falling asleep at the most inopportune time.
Talia can sleep for days, weeks or even months. Philip is the lead in her family theatre’s newest play and he wants nothing more than for Talia to play the lead opposite him.
Talia was a somewhat sympathetic character because her condition made it difficult for her to have a normal life. She is also plagued with the jealous bully who wants to make her waking moments unhappy. But I did not like her that much because she allowed herself to be moved around like an inanimate chess piece. She doesn’t object to many of the things which bother her and that bothered me.
She portrayed two different personalities: a shy, fading wallflower when in Philip’s company, but a confident, brave woman when speaking to her assistant. And yes, it is possible for her to be more comfortable around people she’s known longer, but it didn’t seem realistic given the prevalent role she played in her family theatre for her to be so painfully shy.
I understood that she chose to downplay her attractiveness but not that she would be almost afraid of men when she was often involved in getting sets ready or reading with the actors who came for auditions.
I did not like Philip’s character at all. He was childish, entitled and cared only about himself. He claimed Benny was his friend but treated him like a servant. He claimed to be attracted to Talia but thought nothing of trying to manipulate her into doing something he knew she didn’t want to do. Philip’s problem was too easily resolved.
He lamented the whole book about how disappointed his father would be because he had chosen the theatre yet, in the end, it was resolved without him having to say a word.
The author tried to make him sympathetic when he had a “change of heart” because of something Benny said to him, but it was too late for me and it wasn't detailed enough to change my mind.
Both characters professed a faith in God but it was barely evident in their lives. Talia’s faith was more evident than Philip’s, but it was still faint.
Li Na and Colin Wen face off in a Mulan-esque courtroom battle where the real win might be losing their hearts. Li Na impersonates her father so she can take on a courtroom battle in his place.
In the process, she meets Colin, the opposing attorney who quickly changes sides in their first meeting. The two unite to fight to save the business of one of Li Na’s father’s friends.
I think this book was intended to be a romantic comedy but in my opinion, the author tried too hard. The jokes weren’t funny and only made the characters appear childish and immature. The romance felt contrived as the two characters really had nothing on which to build a realistic relationship.
Both characters professed to be Christians, but there wasn’t a lot of faith depicted in the story. Li Na lied to Colin for most of the story and the only time either of them prayed was when it seemed as though Li Na would lose her license to practice.
The issue was resolved too quickly. One night Li Na’s crying her eyes out not knowing what to do and the next day she had found time to call the bar association to tell them about her behavior and face whether sanction they had in store…unless that was another lie.
When Colin went after Li Na to inform her of his intent to date her, Li Na invites him to stay for dinner while the father invites him to stay forever which was…weird. Li Na and Colin’s mutual friend Mush deletes a message in Colin’s phone despite him claiming he did not know anything about what was going on. So why delete the email from Li Na’s father then? There were a number of things that did not add up.
Sheltered heiress Amala White flees her conniving stepmother’s plans and finds refuge with a handsome orchard owner and his seven quirky uncles. Amala flees her home after overhearing her fiancé’s profession that he was in love with her stepmother.
She gets caught in a storm and her car crashes. Fortunately, she is rescued shortly after by Marcus who’s on his way home. Amala finds refuge with Marcus and his quirky uncles each of whom embodies one of the traits of the seven dwarfs from Snow White.
Amala had a hard life but her faith sustained her through the worst of it. Her relationship with Marcus is sweet and progresses quickly. The faith element is very strong in this book as both persons are actively living their faith and we see glimpses of their conversations with God.
There were a couple of unanswered questions like where did Amala’s engagement ring go? One minute she was looking at it on her finger after overhearing her fiancé confess his love for her stepmother, and then she was running away. When she tells Marcus she is engaged he’s surprised because there’s no evidence of her being involved with anyone.
I found it a little convenient that both Amala’s stepmother and fiancé confessed to their deeds with little stimuli. I did, however, enjoy this story and was encouraged by the faith of these two characters.
Reality TV meets Cinderella's story when a location director is swept off her feet by a rising star. Ella is the location manager for a family reality show. When the driver scheduled to pick up the son from the airport for his inaugural appearance is unexpectedly called away, Ella has to fill in the gap.
But he is nothing like she expected. Paxton is the guy Ella could settle down for if only his horrible family didn’t continually get in the way. But Paxton knows what he wants and what he wants is Ell.
This was a sweet story. Ella was at times vulnerable and tough and Paxton was the right guy to soften her heart. Christmas Ella was a twist on the traditional Cinderella story as the evil half-sisters belonged to Paxton and not Ella. As did the evil stepmother.
I found that to be an interesting plot twist that made this story a little different from other Cinderella fairy tale retellings.
The scene with the ball was a little unbelievable as Ella seemed convinced that putting on a dress and wearing a partial mask would make it impossible for Pax to recognize her with no attempt on her part to disguise her voice.
I could understand that his family would not recognize her because they hardly spent any time in her presence and they were completely self-absorbed anyway. But the guy who spent a week shadowing her every move trying to convince her to go on a date with him….not credible for me. Still, it was a feel-good story and was well-written.
Las Vegas glitz meets Land of Enchantment culture in A Splash of Love, a modern twist on the Little Mermaid. Gabrielle spends most of her time working for her stepfather’s hotel.
Her horrible stepsister Sirene schedules her to spend most of her days in the tank pretending to be a mermaid. When her stepfather tries to form a partnership with a chain of New Mexico restaurant, Derek, the son of the empire travels to Las Vegas to negotiate on the family’s behalf.
Brie is immediately drawn to him but finds that she is stunningly tongue-tied in his presence. Meanwhile, Derek is fascinated by the nameless mermaid who swims in the hotel’s tanks.
When Brie is sent to New Mexico to learn more about Derek’s family’s business, the two get to know each other. But can a relationship survive the distance especially when one hardly speaks to the other?
This was a lovely tale. I enjoyed the way elements of the Little Mermaid were scattered throughout the book. The author made no attempt to disguise the fact that this book was a retelling and instead seemed to relish making the connections.
I found it a little unbelievable that there was no sign of Sirene becoming unhinged until the last minute. I felt as though that was an explanation thrown in at the last minute that could have been foreshadowed a bit more throughout the course of the story.
Overall, I enjoyed the romance between Brie and Derek especially as it was told from alternating perspectives.
The five fairytale retellings in Once Upon a Christmas each had some Christmas elements. They have a little bit of "Christmas magic" thrown in. There are faith elements in each but some are more evident than others.
Some of the stories were very well done with likable characters and elements from the beloved fairytales. But some of them I struggled to get in the story and did not like many of the characters.
Once Upon a Christmas would be a good book for someone who wants to read some light, Christmas stories. It wouldn't hurt if you also love fairytales and fairytale retellings.
I received an advanced reader copy as part of the Celebrate Lit blogger review program; a positive review was not required. Have you read Once Upon a Christmas? What did you think?
Continue reading for the chance to win a Kindle Fire!
Each of Andrea Boyd’s series represents a different genre but all fall into the category of romance. All offer an element of her own brand of humor. And all are a tribute to God.
Besides writing, she loves spending time with her family, quilting, going to car shows, and driving around in her 1968 Barracuda convertible. Andrea lives with her husband, Tommy, and at least a couple of cats in York County, SC. Visit her at www.andreaboyd11.com.
Jaycee Weaver is a wife, mother, and substitute teacher living in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Jaycee writes contemporary Christian romance with lifelike characters in everyday situations who always get their happy ending. Visit her at www.jayceeweaver.com.
Mikal Dawn is an inspirational romance author, wedding enthusiast, and military (retired) wife. When she isn’t writing about faith, fun, and forever, she is obsessively scouring Pinterest (with coffee in hand!) for wedding ideas for her characters.
Mikal lives in Oklahoma with her husband and two of their three children. Visit her at www.mikaldawn.com.
Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior.
She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness. Visit her at www.tonishiloh.com.
Angela Ruth Strong sold her first Christian romance novel in 2009 then quit writing romance when her husband left her. Ten years later, God has shown her the true meaning of love, and there’s nothing else she’d rather write about.
Her books have since earned TOP PICK in Romantic Times, been optioned for film, won the Cascade Award, and been Amazon bestsellers. She also writes non-fiction for SpiritLed Woman.
To help aspiring authors, she started IDAhope Writers where she lives in Idaho, and she teaches as an expert online at WRITE THAT BOOK. Visit her at www.angelaruthstrong.com.
To celebrate their tour, the Once Upon a Christmas authors are giving away the grand prize of a Kindle Fire so you can continue to read all the fairytale retellings that your heart desires!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
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