Rating: 4* of five
The Book Report: Eleyna is a lovely young woman, bereft of family and only grudgingly allowed to exist by a stepmother she abominates and whose attitude towards Eleyna is not that of a fond parent. The ducal ball is coming up, and Eleyna does not even feel a moment's surprise that she alone does not so much as warrant a token of intent to attend with her ghastly stepsister Michaela and the probably not so bad Sophia. After all, they have a shot at making matches...Eleyna is twenty-one, teetering on spinsterhood!
Eleyna's secret weapon is her own true mother's gorgeous, ancient ball gown, cleverly modernized by Josefa the seamstress in secret, the two colluding to put hateful Michaela's nose as far out of joint as it can be put. When she shows up to attend the ball in this gorgeous gown, Sophia is thrilled and offers her stepsister the loan of some aquamarines; Michaela is vengefully determined to get that gown for herself, to replace her own shabby-genteel number.
Of course, this is how it all plays out, and the ball is a bust for Eleyna until Michaela needs her help in fixing up the damage she has carelessly done to Eleyna's gown.
Hijinks, as the saying goes, ensue. Can't say more. No spoilers!
My Review: I'll read whatever Alleyn writes. She retells Cinderella for the umpty-umpth time, and still manages to find an angle unused. That, laddies and gentlewomen, takes an imagination to be reckoned with!
The fun thing about this short tale is that it showcases Alleyn's trademark deftly limned characters doing totally believable things for comprehensible reasons, and still manages to surprise the reader into an arched eyebrow more than once. I've never ever had any sympathy for the stepmother before reading this story, for example.
And for ninety-nine cents, a pittance! pittance, I say!, one has a half-hour's respite from the irksome modern world's irksome modern demands. Immerse yourself in 1765, hear the rustle of fine watered silk, see the soft, feminine glow of seed pearls in candlelight, commiserate with a charming young wallflower as she loses her one date to a boy in cream satin's Verboten charms.
Ninety-nine cents doesn't even buy coffee these days. And this charming retelling of a fairy tale, dark edges and all, will linger longer in your memory than that six-dollar latte.