If you like western historical romance and haven't read Caroline Lee's adorable EVERLAND EVER AFTER series, you're missing out on a lovely read.
This series, set in a small town in Wyoming called Everland where every character deserves a happy ending and there's just a sprinkle of magic, brings together classic fairy tale tropes like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, the Wicked Stepmother, and The Princess and the Pea, and gives them new life as sweet western tales.
(Think ABC's "Once Upon a Time" but with less Disney branding and - IMHO - a little more heart.)
ROSE RED is the series' Christmas tale. Now, many of us aren't familiar with the German tale of Snow White and Rose Red, which is not to be confused with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. (Totally different Snow Whites!) To summarize - Rose and Snow are sisters who live in the woods. Snow is shy, Rose is outgoing. A bear appears at their door one winter night and they let him come in and he winds up staying with them all winter. Come summer, the bear has to go guard treasure an evil dwarf is after. All summer, the girls rescue the dwarf in the woods from a number of misadventures, but he's ungrateful. The girls meet the bear and the dwarf having a fight in the woods, and the dwarf begs the bear to eat the girls. Nope. The bear kills the dwarf and, ta-da, is revealed to be a prince!
In Caroline Lee's Rose Red, Rose White lives with her obnoxious mother and her half-sister, Snow White. Rose wants to travel and write adventure novels. One day, as happens in both fairy tales and westerns frequently, a wounded man named Barrett ("Bear") Faulkner shows up in her barn. Being a good-hearted heroine, Rose helps him to hide and heal, while thinking him to be a bandit and stealing snippets of his story to use in her own tales. As Christmas festivities in Everland grow closer, so do the duo in the barn, and Rose finds herself attracted to Bear, even if he is a terrible bandit... or is he?
;) I adored this book, just like I've adored the Everland series so far. (The Mermaid is my favorite, btw.) It's nice to get glimpses of characters from previous books, and there is enough smoldering tension in Rose's barn to fill a long, cold, winter.
ROSE RED is available on Amazon - http://amzn.to/2Bc4Ly6
(Psst! You can start the Everland Ever After series for free with LITTLE RED)
Chatting (Again!) with Caroline Lee!
Now, you may recall five days ago when Ms. Lee was kind enough to let me ask her some questions about the 12 Mail-Order Brides of Christmas series. While we were at it, we talked a bit about Everland, too!
Me: As someone who just adores the EVERLAND EVER AFTER series, where did the original inspiration for it come from? (Are you a fan of "Once Upon a Time"?) :)
Caroline: I actually make a point to not watch other fairy tale re-imaginings, just because I don’t want to accidentally steal anything! And I don’t know if I could tell you where I came up with the idea…I’ve actually tried to remember, but I can’t! It’s like it just popped into my head: What do people like that I can combine with the Old West? Cinderella! That was my first book, and it went from there. I did Little Red next (even though it technically comes first, so that became book one), then Beauty… now I have nine fairy tales, some more obscure than others.
Me: I appreciated the way you brought in Snow-White and Rose Red for ROSE RED - because it's a fairytale that doesn't always get attention. Did you think of it and immediately go, "Oh, a wounded hero in a barn!" which is such a delightful and classic western trope?
Caroline: When I’m plotting each Everland book, I try to distill each fairy tale down to its basic elements. In the original Snow White and Rose Red tale, there’s a wounded bear who the sisters care for all winter (instead of, you know, assuming it’ll eat them, like any normal person…). In the spring, the bear turns into a Prince (who had an evil spell cast on him, etc. etc.) and marries one of the sisters as a reward. Well, I knew I couldn’t do shapeshifting, because the magic in Everland is more coincidental magic—things that maybe just happened by coincidence, but with perfect timing, that sorta thing. So I distilled the tale down to the basic element: A figure who appears evil/bad/negative, and the heroine cares for him even while thinking he’s evil/bad…only to discover his “goodness” as part of the reward/climax. As for the “Wounded hero in the barn”… I just needed a place to stick my bear for Rose’s care, without her horrible mother learning about him!
Me: What are your holiday traditions?
Caroline: We have a “Countdown to Christmas” box, with 24 little drawers. Each drawer has a finger puppet I made years ago, and a discussion question (sometimes a piece of candy!), and the boys open them one each night starting December 1. We also wrap 24 kids’ Christmas books and stick them under the tree, so each night in December they get to open one and we read it that night. It’s the same books each year, but they don’t get to read those any other time of the year. I’m excited to see how Princess Wiggles does this year with our traditions—it’s her first Christmas! (She’ll turn one on December 28th—where did the year go?)
Me: Any hints as to what is to come in EVERLAND?
Caroline: Snow White is finally getting her story! Look for Snow in early 2018, and it’ll set up some important elements for Everland’s future. I need to tie together the orphanage and the Gypsy magic (introduced by Daj in The Mermaid) with the Guild of Godmothers…because soon you’ll get to read about contemporary Everland! The Guild is still active in modern days, of course, only they’ve had to be a little sneakier. ☺
Pairs well with --
The saloon in Everland is called The Gingerbread House, so of course that's where my mind went. I love holiday baking, and gingerbread and molasses things are my favorite -- so I decided to make this Spiced Gingerbread Loaf via Sally's Baking Addiction. (Seriously, this site has never steered me wrong. I check Sally's first when I decide to bake something.)
IT TURNED OUT PERFECTLY! I'm so glad I only made one, because I killed it. <3
ANOTHER Christmas book by Caroline Lee - and it's free, too!
A Cheyenne Christmas, the first book in Caroline's Sweet Cheyenne Quartet series, is an adorable treat. It's the story of Ash and Molly and how they are thrust together, and make it work, and fall in love along the way. <3
Check back tomorrow. Maybe there'll be zombies.
Or Am I?