Jul 13 2013 10:00am

If the Shoe Fits: Cinderella Tales

Godmother by Carolyn TurgeonCinderella may have been the first maid to snatch up a rich and royal husband, but she certainly wasn’t the last. Ever since that famous fairytale, little girls have been searching for Prince Charming to save them from a lifetime of sweeping and scrubbing floors. Cindy broke social barriers and is the true fairy godmother of the trope.

What is it about this storyline that never gets old? The underdog winning? Love being blind to social status? Waiting to see if the rich will give everything up in the name of love? The juicy tidbits of gossip whispered between the help and their masters? We salivate over the scandalous details and inevitable fallout. Where will they secretly meet? Who will find out? Who will vie to destroy them? How will it all end? Will they be rich or poor? Will true love conquer all?

The smash hit Downton Abbey is a testament to the longevity of these familiar plots—a whole family of privilege dressed to the nines and a full staff for their every beck and call. Within each social structure we see the hierarchy, who’s got the power and who craves it. With no cell phones or iPads to distract, there’s nothing to do really but talk, whisper, fall in love, leaving room for all those plot twists Downton Abbey’s famous for. I’m still reeling from the season finale.

In Maid In Manhattan, Jennifer Lopez was  a hotel cleaning lady who swept a politician off of his feet pretending to be a rich guest of the hotel. She’s a Latina maid and Ralph Fiennes is a WASPy senator. Add to that she’d a single mother of a young boy. And who can forget J-Lo in that gorgeous peach chiffon dress and how Ralphy boy looked at her? Sigh and swoon.

Audrey Hepburn and Julia Ormond gave us Sabrina, the chauffeur’s daughter hopelessly in love with one of the son’s of fortune. The bad boy David is meant to marry another rich girl. When Sabrina comes home from Paris completely made over and unrecognizable he’s immediately smitten. Linus, the dependable stiff brother, swoops in the save the family for such an unreasonable match. Love triangle! And who can forget the dresses in both those wonderful movies? Sigh and swoon again.

And there are even more Cinderella fairytale retellings in books. There are many titles I’ve never heard of and cannot wait to read: Carolyn Turgeon’s Godmother, The Secret Cinderella Story, is a retelling from the POV of the Fairy Godmother.

Lil is an old woman with an intriguing secret. Tucked and bound behind her back are white feathery wings–the only key to who she once was: the fairy godmother responsible for getting Cinderella to the ball to unite with her Prince Charming. On that fateful night Lil allowed herself the unthinkable: to feel the emotions of human beings and fall in love with the prince herself, going to the ball in place of Cinderella in her exquisitely gorgeous human guise. For her unforgivable mistake, she was banished to live among humans. But then one day she meets Veronica–a young woman with a love a penchant for falling in love with the wrong men–and suddenly it becomes clear to Lil that she’s been given a chance at redemption. If she can find a soul mate for Veronica, she may right her wrong and return to the fairy world she so deeply longs for.

An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia QuinnJulia Quinn’s An Offer From A Gentleman is a historical romance.

Sophie Beckett never dreamed she'd be able to sneak into Lady Bridgerton's famed masquerade ball — or that “Prince Charming” would be waiting there for her! Though the daughter of an earl, Sophie has been relegated to the role of servant by her disdainful stepmother. But now, spinning in the strong arms of the debonair and devastatingly handsome Benedict Bridgerton, she feels like royalty. Alas, she knows all enchantments must end when the clock strikes midnight. Who was that extraordinary woman? Ever since that magical night, a radiant vision in silver has blinded Benedict to the attractions of any other — except, perhaps, this alluring and oddly familiar beauty dressed in housemaid's garb whom he feels compelled to rescue from a most disagreeable situation. He has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, but this breathtaking maid makes him weak with wanting her. Yet, if he offers her his heart, will Benedict sacrifice his only chance for a fairy tale love?

Cinderella Lopez, by Berta Platas, is a contemporary romance set in New York City.

Fifteen-year-old Cynthia Lopez made a promise to her dying father: she will live with her two stepsisters, Ami and Lila, until she turns twenty-five, at which point she'll inherit his large estate. Now, nine years later, twenty-four-year-old Cyn is counting down the days to that fateful birthday. At first, living with Ami and Lila had been fun, even exciting at times. Two of New York's hottest It-Girls, they know all the right people, own all the right things, and go to all the right parties. Sensible Cyn used to be content hiding in the shadows of her larger-than-life sisters. Now, Cyn is finally wising up and realizing that she is no longer stepsister to the stars—she is personal assistant/slave to the stars (or Las Diablas, as the Latin press likes to call them). And, when Prince Charming enters, Cyn must go head-to-head with her truly wicked stepsisters in order to win back her father's fortune, her perfect man, and, most importantly, her life.
What makes us return to these tales over and over again is this: we’re still those little girls, waiting for the gorgeous dress and glass slipper, waiting to fall in love with Prince Charming, waiting to fall for another great Cinderella Story.

Which Cinderella books or films are your favorites?

Charli Mac writes Women’s Fiction and YA Paranormal set in Philly and the South Jersey Shore. Snorts & screams are probable and fist-pumps are highly discouraged at Twitter her @charlimacs.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Peach
My favorite Cinderella tale is A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James. It is full with witty banter, stocked with steamy scenes, and set with a dynamic and fascinating caste of characters.
Carmen Pinzon
2. bungluna
My favorite Cinderella story is "The Faery Godmother" by Mercedes Lackey. It's a fantasy in which Cindirella's intended prince is too young for her and she must forge another story for herself, as the 'traditions' in her kingdome keep trying to force her into the 'traditional' path. This Cindirella makes her own way and managed to tame the prince. Great story.
Rachel Powell
3. JMercy
@bungluna Good call! I adore Mercedes Lackey's 500 Kingdoms series, but the Faery Godmother will always be my favorite. It completely turns the trope on its head providing a fresh take on an old favorite.
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