Once Upon a Time
“Once upon a time” are words that cue children and adults alike to snuggle into their chairs, suspend all disbelief, and open hearts and minds to the wonders of a great story. Lured by glowing cover blurbs and reviews (you’d think after more decades of reading than I care to admit I’d know better, wouldn’t you?)I planned to do just that, but this Once Upon A Time left me flat. Here Ms. Rogers combines fairy tale elements with historical romance and starts with a promising story premise. Unfortunately, this book never lives up to the promise.
The year is 1850 and Amethyst Danton, daughter of Lord Farley Danton, Viscount of Wyfirth, and the Lady Cornelia, is enjoying the last day of her visit with her eccentric great-aunt Daffy in Ireland. Amy falls asleep in a fairy ring and awakens to gorgeous Comlan, king of the Tuatha De Danaan. Reawakening inside the fairy ring, Amy is convinced her experience in the fairy kingdom was only a dream and returns to London for the Season and for the distasteful marriage her parents have arranged to villain Orville Bennett.
At the first gala of the season, she is astonished to find none other than the fairy king she thought she had dreamed. Jealous, Orville threatens to have Comlan investigated and exposed as a charlatan to London society, and Amy determines to find a way to warn Comlan. We soon learn that Comlan has come to London expressly to warn Amy of a great danger threatening her beloved Daffy. The plot thickens as we learn that Amy’s brother, Garnet, is conducting tests of some sort, and in order to earn money to buy his wife a home of her own, has involved himself in shady business with Orville even though he detests the man. Then, halfway through the book, a new pair of villains arise to further plague poor Amy.
I think the main thing that disappointed me was the author’s breaking the cardinal rule of writing which is, “show – don’t tell.” Ms. Rogers uses narrative to describe what is happening instead of allowing the reader to interpret it for herself through dialogue and action. As such, I felt as though I was watching mannequins act out the scenes while the ever-present narrator dictated to me what I was supposed to think about it. I’m all for experiencing the hero’s point of view as well as the heroine’s, but in this case everyone’s point of view is given, sometimes changing in the midst of a sentence! I never could reach the point where I cared about the heroine or the hero. I was repeatedly told that Amy was smart, brave, and independent, but all I could see was a resentful, lip-biting, eyebrow-furrowing, ever blushing, continually self-recriminating twit.
The author seemed obsessed with the physical traits of her characters, so every mention of them bogged down with repetitious references to their hair color, eye color (which is constantly darkening and becoming lighter and that puts strange pictures in my mind) and in Amy’s case, an endless stream of lip-chewing and flushing. Comlan was a little better, but his behavior was so inconsistent he was rendered totally unbelievable. The situations that are supposed to build tension and even suspense are again unbelievable, and often too simple, and so any drama comes off as melodrama without the tongue-in-cheek humor that can make it fun. By the time I reached the climax I could swallow no more, and I found the solution for all Daffy’s, Amy’s, and Garnet’s, problems simply unbelievable.
In fairness, I did find the ending of the book to be the best material in it. If Ms. Rogers had written the entire book like she did the last chapter and epilogue I think this could have lived up to the cover blurbs.