One Day, My Prince
The old story of Snow White and her Prince Charming gets a rather interesting new treatment in One Day, My Prince. For one thing, it’s set in a small town in late 19th-century Texas. For another, Jones switches around the sexes for all the major characters in the story. It’s a clever and pretty interesting device, but ultimately the book is a mixed bag.
Joe White is a young marshall who’s trying to capture notorious criminal Charlie Lockhart and his partner, Tristan Butler. In the process of completing his quest, Joe unknowingly makes petty thief Deacon Moss jealous by proving to be a faster draw, a better shot, and even a better lover. Since Moss is no longer the best at anything, he sends out a pair of goons to ambush and kill his competitor. However, the two incompetents flub the job and merely wound Joe, leaving him for dead. Joe, persistent cuss that he is, manages to pull himself onto his horse and prays that Snowdrop finds her way back into town.
Snowdrop doesn’t. Instead, Joe wakes up to find himself in the home of the seven Shorter sisters, who range in age from fifteen to five. Recently orphaned and with no living relatives to take care of them, the Shorters are in danger of being separated by decree of the good people of Jacob’s Crossing. Sarah Prince, the new schoolteacher from New York, is also determined to keep them together and is living with them, declaring herself their unofficial guardian. When Joe arrives and they save his life, the two oldest Shorter sisters come up with a better plan to keep them together: Joe can pretend to be their “long-lost” father, who in reality died long ago. But because Joe can’t stick around forever, he offers Sarah a sham marriage so she can become the girls’ “stepmother” once he leaves. Then, just as Joe thinks everything is going to go according to plan, he spots one of the criminals he’s seeking in a rather unexpected place, and Deacon Moss shows up in town as well. Besides, being married to the prissy Miss Prince (who has secrets of her own) isn’t half as bad as he though it was going to be, and he’s having a harder time walking away than he thought he’d have.
Joe and Sarah turn out to be stock romance characters, with little resemblance to the people in the original fairy tale apart from their names (and in Joe’s case, his situation in the beginning). Joe was also orphaned at a young age and also faced the risk of being separated from his sister, which explains rather nicely his willingness to help the Shorter sisters. Other than his willingness to take (temporary) responsibility for the girls, though, he is a rather run-of-the-mill, devilishly handsome, commitment-shy romance hero. Sarah Prince is also your average prissy, schoolmarmish character who discovers that she isn’t so prissy after all – with the right man, of course.
The seven Shorter girls correspond rather cutely with the characters of the seven dwarves: not the ones from the original Grimm fairy tale, however, but the Disney version. This part of the book felt rather contrived. It was quite amusing to see which character was going to be Dopey or Sneezy or Sleepy, but I think I would have enjoyed this part of the book more in my pre-college days, before I became cynical about Disney and their treatment of various classics and fairy tales (after all, they’re the people who turned The Hunchback of Notre Dame into a musical comedy with a happy ending, and Pocahontas into a bosomy Naomi Campbell look-alike).
But the twist given to the “wicked queen,” Deacon Moss, is quite inspired. Instead of a two-dimensional villain, he becomes a sympathetic character, and a secondary romance is centered on him. Unfortunately, the real villains of the book are pure cardboard constructions. On top of being evil, they’re extremely unattractive, an unfortunate cliche the book could have done without.
Overall, this book is readable, though it’s nothing spectacular. Those who like their fairy tales with an alternative spin and fans of Jones’ previous will probably enjoy One Day, My Prince.