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Fantastic Fables continues today with the ever popular Cinderella fable. Claudia Gray is here today with her version of the timeless tale. Claudia’s upcoming release is FATEFUL, which is scheduled to hit shelves on September 13th. Ms. Gray tells a compelling and captivating tale that takes place on the doomed RMS Titanic. FATEFUL, with all of its tragedy, love, loss and betrayals, will stay with you long after you’ve finished the book. Thanks to the wonderful team over at HarperCollins/Harper Teen, two of you who comment on this post will win a copy of the book! See details below
Tess Davies is a servant girl who works for a wealthy, titled family in 1912 England — who have so many secrets and so much drama that, if they were transported to 2011, they’d have their own reality show. Plus, life in service means waking up before dawn, working incredibly hard 6 1/2 days a week, 52 weeks a year, and sleeping in a musty attic room with more mice than heat. In short, Tess wants out, and she’s been saving her money to strike out on her own. The Lisle family is taking her along to serve them on their trip to America, and as soon as she crosses the Atlantic, Tess decides, she’ll be free. Unfortunately, fate throws a few complications in her path. One complication — Alec Marlowe, a devastatingly handsome, unattainably privileged American man who captures her attention from the moment they meet … and seems to return it. Another complication — the fact that Alec is being hunted by a paranormal Brotherhood determined to turn him into a murderer, if he isn’t one already. And the biggest complication of all is one that neither Tess nor Alec could ever have seen coming: They’re on the RMS Titanic.
Years later, when Disney got ahold of the story, they cleaned it up. Set it further back in time, for one. Added silly things for children, like songs and the mice that talked. (Thank God they don’t. They keep you up long enough at night just with the squeaking and scratching. Imagine the bother if you had to hear them complain about their day, too.) Polished up the ending, too. They wanted their heroine to have her happy ending right away, and that happy ending had to look like a prince in a white jacket. Hollywood people think like that.
If they’d told my tale straight-out, it would have looked much more like this:
I wasn’t the daughter of a nobleman, torn from my rightful place by an envious stepmother to become a servant. I was the daughter of a day laborer, and when I turned 13 and got the chance to work in the Lisle house, I was glad of it. Regular meals and a good set of clothes: That was more than I had at home. The Lisles would turn out to be mad as hatters, most of them, but I didn’t know that yet.
I wasn’t sweet enough to charm the birds out of the trees, either. Though I try to be good-natured, I speak as I find, and I’m not one to back down from an argument. No chirping feathered friends have ever fluttered through the window to tie my sash.
And the biggest change — the fairy godmother didn’t look like a sweet old woman in a soft blue cloak.
She looked like a drunken coachman.
It was the night of the Lisles’ grand ball. They hoped their daughter, Irene, might find a match at an elegant soiree. Irene, the only Lisle worth a farthing, was far too quiet and modest to enjoy any affair so grandiose, but the poor girl had to go. Worse yet, I had to sew her gown … and make it over again, and again, while her mother tried in vain to make her daughter into the simpering fashion plate she could never be.
(I’ll say this much for Disney: Lady Regina was my employer, not my stepmother, but they had her personality down pat.)
By the night of the ball, I was exhausted. I’d done so much sewing that it was as if I’d made 10 dresses instead of one. Plus we’d all been called into cleaning service, not just the housemaids, so I’d scrubbed steps and swept out the fireplaces and polished silver until my hands were raw and sore. At least I had no duties during the ball itself. Once the guests began to arrive, those servants whose work wasn’t required were supposed to go hide in their quarters. Getting a nap before the late-night cleaning sounded good to me — but my curiosity was piqued. I hoped Irene at least looked well in her gown, and I wondered what a party like that would be for people who didn’t have to work for it or even think about it. What it would be like only to dance, without a worry in the world.
So I tiptoed down the back staircase and sneaked into the topiary garden, where all the shrubs had been trimmed into the shapes of various beasts — a giraffe, a stag and a great barrel-chested bear. From there I could just glimpse inside the ballroom, at all the glittering figures swooping through the figures of the dances. I wished I could hear the music.
“And so you shall, my dear,” said the coachman, who smelled like cheap whiskey and staggered like the butler after he’d dipped into the wine cellar. “You shall hear the music. You shall go to the ball.”
He held one hand out to me, and if I’d been any closer to him, I’d have swatted him. Some visiting nobleman’s nasty coachman, trying to give me a tumble in the gardens? Of all the nerve.
But he wasn’t actually a coachman. At least, I assume he wasn’t. Nobody would drive around someone else’s carriage if they had the power to do what he did then.
His hand seemed bathed in a kind of light that flowed like liquid; it swirled around me as if I were sinking into a tidepool. The sensation wasn’t like drowning, though; it was like flying. My uniform turned into a dress of the finest blue silk, and my wild curls drew up into a hairstyle that seemed, when I felt it, to be at the height of fashion. Instead of old boots, I wore delicate slippers. (Satin, not glass. Honestly, who could walk five feet in glass slippers?) Even my skin felt better: softer, and cleaner, too.
“Now go,” the coachman said. He leaned against the topiary bear, smiling tipsily at me. “No one will recognize you, never fear. As long as you keep my secret, yours will be kept too.”
I don’t know that I believed him, exactly, but a ballgown and a bath had just fallen out of the clear blue sky, so I assumed this wasn’t merely a joke. (And I did keep that secret for many years, until finally the time came to tell Alec why I believed in the supernatural.) It seemed worth a try. The worst that could happen was that my appearance would make Lady Regina sputter with rage, which would have been treat enough.
So I went to the ball. Nobody did recognize me, not even Irene, who was kind enough to say she liked my dress. I danced every dance, forgetting all my weariness, because I thought I’d never have such a chance again. Everyone admired me. I could hear the whispers: “Who is she?” How that made me smile.
The rest, I’m afraid, is nothing like the movie. “Prince Charming” was the second son of an earl, and although he was quite good looking, he was also a lout. Instead of declaring he would marry me, he whispered a rather indecent suggestion into my ear during the waltz. I danced (with other gentlemen) until well after midnight, and no carriages turned into pumpkins. The next morning, when I awoke in my attic room, nothing of my finery remained — particularly not a glass slipper to find me by.
The only difference I ever saw was in the topiary garden. All the animals had changed position — subtly, but definitely. I saw others stealing glances at it, even the Viscount polishing the lenses of his spectacles before staring at it again, but nobody would admit what they saw for fear of being thought mad. Me, though, I recognized the magic. I saw how the giraffe had turned his head toward the morning sun, and how the stag had lowered his mighty horns as if to drink from an unseen stream. And in the paw of the great topiary bear bloomed one single white rose, which never faded, not even in winter.
Claudia Gray is not my real name. I didn’t choose a pseudonym because my real name is unpleasant (it isn’t), because I’d always dreamed of calling myself this (I haven’t) or even because I’m hiding from the remnants of that international diamond-smuggling cartel I smashed in 2003 (Interpol has taken care of them). In short, I took a pseudonym for no real reason whatsoever. Sometimes this is actually the best reason to do things.
I am a full-time novelist based in Chicago. So far, in life, I’ve been a disc jockey, a lawyer, a journalist and an extremely bad waitress, just to name a few. I especially like to spend time traveling, hiking, reading and listening to music. More than anything else, I enjoy writing.
Want to read more from Claudia Gray?
This giveaway is provided by HarperCollins/Harper Teen
Two winners will each receive a copy of Fateful by Claudia Gray
Available on September 13, 2011 from HarperCollins/Harper Teen
About the Book:
Eighteen-year-old maid Tess Davies is determined to escape the wealthy, troubled family she serves. It’s 1912, and Tess has been trapped in the employ of the Lisles for years, amid painful memories and twisted secrets. But now the Lisle family is headed to America, with Tess in tow. Once the ship they’re sailing on—the RMS Titanic—reaches its destination, Tess plans to strike out and create a new life for herself.
Her single-minded focus shatters when she meets Alec, a handsome first-class passenger who captivates her instantly. But Alec has secrets of his own. He’s in a hurry to leave Europe, and whispers aboard the ship say it’s because of the tragic end of his last affair with the French actress who died so gruesomely and so mysteriously. . . .
Soon Tess will learn just how dark Alec’s past truly is. The danger they face is no ordinary enemy: werewolves exist and are stalking him—and now her, too. Her growing love for Alec will put Tess in mortal peril, and fate will do the same before their journey on the Titanic is over.
1. Leave a comment for Claudia, let us know what you think of this fable, book or series.
2. +1 entries for tweeting about this contest, blogging about it, linking via your sidebar etc…(please tell me where!).
3. Giveaway is open to U.S. only.
4. Please include your email address in your comment.
5. All Fantastic Fables winners will be announced on September 7th.
6. The winner will be picked with the help of Random.org.
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