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Book Series Review: Once Upon a Time by Maggie Shayne
Once Upon a Time by Maggie Shayne is a set of two full-length fantasy romance novels. It's about two sisters who were separated during infancy, Brigit, and Bridin. Brigit grows up in an orphanage and then on the streets as a world-class art forger, believing she is human. But Bridin knows the truth. That they are half-fairy, and heirs to the magical kingdom of Rush, which is located in another realm. Her adoptive uncle believed her to be insane and imprisoned her in her room for years. Her uncle was under the influence of Prince Tristan, whose father had stolen Rush from the fairies during Bridin's and Brigit's infancy. The two books, Fairytale and Forever Enchanted, tell the stories of each of the sisters as they try to find happiness.
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Brigit has escaped her past life of crime to live a legitimate life as a florist in a small town, where she lives with an old man named Raze, who saved her from a fire when she was young. But when an old contact kidnaps Raze, she has no choice but to do one more art forgery to save the old man's life. Unfortunately, to do this forgery, she must live with a handsome mythology professor named Adam Reid, who is the owner of the painting in question. The last thing she wants to do is steal Adam's prized possession, but she can't let Raze die.
Being a man who was betrayed one too many times, Adam doesn't trust easily, and he certainly doesn't trust the young woman who has come into his life all of a sudden, no matter how mesmerizing her eyes are. But even though he knows she's up to no good, he can't help but feel attracted to her. Even more than that, she bears a lot of similarities to the fairies in old Celtic myths. But he couldn't really be falling under the spell of a fairy, could he?
This story was a little slow to start off with. There's a lot of backstory for both of the sisters right at the beginning, so it was difficult to actually get into the story at first. I also kept getting Brigit and Bridin mixed up so it was hard for me to remember which one was the art forger and which one was imprisoned.
But after the second chapter or so, the story really took off. After being robbed by his ex wife, Adam is forced to rent out a room of his house to help make ends meet, giving Brigit the opportunity to move in, even though he doesn't trust her, which I really like. Part of the fairy lore is that they can make mortal men waste away with longing for the fairy that captures his heart. This easily smacks of insta-love. But not here. Adam is way too wary of Brigit to completely fall in love with her. The fact that he isn't naive or easily manipulated is really good. It almost as if having a bad childhood and then being betrayed by his wife made him more immune to Brigit's Lure.
I also like that Brigit isn't eager to betray Adam. She even tried to give up her florist shop so she wouldn't have to take the painting. It makes her a better match for Adam, even though she often feels a little bit like none of the crime was her fault at all.
Fairytale focuses mostly on Adam's and Brigit's relationship. There's hardly any mention of magic or the impending war in Rush, which is a little frustrating. Even though I really like Adam and Brigit, and they have a really intriguing and well-developed love story, I kept wondering about what was happening in Rush and with Bridin. It was practically just a contemporary romance with the magic more like an afterthought. But it still was a really good story. The action just doesn't really start to happen until Forever Enchanted.
With the help of her sister, Bridin has managed to escape the mortal world and go back to Rush to stage a rebellion against Prince Tristan. But despite being sworn enemies, Bridin has found that she can't hate Tristan. And after being affected by Bridin's Lure for years while visiting her, Tristan doesn't hate Bridin. The war is difficult to fight when the leaders of both sides are in love. Even if they can't even admit it to themselves.
But after Tristan is betrayed by his brother, he finds himself on the same side as Bridin, in exile from Rush and needing to get back for the good of the kingdom. He knows he can't do that without Bridin. If only he can convince her of that.
This story is way more action-packed than the first one. I did have a few problems with it, like how Tristan was so naive about his brother and how the villagers were so quick to turn on Bridin. I was also weird for me to think of Bridin and Tristan in a relationship at first because I had pictured Tristan only as a bad guy. And since he held her captive for most of her childhood, I thought he was much older than her instead of being only seven years older than her. But once I accepted that, it was a really good story. Seeing them both get over their deep-rooted hatred to work together was great. And while Brigit was a martyr, Bridin is a badass, even though she often seemed to lack common sense. This was a great story that just pulled me in and even gave plot twists that I wasn't at all expecting.
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