Author: Marie Sexton
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Eldon Cinder has lived with his Aunt Cecile and his twin cousins Jessalyn and Penelope since his parents died when he was a young boy. Eldon works as an unpaid servant in their home, cleaning and doing chores. One day while out fishing, he comes across a man in the woods. The two strike up a casual conversation before Eldon realizes that this man is in fact the prince of the land, come to their town to find a wife before his next birthday. Eldon is mortified to realize he has been interacting with Prince Xavier in such a casual manner, but he is assured by the prince how much he enjoys the company of someone not just out for his money or the favors he can bring.
At Xavier’s encouragement, Eldon returns every day to the woods where the two men talk and fish and enjoy being together. However, this draws to and end when Xavier must finally choose a bride or risk losing his inheritance and position as the future king. Eldon is devastated, and while he knows there can be no future for them, he wishes he had just one more opportunity to say goodbye to Xavier.
Eldon’s wish is granted by a witch living in the forest. She turns him into a woman for just one night so he can go the ball and dance with the prince. The night is magical and the next morning Xavier goes in search of the mysterious woman from the ball, only to be led to Eldon’s door by his faithful tracking dog. Unable to reveal the truth, Eldon is shocked when his cousin claims to be the woman from the ball and Xavier agrees to marry her. Yet he insists that Eldon come along as well when they return to the palace.
As the relationship between the men continues to grow, Eldon must figure out if he dares tell Xavier the truth about Jessalyn and what really happened that night. He knows unmasking his cousin could likely lead to them both being sent away and he can’t bear being apart from the prince. But he also knows that Xavier is not happy with Jessalyn and doesn’t want him forced into a marriage with his conniving cousin. Although he has no hope for a future between them, Eldon still wants the best for Xavier and struggles with whether to reveal the truth before the wedding.
So you have probably figured out that this story is a twist on the classsic Cinderella tale. It has a lovely fairy tale-like tone to the story and is sweetly romantic. I loved that we see Eldon and Xavier meet and form a close relationship before that night at the ball. Both men see past the exterior of the other. Xavier doesn’t treat Eldon like a peasant or a servant, and Eldon interacts with Xavier like a real person and not a prince. By the time they meet for that magical dance, they have already built something between them and Xavier instantly recognizes something familiar in Eldon, even though he doesn’t realize it is him in disguise. I liked this change rather than the typical insta-love in the traditional tale. As befitting a fairy tale, the romance is fairly chaste between the men. There are just a few passionate kisses and a very non-explicit love scene.
I think Sexton does a great job of following the Cinderella story while still giving us something fresh and new. I loved how she gets the guys together at the end and I was pleasantly surprised at how it all came together (I had a bit of a fear that thankfully didn’t materialize). Cinder definitely falls on the light and sweet end of things and I really enjoyed it.