Jessilyn Stewart Peaslee has proven to me three times before this new novella that she can do a perfect fairytale retelling with new depth, staying true to the messages, but making them new and fresh, with each story being superior to the original (in my opinion). I adored her Cinderella retellings called Ella and Ella’s Will, and her Beauty and the Beast retelling called Finding Beauty in the Beast, so I was so excited about yet another retelling, this time a regency novella based on the fairytale The Princess and the Pea.
As I was with her last couple novels, I was so honored to help edit her drafts. I knew from the first draft that it would be a glorious finished product. Her first chapter was perfection; the chemistry between Emma and James was so believable; the regency aspects were there but didn’t overwhelm; and the story made me feel so many emotions, even bringing me to tears (which to me is a sign of quality writing).
I hadn’t read the finished novella, Awake at Widmore Manor, though, until just a couple days ago when my book club was discussing it.
The finished novella was a little different than I thought it might be based on my conversations back and forth with Jessilyn, but everything worked out just perfectly anyway.
I truly felt, just like with her other books, that her retelling of The Princess and the Pea was far superior to the original story. She included the obvious things from the story, like a pea, a woman coming to the door in the rain, and a test, but the rest was her own. I love her for that – not feeling tied down to what has already been written.
I loved the characters in the novella. All of them had their own depth and their own story, and all were people you could relate to in some way. Emma, the main character of the book, was so funny, dutiful, family-oriented and hard-working. She spent much of her time wishing things could be different, but also being drawn to those in her life with such a loving devotion. She was brave, and made a choice to do something slightly crazy to help her family. And that choice changed everything.
The book had an overall tenderness to it. There was no bad guy trying to destroy her life. If there was any “bad guy,” it was fear of the unknown, unanswered questions from the past, poverty, sickness, chill, and unfair social constructs. And that was much more compelling to me than any villain would be, especially in this particular story.
I can’t say enough about how much I love this little novella. You will want to read it again and again, and even if you don’t like the taste of peas, you will want to pluck one right off the pod and try it for yourself after reading this delectable tale.