You all know I love a good retelling, and even better when it’s a queer retelling. I imagine you also likely know how much I adore interconnected short(er) fictions, and so I leapt on Femme Tales the moment I read the blurb, which should surprise no one. Anne Shade takes three fairy tales: ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ and ‘Cinderella,’ pops a modern twist or three, and delivers three pairs of black women falling in love in our contemporary world.
The first of these tales, “Beast,” had me pretty much from the get go. You’ve got a small family unit (two sisters) forming a chosen family with an older neighbour to survive once their mother’s addiction puts everything at risk. From that particular crucible of childhood, Ebony “The Beast” Trent rises through the world of music to a pinnacle, doing everything in her power to make sure her sister, and the older neighbour who helped them make it, can flourish. That she’s more than a bit defensive and has a temper and perhaps runs through women isn’t going to make her happy-ever-after appear any faster, but when tragedy hits and a live-in nurse, Belinda Jansen, comes onto the scene, “The Beast” finds herself facing down feelings—and coping mechanisms and trauma—she can’t just bluster her way through.
Between Belinda’s blunt refusal to back down in the face of Ebony’s temper and the cast of secondary characters around Ebony who know her well enough to really get her, the charm of this story really takes off. Also, the sizzle? The chemistry between Ebony and Belinda is scalding from step one, and only adds to the stakes. I loved these two (and Ebony’s close circle) right off, and I knew I was in for a treat with Femme Tales.
Also! I’m lucky enough today to have been able to touch base with Anne Shade about the stories, and I asked her if she’d be willing to tell me about the writing process, so as we work our way through Femme Tales, you’ll get to hear it from the author’s lips!
From the Author:
I’ve loved fairy tales since I was a little girl. Especially when they are re-imagined in unique ways. When I started writing general romantic fiction, I knew that at some point I would like to re-imagine at least three stories utilizing African American characters. No truly unique perspective came to me until I entered the lesbian romance genre. That’s when I came up with the idea for Femme Tales.
I chose “Beast” first because Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale. Belle was just a regular girl who, through no fault of her own, was thrown into a unique situation and had to find a way to deal with the best she could. There was no prince charming coming to save her, she had to do that on her own. Through strength, determination and love she did just that. She was the savior of the story, not the prince. What better figure to be the savior but a nurse, Belinda, and what better figure to be a beast but a rapper with issues, Ebony. I didn’t want to do the usual story of the tragic accident that made the Beast the ugly creature it becomes. I wanted the beast persona to be more of an internal struggle than an external trait.