(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and that’s great . . . as long as you don’t die.
Sixteen-year-old Haley Tremaine had it all: top-notch school, fantastic family, and a bright future, but all of that changed when an accident tore her family apart. Now, an alcoholic father, a bitter younger sister, and a cold headstone bearing her mother’s name are all she has left.
Chris Charming has it all: a powerful CEO for a father, a prestigious school, and a fortune at his fingertips, but none of that matters when he lands a reputation as a troublemaker. Struggling to follow in his father’s footsteps, he reaches out to the one person he believes truly sees him, the one person he wants: Haley.
Little do they know someone’s determined to bring the two together, even if it means murder.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]
I’ve read all of Krystal Wade’s books since she debuted a few years ago, but I think Charming is pretty much my favourite out of them all.
Yes, it’s a Cinderella retelling, but it’s not like you’re thinking. There’s certainly a Prince Charming (named, of course, Chris Charming) but there’s far more depth to their relationship than in the original. Haley is a very put-upon Cinderella, what with her alcoholic father and her perfect sister who doesn’t see him for what he really is: an abuser who beats his own daughter because she looks like her dead mother. And there’s plenty of romance and even a ball, but it’s not so simple as that because not only is this a Cinderella retelling, it’s a mash-up of Saw as well. (So yes, it does get a little gory at the end.)
Haley was an awesome character for me. Her little sister hates her, thinking that Haley is always deliberately trying to annoy their dad and that she only thinks of herself. In truth, Haley is the one who takes her dad’s beatings and his verbal abuse so that Jocelyn herself doesn’t turn into a target. She pretends not to care at school, works late on school nights and then goes home to do several hours of chores caused by their alcoholic father’s natural messiness. It’s a pretty bad scenario but I was still pleasantly surprised that when Chris Charming turned his sights on Haley, she didn’t immediately fall head-over-heels for him. No, she didn’t even trust him to be a decent human being because that’s how bad her father’s abuse has shattered her trust. Their relationship takes a while to develop and it’s not all smooth, which is far more realistic considering both of their backgrounds.
For a book that’s largely character-driven in the beginning, Charming sure has a fast-paced plot. Just when you think things are winding down, we get a wildcard thrown into the mix and then Haley has to fight for the lives of her ungrateful family. The mysterious third man who wants to bring Haley and Chris together is around every corner watching, listening and waiting. He’s just the sort of character to bring a little zip back into the Cinderella story, so it sort of retains its original dark overtones.
To sum up, I just really loved Charming. After the sort of disappointment that was Shattered Secrets, I love to see that Krystal Wade is back to her classic style of writing (only improved!). This book is a great retelling of Cinderella and if you’re into very nontraditional retellings of your favourite fairytales, you’ll particularly enjoy it.
I give this book 5/5 stars.