When her mother dies during childbirth, infant Isabella is sent away to live with a wetnurse. Her father, a knight, wants nothing to do with her, and he refuses her Aunt Maud's request to keep the girl (Edward, the knight, wants nothing to do with his wife's family though it's never entirely obvious as to why he cloisters his wife away). So Maud reluctantly leaves Bella with "peasants" who raise Bella as their own.
Bella grows into a beautiful, well rounded teen, whose best friend just happens to be Prince Julian, who frequently visits Bella's family at first to visit his old wetnurse, but over the years it becomes obvious that Bella is the main reason for his visits. The two are best friends, and you can't help but route for them to grow up into more.
But after being rebuked by Julian in the village one afternoon, Bella is crushed. Before Julian can apologized, he's whisked off to a neighboring kingdom as the result of a truce.
It's at this point, the story switches to the tale of a mother and her two daughters, who suddenly find themselves penniless after losing their father. At first, I was completely confused, unable to see why I was suddenly forced away from Bella and Julian's story, but the reasons soon become clear. I don't want to give too much away, but Stanley does an incredible job taking a familiar tale and making it new again, complete with a strong heroine, something the original tale didn't have (what tale you ask? you'll just have to read it).
I really enjoyed this book. It's got all the best elements of a fairy tale with a plucky, endearing heroine and a handsome and just prince. This is highly recommended as a great read.
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