Review: Goldheart

Kenley Davidson was the author of my favorite book from the Entwined Tales series, so I jumped at the opportunity to read her book Goldheart for free. Goldheart is the second book from her series of fairy tale adaptations called The Andari Chronicles. It is a reimagining of  "Rumpelstiltskin." While my favorite version of "Rumpelstiltskin" is still The Princess Pact by Melanie Cellier, this one is a solid runner up. Kenley Davidson excels at writing stories about capable women with traditionally feminine flaws, which is becoming more of a rarity in modern times. Her characters' weaknesses make them easier to relate to than many of the modern movie princess heroines, who often excel at far too many skills for a well-rounded character. This level of realism also accounts for lack of magic and fantasy in her stories, which is the reason I didn't seek out her books as eagerly as most of the other authors from the Entwined Tales series.

Elaine, the leading lady in Goldheart, is not a princess by title, but much like Johanna from Sweeney Todd, she fits the classical archetype in every other way possible. She is a sheltered young woman with a kind heart who is loved by all who know her. Like Disney's Rapunzel, Elaine is artist who locks herself away from the rest of the world to escape into her own imagination of beauty and paint. When she learns that her estate is heavily in debt after the untimely passing of her father, she attempts to raise money for her servants by selling her art. Unfortunately for her, this draws the attention of the selfish Torbert Melling, who metaphorically asks her to spin straw into gold by demanding a painting of his dying wife not as she appears now, but as he remembers her. Since he holds the claim over most of Elaine's debt, she feels obligated to take on the task, even if it means being locked up in Torbert's rat-infested attic with very little food or heat.

What I love about Elaine is that she doesn't pretend to be something she's not. She is aware that her servants kept the burden of her father's debt a secret in order to protect her, but she harbors no blame toward them. Elaine makes it very clear that that the painting Torbert asks of her is impossible, but she attempts to do it anyway because she feels obligated to complete her task and pay off her debts. As someone who works for an overbearing boss, I could relate to Elaine's struggles all too well. I love how passionately she embraces her identity as a painter. Painting is the only thing in the world that brings her joy, and she feels that she can only truly express herself if she has a paintbrush in her hand. She has no desire to seek out some unforeseen adventure or dream because she already knows what she loves does it to the best of her ability.

When she is discovered by Will, a servant for Torbert's son, he is horrified to find her locked up in such an unpleasant state. He offers to help her escape, but she assures him that she truly wants to paint and pay off her debt. Will introduces Elaine to Torbert's son, Blaise. Together, they make sure that she is comfortable and well-fed until the deadline for the painting is complete. Will is the "Rumpelstiltskin" character of the story. He is an extremely honorable man and a worthy love interest for Elaine. He always takes the time to listen and consider her feelings before every decision he makes. He is also the only person Blaise has to call a friend. Like Elaine, Torbert keeps Blaise locked away from the world in his room because he is ashamed to let people see his albino son. Fortunately, Blaise is not affected by his father's eccentricities and proves to be a much better man than the one who raised him.

If you are looking for a story about a sheltered young woman who struggles to pursue her passions, Goldheart is the book for you. Elaine may seem a little old-fashioned, but the prospects of working hard and being kind will never go out of style. It doesn't have much to provide for people who love the fantasy aspects of fairy tales, but it does contain a beautiful love story and characters who feel as though they are real. Kenley Davidson is master of weaving words in a way that provokes you to think about the nuances of society and the way people are treated. Even though this book had no actual princesses and only vague whispers of the original "Rumpelstiltskin" fairy tale, I found it to be a very enjoyable read.


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