Title: Redeeming the Stepbrother
Series: Tales from St. Giles: Book Two
Author: Andrew Grey
Narrator: Jack Wesley
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Run Time: 5 hours and 57 minutes
At a Glance: Overall, I had an enjoyable experience listening to this fairytale story by Andrew Grey. I recommend this story to all those who love fairytales and literary works based on them.
Reviewed By: Carrie
Blurb: Family can be a blessing and a curse, but for artist Florian, it’s a nightmare he longs to escape.
As chief designer for Bartholomew Artist Porcelain, Florian specializes in painting birds. He also watches them in the wild to distract himself from his short-tempered mother, at least temporarily. Florian’s heart is too soft to leave his stepsister, Ella, to suffer alone. Still, he can’t help dreaming about one day finding happiness and love.
When Count Dieter von Hollenbach arrives in town to visit a friend and present an award, he isn’t looking for romance. Then again, he doesn’t expect someone as perfect as Florian to come into his life. To make sure Florian is all he seems and that their connection is genuine, Dieter keeps his title to himself.
But he isn’t the only one with a secret.
At a masquerade ball to celebrate the award, some of the masks fall away, but those that remain in place could destroy the love beginning to grow between them.
Review: Andrew Grey loves to write books in series. His latest endeavor is one very loosely based on fairytales and is set in St. Giles, Maryland. St. Giles is a fairytale land where the local wealthy businessman lives in a large mansion and employs most of the local townsfolk in his many wealthy endeavors. Among those is a porcelain studio which garners international acclaim for its hand-painted works on porcelain and glass. In book one of the St. Giles series we met Dante Bartholomew, the man who owns the studio. His book was based on Beauty and the Beast and set the stage for the series. Each of these “fairytales” is a standalone, but they do overlap as they are all set in the St. Giles backdrop. In book two, Redeeming the Stepbrother, we get a tale loosely based on Cinderella—or Cinderfella, as the case may be. Only, this Cinderfella works as the point artist in an acclaimed porcelain studio and is saved from his horrible family by a German Count who comes to America to compliment and award Cinderfella’s work, and ends up falling in love.
Florian Cinderson is an artist. Painting birds on porcelain is a passion for him and appeals greatly to his soft-spoken nature. His home life is fraught with conflict—from his terrible stepsibling to his good-for-nothing bipolar mother, Florian spends many of his days behind the locked door to his bedroom so that he can paint in peace. Painting at the studio is his profession, painting at home is his passion, and each have very different subject matter. His life is not a happy one, and he’s just trying to make the most of the hand he was dealt after his stepfather died. Florian went to work in the porcelain studio when he was sixteen, and has carved out a niche as the best artist there. The studio has won many accolades over the years, all down to Florian’s works, so when Dante shows up in the studio to tell him that they have won another award due to his unique bird paintings, Florian is pleased. Florian has a feisty side, it keeps him from being a pushover despite his quiet nature, and it was awesome to see.
Count Dieter von Hollenbach has come to St. Giles to study the porcelain studio and see what makes it such a success. He’s also here to present the studio with a gold medal award for excellence in craftmanship and decoration. Unbeknownst to most is that he also has a reward for the artist who paints such exquisite birds on the face of the bisque vases. He never suspects that the shy man who saves him from a bog of mud and a failed birdwatching attempt will be the same painter of such renown. Falling for the painter was never his intention, and his life is…complicated by his lineage and the expectations that come with it. But returning the favor and saving Florian becomes a mission for him when love takes over. Dieter could be a little stiff. I think he could have used some loosening up, it would have made him more relatable, but when you consider his European royal heritage, he really acts true to form.
This story is really very good. The fairytale references are plentiful and pretty obvious and, for me, added to the reading experience. It is a quirky take on Cinderella and while not a literal match to the original fairytale, I appreciated the way Grey took snippets of the original and made them his own to create his story, not just regurgitating the same tale. Don’t expect it to follow Cinderella exactly, just enjoy each new reference as you find it. It takes some liberties, crossing the line from believable to make believe in some of the things Dieter manages to accomplish but hey, fairytale! The story got a little convoluted and long-winded in the middle. It paces well in places and others, not so much, but the storyline helps you through the rough spots. Nothing is really unexpected with the story arc, and it’s an easy read with a little drama thrown in and a whole lotta romance. In the end, Florian is swept off his feet and goes to live in a castle in Germany with his Count, and they all live HEA.
The narration by Jack Wesley, overall, was a pleasure to listen to. I have to admit that he gave Florian a larger, more forceful voice than I had in my head from reading the book. Converse to that, he gave Dieter more heart and warmth, which I really appreciated. Wesley’s narration brought out things from the storyline that I had not previously paid attention to, and rounded out the story for me. After listening, I decided that I liked Wesley’s depiction of Florian and Dieter better than the characters I had painted in my imagination. I liked this story before but after listening to it, I like it even better. Wesley takes care of the pacing in the middle of the book, not letting the story bog down his cadence.
Where I felt the narration faltered was in the depiction of the secondary characters. I wasn’t a fan of the way phone calls were handled, the filter skew threw me out of the story, and it would take me a minute to focus back in. Wesley’s depiction of the stepmother I thought could have been meaner—after all, she was a truly horrid woman; he could have made her sound that way. The same applies to the stepbrother, I didn’t get enough inflection change to differentiate the brother from Florian so that he could be infused in his role of antagonist completely and evoke the right set of emotions from me. However, these small issues didn’t lessen my enjoyment of this story told in Audible format. I thought the positive points to the narration of this story far outweighed the negatives.
Overall, I had an enjoyable experience listening to this fairytale story by Andrew Grey. I recommend this story to all those who love fairytales and literary works based on them. The depiction of the main characters brought the tale to life for me, and I highly recommend this story in Audible format. This series is a good one, and I can’t wait to see which tale comes next.
You can buy Redeeming the Stepbrother here:
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