After a toe-curling kiss during the office Christmas Party, Katie Chandler seems to have finally caught her prince. That is, until her fairy godmother, Ethelinda, shows up to lend a hand. Her idea of help is to throw roadblocks in the path of true love in an effort to give Owen the chance to rescue his lady from certain peril. Katie is a modern girl and would rather save herself, thank you very much, and she wants Ethelinda to get her wand out of her business so Owen has a chance to repeat the magical kiss.
However, the road to true love never did run smoothly, and Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc.’s arch-nemesis, Idris, is still up to no good. His girlfriend, Katie’s ex-best friend Ari, has escaped, and it’s up to Katie and Owen to recapture Ari and Idris before they have the opportunity to wreak havoc on New York City. Add in a trip to meet Owen’s parents for Christmas, find the perfect outfit for New Year’s Eve, and keep New Yorkers in the dark about the existence of magic, and Katie definitely has her hands full.
Damsel Under Stress, Shanna Swendson’s third novel in her series of “Fairy Tales for Modern Times,” commences immediately after the events Once Upon Stilettos. Katie, the magically-immune heroine, has barely had a chance to catch her breath and enjoy her budding relationship with Owen when, once again, chaos erupts all around her. Clever writing, in-depth plot development and zany fun are what help Swendson’s novels stand out from the pack, and Damsel Under Stress is no exception. Each novel provides just enough hints to illustrate that each is a building block within a larger story arc.
While zany fun is definitely an important part of Swendson’s novels, readers may notice that she has toned things down a bit in Damsel Under Stress. Players who border on being caricatures in previous offerings are explored in more detail, most notably Owen’s friend Rod. Swendson stays true to the nature of her characters even though they are in magical situations. The budding romance between Katie and Owen is handled respectfully and within the personalities she took the time to outline in the first two novels. Katie, a small town girl from Texas, longs for the relationship to develop but doesn’t throw herself at Owen, allowing him to take the lead. Owen, terminally shy and way too handsome for his own good, is at heart an old-fashioned guy and, even when Katie has to stay in his home for her own protection, a true gentleman.
The cover art and “fairy tale” elements may cause some critics and booksellers to dismiss Swendson’s work as just another part of the current paranormal craze. To do so would be a serious flaw; hidden within the fun are all the hallmarks of a stellar writer who has barely found her legs, let alone hit her stride.