Here at Frolic, where Romance rules the roost, it should be fairly easy to say that we’re big fans of fairy tales retellings.
If you’re reading this article, we’re sure you’re a fan of this particular subgenre too.
One of the most well-known fairy tales is the story of Cinderella: a narrative of perseverance in the face of hardship, with countless regional variations exploring this theme. In one of the most well-known versions, pulled by the Brothers Grimm, Cinderella follows a young woman who becomes a servant after her father dies. Unable to escape her wicked stepmother, she is saved by a fairy godmother, who sends her to a ball to catch the eye of a prince.
Obviously, this is the perfect setup for romance novels, and there are a lot of renditions on it. So if you’re looking for some romance novels with a Cinderella theme, here’s a quick list.
The Memory Thief by Rachel Morgan
Heat Level: Sweet
Love Interest: Fae Prince
Short, sweet, and the first book in a series, The Memory Thief is a Cinderella retelling that is perfect for anyone who wants the magical aspects front and center. Taking place in a paranormal version of our own world, where supernatural creatures reign and humans are subservient, the story follows Elle, a human left at the mercy of her evil stepmother after her father’s death.
The other big twist: the stepmother is a fairy and a criminal, who uses Elle to commit her awful deeds.
Stuck in a never-ending cycle of abuse, Elle’s singular goal is to save up enough of her “life force” to barter her freedom with another fairy so she can escape her family. When she attracts the attention of the wrong sort of criminals, however—and a fairy prince decides to hold a ball to choose a wife—her desperate plans are put into jeopardy.
Ending on a cliffhanger, The Memory Thief is a quick, action-packed story with a romantic subplot.
Content Warnings: Domestic slavery, familial abuse.
A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James
Heat Level: Hot
Love Interest: European Prince
This was one of those casual, easy reads that I really enjoyed as a comforting rendition on a classic: a Cinderella romance novel with a historical bent that features memorable characters and a sultry setup.
Set around the Regency Era, A Kiss at Midnight follows Kate Daltry, a young woman who is currently working herself to the bone to provide for her selfish stepmother and her fanciful-but-good-natured step sister. After her father died, and Kate was denied her dowry, the only option left was for her to become a servant.
As such, she is tired and underfed and bitter about her best years passing by.
When Kate’s step-sister becomes pregnant out of wedlock, she is finally given the chance to obtain her dowry by helping her family avoid a scandal. The only catch? Kate has to go to the royal ball dressed as her sister to pretend like nothing is wrong.
Deeply uncomfortable with the whole arrangement, but left with no other options, Kate meets Prince Gabriel: a tumultuous, arrogant man who is trying to avoid a marriage of his own. When he sees her, sparks fly, and their mutual attraction becomes insatiable.
Fun, sexy, and incredibly witty, A Kiss at Midnight is a perfect book for anyone who wants to read a standalone novel.
Content Warnings: Attempted infidelity. Sexist/colonial/classist remarks expressed by some of the characters.
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Love Interest: Rebel Fighter
This novel is the only YA addition on this list. While it’s not firmly in the romance genre, either, it’s also the most imaginative retelling of the Cinderella book that I’ve ever read, and it ends in a HEA. Because of this, I absolutely had to include it.
Set in a dystopian world where misogyny and homophobia are rife, Cinderella is Dead has a unique premise: Cinderella is a historical figure who died hundreds of years ago. Her femininity and her domestic prowess are held up as an example of the “perfect woman” by the state, and every year, girls from all over the kingdom are forced to attend a ball. There, they are sold off as wives to the highest bidder.
In this nightmare scenario where Cinderella is a national icon (and Prince Charming has gone mad), women have no rights, and it’s a system that sixteen-year-old Sophia fights against. What makes her situation even worse is that she’s in love with another girl: if anyone finds out, there’s a good chance she’ll be killed.
Unfortunately, the ball arrives, and disaster strikes. Sophia finds herself on the run, cast out of her community, and hunted by the Prince for a perceived slight. In the depths of her despair, Sophia meets a rebel who has been living on the outskirts of the kingdom her entire life. Together, the two of them seek out the fairy godmother to put an end to the Prince’s tyranny.
In the process, they discover the truth behind Cinderella’s legacy, too.
Imaginative and expertly paced, Cinderella is Dead is perfect for anyone who wants a fresh retelling.
Content Warnings: Domestic abuse, implied off-page sexual assault, attempted on-page sexual assault, homophobia, misogyny.
Find the Perfect Book by Midnight
Now that we’ve covered a bunch of Cinderella retellings back to back, I personally feel like finding a fairytale of my own. After all, escaping the day-to-day grind and marrying a prince seems like a pretty good deal, especially after the last year of chaos (2020 is going to leave its mark on us all).
If you’re looking for more adaptations to find comfort in, read up on these smoking hot fairy tales for your inner princess.