There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.
I hope that those of you who read the stories before will not mind the rewind
Sonia – In search of Prince Charming.
Sonia looked through the lead glass window of her bedroom, and watched as her three brothers disappeared into the distant forest. The dark trees swallowed them in an instant, and closing her eyes she imagined she was beside them; riding Anica her white filly. How she loved the trails through the dark woods that suddenly opened into sun dappled glades of wild flowers and mushrooms. But her father had banned her from accompanying her carefree brothers, decreeing that it was time at seventeen to adopt a more ladylike and regal demeanour.
Tears filled her eyes at the memory of her last discussion with her father this morning; standing before him in the cold and intimidating throne room.
‘Sonia my child,’ her father scratched his balding head. ‘It is time to forget childish ways and prepare yourself for your marriage to Prince Aleksander on New Year’s Eve.’ Glaring at her from beneath his bushy eyebrows he continued, ‘I will not listen to your complaining and disobedience any longer; is that understood?’
He contemplated his only daughter, and remembered his wife’s wise words on how to deal with their wilful youngest child.
‘You must remember that the security of our kingdom depends on an advantageous union with all of our neighbours. Your brothers are promised to princesses on three corners of our realm, and when you marry the heir to Pokova to the north, we will have peace and prosperity for the future.’
He sighed and steeled his heart as watched her crestfallen beautiful face. ‘Your mother and I did not meet until our wedding day and we have had a most happy union, being also blessed with you and your brothers. We are royalty, and arranged marriages are as much part of our lives as your silk dresses and other privileges’.
Sonia bit her lip and silenced her response. She had been attempting to persuade her parents for the last two months that she could not marry a man that she had not met, and had not even seen a likeness of. Her shoulders slumped wearily and she curtsied to her father, asking permission to go to her rooms. The king waved her away in frustration and watched as the dispirited girl left the chamber.
Petar, Jakov and Henrik would be gone for several hours and she resigned herself to sitting in the window alcove and watching the palace staff going about their preparations for the grand feast tomorrow. The courtyard and kitchen gardens were bustling with activity. The cook and his assistants were unpacking tradesmen’s carts and gathering vegetables to accompany roast venison and turkey. In the distance she could see the giant farm horses pulling the cart holding the majestic tree harvested from the dense forest and destined for the ballroom.
Prince Aleksander was due to arrive today, but protocol demanded that she wait until she was formally introduced to him at the ball. Her brothers had met him at the annual boar hunt in the summer, and she had pestered them to tell her more about him.
Unfortunately her three brothers loved to tease her and refused to talk about the prince at all; making faces at each other in merriment. A thought struck her and she gasped at the possible reason for their silence. He must be ugly, she thought, or perhaps stupid or had a nasty temper. Her nervousness only increased and she clasped her arms around her body in despair.
As she looked out of the window a flash of movement caught her eye. From the cobbled stable yard came a tall blonde man leading a jet black stallion. He was wearing a loose white shirt and leather jerkin, but it didn’t conceal the fact that he was very muscular as well as handsome. Feeling a little flushed, Sonia wondered why she had not seen this groom before. She also wondered why she had not heard the normally observant chamber maids gossiping about the new addition to the staff.
She watched as the man and horse moved gracefully down to the paddock, and she opened the window so that she could see more clearly. The cold winter air rushed into the room but pulling her shawl closer about her shoulders, she settled down to watch the proceedings.
The man released the horse and moved to the centre of the round paddock. He flicked a fine whip onto the sawdust behind the horse, which responded by trotting around the outside of the ring… Another flick and the stallion turned and moved in the opposite direction. The elegance of both man and beast were magnificent; totally absorbing Sonia in the performance. After several minutes, the man dropped the whip to his side and turned to walk towards the gate… The horse stopped in his tracks and followed, gently nudging his shoulder to gain the groom’s attention. At the gate the man pivoted and placed his right hand at the top of horse’s forehead; leaning into him. They stood for several minutes; man and beast as one.
Sonia caught her breath and stuck her head out of the window, better to capture this intense and beautiful moment. The groom turned away from the horse and as he did so he looked up. He saw Sonia inelegantly hanging out of the window and smiled; even from this distance it was devastatingly effective. She ducked back inside and slammed the window shut. The impudence of the man, and to crown it all, this was just the sort of behaviour that her father had been so critical of.
That evening her mother knocked on her door and ushered through two maids with laden trays. She had also brought the palace seamstress who carried a linen wrapped garment over her arm. Sonia loved her beautiful mother and hoped that over their supper she might be able to win her over to her side.
She had heard her brothers arrive back an hour earlier, clattering into the courtyard and calling for Anton the head groom to come and collect their horses.. As they had noisily run up the steps to the main entrance of the palace, Sonia had been tempted to peek out of the window to see if Anton had anyone assisting him. But she had dismissed this foolishness. Tomorrow she would be betrothed, and married on New Year’s Eve. She must put all these romantic notions from her mind. However, part of her wished with all her might that she could be just a simple maid, who could dream of love and marriage with that devastatingly attractive but unobtainable man.
Her mother eventually left Sonia’s chambers having remained resolute on the upcoming marriage. But she had smiled at her daughter’s determined efforts, whilst reminding her that she had a royal duty to obey her father. Hanging on the front of the door to Sonia’s dressing room was a very beautiful pale blue dress. The ball gown was edged with matching satin and violet flowers draped across one shoulder down to the slender waist. However, even this sensational garment did little to lift her mood as she contemplated how tomorrow would change her life forever.
Early the next evening the guests for the Christmas ball began to arrive in their carriages. Whilst waiting to dress, Sonia kept watch from the window hoping to catch sight of the groom as the horses were led away. Her maid assisted her into her ball gown, and gently tucked in an odd strand of jet black hair which had drifted from the elaborate upswept style. Sonia stood in front of her full length mirror and despite appreciating that she looked every inch a princess, she felt coldness deep in her heart. She had to face the fact that she would never know the kind of love that other girls were privileged to receive. Her father had won, and very soon she would be leaving the palace and going to a strange land, far away from those who had loved and protected her until this moment.
Sonia carefully descended the red carpet of the curved staircase, eyeing the clusters of guests in an attempt to identify the man she was going to be spending the rest of her life with. Most were known to her, and as she moved between them they smiled and bowed. She saw that her father was at the end of the throne room with her mother, three brothers and a tall stranger with his back to the room.
Her father looked up and saw her, beckoning her over and touching the stranger on his shoulder. As Sonia reached the group, the elegantly dressed man turned and she looked into startling blue eyes. She gasped as she recognised the shaggy blonde hair and the broad shoulders, blushing to the roots of her hair.
‘Your Highness, may I introduce my daughter, Princess Sonia.’
Her father took her right hand and placed it into the large palm of the man in front of her.
‘Sonia meet your betrothed, Prince Aleksander of Pokova.’
Breathlessly Sonia looked down at his broad and sun-tanned hand.
A deep voice broke into her scattered thoughts. ‘I believe we have glimpsed each other before Princess.’
She looked up into his smiling face and her lips trembled as she fumbled for a response.
Sensing her discomfort, Prince Aleksander continued, ‘ I was working with Kyros this afternoon when you noticed us. He is my betrothal present to you and I hope you will ride him back to Pokova with me after our wedding.’
Sonia’s beaming smile and gentle squeeze of his hand gave him his answer, and as he led her off to the dance floor for their first waltz, she heard her father behind her.
‘Somebody get me a brandy… A very large brandy’.
©Sally Cronin 2017
One of the reviews for the collection
This second volume continues where the first book left off. The first story begins with “Kenneth,” and the rest of the stories flow through to “Zoe.” The author includes a bonus story at the end called, “The Village Square.”
Prepare to be transported into the lives of the many personalities, Sally Cronin creates, inspired by a first name only. Each person’s name has a different tale to tell or life to lead, all carefully constructed to draw the reader into their experiences. Linking the stories together are the themes of romance and family. Need I say more?
I’m a great fan of short stories and find them some of the most satisfying bedtime reading there is. But, this book offered more than that. Sally Cronin writes in such a way that she evokes a range of emotions from the reader.
On numerous occasions, I couldn’t help but cheer or cry for several of the characters. The writing touched my heart.
Many of the stories are filled with plenty of sudden developments that will leave you guessing. Some, I couldn’t even attempt to guess the ending, which I found to be a special gift to the reader. Each story is character driven, and the author skillfully reels you in until a satisfying end is reached.
My favorite story was called, Queenie, who after the death of her husband, finds her way forward by taking on a project that matters most to her – her granddaughter’s happiness. Queenie’s granddaughter, Penny, is a psychiatrist and unmarried.
Nana (Queenie) decides that she must help her find a husband before she is called to her husband’s side in the great beyond. Of course, there are plenty of shenanigans that take place, but the underlying truths that unfold touched me deeply. This is the author’s style – she allows you to feel her stories.
The “What’s in a Name,” two book series, has proved to be one of my most favorite short story compilations. I’ll reread these stories, and greet them like long lost friends. Believe me; there’s something here for everyone!
You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews
I hope you will join me next week for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.