Heartless, Tales of Goldstone Woods Series #1Heartless, Tales of Goldstone Woods Series #1
Anne Elisabeth Stengl
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Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon be married. She dreams of a handsome and charming prince, but when the first suitor arrives, she finds him stodgy and boring. Prince Aethelbald from the mysterious land of Farthestshore has traveled far to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be approaching Parumvir. Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his warnings. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir, and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in grave danger. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.

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Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in North Carolina, where she enjoys her profession as an art teacher, giving private lessons from her personal studio, and teaching group classes at the Apex Learning Center. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University.


 Our Interview with Anne Elisabeth Stengl


What inspired you to write Heartless?

This novel was inspired by several different ideas and events. One of the most important was my desire to take the most classic (almost clichéd) of all Fairy Tale storylines—princess in peril, heroic prince, evil dragon—and do something new with it. The characters in Heartless are classic archetypes, but the direction of the story will surprise you. There is a strong sense of the familiar as well as the new.

I love the thought of bringing classic themes and literary ideas into the modern market. In Heartless, the reader will encounter themes and symbols from stories as old as Edmund Spencer’s Faerie Queen, but introduced in a new light. Heartless is a Fairy Tale in the oldest and best sense of the genre.

Any deleted scenes you’d like to share now? (Please set it up before you share it.)

Oh, dear. The deleted scenes were deleted for a reason! But I suppose I can eat a slice of humble pie and share . . .

The original draft of Heartless was handwritten and therefore much shorter and simpler than the final version. It was also more of a Fairy Tale than an actual novel. The characters were, therefore, more extreme.

Prince Gervais of Beauclair is the ultimate romantic prince. He’s the type to sing serenades to a princess in her garden, and to whisper sweet nothings in her ear (though, on further acquaintance, we find he has a much deeper agenda than mere romance . . . but Una won’t want to think about that!).

In the original, Gervais (whose name was then Guerrant), was even more of a caricature than he is now. And he did not settle for mere garden serenades. Oh, no! He took it to the next level of drama:

“I think I’m in love,” Una told Nurse as she climbed into bed that evening. Monster, who’d forgiven his mistress for the afternoon’s indignities, purred and flicked a clean-smelling tail under her nose. Una pushed him away and bounced up and down in her cushions. She looked much prettier now in her simple nightgown and her hair down about her face, though the Parumvir fashion experts would never have admitted it.

“In love, hmmm?” Nurse smiled as she stuffed the best dress back into the closet. “With which one?”

“Prince Guerrant, of course!” Una said. “He’s so charming and witty. You should have heard the stories he told at supper.”

“Now, is Beauclair as rich a kingdom as Farthestshore?” Some of Nurse’s old, practical self had returned in the hours since she’d met the new prince.

“Who cares?” Una cried. “Father says I might choose as I like so long as my choice is noble. Guerrant is ever so noble and brave, and we’re certainly rich enough as it is!”

“What about Aethelbald? He seems rather brave too, proposing in front of the entire court—”

“That’s just silly,” Una said, pushing Monster’s whiskery nose from her face. “He should have known better than that. But hunting a dragon by himself, now that’s what I call . . . what’s that noise?”She and Nurse both froze and tilted their ears toward the window. The sound of strumming strings floated up through the window. A moment later, a rich, deep voice followed:

Oh! My love is like a blue, blue moon
Floating on the rim of June!

Oh! My love is like a white, white dove
Soaring in the sky above!

“How clever!” Nurse said.

Una leapt from her bed, scattering pillows and cat as she went, and flew to the balcony. The moon was perfectly full that night and shone softly on her white nightgown. Before she reached the balcony railing, Nurse caught her and made her put on her ugly brown dressing gown, which was less romantic, but Una obeyed, then leaned over the rail and gazed into the silver-lit garden below.

Prince Guerrant stood beneath her, his cape swept back over his shoulder, strumming a lute as he sang:

Oh! My love is like a sweet, sweet song
That never seems too long!

Oh! My love is like a fine, fine wine.
If only she’d be mine!


He paused. She saw his smile flash in the moonlight.

“What a lovely song!” Una said, breathlessly.

“You like it? It’s my own composition.”


“Truly.” He set aside his lute. “But now is not the time for song. Princess Una, did you know that your eyes shine brighter than the stars?”


He stepped closer to the pillars supporting the balcony, his face full of sweet longing. “Would I ever lie to one such as you? The first moment I gazed into the limpid blue depths of your eyes . . .”

“They’re brown,” Nurse muttered from just inside.

“Shhh!” Una hissed.

“ . . . I knew that I might drown there and die a happy man!”

“I think I . . . I think I’d rather you didn’t die,” Una bravely admitted.

“Really?” Guerrant cried, lifting an arm as though he might touch her cheek. “Truly, Princess Una?”

“I think so,” she whispered.

Nurse sighed.

“In that case, may I climb to you so that we may speak?”

“We’re speaking now,” Una said.

“Yes, but who knows who might be listening?”

Una glanced back at Nurse. “True.” She hesitated while Nurse made wide-eyed gestures at her.

“Then I come!” Guerrant cried and began climbing the nearest pillar. He found it rough going, however, what with the thorns in the climbing roses. Halfway he paused, panting. “Do you have a rope or something, Princess?”
Una and Nurse hurried to grab a curtain sash and, Nurse hanging back so that he could not see her, dangled it down to the prince. He just reached out to take hold of it when a window on his level swung open.
“Not that I don’t appreciate the singing,” came Prince Aethelbald’s voice, “but these gymnastics are a bit much, wouldn’t you agree, Your Highness?”

Prince Guerrant squawked and dropped to the garden, taking the sash with him. Nurse and Una screamed and slammed the window shut, and Una buried her burning face under many layers of cushions and blankets.

Oh, dear. Poor Gervais/Guerrant. At least he’s a little less of an idiot in the final version of Heartless!

What is your favorite holiday recipe?

I adore Cranberry Apple Pie! The cranberries give a nice, tangy zing to the sweetness of apple pie. Here’s the recipe:

3 cups fresh cranberries
2-1/2 cups peeled sliced apples
3/4 cup apple juice (or orange juice)
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 double crust pastry (deep-dish recommended)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In saucepan combine berries and juice. Cook and stir 5-8 minutes (cranberries will "pop" –it’s fun to watch!).
Combine sugar, cornstarch, and allspice. Stir into the hot cranberries. Cook quickly, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and bubbles.
Remove from heat. Stir in apple slices. Set aside to cool.
Turn cooled fruit mixture into the bottom crust. Dot the top of the fruit with bits of butter.
Put on "lattice" top using other pastry. Cover with foil.
Bake pie covered for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 25-30 minutes.

My husband likes it when I substitute blackberries for cranberries. But if you do this, you want to reduce the amount of sugar by half, and use no more than 1/3 cup of juice. Blackberries are very sweet and juicy as it is. This version is more of a summer recipe though . . . while the cranberry version makes me think of Christmas!

What is your favorite Christmas song/hymn?

I love the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” I feel that it captures the true drama of Christmas. “O drive away the shades of night, and pierce the darkness; bring us light!” This song reminds us that the night of Christ’s birth was not all joy and angels singing, it was an act of war: God’s war against Satan’s dominion on earth. The song is a prayer, a plea for God’s aid, and the joy comes in knowing that God will hear and answer this prayer. A powerful song with a haunting melody.


Does your family have any holiday traditions?

When I was growing up, and we put up our tree, every morning before Christmas either one of my brothers or I would search the branches for an elf. If we spotted one, it would immediately freeze and remain frozen until Christmas Eve when Father Christmas would come to take them home. In the meanwhile, we were responsible for the care and keeping of our elves, clothing them, feeding them, entertaining them, building homes for them out of shoe boxes. They each had names, ages, occupations, and histories as carefully recorded by my father. And they were much loved!

Some people might say the elves are nothing more than quirky German dolls with beards. Some people don’t know what they’re talking about.

Having just gotten married this fall, I am looking forward to my first Christmas with my husband, blending our holiday traditions and forming new ones together!

What is your favorite holiday movie?

Actually, Lady and the Tramp. I know it’s not a “holiday movie,” per se, but it begins and ends at Christmastime, so I always think of it as one. Though a lifelong cat-person, I do love those puppies! Classic Disney movies really knew how to tell a story and always had good music. Who doesn’t love Peggy Lee?

Do you have a favorite holiday book?

We had a collection of Christmas stories by George MacDonald when I was growing up, which I loved. Many of the stories were sad, but they were all beautiful, and all served to point the reader back to the true meaning of Christmas. And I adore George MacDonald’s writing!

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