For Bearded or For Worse by Jennifer Bushroe
In most fairy tales, the princess yearns to marry Prince Charming. Not sixteen-year-old Princess Adelle. Her betrothed is more like Prince Alarming—a sadistic hunter who scarfs food and ogles maidservants. To escape the marriage, Adelle drinks a witch’s potion and unexpectedly sprouts a beard. Every eligible prince refuses to wed her, so her parents consider disowning her in the line of succession.
Adelle disguises herself as a boy to experience the freedom she craves, and in a seaport is forced into service onboard a merchant ship. Life at sea is fraught with storms, farting men, and other hardships, but Adelle learns to be a sailor through Captain Braxton’s gruff instruction. During lessons in flea-extermination and discussions on family and obligation, Braxton’s surliness morphs into friendship. Among the rough-and-tumble crew, Adelle finally feels like she belongs. However, Braxton’s family secrets endanger the voyage and his life at every port, causing Adelle to take risks that could expose her true identity.
Forced to repress her growing feelings for Braxton, Adelle must decide between facing her royal duties or remaining free at sea. Her choice will affect her kingdom and the man she loves, as well as determine if she’s bearded forever after.
For Bearded or For Worse is YA fantasy complete at 57,000 words. It has elements of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Disney-Pixar’s Brave, and Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. I hold a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and graduated magna cum laude.
Arielle & David: Love the fact that our Princess grows a beard! Nowadays, there are all kinds of authors retelling all kinds of fairytales, and we haven’t seen this particular twist yet. We also enjoy the running-away-to-sea part of the story. There’s some wonderful specificity, like the flea-extermination. And the final sentence of the pitch leaves us with a haunting question. Plus, we really love the comparable titles. What can be improved? You don’t need to tell us what we already know. We know that princesses yearn to marry Prince Charming. You only have 250 words, and you have to use each one very very carefully. And sometimes, this pitch gets generic: The family secret of the love interest, the risks that the Princess has to take. And we don’t know what “other hardships” mean exactly. We don’t understand why our heroine falls in love with the love interest. So we don’t buy into it. And that’s such an important part of your story.