If the Shoe Fits
If the Shoe Fits is a charming, modernized reimagining of Cinderella with a strong body positive message and an emphasis on inclusiveness.
Cindy Woods is headed from NY to LA when she meets Prince Charming. She’s pretty sure he has another name but that’s what she privately calls him as they share a flight, conversation, a lot of laughter but not nomenclature during their quest to get from one side of the country to another. Once the plane lands, she and his highness part ways and Cindy gets ready to face her gritty new reality as nanny to her stepmother Erica’s triplets
It sounds bad – and is definitely a step away from her dream of designing shoes – but Cindy adores her little half-siblings Mary, Jack and Gus. More, her stepmom Erica and Cindy’s two stepsisters Drew and Anna, all adore her. They know Cindy’s last year in college was brutal. That Cindy had imploded, years of pent-up grief from the death of her father having hit her all at once and Cindy is just home for a little while to regroup. Cindy’s oft voiced hope is to get herself together and head back to NY, pursuing a job in fashion that she didn’t have the energy to seek after graduation. Erica, Anna and Drew plan to lavish her with all the love, attention and healing she so obviously needs to help her achieve that.
That doesn’t happen. Erica is executive producer of one of America’s most popular reality TV shows, and Cindy’s not even home for a full day before an emergency happens on the Before Midnight set. While the pageant is always prepared for one or two contestants to drop out, a mass exodus is never expected. They need to start filming right away, so Erica fills up three slots by putting Anna, Drew and Cindy in the competition. It will be a great chance for them all to receive free national recognition for their respective careers. Cindy dusts off the shoes she’s crafted over the years and gets ready to strut her stuff down the figurative runway of The Bachelor style reality show.
Cindy knows being one of the first plus size women on a dating competition will prove daunting and fully expects to leave on the first night. She shows up to the opening ball wearing the best pair of heels she’s ever designed and makes sure they are spotlighted as she saunters into the party. She’s not certain what to expect from the bachelor about to reject her but Cindy does know she doesn’t have much respect for a man who would try to find true love by dating more than a dozen women at once. Then he enters the room and all Cindy’s preconceived prejudices fly out the window. This season’s reality dating star is none other than Henry Mackenzie, her Prince Charming from the plane.
This story shines when it concentrates on the romance. Henry and Cindy are near perfection together from the first moment they meet. They are both a tiny bit awkward in social situations, but their shared sense of slightly quirky, gentle humor and the genuineness of their interactions is delightful. I could easily see this couple living out a happily ever after.
Henry and Cindy also have a lot of common ground to bond over. They are both in the clothing industry and understand the ins and outs of not just designing and manufacturing but merchandising, and what is needed to be successful in today’s market. Both of them have complicated familial situations, with Cindy having a close relationship with her stepfamily while still missing her deceased blood relatives and Henry having complex ties to his own kin. These shared issues help them to communicate well and understand each other on the deepest levels.
Another really well-done aspect of the book is Cindy’s relationship with her competitors. Yes, some of the girls are hateful shrews, but she makes some good friends, too. I liked the exploration of how awkward it is for buddies Sara Claire and Cindy to find themselves interested in the same man, but I also appreciated the text pointing out that such things happen in real life as well. Cindy has a great relationship with her stepsisters, too, and the little things they do to support each other during the contest are really sweet.
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the book is the description of the world of reality television. The author takes an extremely balanced approach to this portion of her story, showing us some wonderful people doing hard work to bring entertainment to the masses and contrasting it with the nastiness of the manipulation of all the players that also occurs. There is exploitation of real people and their emotions but also the machinations of schemers who are just looking for a launch pad to their fifteen minutes or more of fame. The many reasons people have for participating and working on the show are highlighted with delicate nuance that made me really think about this genre of the entertainment industry. Is it unsavory or just harmless fun? Could it be a bit of both? That’s left up to the readers to decide.
For all that I loved, I did have a few problems with the text. One complaint is the virtue signaling. Some of Cindy’s interactions with people regarding body positivity and inclusivity felt more like lectures than narrative. Additionally, there were moments when I felt like characters were introduced whose purpose was strictly to include a specific type of person rather than to move the plot forward or enhance the story. And finally, the conflict at the end seemed a bit out of character for both Henry and Cindy.
If the Shoe Fits isn’t perfect but it is a lot of fun and contains one of the best sweet, subtly sexy stories I’ve read this year. I’m happy to recommend it to readers who enjoy contemporary romances.