The Cinderella Rules
Though I’m not usually a huge reader of Chick Lit, I did enjoy Donna Kauffman’s last book, The Big Bad Wolf Tells All. I was thrilled when I learned that her newest was set in Washington D.C., familiar stomping grounds for me. The Cinderella Rules tells the story of a lady from rural Montana who makes a much-dreaded trip to the city and meets up with her prince.
The daughter of a self-made Washington D.C. tycoon, Darby Landon has no interest in the family business and little use for the social scene. Darby’s mother died when she was young, and she has spent the majority of her life on her grandfather’s Montana ranch, a life that helped her feel connected to her mother – the one person who made Darby feel like she truly “belonged.” Now thirty and content to remain a rancher, Darby answers her socialite sister Pepper’s call for help in squiring around a Swedish business associate of their father’s. Pepper seems to have found herself tied up in Brazil by the demands of true love and, in order to solve her problem, arranges for Darby to spend time at Glass Slipper, Inc. where she will be transformed into a society princess by its three legendary godmothers. These ladies, whose wisdom is dispensed throughout the book’s chapter headings, are reknowned for being able to work their magic on anyone.
Darby is less than thrilled by this prospect, but agrees to the plan out of love for her sister – not to mention a boatload of guilt. Upon her arrival in Washington, Darby meets Shane Morgan at the airport. It turns out that Shane has his own connection to the godmothers, and he rides along to Glass Slipper with Darby. In a memorable airport limo scene the proverbial sparks immediately fly.
As it turns out, Shane Morgan is heir to a long-established Washington dynasty who is home to sort through the empire he reluctantly inherited. After spending years leading a rather bohemian life, he cannot wait to sell off his inherited empire and return to his nomadic ways. His position in Washington society – and the subtle matchmaking of the three godmothers – brings him into contact with Darby many times during her stay. What starts as a mere flirtation progresses quickly into something deeper and, ultimately, more meaningful as Darby and Shane eventually spend a weekend being dragged through the Washington charity benefit circuit.
While love at first sight is often difficult to believably write, Kauffman does it well here. Both Shane and Darby have a lot of uncertainties and mixed feelings to sort through, but somehow they make it work. Neither one is a huge fan of big city society, but they come by their bias in different ways and, since each helps the other in confronting the past, they complement one another. The three fairy godmothers from Glass Slipper may help things along from time to time and Mr. Landon’s hunky Swedish business associate provides the occasional distraction, but Darby and Shane are the ones who really make the magic happen.
Of the secondary characters, the three fairy godmothers are well-drawn and move the story along without being cheesy or too good to be true. Man-crazy Vivian is particularly funny. In fact, my only major beef with this book involved an unnecessary suspense subplot that popped up toward the end. The story was just fine without it, and this unneeded section was really the only thing that kept this book from hitting my keeper shelf.
If you enjoy Chick Lit or simply long for a romantic contemporary love story, this may be the book for you. Kauffman’s “Reluctant Cinderella Meets Reluctant Prince Charming” story reads like a modern-day fairy tale. The characters are down-to-earth and likable, and it makes a reader wish for some fairy godmothers of her own.