The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie was written back in 1996, two decades or 20 years ago. It shows its age. I inherited an entire Jennifer Crusie collection from my older sister and I promised her I’d read at least three before giving them away. This was one of her favorites.
4 out of 10 stars. The story is cute, but it gets bogged down in the details.
During the 90s there were a lot of authors who described everything the characters did in every scene from touching their hair to picking their nose. They used brand names and were so exact that it took an entire page to describe a simple setting. Ketchup wasn’t just ketchup, it was Heinz natural no sugar ketchup. Even dialogue was bogged down with describing every affectation the character had while speaking. This is one of those novels. In the first chapter, which should be the author’s chance to grab the reader, she describes Daisy Flattery’s kitchen in extreme detail right down to her cookware, dishware, silverware, flavors of tea, and what she has in her cupboards that doesn’t belong there. What the author should’ve done is set up the plot and make us want to see how it turned out.
Daisy Flattery is a schoolteacher by trade and education, but four years ago decided to quit and become a painter. The problem is that she’s used all of her savings in those four years and can’t make a living as an artist. She’s resorted to mooching off her friends. In comes her upstairs neighbor, Mr. Tight-laced Linc Blaise. Linc has an unusual offer for Daisy, one she won’t be able to resist because of her dire financial situation. He needs her to pretend to be his fiance.
Daisy is a character. She dresses in strange clothes and her house is a mess. She owes back rent and keeps taking in stray cats she can’t afford which are against her rental agreement. It’s like she wants to be homeless. She’s had a string of strange men live with her for a few months and then leave, which she attributes to her father leaving her mother when she was little. I didn’t connect with Daisy at all. She reminded me of someone’s old crazy aunt the cat hoarder. That’s the view I had of Daisy through most of the novel and it didn’t change. It was hard to imagine her faking it as Linc’s fiance. Especially since she’s such a cat hoarder and Linc kicked one of her cats. :0 No way, no how. I envision her running him over with her clunky old car.
Let’s get back to that first chapter which, honestly, ruined the whole story for me because I couldn’t get it out of my head. Linc lied at a job interview for a history professor position at a posh college. They wanted someone married so he lied and said he had a fiance. His plan is to have a pretend fiance and after he gets the job to have her quietly disappear under the guise they broke up. What Daisy doesn’t know is that his first choice was her best friend and neighbor, Julia, because Linc and Julia had a fling. Uh-oh. There’s a cardinal rule being broken here: friends don’t date friends’ old boyfriends. Period. So both Daisy and Linc drop down about 10 notches before they even start. They both sleep around and one of those women Linc slept with was Daisy’s best friend. 🙁 Of course, Daisy knows because her friend Julia gave her all the gory details, another no-no. I just couldn’t see these two together. At all.
I remember my sister ending her Jennifer Crusie collection after a novel called Bet Me in which the author described the heroine as a fat penguin who hated kids. :0 In the first chapter of this one, the hero Linc describes Daisy as short with a round midwestern body. :0 Hell-o. He prefers skinny blondes under 5’4″. He used to be a football star in high school so it fits…and I hate him already.
Once you get past that really horrible first chapter things get a little better. The second interview goes great and everyone loves Daisy. Linc gets the job. He quits his current job, packs his things, and moves to Ohio. He barely says a word to Daisy during all that time, even though he lives upstairs from her. But he is spending a lot of time with another history professor, a tiny blonde named Caroline.
Months go by and eventually the staff at the new college want to know when Daisy is coming. There’s a silent threat there that he’ll lose his job if she doesn’t come, so Linc goes and fetches her, offering her the perfect house, a studio where she can paint, and all she has to do is become his fake wife and try to lie low for awhile. Daisy unexpectedly accepts and they get married.
The charm for me came around this time, after they married, but before they actually slept together, because it’s a very rare thing to find a romance novel with marriage before sex. In fact, it’s almost impossible to find a romance where the couple even gets married at all. They’re usually hot and heavy through the whole book and never even once talk about marriage. This was a wonderful change.
Daisy’s furniture eventually is delivered and Linc hates all of it. He’s ashamed of the furniture and ashamed of Daisy. So she changes for him. Not completely, but a lot. She also gets him to change. She convinces him to tutor his students at home instead of at the college and they become a permanent fixture around the house. She happens upon a dog hit by a car and they adopt him as well, calling him Jupiter. One of Linc’s fellow professors, a fatalistic guy named Evan also becomes a fixture around the house because he has a thing for Julia, Daisy’s best friend. It’s the vet who keeps coming around to check on Jupiter who eventually makes Daisy wonder if she made a mistake. Ironically enough his name is Art.
I’ve spoiled enough of the novel by now. It has a happy ending and Linc eventually lets Daisy go back to being herself a little bit. There is a reason Daisy stayed with Linc through the harsh criticism and it’s not what you think. You find out at the very end when she finally gets her artwork in a show.
Like Betsy’s Rules for Romance Novels, life has mess. There’s lots of mess in this romance but I kind of like that. What I didn’t like so much was the nauseating detail of every little thing. Daisy has springy curls and Linc has a lean muscular body with broad shoulders. There were a couple of places where she sounded like Orphan Annie (which coincidentally is the name of one of her cats) and he sounded like Hercules. It was over the top.
The lustful thoughts were also over the top, but this was initially a Harlequin Romance and I guess they require a certain lust factor. There were two graphic sex scenes that went on for pages and were described badly. I glossed over them. I’m picky when it comes to sex scenes.
The ending fell a little flat for me. Daisy changed a lot. Linc changed very little. It took for him to see Daisy through other people’s eyes before he fell in love with her which isn’t very genuine. Up until the very end he was still fascinated with skinny short blondes and Daisy is a 5’8″ curvy brunette with a thick flat nose. After pages and pages of that being hammered into the reader, it’s hard to forget long enough to imagine these two really in love. That’s why it only gets 4 stars.
4 out of 10 stars. I won’t read it again. It wasn’t good enough. Let’s hope the next Jennifer Crusie novel will be better.
How does it follow Betsy’s Rules for Romance?
- Marriage before sex. –> PASS
- At least one romantic event every 25 pages. –>FAIL
- There must be mess. –> PASS
- There must be an antagonist. –>FAIL
- There must be a catastrophic event. –>FAIL
There was practically no romance in this novel. Daisy worked hard to make Linc happy. He tried keeping his harsh criticism to a minimum so she wouldn’t run. There’s no antagonist unless you count Linc and he’s supposed to be the protagonist. There’s no real catastrophic event unless you count the gallery show and her father at the end. (I don’t.)
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