Book Review - If The Shoe Fits by Shirley McCoy
If The Shoe Fits is an intriguing retelling of the Cinderella fairy story with a what-if twist... what if the shoe fits the wrong girl?
Juliette is one of Cinderella's (called Celina in this story) stepsisters. The story begins as Juliette discovers, to her horror, that the shoe fits her foot, even though she's very definitely not the girl the Prince is looking for.
We the readers realize immediately that Juliette is All Right. She doesn't want to marry the prince and she's horrified by her stepmother's wicked machinations (a spell on the slipper and a plan to take over the kingdom). I was almost immediately reminded of Ever After, probably my favorite movie take on the Cinderella story, when one of the stepsisters in that case turns out to be decent too. I immediately found myself rooting for Juliette to get together with her Lord Robert (the prince's best friend).
The other stepsister, Rosalind, is quite a different case. She's angry that the shoe fits Juliette and not her; she's jealous and resentful when their mother Beatrice takes Juliette off to the castle and leaves Rosalind behind to manage the estate and keep Celina imprisoned. Rosalind starts off as a clear villain... and yet, over the course of the story, we begin to see glimpses of someone who's actually quite decent underneath a shallow veneer. A woman who's unwilling to let her stepsister be mistreated and the estate she loves fall to ruin. A woman who's willing to listen to her steward, Jonathan... and even to let herself fall in love with him.
Taking a character who's a clear villain at the beginning of the story and working their way to a thorough redemption by the end isn't an easy task, and the author managed it extraordinarily well. Redemption and forgiveness aren't easily found by any means - I liked Celina, who was a fairly forgettable character in this story, a lot more when she tried to banish Rosalind and Juliette at her first opportunity.
There are three romances in this story; Juliette and Lord Robert, Rosalind and Jonathan, and Celina and Prince Will. Of the three, the story of Cinders and her Prince is the most thinly drawn and I found myself regretting that; I'd have liked to see all three romances given equal weight. Because we never see Will and Celina's first meeting, we're only told about it, it doesn't feel as believable as the other two romances. Yes, it's the story everyone knows, but I'd have liked to see what the author did with it; how did Celina (without allies or magic) get a gown and get to the ball to meet the prince in the first place?
Even that small quibble couldn't dim my enjoyment of the story, though. It was a great variant of a story everyone knows from a completely different point of view. Five stars.
Disclaimer: I received a free ARC of this book for review through NetGalley.