The Cinderella Deal

Jennifer Crusie
September 1996, Series Romance
Loveswept $807, $3.50, Amazon ASIN 055344557X

Grade: B
Sensuality: Subtle

If you've heard of Jennifer Crusie in the past, it's likely you've heard how funny she writes. While there's plenty of her trademark humor in The Cinderella Deal, there's also quite a bit of poignancy, so much so that I got weepy during the last fourth of the book (and, no, I was not having a PMS day or a bad hair day). As the title indicates, it is a fairy tale, so you'll have to suspend reality for the couple of hours you'll spend reading The Cinderella Deal, but by then, Crusie will have woven a spell around your heart.

This is a modern marriage of convenience tale, with artist/story-teller Daisy Flattery becoming involved with college professor Linc Blaise for his benefit - the dean of the college he wants to work at will only hire him if he's married. The uptight, intellectual, and tight-assed Linc is into cool little blondes. Daisy is the bohemian type, collector of lost animals, earth-mother, rounded, with a killer smile.

Their "deal" collides Linc's world; circumstances and secondary characters, including a one-eyed dog, mothers-in-law, friends, students, and Linc himself, fall under Daisy's spell. Not that she's this happy-go-lucky creature. Take a peak into one of her whimsical paintings and you'll get a gander of Lilly Borden with her ax.

When Linc's martinet of a mother comes for a visit and brings with her a virulent strain of the flu, the tone of the story changes. The humor is still there, but, underneath it, underneath Daisy and Linc's convenient marriage, true feelings are beginning to burst through.

The fears of those in love who have yet to admit to their emotions drives the remainder of the book, and this reader was thoroughly engrossed. The author infuses this fear with another - the fear of losing one's true self as the accomodation process of being a couple seeps in.

Among my favorite type of romance is the stuffed-shirt hero who accepts the craziness the heroine brings to his life. There's always that time when the heroine tries to tampen down her true self. It's to the hero's credit that he accepts her for herself and gives in to his own quirkiness, celebrates it, and celebrates his heroine. Linc did that just fine; both Daisy and Linc ended up with a hell of a deal.

LLB: I was so taken by the tearful response I had to Jennifer Crusie's The Cinderella Deal that I wrote her about it. I had expected the laughter, but not the tears. I also wanted to know about her upcoming hardback release, the synopsis of it having reminded me of vintage Susan Isaacs. I asked her if it was a romance or women's fiction.

Here's what Jennifer had to say:

I have a book due Friday and I'm leaving for a mystery writers cruise on the same day so things have been hectic, still are for that matter. ARGH. Glad you had a good time with Daisy and Linc, I did, too. Yes, I deliberately experimented with more emotion on that book, told myself it was okay to go too far to see how far I could go since I'm not a very emotional writer. Yes, I cried over Gertrude, too. I didn't go quite that far on Tell Me Lies, but I deliberately tried to find the emotion in that book, too. That's hard for me because I like stories that move, and emotion slows things down considerably. Of course, it also makes the book worth reading, so it's something I'm going to continue to work at.

Another thing about The Cinderella Deal: it was a very early book, the fourth one I wrote after Sizzle, Manhunting, and Bet Me. (Yes, I know you've never heard of that last one; it's still unpublished.) I loved it, and Harlequin bought it, and they wanted so many changes that I finally started over and ended up with Strange Bedpersons. People see the parallels when they read both, but SB wasn't TCD as far as I was concerned; I still had to get that one on the page. So if you noticed similarities, it's because they started from the same place. OTOH, there are big differences. With TCD, I wanted to write a marriage of convenience story because I'd never done one. With SB, I was going for political comedy, although Harlequin made me cut most of it in the rewrite.

Tell Me Lies is definitely romance. I'll probably always write romance, it's such an open form with so many possibilities, and I love the fact that it's predominantly a female form, too. Mainstream romance gives me a lot more freedom in what I can write about than category (although I love to write the short form) so I'll probably be trying different things with each book. The book I'm working on now for St. Martin's is really complex, four different points of view, four subplots, lots of interweaving, so that's where I'm pushing the edge this time, and I'm also working with fairy tale motifs throughout it. For TML, it was just learning the long form. The best part about TML for me, though, is that it was the book I'd wanted to write for so long, so I'm very grateful to my publisher for giving me the chance. I really do love it, it's the best thing I've ever written.

-- Laurie Likes Books

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