In her four-in-one novella collection,Seattle Cinderella, author Gail Sattler takes a familiar fairy tale and gives it a quirky modern twist that involves, among other things, a pretty blond girl running a muffler shop in Seattle.
When Cindy's father died he left her half-interest in his established auto repair shop and in the house in which she grew up. Unfortunately, he also left half of each place to her mercurial stepmother, Melissa, and an addendum that, until her stepsisters finish college and embark on careers of their own, Cindy must provide each of them with employment in the shop. None of the girls are looking for romance, but as so often happens, romance comes looking for them.
As it should be, the first story belongs to Cindy.
Cindy and the Prince
Luke Princeton is co-owner of the car rental business next door to Cindy's muffler shop. For months he's been trying to work up the nerve to ask Cindy out, but all his attempts for a lunch date have failed. Now that he's the legal guardian of his late sister's teenage daughter, Kat, finding the time and energy for romance is something of a challenge. Cindy has no interest in getting involved with a single dad when she has tricky step-family issues of her own, but when Luke starts showing up at church youth events with Kat she begins to see a new side to her neighbor. With the encouragement of her godmother, Farrah, who always seems to know just when she's needed (don't miss the inference there), Cindy may just find herself reinventing her concept of the word "stepmother" and stepping into those slippers herself.
Love by the Books
The relationship between Cindy and her sisters has not only thawed since she married Luke, but warmed considerably. Annie has nearly completed her accounting degree and hopes to find a job in the industry. Meanwhile, she's helping Cindy – who is on her honeymoon – to keep the muffler shop going. Across the street, Brent, co-owner of Like a Prince Rentals, is doing the same while his business partner, Luke, is gone. When the rental company's accountant calls in sick, however, and he needs to complete his end-of-the-month accounting, Brent calls upon Annie for assistance. He's hesitant, knowing how Cindy has complained of Annie's laziness in the past, but Luke vouches for her improved performance. Brent can't help but be attracted to the young accountant, but when computer errors point to theft and embezzlement, will he believe the evidence … or the woman he's come to love?
Till Death Do Us Part
With both of her sisters married off, Zella will do about anything to get out from under the "you need a man" scrutiny of her mother. How is she supposed to find a man when she looks down, literally, on them all? Even in flats she towers over most men. But her mother, longing to plan another lavish wedding, won't be put off. In search of a man willing to become her fictional boyfriend, Zella attends a book club meeting at the library. Unfortunately, she didn't read the fine print of the meeting notice. As it turns out, this is a book club for writers, not for readers. To stay a member of the group, and out from under her mother's thumb, Zella endeavors to become a writer … fast … and, as a reader, to be a contributing member of the group. The writers' group welcomes her to their fold with open arms, but Trevor Jones, whose writing strangely resembles that of her favorite mystery author, opens his heart as well. Trevor is funny, handsome, and excessively tall – even taller than Zella. As a fictional boyfriend, he's perfect; but Trevor isn't content to keep their romance a work of fiction. And the secret he keeps from Zella might just tear their newfound love apart.
Never Too Late
Farrah is content in her single life. Committed to the elementary students she teaches and happy to have experienced second-hand motherhood through her goddaughter relationship with Cindy – and, now Kat – she has no need for a man in her life. But when Kat and her boyfriend, Tyler, hatch a matchmaking scheme involving Farrah and Tyler's uncle, a veterinarian 10 years her junior, she's pretty sure it's too late for romance. But she didn't count on falling in love with Dr. Matt Robinson. And Matt isn't the sort of guy who will cave to a bit of discouragement.
HITS & MISSES
Each of these little tales is a bit more charming than the last. Although the speed at which our heroines move from reluctant girlfriend to gleeful bride is a little jarring, as long as you give the author license to move her love story along at the fairy-friendly speed common to such tales, it shouldn't give you too much cause for concern.
TO READ... OR NOT?
Seattle Cinderella is a sweet, clean, faith-affirming and modern depiction of the Cinderella story, complete with an evil stepmother, a "Farrah" godmother, and two (not ugly) stepsisters. With touches of humor and a quadruple-threat dose of charming princes, this four-for-one novella collection is a convenient tool to pass the time while you're waiting on kids, lines, or appointments – and also serves as an entertaining way to pass a quiet evening at home.
(This review originally appeared at USA Today's romance fiction blog, Happy Ever After)