Millennial readers occupy a strange middle ground, where they’re old enough to see the problems in the Disney stories of their youth, but young enough to feel the nostalgic pull of magical romances and whimsical stories. That’s how the Meant To Be series came about – books that reimagine classic Disney stories for a newly adult audience. The first book in the series is If The Shoe Fits, an escapist rom-com styled after Cinderella.
In this version of the fairytale love story, Cindy is a recent fashion grad and a shoe aficionado. Adrift after barely scraping through her last year of study, and her father’s death, she moves from New York to Los Angeles to live with her step-family.
Now, in In The Shoe Fits, the step-mother and -sisters aren’t evil – they’re just very LA. Erica is an executive producer of the blockbuster hit reality TV show Before Midnight, and her two daughters are budding Instagram influencers. Murphy managed to depict the natural discordance of a blended family without making the bonus members irredeemable villains. Maybe it departs a bit too much from the original story for some folks, but I loved it.
Anyway, Cindy moves to LA with the intention of nannying for her step-mother’s youngest children, but stumbles into a spot on Before Midnight instead. It’s basically The Bachelor, with a few fairytale-themed twists. Cindy’s not expecting to find love – when does the plus-sized contestant ever get the prince? – but she’s hoping to at least jump-start her fashion career.
Ah, yes, the prince: Henry, heir to a crumbling fashion empire (conveniently enough), and appearing on Before Midnight as a last-ditch effort to revitalise his mothers flagging brand. He’s not expecting to find love on the show either, but strangely enough, he and Cindy share a special connection – one that’s going to cause a lot of problems for the reality show’s narrative.
It’s a nice love story, yes, but I found the relationships between the contestants, and with their producers, the most interesting part of If The Shoe Fits. It was really wonderful to read a romance novel with more going on than pining and miscommunication. Plus, the representation – a plus-sized heroine, queer characters – gets a big tick.
Murphy also reimagines the “happily ever after” for If The Shoe Fits, serving up an ending that allows the heroine a lot more self-determination and agency. Snaps for that!
On the downside, though, If The Shoe Fits is a closed door romance (boo!), with nary more than a passionate kiss and a few butterflies – no doubt to satisfy the puritanical standards of the Disney overlords. I also found it a little hard to follow at times; some of the scenes flew by so quickly, I had to double back to make sure I caught everything before forging on.
All told, it’s a sweet romance with a nostalgic vibe, probably a good pick for fans of UnReal (I’m guessing, I only ever saw half of the pilot episode) and people with fond memories of watching Disney’s Cinderella as a kid. If you get a kick out of hate-watching The Bachelor and critiquing the patriarchal messaging, you’ll probably enjoy it, too. If The Shoe Fits is a promising start to the Meant To Be series, and I’m looking forward to checking out the next installments (By The Book by Jasmine Guillory is already out, and Kiss The Girl by Zoraida Córdova is coming soon).
My favourite Amazon reviews of If The Shoe Fits:
- “felt like if a hallmark movie was written with an agenda, that was more important than the romance” – NeverAgain
- “I liked that the beauty queen/skinny girl did not win.” – Jennifer
- “IT ISN’T A MODERN DAY CINDERELLA! It’s a bad rip off of a season of The Bachelor.” – Terri Hansen