Book Review

Accidental Cinderella by Nancy Robards Thompson


Title: Accidental Cinderella
Author: Nancy Robards Thompson
Publication Info: Harlequin 2009
ISBN: 9780373654840
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Lindsay Bingham is a small town girl who finds herself in St. Michel, a small European country similar to Monaco, as a bridesmaid to her friend Sophie, who is marring the crown prince of said country. At the wedding, she meets the gaze of one hot celebrity chef, Carlos Montigo, and the attraction is immediate. As Carlos goes off to fetch champagne for them both after a short but charged conversation on the balcony, another man, a television producer, asks her to dance and drops an amazing opportunity in her lap: television show hostess for his newly-purchased cooking network. Sophie, the princess of the previous book in this series, has pulled some strings for her best friend.

Lindsay used to be in television. Now she’s a receptionist at a job she assures herself is important, and she doesn’t want to get back into the television life, especially after it (ominous moment ahead) cost her so much in the past. But upon realizing that her job really isn’t all that (heads up! rapid change of priority and plot and understanding of the main character!) she turns the car around (she’s not the only one with whiplash, here) and heads to the audition. Surprise: you can has new job as hostess of a television spot, live from (the conveniently located and timed) food and wine festival.

Carlos doesn’t want to be attracted to Lindsay, and when he finds himself the subject of her first interview, he turns the tables on her and surprises her in front of the camera – only the impromptu performance is more interesting than they’d hoped, and Producer man is very intrigued.

Surprise again: Carlos and Lindsay are now the co-hosts of an hour-long show, driving all over Europe in a red Ferrari sampling cuisine and small town delicacies while info dumping through voice over dialogue onto both the television audience and the reader.

With slim connections to the Cinderella myth and limited character development beyond selfish caricatures of past loves causing interminable pathos in the confidence and emotional development of the protagonists (“He was mean to me!” “She scarred my soul!” Say it with me now: “I can’t trust you!”), this book was sparkling in its setting and dull in its execution.

If you don’t want to know how it ends, stop now. Seriously. Stop here.

Everything that went wrong with this book went wrong in the end. The majority of my ire and review focuses on the ending. Ergo, there are spoilers. Ergo ergo, they’re below the fold. Read on at your own peril.

There were so many things that ticked me off, I have a list.

1. Yo, lady heroine. Sorry, your best friend is like totally a princess, but you’re getting a tv gig. And you should decide you want it and then question yourself so quickly and with such hairpin turns of mental dexterity, it’s a good thing you’re driving a Ferrari. Consider a Bugatti for your next television gig. You could combine cars and food for excellent tv viewing.

2. Yo, Mr. Producer Man. Are you good, bad, or just like wet toast in possession of a lot of money? You’re more inconsistent than the heroine’s decision making process. You’re malevolent! You’re benevolent! You’re volatile! You’re unreasonable! You’re careful! You write ridiculous clauses in to contracts! I give up. You’re not only cardboard, you’re spinning cardboard.

3. Yo, plot. Let’s wrap this mess up in a hurry! We have some conflict, we have some trust issues, and we have five pages to make this work so those crazy kids and drive off into the sunset. Ready, set, go!

Lindsay: you’re amazing. Your cookies impress the chef du awesome in a small-town in France, giving you a standing job offer because your late mother’s recipe is simply incredible. Magic, you has it.

Carlos, you smoldering cook, you. You know that dream of a kitchen for troubled teens to learn job skills? You know that small town in Florida you love so much? You reminisce about? You long for as you drive the Coupe de Lurrrve all over Europe? You know, your home?

Totally unnecessary. Put that mess on the market. Why?

Because you’re going to give up your property and your dream, the location you’ve mentioned so many times, so you can… go to a town where Lindsay lives (with no job, since that pesky tv gig came along) because… well, I have NO IDEA WHY.

Linday’s said repeatedly that her current home is in nowhere’s suburb, and the narrative has spent exactly four pages there. I as the reader had absolutely no concept of where this happy ending is taking place.

Remember all those whiplash decisions Lindsay made earlier? Where she’d muse about one thing than a page or two later realize she was wrong and that reality was somewhat, or, a whole pile of a lot different? At first, it seemed she was really good at deluding herself. But by the end, it was impossible to believe she had any sense whatsoever.

After seeming to enjoy the tv show role, though not enjoying the uncertainty of it, at the end, she realizes in a fit of missing-Carlos-depression that she is really a homebody who wants to bake all day, because that’s what she does when she’s sad. Better keep on doing it, then.

So ultimately, she tours Europe with a hot chef in a sports car… and comes to the last minute realization that she wants to be in the nowhereville town she just ran like hell away from, and bake all the time.

What really ticked me off was that the ending betrayed the theme of the book. Home was where they are. They were at home in Paris, in Carcassonne, wherever they were together, they were happy and attracted and alive, and being together meant belonging.

But in the end, home has to be where she is, because he’s going drop everything and move to her.

Yeah, that inspires my confidence. I don’t have any impression of where this place is. She’s never there during the course of the narrative. It even has a boring ass name compared to his current hometown in Florida. But there they are – and why? I couldn’t possibly tell you.

By the time I reached the final page, I was incredulous. I wanted to beat them both with their shoes for twisting around once again and tacking an entirely out-of-character and unnecessarily bizarre ending on an otherwise flighty but tolerable story.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Babs says:

    Ow. Ow. Ow. My neck hurts after reading that review.

    I’m impressed you finished it. From what you’ve written Lindsay’s character would have made this a DNF for me.

    This might have been a perfect first opportunity to try out that new FTC rating?  *snerk*

  2. 2
    Tina C. says:

    I wanted to beat them both with their shoes

    HA!  I feel you.  From the sound of it, since I find it hard to finish any book that I can’t stand the characters, I would have had a hard time finishing this one. 

    With all the whiplash changes of motivation and characterization, do you think it was an editing issue—ie, the book was too long and the cuts made the characters more nonsensical than they actually were originally—or did you get the feeling that the author didn’t really have a grasp on who she wanted these people to be and what she wanted them to want/need?

  3. 3
    SB Sarah says:

    I honestly don’t know, Tina. I can’t really presume how a book ended up the way it did, whether it was editing or writing or what. I’d feel like a jerkbag doing so.

    I do know the finished product was a multi-layer cake of “Huh? WTF?”

  4. 4
    Laura Hamby says:

    Perhaps a “Makes Violent U-Turns” sign would help. Or, since the characters spend so much time in the car, a road map?

  5. 5
    shuzluva says:

    First, I’m dizzy reading the review. Second, I’m so, so glad I didn’t pick this up. Third:

    Carlos, you smoldering cook, you.

    Yeah, I read that as Carlos, you smoldering cock, you.

    Speaking of cardboard producers with lots of money, my spam filter is income67.

  6. 6
    Lori says:

    But in the end, home has to be where she is, because he’s going drop everything and move to her.

    I wonder if this was put in simply to counter the oft-hated trope of the woman dropping everything for her man. It sounds like the author had a whole subplot that got cut. Maybe without that someone didn’t think it was justifiable for the heroine to change her whole life for the hero.

    Yo, Mr. Producer Man. Are you good, bad, or just like wet toast in possession of a lot of money? You’re more inconsistent than the heroine’s decision making process. You’re malevolent! You’re benevolent! You’re volatile! You’re unreasonable! You’re careful!

    And this might have been the only realistic thing that book had going for it. Have you met any producers? Some of them are—-difficult.

  7. 7
    Catriona says:

    Am I shallow because I want to buy the book (bad as it may be) because of the cover?  That guy looks like Lee Pace.  Yum.

  8. 8
    HelenB says:

    With reference to the Bugatti comment, which model do you have in mind. My OH has a 1927 37a, which has no windscreen, no doors, no roof, no seatbelts. Getting in requires a fair amount of agility as one has to climb in sideways – never do that in a skirt! I have a very fetching flying helmet, lambswool lining and big flaps plus very large goggles – elegant it is not – for travel, also never open mouth when in motion as flys don’t taste nice.

  9. 9
    BoredCrow says:

    Hooray for character motivations that seem like they were consulting a magic 8 ball!

    Also, I personally love that in the first paragraph, it says she is “marring” instead of “marrying” the crown prince. Given the rest of the review, I’m thinking the typo is actually quite apropos.

  10. 10
    lunarocket says:

    I’m wondering if the author has issues with baking? Perhaps it’s what she’d prefer to romance writing? I love the idea a Magic 8 ball was involved!

  11. 11
    Kalen Hughes says:

    So ultimately, she tours Europe with a hot chef in a sports car… and comes to the last minute realization that she wants to be in the nowhereville town she just ran like hell away from, and bake all the time.

    The “must worship and revere nowhereville” trope is one of the reasons I tend to avoid category romances. So many of them seem to end with the characters happily returning to nowhereville or deciding that nowhereville is where “home” really is. Blech! I’m more the “must embrace and revel in cool career jaunting around Europe with hot guy” kind of girl. If I want to bake cookies, I can damn well bake ‘em in Paris (or London, or Prague, or Istabul . . .).

    I think I’m looking for more escapist fantasy, not learn to love where you come from lessons. But then I went to high school in nowhereville and I’m DAMN glad I escaped back to somewherecity!!!

  12. 12
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Istanbul. *sigh* Don’t know where “Istabul” is . . .

  13. 13
    Ellen Brand says:

    Istabul, not Constantinople?  *ducks and runs*

  14. 14
    megalith says:

    Yep. The whole I just wanna move to a small town and bake cookies thing is way too close to the old skool barefoot and pregnant thing for comfort. And why the hell would she be in the kitchen when she’s married to Chef Hottie anyway? He can’t whip something up (so to speak) when he gets home? And not to let reality intrude, but what kind of job prospects are there for either of them outside a large urban area? A celebrity chef and a television personality? What are they gonna do in BFE? Complete madness. Of course, in Romanceland, they open a wildly successful B&B which succeeds in making BFE a world-renowned tourist destination. Within weeks of opening. What? It happens all the time!

    And what is it with the celebrity chef trend? Is chef the new SEAL? Oh! Maybe the next big thing should be the SEAL Team Chef. I can just see the cover copy: When he’s not turning up the heat on the bad guys, he’s stirring up something spicy in the kitchen…or the bedroom. Either way, our heroine is ready for whatever he’s serving up!

  15. 15
    SB Sarah says:

    Candy had one of the best lines in the entire Bosoms when she wrote about how moving to a small town was an annoying plot trope because, to wit, no one knew the REAL you like the denizens of a town called “Tiddlywinks-on-the-Santorum.”

    Say those last four words to me at any time, and I’ll start snickering and will be unable to stop.

  16. 16
    Susan says:

    HABO…what’s a Lee Pace?

    Megalith, I love the SEAL Team Chef thing!

    Oh man, my comments phrase is been 48. That’s too weird ‘cause today is my 48th birthday.

  17. 17

    Happy Birthday, Susan!!  Hope you had a wonderful day! :-)

  18. 18
    Star Opal says:

    He does look like Lee Pace!

    You’re going to pay me, like with money, to travel with a hot guy and eat food? No thanks, I want to bake in Nowheresville.

    …Screw that!

  19. 19
    Moth says:

    @ Susan:
    This is a Lee Pace:

    (The pic’s a litle small at first, but click on it and it will expand).

  20. 20
    SonomaLass says:

    Happy Birthday, Susan!

    SB Sarah, I had forgotten “Tiddlywinks-on-the-Santorum”—must be time for a Bosoms re-read!  But “I wanted to beat them both with their shoes”?  That had me in fits! Gotta love a snarky review.

  21. 21
    napthia9 says:

    Wasn’t the hero in Accidental Princess the bodyguard, not a prince? I thought Sophie was supposed to be the only surviving heir to the throne and someone’s out to kill her, yadda yadda yah. But then, I never finished the book because it had many of the same problems described here- character decision whiplash, endless whining, life goals that changed at the drop of the hat…

    It’s sitting out in the dorm lounge though, and funnily enough it’s always the book visitors pick up and start flipping through.

  22. 22
    silvia says:

    I can only buy “big realizations” in fiction when the author has spent some time building it up, and has convinced the reader of it before the character figures it out. [and not by some other character(s) spelling it out to the reader. by showing!]

    But, regardless, you lost me at Sophie the princess. I just find it a little too lolarious to include the trappings of monarchy in a contemporary romance.

    Not that instant!tv!host! isn’t far from that. SO profoundly irritating when the heroine gets amazingly unrealistic opportunities dropped into her arms with little personal effort involved and magically gets to ~*follow her dreams*~. Especially one who doesn’t know her own mind, with completely inconsistent motivations.

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