Author: Julie Murphy
After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America’s favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion.
Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn’t expect? That she may just find inspiration—and love—in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.
If the Shoe Fits in the first novel in the new Meant to Be series. After reading this, I cannot wait to see what the next novel will hold. This story brings together a modern retelling of Cinderella mixed with elements of One to Watch and The Selection. The Cinderella elements have the basics where there is a girl, a stepmother, her two stepsisters, and a Prince Charming. However, I love how the author manipulated these elements to make them feel fresh. This tale is similar to One to Watch as it is a plus-size girl on a Bachelor-like show. While One to Watch has the girl as the suitor, If the Shoe Fits has the girl as a contestant. While both set out to show the obstacles plus-size women go through in a non-plus size friendly environment, I appreciated the execution of this novel a little more. I compare it to The Selection as the two main characters have an encounter prior to the official start of the competition. The suitor and the contestant have a special connection where it seems that their love should be straightforward, but the competition leaves the contestant with a lot of doubt.
The story follows 22-year-old Cindy Eleanor Woods. After a simpler life with just her and her father when her mother passed away, her father announced that he has been seeing someone and will be getting remarried. Cindy gains a new stepmother and two stepsisters. Her stepmother is Erica Tremaine, the pilot force behind the Bachelor-like show, Before Midnight, which takes 24 contestants vying for the love of one eligible suitor. Anna and Drew, 23, were Erica’s daughters from a previous relationship. As they are nine months apart, the two of them started a successful YouTube channel, VeryNearlyTwins, and have since become influencers. After Cindy’s father passed away when she was 18, Cindy was lost and it helped influence her move to New York to attend Parsons School of Design. Cindy’s dream is to design all types of fashion, but she has a special passion for shoes. She was roomed as a freshman with a girl named Sierra and the two of them became best friends. Upon graduating, Sierra decided to stay in New York after obtaining design offers while Cindy is a little more lost with no prospects and decides to return home in Los Angeles. She will be a temporary nanny for her half-siblings, Mary, Jack, and Gus, who are triplets that were born via surrogate.
On her flight from JFK to LAX, Cindy meets her own Prince Charming after running into him at the departure gate. His name is Henry and the two of them hit it off and continue to talk on the plane. The plane scene is one of the first glimpses into Cindy’s life as a plus-size individual. When she sits down, she worries if she will need a seatbelt extender or not and is relieved when she does not. She has a window seat and presses her body into the wall of the plane in order to not crowd the person sitting in the middle. While these were only a few sentences in the narrative, I extremely appreciated these details. Some airlines have seatbelts to fit a US size 30 and others barely fit a US size 12, so extenders are an issue for many travelers. (A true statement through personal experiences for myself and those I know.)The pressing the body to make yourself smaller for your seatmates is completely relatable, so I loved this being included. As someone who has greatly fluctuated in sizes from US 8 to US 24 and everywhere in between, I do this no matter my size because that anxiety never goes away. When Cindy lands, she and Henry part ways and may not see each other again.
Through a series of events, Erica needs more last minute contestants for the next season of Below Midnight, so Drew, Anna, and Cindy all end up on the show. Although they do not know who the suitor is, Cindy is shocked when she comes face to face with Henry. As the only plus size individual on the show, the novel not only goes through the Bachelor-like selection where Henry must eliminate contestants to end up with the one, but also into the obstacles plus size individuals face. When Cindy wears one outfit, she is called brave, which has a very negative connotation. There are many moments like this wear Cindy is forced to stand out as the fashion is geared towards those smaller than her.
While the contestants are competitors, I appreciated the bonds that they formed with each other. Sara Claire and Stacy were amazing characters and I loved the developing friendship between them and Cindy. This was a refreshing take on the competition setting as it is true that they are all against each other for one suitor, but that does not mean that they are all terrible people that cannot be friends. I also appreciated the update to the family dynamics from the Cinderella story. Cindy has an excellent relationship with Erica, Drew, Anna, Jack, Gus, and Mary. Anna, Drew, and Cindy are supportive of the other, so I loved that the author chose to take the “evil” out of the stepfamily dynamic. Another refreshing addition was some complexity given to Henry. He has a complex relationship with his mother and their fashion empire. There are many secrets in their family that he has to keep hidden to keep up their public image yet he is torn with wanting to follow his own path.
Overall, this was an enjoyable quick read. There is a lot of predictability to the story, but it is enjoyable to see Cindy grow a lot over the course of the novel. I do wish that Cindy and Henry got to spend more time together, however, it is difficult given the parameters of the show they are on and the novel itself. I wanted to learn about Henry, as he was an interesting character. As this story is about Cindy and her journey, it was understandable to leave the focus on her. I loved every time Cindy and Henry interacted as they were adorable together. This a very sweet and heart-warming story that gives those nice happily ever after Disney-like vibes with a fantastic main character “princess” and a lovely “prince.” I cannot wait to see what the Meant to Be series will come up with next!
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, Disney Hyperion, and the author, Julie Murphy, for the opportunity to read this entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**