Julie Murphy’s first adult romance, If the Shoe Fits, is also the first book in the Meant to Be series, in which different authors will create contemporary rom-coms inspired by Disney princesses. Murphy’s reimagining of Cinderella takes place on the set of a reality TV show, where a young woman becomes an overnight body-positivity sensation.
Cindy Woods is an aspiring shoe designer who works for her TV executive stepmother, Erica. When Erica needs a last-minute stand-in for her reality dating show, “Before Midnight,” Cindy steps up, thinking she’ll be sent home early and can get right back to working on her own dreams in the fashion industry. As the only plus-size contestant, Cindy immediately captures the hearts of viewers and is seen as an inspiration by many fans of the show. While Cindy had hoped her role would be a temporary distraction, she soon becomes one of the leading competitors vying for Prince Charming’s love.
The prince is Henry Mackenzie, the heir to a formerly successful but now failing fashion company. He’s agreed to be the lead of the show as a way of revitalizing the brand. A mutual love of design sparks Henry’s and Cindy’s interest in each other, and the two fashion-loving nerds talking shop and debating various trends makes for great on-page chemistry. Henry is the perfect support for the self-assured and unabashedly passionate Cindy, and their light-on-angst courtship allows Murphy to focus on their individual character journeys.
The Cinderella story wouldn’t be the same without a stepmother and stepsisters, but Murphy thankfully elevates them into complex characters rather than irredeemable villains. Erica and her two daughters can be a bit superficial, but they’re also grieving the loss of Cindy’s beloved father, and there are sweet moments of familial love and support between all four characters.
Fans of “The Bachelor” franchise, especially those who cast a more critical eye on the images and storylines crafted onscreen, will really enjoy this fairy-tale romantic comedy. Cindy didn’t set out to become a voice for bodies like hers, but she is cast in that role regardless. She must navigate all the typical challenges of being a reality show contestant while also having her personality flattened into “the body-positivity girl,” which has both positive and negative repercussions.
If the Shoe Fits is a confident, modern and magical romance that starts the Meant to Be series on the right foot.