Dear Ms. Michaels,
I love a good Cinderalla/Ugly Duckling story. It doesn’t matter to me which person is the “Cinderella” but something about an overlooked character finding love just thrills me. I shouldn’t have liked this book, once I got started reading it, since it contains misunderstandings from both sides. As much as I love a Cinderella, misunderstandings can shoot romance books down in flames for me. But here, it worked despite what some will no doubt call contrivances.
Chloe Malcolm is our Cinderella, a woman who was a brainiac nerd in high school and got teased a lot for it. Her memories of 10 years ago aren’t great so it’s not surprising that she’s not thrilled at the thought of her upcoming reunion. It’s only when her BFF, who’s one of the reunion organizers, drops the news that Dylan Echols will be there that Chloe even thinks about attending.
Dylan was the star athlete of their class who went on to a brief pro baseball career before injuries sidelined him permanently. Chloe remembers daydreaming about him, despite the fact that he never seemed to notice her. With a hot, red dress and grown up body, she’s got his attention now. If only he hadn’t mistakenly identified her with someone else.
Dylan immediately sees Chloe and wants to see more of her. But when she loses her nerve and takes off, he discovers, at the reunion party, who she really is. Furious that she’s trying to pull one a fast one on the ‘dumb jock,’ he vows to track her down and force a confession.
It’s ‘game on’ as these two discover hidden depths, secret problems and a growing attraction that might derail when the truth is finally revealed.
Yes, Chloe lies to Dylan but you manage to still engage my sympathy for her as an ugly duckling who just wants one chance to shine with a man who’s paying her some heated attention. I can swallow her lies since she’s tying herself into knots over it and you provide genuine reasons to interrupt her confession.
The transition from outrage to silently pleading with Chloe to trust him with the truth is a slow process for Dylan but one I was willing to follow. With what he knows about her and what others tell/remind him about their high school days, he gets a fairly clear picture of her and what has apparently brought her to the point of continuing the whole charade.
I like Dylan’s relationships with his high school buddies and also that his initial concerns are about his thwarted career and his job. He is also bummed about a recent failed relationship but he’s not agonizing over it as a woman would do. His fears that Chloe is acting like the last manipulative bitch he dated, make sense to me.
Something that stood out to me is that Dylan and Chloe relish learning more about the person each is now instead of dwelling on images of the past. Good job that Chloe takes on a little more confidence from Dylan’s interest in her but it doesn’t suddenly change her in fundamental ways. She’s still a little shy and hesitant in social situations though I can see her blooming more as their relationship deepens.
Their cross purpose misunderstandings follow the plot. She’s the shy nerd who worries he, the golden boy of their class, would never remember her while he’s uncertain that she, the smartest girl in their class, is secretly making fun of his dyslexia and punishing him for not noticing her all those years ago.
Why must so many athlete heroes be dyslexic? It’s a romance short hand that I’m getting tired of.
Chloe’s reasons to continue in her persona are a tad farfetched but I appreciated her desire to not belittle Dylan or make him feel like a fool for initially believing her to be someone else. Except that he already knew the truth anyway which then played on her fears, once she knew that he knew, that he and his high school buds were teasing her.
I like the way that Chloe’s back story has been carried through. She hates surprises since she’s not good in social situations so it stands to reason that she’s gravitated to a job that allows her to work alone, if she wants, and avoid daily face-to-face interactions. It’s also logical and precise. It stands to reason that the man who was the primary influence on Dylan during his youth, the strong secondary character of Coach Burton, would have a major impact on Dylan’s life and his choice of careers. Teachers rock.
The book has fun interactions and dialogue. It was a quick read and a nice introduction to the continuing series about the small town world of Mistletoe, Georgia. B