Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer

In this funny and big-hearted story by the author of The Secret Lives of Fortunate Wives, three best friends make a pact to transform themselves into the glamorous women they've always wanted to be.

Nola Devlin has a secret identity. By day she is an overweight, frumpy, and overlooked editor, but by night she slips behind her keyboard and into her alter ego: Belinda Apple. Belinda is thin, gorgeous, and the author of a glamorous advice column, "OnBeing Fab!" Not even Nola's two best friends or her jealous sister (who worships Belinda as the "sister she never had") know her secret.

Nola is shocked when Belinda receives a desperate letter from Deb, her best friend and former cheerleading captain, now also overweight and depressed. Nola resolves to help her friend, and together with their pal Nancy, the trio form the "Cinderella Pact"-a promise to be their own fairy-godmothers and help change one another for good.

But things don't turn out the way the three friends expect. Deb's formerly devoted husband drifts further away with every pound she loses, while Nola finds herself caught between a crush on her dreamy boss and the attentions of a charming British reporter. But which of them loves the real Nola? Only when her secret identity is revealed will she find out which man is right for her, and if her two best friends can forgive her deception.

So it might surprise you to know that in some ways this is a retelling of the Cinderella story. In this case our poor Cinders is Nola Devlin, editor at a women's magazine. When the publisher decides that they need an Ethics Columnist (aka Agony Aunt) Nola submits her piece, but her boss doesn't even look at it. Nola is convinced that it is because she is overweight and frumpy, and so in order to prove her theory, she decides to create a fab new persona and Voila! Fiona Apple is born! With her sassy responses to leaders letter she becomes an instant sensation, but her duplicity starts to catch up with Nola when her friends decide to change their lives by losing weight when Fiona Apple says that it is easy to lose weight.

The three friends form The Cinderella Pact - they will lose weight within 6 weeks. The three women choose vastly different paths to weight loss. Deb has already investigated the possibility of surgical intervention and Nancy hires a personal trainer, whilst Nola takes to sensible eating and regular exercise.

At the same time as losing weight, Nola meets Chip and she begins to fall in love, but things are not as they seem. We see Nola go through her personal journey of losing weight and finding herself, whilst at the same time undergoing an investigation at work as they try to work out if their Ethics columnist is who she says she is, or has herself broken ethics!

There were a lot of things to like in this book. The author for the most part tried to avoid the cliche of saying "If you lose weight you will be happy!", and it was an entertaining enough read.

One thing I didn't like was a couple of the cameos. Bubbles made a cameo appearance in this book, and whilst it was okay, it was possibly a bit over the top, as was the over the top gushy reaction to Nola meeting Harley Jane Kozak, who is one of the author's blogging buddies over at The Lipstick Chronicles. Other than that, this was for the most part an enjoyable read!

I have read all of Sarah Strohmeyer's books now, and one of the things that I am still waiting for is the book that really blows me away.

Rating 4/5

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