Having read a few of the books in the Bubbles Yablonsky series by Sarah Strohmeyer, I was curious about her most current novel. The Bubbles series is very similar to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. The books are fun, and one can definitely lump them into the "beach read" category. THE CINDERELLA PACT, however, is a notch above Bubbles (who by the way makes a cameo here) and I want to compare it favorably to the Bridget Jones books.
Nola Devlin is an overweight woman who works for Sass! magazine as an editor. What she really wants to do though is write, so she somehow manages to create an alter ego, Belinda Apple, who finds her way into writing an advice column for the publication. No one knows that Belinda does not exist. Everyone thinks Belinda lives in London and is very chic (a doctored photo of Nola convinces the staff of this), but no one has yet to meet the popular columnist. Nola gets away with her charade by creating an email address for Belinda along with an American cell phone number, explaining to co-workers that it's cheaper to use than a direct British phone line.
In the meantime, Nola and her two best friends, Deb and Nancy, decide that they are going to lose weight, and they form the "Cinderella Pact." They vow to become trimmer versions of their present selves, inspired by an article penned by Belinda Apple no less. While Nola knows that the article is a bunch of bull, the other two are convinced this is the way to go.
While the three pursue their dreams of becoming thin, Nola meets "Chip," a computer geek who also works at Sass!, and is surprised to find that he is attracted to her. But she's somewhat convinced that he is already in a relationship (possibly married) and thus keeps disappearing on her, giving her the impression he's really not that serious about her. Nigel, the "other" Brit on staff at Sass!, also shows interest in Nola, and she isn't sure what to think of him. (Actually, rumors are flying that Nigel and Belinda are having an affair, and Nigel tries to get a hold of Belinda through Nola.)
On the home front, Nola's family thinks she's jealous of baby sister Eileen, who is almost engaged to be married, while overweight Nola never seems to get a date. When Eileen decides she wants Belinda Apple to be her maid of honor, Nola is about to have a heart attack. How is she going to pull this one off?
I thoroughly enjoyed THE CINDERELLA PACT, which had me laughing out loud. I hope Strohmeyer continues writing books with these fun and crazy characters because they are delightful, funny and always amusing to read about. I'm recommending this book to readers who enjoy well-written Chick Lit, but also may be looking for something more.
--- Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton (Ratmammy@lofton.org)