The Bride-in-Law

A Knight in Rusty Armor

The Passionate G-Man

Cinderella's Midnight Kiss
by Dixie Browning
(Silh. Romance #1450, $3.50, PG) 0-373-19450-1
For most of her life, Cindy Danbury has daydreamed and fantasized about John Hale Hitchcock, a frequent houseguest of her neighbors. Living with a demanding not-quite aunt and two high-strung, spoiled cousins gives Cindy little to dream about. Cindy is a live-in housekeeper for these people who took her in after her parents died. Between laundry and cooking meals and running errands for everyone, a quick glimpse of handsome "Hitch" every now and then sets Cindy's dreams loose.

Hitch's own family life isn't much better than Cindy's. His parents are cold and unloving, and during a visit back home, he finds himself hanging around his best friend Mac's house rather than suffering the chill in his own home. When Mac marries his snobbish next door neighbor, Stephanie Stephenson, Hitch decides to spend the wedding weekend at the MacCollums.

All the women are falling over themselves to meet Mac's good-looking best man, including Stephanie's sister, Maura, who is about as subtle as a locomotive around him. But Hitch does not remember her, nor does he remember Cindy, her harried, overworked cousin. But something about Cindy's quiet, capable way at dealing with a bad situation pulls at his heartstrings, and soon, Hitch is sharing moonlight dances and stolen kisses with this modern-day Cinderella.

It probably goes without saying that this is another retelling of the Cinderella tale, and on that level it works. Though Hitch steps in to help Cindy when she's facing great peril, she always rescues herself. Hitch is simply the nice reward after all the hard work. In a funny twist, Cindy wears uncomfortable hand-me-down heels to her cousin's wedding, not glass slippers provided by a benevolent fairy godmother. It is the sight of Cindy stepping painfully in those shoes that melts Hitch's heart.

The story, however, had characters that were either so good or so bad that they became caricatures. Cindy's Aunt Stephenson and cousins Stephanie and Maura were so mean, so selfish, that it was impossible to imagine them as flesh-and-blood women. What was even more unbelievable that Cindy's own family would not invite her to Stephanie's wedding but then expect her to plan it, manage it, and clean up after it.

Cindy, on the other hand, was too sweet, too good, too naive to be a believable heroine. Although Hitch is kissing her whenever he can, she doesn't seem to realize that he likes her more than "just a friend." Moreover, she would have been more believable as a character had she stood up to her family sooner.

The other thing that was troubling about Cinderella's Midnight Kiss was the resolution between Hitch and his parents. Near the end of the novel, Hitch returns home to them when illness strikes, but he doesn't find it easy to let up on his anger toward them, so you're left to wonder if, indeed, Hitch will ever resolve his bitterness. There was also another instance where Hitch snaps at Cindy when she's gone overboard to help him out -- again, something that a "prince of a guy" would do?

All in all, Cinderella's Midnight Kiss is a quick, cute read, but without any real depth of characterization.

--Diana Burrell

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