The Big Bad Wolf Tells All

Carried Away

The Charm Stone

The Cinderella Rules

Heat of the Night

The Legend MacKinnon

Legend of the Sorcerer

The Royal Hunter

Tease Me

Walk on the Wild Side

Your Wish is My Command

Dear Prince Charming
by Donna Kauffman
(Bantam, $11.00, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-38235-7
Early in this book, someone points out that the hero is no prince. Unfortunately, he then proceeds to prove them right. Repeatedly.

At 30, Valerie Wagner has wanted all her life to work in the fashion business. She wasn’t tall enough to be a model, so she tried design. She couldn’t draw, so she tried merchandising. She couldn’t add, so she tried working for fashion magazines and finally found her niche as publicist for a bimonthly glossy called Glass Slipper – the brainchild of the three professional fairy godmothers who appeared in the author’s previous book.

After a career of failures, this is going pretty darn well. Valerie has persuaded Prince Charming, “the mysterious and elusive best-selling self-help author” to be Glass Slipper’s spokesperson and exclusive columnist. Prince Charming has made a very successful career out of ‘demystifying men’ for the female population. Prince Charming, aka Eric Jarmaine, has agreed to show his face to the public for the first time on the inaugural cover of the magazine, and Valerie is sure that when women get a load of his “six feet plus of tanned muscle and beach boy godliness” the new magazine will fly off the stands.

There’s just one problem. Turns out that Eric, the man supposed to be proof that “a guy existed who saw women as human beings first and sex objects second” is gay. And won’t stay in the closet a moment longer.

But Eric has a solution (apparently just giving the godmothers their half-million dollars back is out of the question). His buddy Jack, a freelance sportswriter and confirmed heterosexual, can pose as Prince Charming for the photo shoot, and Eric will handle all the interviews by phone. Jack is willing to do this for his buddy, to whom he owes a lot, and anyway, it sounds simple enough. What could possibly go wrong?

Valerie, who really likes this job and is not interested in starting all over again all over again, agrees to go along with the ruse. After all, Jack just has to show up for one photo shoot, right?

Donna Kauffman is a talented and capable writer, but she’s given herself some problems with this book that she apparently did not know how to overcome. As a result, I was not charmed.

The biggest problem is that Jack spends most of the book behaving like a total jerk. In spite of the fact that this magazine launch is important to a lot of people, including his best friend, he refuses to take any of it seriously. He repeatedly disregards Valerie’s advice, cautions and instructions, then tries to beguile himself out of trouble with a smile and a flip remark.

The author tries to make up for this by having Jack react in a mature and tolerant manner when his (he thought) fellow jock, Eric, comes out to him. Unfortunately, the result is that Jack starts to treat Eric more like a little sister than a pal, which is strange and faintly creepy.

Then, when Jack finally realizes it’s not all a big joke, he does a complete 180, getting angry at Valerie as if she hasn’t been pleading with him all along to take it more seriously.

Because Jack spends most of the book behaving like this publicity tour is his own personal game of bumper-cars, Valerie – who is a smart and capable publicist – is forced to spend most of the book behaving like a shrew while she tries unsuccessfully to keep him on track. Equally frustrating, while each of them has lots of lust-think, they actively shy away from discussing anything personal or doing anything that would let them get to know each other. As a result, I never believed for a moment that they fell in love.

In fact, the author seems at one point to realize that the readers don’t know why these two are falling for each other, so she very kindly tells us. Gee, thanks.

This might have been a nice, wacky take on an old fairytale. Unfortunately, I was rooting for Cinderella to go upside the Prince’s head with that glass slipper and then find herself a nice frog.

-- Judi McKee

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