If The Shoe Fits
by Stephanie Rowe
(Dorchester; $6.99; G) ISBN 0-505-52700-6
***
Iíd love to read a chick lit book that isnít about a self-absorbed twit with her head so far up her butt she could remove her own tonsils. Sadly, this desire remains just another fantasy.

Paris Jackson is an ex-competitive runner who dreams of revolutionizing the running shoe business. Sheís worked for four years to develop Sfoam, which is, in Parisís humble estimation ďthe ultimate cushioning system for running shoes.Ē Sadly, no one else in the industy agrees with her Ė sheís pitched Sfoam to every running shoe manufacturer on the planet and no oneís interested.

Parisís partners Ė Will (who is also Parisís best friend and no-strings lover) and Jodi (like Will, a friend from college days) Ė are ready to bail. They want to stop working two jobs and have lives, rather than devoting every waking hour to making Parisís dream come true. Maybe Sfoam technology could be applied to some other product? It would be nice to see some kind of return on their four years of work Ė but Paris rejects this idea. It has to be running shoes, donít they get that, for peteís sake?

Parisís self-destructive lawyer friend Lindsey suggests that they actually make some shoes using Sfoam, in order to prove how good it is. This would be a lot easier if they had money, so Paris tries to sneak a highly unethical loan to herself through the bank where she works. Fortunately, her hunky boss Ė who may or may not be interested in acting on the undercurrent of sexual tension between them Ė does not fire Paris for this devious ploy, but neither does he approve the loan.

Then, lo and behold, who should show up but Parisís ex-husband, Greg. Greg left Paris after a month of marriage, with no word other than a note telling her not to contact him. Now, five years later, Gregís therapist has instructed him to apologize to Paris so that he can heal and move on with his life. Paris isnít impressed by the apology, but she is impressed by the two hundred thousand dollars Greg is willing to invest in her shoe company.

I should start by saying that Stephanie Rowe is clearly a talented writer. She actually managed to keep me reading this book, even though I didnít much like the heroine and never figured out why I should care about her problems. I mean, whatís the worst that happens if Paris does not realize her dream? She and her friend go back to their day jobs, and the world has to do without one more over-priced running shoe. Not the kind of problem that will keep me up nights.

Although Paris definitely grew as a person throughout the story, she kinda had no place to go but up. I got tired of hearing that everything Paris didnít like Ďsucked.í Life sucks. Ex-husbands suck. The shoes suck. Just because people have limited vocabularies and limited intelligence in real life doesnít mean I want to spend time reading about it. And since the chick lit convention is to tell the story in the first person, weíre stuck with Parisís egocentric observations for the duration. Which sort of, well, sucked.

Since this site is geared toward romance readers, youíre probably wondering whether thereís a romance in this book. Sadly, there is not. Paris is involved with a total of three guys in this story, two nice men and one not-so-nice man, although which is which isnít always clear and there are no hints as to who, if anyone, she will end up with until the very last pages. I donít mind a little ambiguity to keep things interesting, but this was just too vague and opaque to be intriguing. In the final analysis I just didnít care, and by the time she made a choice, I actually thought the guy she ended up with probably could have done better than Paris.

By now, Ms. Rowe is probably of the opinion that I suck, and I donít blame her. But if this talented author ever writes a book about a three-dimensional character whose problems I care about, I will buy that book in a heartbeat.

-- Judi McKee


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