This book is a bit like a home movie - quite entertaining and sometimes funny, but a bit disjointed and not always perfectly in focus.
It’s the story of Cindy Rawlins, who is working as a clerk in a shoe store to save enough money to put herself through veterinary school. Cindy recently borrowed a pair of three-hundred-dollar pumps from the store to show a friend, and lost one. She can’t really afford to replace it, so she’s placed a newspaper ad hoping that someone has found one red, size eight narrow left shoe and will return it to her.
The shoe isn’t Cindy’s only problem. Her tendency to take in wounded animals and nurse them back to health gets her in trouble with landlords, resulting in a frequent need to find a new apartment. When she’s kicked out of her current place, one of her co-workers arranges for a friend with a truck to help her move.
The friend turns out to be Parker Davis, an attractive man who’s been coming into the shoe store where Cindy works, buying shoes for his sister and hoping Cindy will agree to go out with him. Cindy, self-sufficient out of necessity from a very early age, dislikes accepting any kind of assistance from anyone for anything, but Parker is determined. He gets her moved, then spends the rest of the book attempting to persuade her that it’s okay to need someone.
Loosely held together by the search for the red shoe, the book doesn’t so much have a plot as it does a series of attempts by Parker to convince Cindy to trust him. There is definitely sexual chemistry between them, but Cindy has been on her own for a long time and steadfastly refuses to open herself up. While I found her quite sympathetic - and she’s not without a sense of humor - it did get a bit monotonous watching the same scene play itself over and over with virtually the same results every time. Parker would very gently create an opportunity for Cindy to let down her guard and she’d pull up the drawbridge with a resounding clang. She does have an epiphany eventually, but to my way of thinking it would have been more interesting to see some progress along the way.
Parker is a nice guy with three qualities that are indispensable to a romantic hero in this situation: lots of patience, lots of time and lots of money. Much of what draws him to Cindy seemed to be the challenge, which in the real world would not be a good indicator for long-term relationship success, but fortunately he senses what we know - the vulnerability and good heart beneath Cindy’s bristly independence. Parker needs to be needed, and Cindy is definitely in need.
In addition to the search for the shoe, Ms. Webb makes very nice use of the Cinderella metaphor without resorting to the most obvious clichés. Cindy is clearly languishing in under-appreciated isolation, not feeling sorry for herself but doing everything in her power to make her dreams come true. Parker is Prince Charming riding four wheels instead of four hooves, looking for wrongs to right and a shy maiden to rescue with his love.
The story does tend to float around a bit, though, touching down here and there without getting too far beneath the surface. The search for the shoe never really feels as important as it ought to, possibly because there are too many other things going on. A secondary romance, although appealing, doesn’t add anything substantial to the story. There’s a subplot about a roller blade race that Cindy wants to win (why add another shoe issue when you’ve already got a perfectly good one?). And a troubled parental relationship is trivialized by the ease with which it is resolved.
In short, all the right storytelling elements are here but too loosely pulled together. With a little more discipline, with tighter focus on the central images and fewer broad pans across the scenery, this nice little home movie would have been transformed into an excellent short feature.