If the Slipper Fits
by Olivia Drake
(St. Martin’s, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-1250-00177-1
***
Barbara Dawson Smith starting writing as Olivia Drake a few years ago and this is her fourth in a series titled “Cinderella sisters. In this case, the connection to the fairy tale is slim, but the story is generally an enjoyable one; albeit one that doesn’t stand up to intense scrutiny.

Annabelle Quinn is definitely a heroine who is an underdog. Raised at a school for girls as an orphan, she has had to fight for every scrap she gets. With no known family, only the goodness of the servants have given her the opportunities she has had, including learning and ultimately teaching at the school.

When an opportunity to be hired by a lady of the ton as a governess to a ten year old duke arises, Annabelle does what needs to be done to get her interview. And when she gets the job, she is certain her life will now change for the better.

She arrives at Westbury manor only to discover that the duke’s uncle is not aware of her hiring and is less than thrilled to meet her. She finagles her way in and convinces Lord Simon Westbury to give her a trial period. During the trial, she raises questions about the way the duke, a darling little boy named Nicholas, is being raised. She tries to get the current tutor fired and she offers Simon a glimpse at a woman who he becomes attracted to.

Needless to say there are many obstacles to their happy ever after – their rank among society just one of many. When Annabelle and Nicholas are shot at while exploring the estate, the question arises about who is trying to kill and which of them was the target. The discovery of some ancient Druid ruins and possible treasure just add to the conjecture.

Simon is a difficult hero to like at first as he is taciturn and rude much of the time, for no apparent reason. Ultimately he comes around and is an endearing hero. Annabelle is likeable too and her feistiness is just one of the things to enjoy. However, the many premises of the tale seem a bit farfetched at times and don’t hold up to much scrutiny. The options for the villain are minimal so he is easy to guess, although his reason was not. And the very reason is what makes it implausible.

The romance is slow to develop and yet, it feels believable due to their difference in rank and the wariness they both have about their affections for each other. For Simon it is primarily lust. For Annabelle, it is her admiration and belief in the goodness of people that ultimately helps him heal from his previous heartache, which opens the door to their romance.

If the Slipper Fits is a bit loose at times and at other times fits too tight. It is not perfect but worthy of trying on.

--Shirley Lyons


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