Ella McBride storms into William Hawk’s life, his two children by her side. While he has been trying to manage his multimillion-dollar business deals on the computer, his son and daughter were outside, lost and unsupervised. Ella misses her job interview because she stops on her way there to lecture him -- and ends up feeling sorry for the recently widowed man and his unhappy children. When he offers her the job of nanny at double any salary she could make waitressing, Ella hesitates. She had to take care of too many children when she was a foster child forced into working for the families she lived with. Since she was never really part of any family, she’s had too much experience with loving and leaving little kids.
On the other hand she could use the money.
Ella begins with a good attitude for a potentially downtrodden heroine: she thinks Hawk is gorgeous and she likes his kids, but she really doesn’t think she should get involved. Only the money makes her go further. Hawk starts off with a desperate need to have some peace and quiet so he can get some work done. It evolves into more, of course. Parents can believe Hawk’s amazement followed by boredom and then loneliness when his kids suddenly do find other things to do without him. Hawk isn’t a bad guy. He just hasn’t been around his children much and now he wants to learn to do things the right way. That means watching and learning from Ella, who is a natural at dealing with children. He doesn’t mind watching her at all.
This has lots of old-fashioned “governess and older man” romance elements. Some of the best parts of the book fought against the stereotypes: Ella is spunky and not afraid to tell Hawk when he’s wrong, Hawk knows he’s too old for Ella and embarrassed that he’s fascinated by this younger woman. There is the fairy tale part, too, though that’s not a huge part of the story. An evil stepmother (well, sister-in-law) appears. She threatens to upset the romance, though of course it’s Ella’s insecurities that make Ella leave. The heroine runs away from the ball without meeting up with her Prince Charming. He has to go looking for her.
This book starts off strong despite some small quibbles -- Hawk’s three and four year old are the most precocious (and actually easy to handle) young kids I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t expect these kids to spend as much time as they do in front of a computer. Yes, I know small kids do, but I don’t think either of them would have the attention span, much less the hand-eye coordination, to last hours in front of the television and then the computer. Clueless Hawk treats them like much older children - he hands them each a twenty to go spend at the store when Ella takes them out to town. Of course Ella turns them into more real, though still remarkably manageable, children.
The ending wasn’t as good. Suddenly the author began telling more and more about the hero and heroine’s feelings, rather than showing. For example, “Hawk had been too self-absorbed in his own problems to actually take her talent seriously. Studying the paintings that lined the walls, he realized what a mistake that had been. They defied his initial belief that her interest in art was simply the diversion it had been for so many of Lauren’s bored women friends.” Or, with Ella, “She desperately wanted to hold on to the belief that any love, no matter of excruciating the toll it exacted, was better than spending a lifetime in which one was too afraid to trust another human being with one’s frailties. She needed to believe that love tested like gold under fire and, no matter the outcome, made one better for having risked while on earth.” None of these are bad sentences if spoken to another character. But would anyone really think that in those terms?
Wyoming Cinderella starts off well despite (or maybe because) of the plot that everyone has heard before, but ends disenchantingly because Hawk and Ella weren’t allowed to show their growth as characters. Too bad. If the author had let them, the ending could have fit as nicely as Cinderella’s glass slippers.