We all know the story of Sleeping Beauty: the gorgeous princess, cursed by an evil sorceress, will sleep in her tower until a handsome prince wakes her with true love’s first kiss. So we’re all Sleeping Beauties, modern society might have us believe — breathing but slumbering until our very own Prince Charming arrives to pull us from our life-long sleep so our “real life” can begin.
Well, Genie Michaels isn’t buying it — not anymore. After her boyfriend, famous novelist Hugh Spencer, proposes on national television — to someone else — Genie clambers to save face as friends, coworkers and family all assume, logically, that Hugh has proposed to her. Under the guidance of best friend Patty, the Sleeping Beauty Proposal is all iced up . . . they are to continue the charade of her supposed engagement to Hugh with the idea that eventually, everything will catch up with him — and his career as a sappy novelist (think Nicholas Sparks) will come crashing down.
And there are the boons of a fake engagement, of course — like all the presents (though she feels terribly guilty about it, of course). And the attention paid to Genie, an admissions officer for a college outside Boston, comes at just the right time — in light of Hugh’s confession that throughout their four year relationship, he’s never really been attracted to her (what a jerk!). With the help of her brother Todd and Patty, Genie begins to rexamine her life — what’s gone into the creation of it, where it’s taken her, how everything has made her feel. For the first time, she looks at herself as a person — and not just as the frumpy girlfriend of Hugh Spencer, a man most see as infinitely “out of her league.” And when a house she’s loved for an eternity goes on the market, dreams of homeownership — and the sexy contractor working on the place — begin to occupy all of her thoughts.
Sarah Strohmeyer’s The Sleeping Beauty Proposal is first and foremost about a fake engagement, sure, but it’s really a commentary on just what I mentioned earlier: the Sleeping Beauty myth. This idea that we can dream and play and laugh and build friendships and work and travel for a while — as long as we want — but eventually, we need to “settle down” and get serious . . . with someone. And until we meet “The One,” our lives to that point are just background information, good for anecdotes and dinner table conversation with the future in-laws.
Needless to say, I totally related to Genie’s plight — and the plight of single girls everywhere! Because here’s some startling insight to throw at you: Love, dating and relationships are complicated. (Yeah, my insight is phenomenal!) And Genie’s growth following the Hugh debacle is gradual, realistic and charming.
That’s a good word for this novel: charming. I laughed out loud several times and felt totally connected to our heroine and the assortment of characters that populate her life. Friends, coworkers and family members all felt fleshed-out and real, and I loved the unpredictable nature of the story! Trust me — where we end up is far from where we started. Many plot twists took me by surprise, though plenty more I could spot way down the road. Still, that didn’t bother me — like Genie, it was all about the journey! And her realizations about life hit a note with me. One of my favorite quotes:
I’m beginning to learn that anything worth having in life begins by taking a risk — love, marriage, childbirth, even loving one’s neighbor as thy self. Risk is the universe’s way of pushing us to become more than what we are. Risk is faith at the edge. Risk is the pulsing essence of life.
Strohmeyer is a fantastic, grounded writer who definitely understands her characters. Like The Penny Pinchers Club, I felt I was reading about friends and had a hard time putting the book down. The rest of her novels will definitely be making their way onto my bookshelves soon!
4 out of 5!