After being scarred in a fire at the garment factory where she worked and losing friends in the blaze, Lucie MacNeil sought refuge on the quiet island of Nantucket where she found a job as a housekeeper, nurse, and companion to an elderly couple. She loves the couple as if they're her own parents and enjoys working for them, but best of all, it's been a place where her soul has been able to heal from the tragedy she suffered. However, when the couple's rarely seen son comes for a visit, Lucie immediately recognizes him as one of the owners of the factory, which stirs up bad memories. But despite his seeming ruthlessness in business, she can't help seeing his kindhearted side that makes her begin to fall for him.
Gabriel Hunter is a businessman who has worked hard for his success, trying to make up for his father's failures in that arena. He comes to Nantucket, trying to persuade his aging parents to move into his mansion in Boston where he can better look after them, but they refuse to leave the only home they've known since Gabe was just a boy. Gabe is initially distrustful of Lucie, and when she sides with his parents, they end up at odds with one another. But when it becomes necessary for him to take his ill mother to Boston after all, he finally sees just how much Lucie genuinely cares for them. Gabe finds himself falling in love with her, too, but a complicated arrangement with a business partner who expects Gabe to marry his daughter might keep him and Lucie apart forever.
Seaside Cinderella has been sitting on my TBR pile for quite a while. I'm a sucker for the Cinderella theme in romance, so I was looking forward to finally getting around to reading it. It's the story of a young woman who cares for an aging couple on Nantucket, but before that, she worked in a garment factory co-owned by the hero that burned to the ground. When he comes to visit his parents, he doesn't recognize her (not that they'd ever actually met), but she'd seen him in the factory. Worried over his mother's failing health, he's determined to get his parents to move into his mansion in Boston, but they resist the notion, wanting to live out their remaining years in their own home. Lots of butting of heads ensues with the heroine mostly taking his parents' side in the argument, but somewhere in the midst of the turmoil, they fall in love and eventually get their HEA ending. Unfortunately after finishing it, Seaside Cinderella only gets an OK rating from me. It wasn't a bad story per se, and the characters were likable enough, but I felt that it was somewhat lacking in character development and the relationship development is virtually non-existent. Even the Cinderella theme is mostly glossed over with the hero basically losing or giving up almost everything by the end, so he's no longer the wealthy Prince Charming. Not that he wasn't a good man anyway and not that money is everything, but I did feel that because of those things, the title was rather disingenuous.
Lucie is from a large Irish family and immigrated to the U.S. where she found work in a garment factory that later caught fire. She lost good friends who died as a result of having to jump from high windows because the fire escape was blocked, and in the process of trying to open a door for them to get out another way, she badly burned the palms of her hands, which are now permanently scarred. Of course, with the factory burning to the ground, she also no longer had a job, and when living with a distant cousin didn't work out, she headed to Nantucket, where she found employment with Gabriel's parents. She likes the peaceful setting and has come to love the Hunters like her own parents, so when Gabe arrives, trying to displace them from their home, she stands up for them. When his mother's condition worsens, though, Lucie travels with her to Boston, staying at Gabe's house while Gabe's doctor friend treats the older woman. Although she and Gabe got off on the wrong foot, she starts to see glimpses of a kinder, gentler man underneath the shrewd businessman exterior, which makes her fall in love with him, but many obstacles stand in their way. Lucie is a nice young woman, but a somewhat bland heroine who never really stood out to me very much. Her rather tortured past should have lent itself to deeper emotions that simply weren't present, and late in the story, she started to frustrate me with her resistance to being involved with Gabe even when he was making it clear that he wanted to be with her. I felt like her reasons were somewhat forced and overblown and seemed to mostly have been created as an excuse to stir up some conflict. Also as an aside, Lucie is described as having dark hair, while the model on the cover is blonde, which is a bit annoying.
Gabriel begins the story behaving in a rather autocratic way toward his parents. It's an age-old argument that parents and kids often have when the parents are aging and/or in poor health, but he does come off as a bit boorish. He also treats Lucie with some disdain, acting like she's nothing more than a servant, and a possibly untrustworthy one at that, even though his parents are clear that she's become a member of the family to them. Once they go to Boston and he sees how she takes great care of his mother, he starts to soften toward her more and an attraction begins to develop. However, Gabe feels beholden to his business partner who expects Gabe to marry his daughter, a woman he doesn't love and who kind of irritates him when she tries to take over the running of his household while her family is temporarily living with him. Gabe was a decent hero and I liked him more as the story progressed, but like with Lucie, he wasn't really a stand-out character to me. We don't really learn that a fear of failure is driving him until near the end of the story, and even then, I didn't really feel like it carried the weight it should have. However, I did like the way he made amends for the fire even though it was more his business partner's fault than his. It's also abundantly clear how much he loves his parents even if he is a little bossy with them in the beginning.
IMHO, Seaside Cinderella would have been better served if billed as historical fiction, because as I mentioned, it was pretty lacking in relationship development for a romance. Gabriel and Lucie just magically fall in love without ever spending any time really getting to know one another. They're almost never alone together, and the one or two times that they are, not much of note happens. There are also no actual romantic scenes. In fact, Lucie has more romantic type interactions with Gabe's doctor friend, who cares for her as well, than she has with Gabe. I just never felt much of an emotional connection between Gabe and Lucie, nor could I say why or how they fell in love, because it's told rather than shown. There was little enough of a romantic connection and then the author introduced a love quadrangle, which only muddied the waters further. I'd have to say that Gabe's parents kind of stole the show in more ways than one. Not only are they what fuels a large part of the plot, but their long-standing romance was more romantic than Gabe and Lucie's. At least I could feel the love between them, but not so much for our main characters. Some of this is due to the aforementioned issues with character development, most of which is crammed in near the end along with a myriad of unnecessary conflicts when simply letting the characters get to know each other and showing their budding love organically would have been much better. At least the mechanics of the writing were pretty sound although I do have a small quibble with the author repeatedly having a character use someone's given name in dialogue and then correcting themselves to a more formal address. (eg. "Charles - Dr. Booker - has suggested...") I guess the bottom line is that if you're looking for a rainy-day, inspirational romance read, Seaside Cinderella might fit the bill. Just don't expect to be blown away by any deep emotions or swoon-worthy romance. This was my first read by Anna Schmidt and the first book in her Nantucket Island duet, with the second book apparently featuring Gabe and Anna's daughter as the heroine. I might be open to giving it a try at some point, but since this book didn't leave a strong impression on me, I probably won't be in a hurry to do so.
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