The Cinderella Reflex

- contemporary romance

The Cinderella Reflex

Johanna Buchanan

Ever think everyone else has their life sorted except you?

That’s how Tess Morgan feels when she returns from her trip around the world. Because while she’s been blissed out in Bali, her peers have been climbing the career ladder. Turning thirty, Tess thinks maybe it’s time for her to do the same.

But her job as a radio producer feel less like a sturdy foot on the career ladder and more like a stepping stone to disaster as Tess struggles with the demands of the neurotic staff at Atlantic 1 FM.

Her boss, Helene Harper, has problems of her own. Ten years older than Tess, both her relationship and career have taken a wrong turning into a not very pleasant cul-de-sac.

Things go from bad to worse for both women when the struggling radio station is suddenly bought over by the charismatic but ruthless Jack McCabe, who immediately launches a competition for a new star. Soon, nerves are frayed and friendships strained as everyone battles to keep their jobs.

Tess gets back in touch with the ex she thinks of as The One who got away.
Helene tries to pull strings with her influential lover.
But when both women find Prince Charming is not exactly playing the game, they have to harness their ambition and work out their own rescue plan.

The Cinderella Reflex is a romantic comedy for women who help themselves.

My Thoughts

I came across Johanna Buchanan through blogs and Twitter.

This is a fairly typical contemporary romance. It is told from the third-person points of view of two women, Tess, a radio-show producer, and her boss Helene. They are quite different personalities and they are not friends, so their relationship is interesting. The writing is quite strong and I liked that none of it was over the top, as so many romances are. But aside from this, there was nothing really fresh about the story – you will have read it all before. Now, I understand that a lot of people will like this: when they buy a contemporary romance they want to know how it’s going to end and the obstacles and conflicts people face to get there, and the joy is in the expectation of these things. If that’s what you like, I am sure you will be delighted with this story – it is, as I said, solidly written. But it is a straightforward romance, and I cannot agree with the blurb that it is a romantic comedy.

The men and a couple of other women in the story are there to fill in the gaps – I would have liked them to have been fleshed out a bit. Jack McCabe is the main love interest (good looking: check; super rich: check; has another woman after him: check; has misunderstandings with his love interest: check). But it is hard to see how he has got to be as rich as he has: he is clueless about the business he is buying. There is an attempt at explaining his cluelessness, but it didn’t sit well with me – he seems far too naïve and unworldly to be the hard-hitting businessman “famed for not shying away from hard decisions when it comes to profit margins”. Granted I’m a bit picky, but Jack wasn’t much of a heart-throb to me and he never really seemed that involved in the story.

Matt, a café owner, is a nice character, but we don’t see too much of him – and it is hard to see how he falls for the woman he does, as she has some pretty sharp edges. I liked Matt and would have loved to have read more about him. Richard, the married man having an affair, is suitably sleazy, although he does seem (sometimes) very kind to and genuinely fond of his mistress. Chris, Tess’s ex-boyfriend is a slimy character. The has-been celebrity radio presenter Ollie is a stereotype, as is Sara, the production assistant. Andrea, Tess’s friend and workmate is probably the most realistically down-to-earth character. And I liked quirky Grandma Rosa. So, a mixed bag of characters. Ticking all the boxes.

Although we hear Helene’s point of view throughout, the end of her story is told by Tess; I would have liked to have Helene’s story wrapped up by Helene – after all, she was still in the picture (and her transformation (part transformation) is a little hard to swallow).

The radio station setting is unusual and an interesting backdrop. But the story could have been slotted into one of many settings without too many changes to it for it to make sense. The author has worked in local radio, so the scene-setting is authentic, but it could have been given more substance – nothing techie; just day-to-day stuff to make the reader feel part of it. There must have been other shows, and other employees, but we hear only about the five involved in Ollie’s show so the impression is that they are the radio station. Even within the main thrust of the story ‒ a contest for a new presenter ‒ it seems to be only these people who enter, along with ‘outsiders’ – what about the other Atlantic 1 FM employees?

The setting is Killty, a fictional small town in Ireland. But, again, the story could have been set anywhere – Ireland, UK, Australia … there is nothing typically Irish about it. That could make it more, or less, attractive for would-be purchasers.

Bottom line: if you devour contemporary romance, you will undoubtedly enjoy this, so go for it. If you are looking for something fresh and out of the mould, you might not be in quite such a rush.

I will look out for and read Johanna Buchanan’s next novel. I think if she could be confident enough to step away from the romance checklist (if indeed she wants to), her writing will become more in-depth.

Editorial Input & Design

The book has been professionally edited and proofread. I didn’t pick up on any plot holes or poor grammar or punctuation. There are a few proofreading misses (the noun is licence – with a ‘c’) – maybe a couple more than I’d like to see, but overall the text is very clean.

Cover: Professionally designed, I’d say – and aiming right for the target market. But although the target market is romance readers, I don’t think the cover picture does the book credit. It’s a good cover, but doesn’t reflect the story at all (and what is she walking on?). I’m not sure, actually, that the title reflects the story even. It is sort of explained, in passing, as coming from The Cinderella Complex by Colette Dowling, which is “all about how perfectly intelligent women failed to secure their own futures because they were still subconsciously waiting for a man to come and rescue them”. I think the “Reflex” of this title is to show that the leading ladies take matters into their own hands … but I’m not sure they really do.

Internal design: No problems and well set.

Book Clubs & Reviews

Too flimsy to be a book club choice, unless it is one specifically for romance readers. The characters would be quite interesting to dissect, but it is a bit light on other discussion topics. Having said that, the Drynam Hall book club had it as their choice,

What others are saying Amazon UK readers give it 4.6 stars (16 reviewers); Amazon US readers give it 4.6 stars (17 reviewers); Goodreads readers give it 4 stars (6 ratings). Note that several of the reviewers have posted reviews on both Amazon sites and some are posted on Goodreads as well, so the ratings are duplicated; quite a few of the reviewers have reviewed only this title.


Fiona Manning for Shaz's Book Boudoir

Buy & Author

Available from:

Amazon (Kindle £2.92/$4.38)

Follow the author:


Twitter @buchananjohanna



Over to You – Comment and Share!

  • Lorna says:

    Hmm, I was intrigued to read this review as it’s a book I’ve heard much about but haven’t purchased simply because I’ve so many books in my to read pile that romance is way down the list. I enjoyed your review though and I’m sure it will be a hit with fans of that genre.

    11 Mar 2015 12:05:43

  • Clare says:

    Thanks for reading, Lorna. I have a must-be-read pile, a to-be-read pile, and also a maybe-one-day-to-read wishlist when those two piles (each of which have many subpiles) are finished with. Hah!

    11 Mar 2015 15:19:15

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