Cinderella Gets a Modern Twist in This Exclusive Excerpt From Julie Murphy’s If The Shoe Fits
Julie Murphy is known for giving us countless plus-size protagonists who take agency in their stories, from Dumplin’ to her latest, If the Shoe Fits, a modern Cinderalla tale of success, happiness, and love. It’s exciting to see Murphy bringing more plus-size stories to life, especially given that If The Shoe Fits is the first book in a brand new adult series, “Meant to Be”! Dumplin’ was such a heartwarming story of a girl trying to find her own agency in this world while being the plus-size daughter of a beauty queen, and I am just beyond excited to see Murphy’s take on Cinderella.
The synopsis for If The Shoe Fits is as follows:
After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America’s favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion. Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn’t expect? That she may just find inspiration—and love—in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.
And we here at the Mary Sue are lucky enough to debut an exclusive excerpt from the first book in Murphy’s new series!
You can read our exclusive excerpt for If The Shoe Fits below!
Meeting the suitor in advance of the show isn’t expressly against the rules, but I’m also pretty sure it’s frowned upon. A few seasons ago, one contestant had a one-night stand with the suitor at a mutual friend’s wedding weeks before filming, and the rest of the contestants would not let it go. She was constantly accused of having an unfair advantage, and they made her life in the house a living hell. So if Henry wants to keep our transatlantic flight a secret, I’m on board. Besides, we’re only acquaintances. I don’t even know him. Which is why, when he joins us in the courtyard, I don’t make any attempt to swarm him like most of the other women. I glance around to find Addison and Sara Claire hanging back as well. Sara Claire smiles at me, but she seems guarded in a way she didn’t just hours ago. Addison, however, is sending out her usual don’t-even-look-at-me vibes. The courtyard is as decked out as I remember it being on television. Sadly, it turns out that both the ice sculptures and champagne fountain are fake. Still beautiful if you don’t stand too close, though. There’s a small bar set up off camera with a guy in a bow tie, black vest,
and black jeans lazily pouring bottle after bottle. I can see how this all makes for great TV magic, but in person, it just feels like a wedding reception you’d try to leave early.
Over the course of the night, the house staff comes around with trays of drinks, and soon everyone is talking louder like we’re in the middle of a concert. One white woman (who has the longest extensions I’ve ever seen and can’t stop talking about how she drinks mimosas with every meal) falls into the pool, and Henry has a heroic moment as he
helps her out and wraps her in a towel. He’s met with a chorus of bitter fawning. Another contestant named Brenda, a white Spanish teacher from Nebraska with Shirley Temple curls and clawlike red fingernails, bursts into tears when someone interrupts her attempts at salsa dancing with Henry.
To say emotions are on a high would be an understatement. It’s almost too much for me to take. I find Stacy by the outdoor fireplace sitting next to a sobbing East Asian woman in a satin forest-green gown. “Is everything okay?” I ask as I approach. Stacy rubs circles in the other woman’s back and nods. “We’re going to be fine, right, Jenny?” She turns to me and quietly adds, “I thought it was just the white ladies losing it, but I guess none of us are immune.” The crying woman looks up to me and says, “I fell.” Another sob hits her, and she begins to hiccup as cameras begin to swarm, her cries their siren call. “Water,” I say. “Let me get you some water.” I manage to track down a bottle of water from the guy behind the bar, and when I return, a small crowd has gathered to hear Jenny’s recount.
“I just stepped out of the car and then my heel got caught in the train of my dress.” She sniffs. “And I bit it. Big-time. It wasn’t some cute romantic comedy fall where I, like, tripped into Mr. Perfect’s arms. I landed face-first and—and there was so much blood. They had to call the mediiiiiiiiiic,” she tells us, her words devolving into another sob. Around us, I can see the crew eating this up as Wes whispers to one of the camera operators to tighten his zoom. “At least you didn’t break your nose,” Addison deadpans. “Not helpful!” I snap at her. She practically snarls, making it even clearer she’s not here to make friends. Jenny wipes her tears away. “No, she’s right.” She smiles up at Addison in a familiar way, like she’s very used to playing beta to some other girl’s alpha. Addison looks to me. “And, Cindy, I’ve been meaning to tell you, I just think you’re so brave.” My brow furrows into a knot. “For what?” “That dress. It’s so stunning, of course, but I would just be so self-conscious. It’s just really nice to see a big girl rocking her curves, ya know? So body positive of you.”
Jenny nods and so do most of the other girls. “So brave.” My blood turns to lava and I think I might just explode. Being called brave is one of my biggest pet peeves. When someone calls me brave for going out or wearing a fitted dress or for some other normal thing that every other girl does, what it really means is: I would be mortified to look like you, but good for you for merely existing even if all I can think about is how fat you are and how I’m terrified I’ll one day look like you. So brave.
Addison places a hand on my shoulder. “I just want you to know that no matter what happens tonight at elimination and no matter who finds true love, the truest love is the love we give ourselves.” Everyone except Stacy lets out a giant awwwwww. Our eyes meet for a moment, and it’s a small relief to know that someone else is seeing Addison for who she really is.
“I love girl bonding,” says Anna, her hands clutched to her chest. I nearly vault myself across the crowd to shake her shoulders and scream, Don’t you see how belittling this is! I’m not brave for wearing a dress. I’m just living! But instead, I clear my throat and say, “Thanks, girl.”
“Ladies.” We all spin around to see Henry returning to the group after a brief one-on-one with Sara Claire, who is beaming. “Hi, Henry,” a few girls say in singsong voices.
“Jenny, are you okay?” he asks. She nods pitifully.
“Took a real spill, there. I think you might be tougher than some of the guys on my college lacrosse team,” he says. “We’ve been taking very good care of our sweet Jenny,” Addison says. She moves to stand right next to Jenny, practically elbowing Stacy out of the way. “Girls gotta look out for each other.”
Henry nods. “I couldn’t agree more.” He laughs quietly. “You know, I’ve got to be honest with you. The whole concept of this show is a little bizarre to me.” I notice a cameraman look over to a Mallory, but she waves him on to keep filming.
“And I know that the risk is on you ladies. You’re all here putting yourself out there with no guarantees,” Henry continues. “And it’s just really nice to see you all helping one another out. I know this is a competition technically, but for me, it’s more about finding the right connection. That’s not some kind of sport. So thank you, Addison. I really appreciate seeing you be kind to the other women.”
My blood boils and my lip curls. What kind of patronizing crap speech was that? There was some truth to what he said, sure, but playing right into Addison’s deceitful games? Could he be more clueless? Addison smiles and shrugs innocently. “You think I could steal you away for just a few?”
Henry holds his arm out to her. “Gladly.” She drapes her arm through his, and we all watch them walk off
together to the gazebo a few yards past the pool. A petite brunette with freckles sprinkling the bridge of her nose sighs. “It’s not fair how good they look together.”
Jenny sighs in agreement. “It’s totally criminal.”
“Bless her heart,” Sara Claire mutters.
I turn to her and find her frowning, shoulders slumped. “You look like you could use a drink,” I say. She holds a hand out for me, and we stomp to the bar. “Bless you,” she says. We each get a glass of rosé, and I ask, “How was your one-on-one?” She eyes me, her lip twitching with uncertainty. I guess in some sort of primal sense we’re all competing for love in the real world, but this show is much more direct than people just trying to meet at a bar or on an app. Figuring out how to communicate with the other women and even befriend them is confusing and there’s no rule book for how
to navigate it.
“I think I like him,” she finally says. “I know that the cameras want to see me swooning and losing it for him. He’s the one who decides who goes home, but I need to know if I want to stay here and fight for a chance with him too, ya know? I have a whole career back home.”
“That’s a lot to leave behind,” I say, suddenly feeling like I have nothing to offer—no career, no real family, and not even a home, technically. “Look at Addison. One thing goes on the internet or TV and no matter how hard you work, it’s all you’re known for. I don’t want to make that same mistake here.”
I nod feverishly, because this is a concern I’m familiar with. The decision to be here at all is a gamble. “He seems like a sort of normal guy, though.” Thinking back to the guy I met on the plane, it’s hard to imagine that he would ever sign up for something like the show, but I’m sure he thinks the same about me.
“He’s got to know that any woman who’s saying he’s the one for her after just one night is totally full of it. Surely he has that much—” She’s interrupted by a loud boom and then everything goes black, and the only sound echoing through the mountains is the shrieking of twenty-five women and the curses of a handful of crew members.
You can purchase your own copy of If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy on August 3.
(image: Hyperion Avenue)
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