Warner, $12.95, ISBN 0-446-67679-9
Contemporary Romance, 2001 (Reissue)
What a nice surprise. After being burned by Nicholas Sparks and his kind, I find myself looking nervously at the cover for Crazy for Cornelia before hugging my brandy bottle and turning to page one. Fortunately, it isn’t bad, far from it. It’s even good. All that keeps it from being perfect is the lack of character development of the heroine.
Kevin Doyle is the new doorman at a posh block of apartments at Fifth Avenue. And he has to fall for Cornelia Lord, the daughter of the owner of the block. But with so many people chasing after Corny’s money, does Kevin even have a snowball’s chance in hell? Well, he can if he ditches his Cinderella gown and play the Prince Charming in Shining Armor.
People have been comparing this story to Cinderella, but if you ask me, I’d say it’s more akin to Sleeping Beauty. Corny – gotta love a book that dares call its heroine Corny – doesn’t even know how to overcome her increasing unhappiness about her life until she meets Kevin. They bond over Tesla coils (I like this – I once knew a guy who spent the entire two hours rhapsodizing about electromagnetic waves – really, I like this angle) and like they say, the rest is history.
I confess I am not that warmed-up to Kevin. I mean, he is perfect (read: dull), except for his bias against rich people. Even that is soon moved out of the picture. I am more fascinated with Corny, a woman who desperately wants some independence and space of her own but just doesn’t know how. She is an intriguing blend of timid charm and maddening codependency on her father. And with Kevin, she just comes to life like a champagne bottle uncorked – the subsequent effervescence of joie de vivre is wonderful to follow. This part of the story is romantic, not romantic as in there are lots of heavy breathing, but romantic in a whimsical, heartwarming way.
Then the author has to create a knight in shining armor scenario that has Kevin rescuing Corny from loony asylums and money-mad men. While I understand and even appreciate this gesture calculated to bring out the best from Kevin, I am disappointed that it has to result in Corny’s withdrawal into her shell. Kevin becomes a hero at the expense of Corny’s character. Even at the last page, I am still waiting for Corny to show me that she is at least close to growing up. Instead, here is she, snuggling to Kevin who will, no doubt, protect her from all ravages of reality from now on in their relationship.
In a way, Crazy for Cornelia is wonderfully refreshing for it doesn’t entirely stay within the confines of the romance genre. In another way, it also adheres too closely to the crux of the genre, ie the hero rescuing the heroine from dire perils. Am I making sense at all? What I’m saying is, while this story is filled with charming, cute little moments, I wish the author hadn’t tried so hard to make Kevin the perfect hero at the expense of Corny’s character.