Genie Michaels thinks her life’s pretty good – she enjoys her work as an admission officer for a small liberal arts college, and she’s four years into a relationship with a man who still makes her go a little weak at the knees. Hugh Spencer’s British, in the Hugh Grant mould; when he’s not working as an Associate Professor of Thoreau College’s English department, he’s a writer. After a little creative input from Genie, his Nicholas-Sparks’ like novel Hopeful, Kansas, began to tear up the best-seller’s list. Genie has never pushed Hugh into any kind of commitment, though she doesn’t understand what Hugh’s waiting for – they live together, they’re compatible, they have great sex, and now he’s successful. And then Hugh proposes! Only, it’s not in person, it’s during an interview with Barbara Walters, and it’s not actually to Genie.
When Genie calls Hugh he tells her that there were long-standing issues in their relationship, she may have felt committed to her but he never said he was committed to her, her need for commitment made him feel fettered and confined, and he never enjoyed the sex. With some encouragement from her best friend, Genie decides to let everyone assume that Hugh did ask her – why should she be the one to have to explain? Genie, says Patty, has been like “that idiot, Sleeping Beauty, lying around like a zoned-out zombie” waiting for a man to rescue her. Now that Prince Charming’s galloped past the castle it’s time for Genie to wake up. And so, without actually confirming anything, Genie lets her colleagues, friends and family assume what they want… but it’s a strategy that will only work for so long, and with Hugh due back from London at any time, the truth will out.
The Sleeping Beauty Proposal is a light, fairly fluffy read, saved from tedium by some nice characterisation and a neat avoidance of the usual irritations. Like Genie realising early on that it’s a fairly stupid idea, with a high likelihood of blowing up in her face: “Hours will be spent rehashing how weird it is for an ‘otherwise normal woman’ to fake an engagement, how I might need medication or maybe a stay up the street [at a psych unit]… suffering from a classic case of ‘Fatal Attraction Psychosis’.” – Alex