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Originally published Friday, June 3, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Book review

"The Frog Prince": Princess recovers after glass slipper shatters

Funny, improbable and imaginative, "The Frog Prince" opens with a very crushed Holly Bishop, a Fresno girl with a penchant for cowboy boots. Her...

Special to The Seattle Times

"The Frog Prince"
by Jane Porter
Warner, 371 pp., $12.95

This is a story about a prince who turns into a frog and a princess who abandons her fairy tale to make a real life on her own.

Funny, improbable and imaginative, "The Frog Prince" opens with a very crushed Holly Bishop, a Fresno girl with a penchant for cowboy boots. Her handsome French husband, Jean-Marc, has just announced that despite the storybook wedding, the glamorous wedding gown, the special lingerie and a pile of Waterford wedding gifts, he doesn't love her after all. He wants out.

So while the divorce is under way, Holly relocates to San Francisco in an apartment she can't afford, and seeks the consolation of two other men: Ben & Jerry (whose ice cream unfortunately adds to her avoirdupois). An interesting job as an events planner is marred by her boss, the steely Olivia, who treats Holly like a not-too-bright puppet. Overweight, frumpy, depressed and despairing, Holly isn't good at much except her work.

Author appearance

Jane Porter, author of "The Frog Prince," will read at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park (206-366-3333).

Well-meaning bossy friends line her up with blind dates from hell: the unctuous and lascivious Tom, who gropes her thigh on the first date and calls her Baby, and the putrid Paul, whose outrageous demands on the waiters at a restaurant make her get right up and leave.

But there are some bright spots. Gradually Holly starts putting her new life together, going to the gym and meeting a couple of promising men, and scoring some decided successes in her professional life. But when a good deed makes her run afoul of boss Olivia (whom Porter likens to a cobra, preparing to strike), her career is in jeopardy.

There's a rushed trip back to Fresno near the end, as Holly hopes to come to terms with her mother (whose spouse also deserted her and the children). This section feels a bit forced, but elsewhere Porter, a Seattle author, has a great ear for dialogue. She offers a fresh twist on the "broken heart and personal renaissance" theme of so many chick-lit novels. A former Harlequin romance writer, Porter nonetheless resists many of the genre clichés. At the novel's end, the man Holly is seeing may or may not be Mr. Right, but Holly is putting her life together on her own terms.

Melinda Bargreen is the classical music critic for The Seattle Times.

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