Book Review: Pumpkin by Ines Johnson

Pumpkin by Ines JohnsonPumpkin (Cindermama Book 1)

Genre: Fairytale Retelling Romance

Warning: pseudo-adultery and sexy-times

Rating: MA

Length: 266 pages

Please note that I received an ARC of this book as I beta read the second book in the series for the author.


Single mother Malika “Pumpkin” Tavares lost faith in fairytales after she fell for a toad. Now she believes she’s not cut from the storybook, heroine cloth and searches for Mr. Good Enough amongst the sidekicks and supporting men of the town.

Love at first sight isn’t a cliché for town royalty Armand “Manny” Charmayne. For generations the Charmaynes have spotted their soulmates by seeing a golden aura the first time they laid eyes on The One.

When Manny meets Pumpkin he sees…nothing, but sparks fly off the Richter scale. The more he gets to know her the more he considers defying fate, if only he can convince her to take a chance on love again.

Why I love it?

I loved the concept of a fairytale romance for single mothers. Sure, you get a lot of romances where the guy has to seduce a single mother and her child, but this type of fairytale HEA is a novel concept.

As someone who was raised by an effectual single mother, I understood both Pumpkin’s need to secure financial independence, and her son’s need to find his mother’s Prince Charming. The world is very hypercritical of “abnormal” family structures. On the one hand, it wants to support the whole, “I am woman, hear me roar” agenda, but when it really comes down to it, people are always more comfortable interacting with the traditional mommy, daddy, and children formula.

I am not so sure that I couldn’t have done without the perfection that was Manny’s life. He lived a charmed life indeed, having had the time and the opportunity to do a lot of things that people from less privileged backgrounds couldn’t, but that was his reality.

He was one of those lucky people who only knew of physical and intense emotional struggle by observing it in others. Sure, there are a lot of issues that come with being super wealthy—gold diggers, succession battles, and the social politics of having money—but that always seems to pale in comparison to physical struggle of having to work two jobs just to keep food on the table.

What I liked most about Manny was his humbleness. He could have been one of those rich kids, but when he saw people struggling, even if he’d never experienced their struggle, he was always right there trying to make the situation better.

I really liked how the evil step-mother in this story, Pumpkin’s aunt, wasn’t simply just a cruel and cold-hearted gold digger. Instead we realize that her encouraging Pumpkin and her daughters to have children with men with greater commitments (the whole love ’em, leave ’em, and get a check every month scenario) was her way of trying to protect them from the emotional fallout of having a man you love simply walk away.

I also got why the author kept quite true to the Cinderella storyline (the ball, finding The One moment, and the loss of her glass slipper). As the first book in the series, this book need to be the one that directly juxtaposed the fairytale that we all grew up reading, to the real struggles that single mothers face today.

I must admit I didn’t get most of the pop culture references in this book, but that’s okay because it wasn’t written for people in my generation. However, the secret Superman junkie I am was very happy to see the Terri Hatcher, Lois & Clark reference.

What I loved about Ines’ writing style was how honest, realistic, and funny it was. The wasn’t a moment where I felt that the characters were deviating from what real life people in this situation might do. Granted, I would have been a bit more upfront about the whole, “btw I’m married to a man who practically abandoned me and my child before the ink on our marriage license was dry,” thing, but I got why Pumpkin might have been anxious to tell Manny that they’d been committing pseudo-adultery.

Purchase this book from the following retailer: