It starts out focusing on Lucinda doing a drudge's work and being degraded by the "master" of the establishment who also happens—surprise surprise—to be a relative. Actually, this Cinderella-esque twist to the story was one of the things I loved most about this book. I love retellings. Lucinda then goes on to meet a prince, a thief, and a witch, befriending all as she embarks upon the adventure of life (and I mean life, not lifetime, because isn't life an adventure?). She learns about her past and ultimately helps to foil the villain who had a hand in shaping that past.
It's all very interesting. But I love even more the themes of redemption and love and friendship, of not letting bad decisions define you, of rising above your past and making good choices. How many people in terrible situations blame others for their misfortunes? Often harm was done to them and it has affected them psychologically. But in the end, those victims need to make decisions to rise above it and take control of their lives. I know I'm being very vague here, but I know intimately what it's like to not let something beyond your control rule your life, to not let that thing become a crutch and an excuse for your own bad decisions. I like that Julie Berry addresses this in a very subtle, wholesome way.
Yes, I did say "really liked" and "for the most part." What really stole the momentum of the story and let me down was the ending. The climax was great, and then the resolution happened in a blink. I wanted to know more about the romance between the prince and Lucinda (this is giving nothing away). It was suddenly just there at the end and I didn't feel as if I experienced it with the characters. The resolution was anti-climatic, if that makes any sense. It should have been drawn out a little, illustrated better, painted with the brush of Julie Berry's beautiful metaphors.
This all being said, I think I will read Julie Berry's Secondhand Charm to see how she treats her other endings. I will say that I'm aware of how a writer's work evolves over time, being a writer myself, and this is only her second ever written book. I've written several and I'm aware of my own immature writing. I think that her work will only get better.