Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos, is the kind of book that makes you want to hunker down on a chilly day in a comfy chair and read straight through 'til dark. The beginning is light, entertaining and inviting, the middle grows more serious, and then, toward the end, the violins really start to play in this poignant, heart-tugging story about a single woman and a little girl who develop an unlikely bond.
Susan Adams - Washington Post
Philadelphia cafe manager Cornelia Brown drifts effortlessly through her unattached life, unapologetic for idealizing romance and breathlessly recommending The Philadelphia Story-to the reader and everyone else. Eleven-year-old Clare is a child of divorce whose mother, a successful party planner, is quickly going to pieces. In alternating chapters of Cornelia's first person and Clare's free and direct third, poet de los Santos, making her novel debut, tells the story of their finding each other. That Cornelia, early on, immediately falls for Cary Grant doppelganger Martin Grace is no surprise; his relation to Clare, revealed a third of the way in, isn't really either. As she discovers maternal instincts she wasn't sure she had, Cornelia works up the courage to face her own feelings for Clare with honesty. As Martin exits, Cornelia's childhood friend Teo enters, but neither makes much impact, and Clare's rather serious issues get reduced to Clare-did-this, Clare-thought-that episodes. The two main characters exist for one purpose: to enact a cross-generational, strong-but-vulnerable-and-loving, screenplay-ready femininity. Chick lit? You bet: with rights sold in at least eight countries, and, indeed, to Paramount-Sarah Jessica Parker will star and coproduce with Sideways's Michael London. The book is fine, but for this property, it's a case of waiting for Carrie to walk in.
Cornelia would be the first to admit that she has turned her life into a series of movie moments. She moved to Philadelphia because she fell in love with a movie—The Philadelphia Story—and there she waits for her leading man. When Martin, the handsome stranger in a perfectly cut suit, opens the door of the coffee shop Cornelia manages, she is all too ready to be swept off her feet and into the arms of her Cary Grant, her Clark Gable, her Jimmy Stewart. But is Martin her real love? Will he be the one to transform her fantasies into reality? Across town, eleven-year-old Clara struggles to hold her life together as her mother becomes increasingly unstable. When her mother disappears, abandoning Clara on the side of a road, Clara turns to her estranged father for help. And when Clara and her father show up on Cornelia's doorstep, Clara's and Cornelia's lives are changed forever. This is a novel about love between men and women, friends and strangers, mothers and daughters. There are a few (very few) obscenities, and the intimate moments between some of the characters are discrete. A choice for older teenage girls although many—if not most—will not be familiar with the leading men and the romantic movies of the past.
Anita Barnes Lowen - Children's Literature
Cornelia is a sprightly little thing who's stuck in a rut managing a coffee shop and watching her beloved film classics in her spare time. Then, right out of the movies, "love walked in," looking just like a modern-day incarnation of Cary Grant. Martin seems to be perfect for Cornelia, until she meets his ten-year-old daughter, Clare, whom he had failed to mention. When Cornelia learns that Clare's mother, Martin's ex-wife, has disappeared, she steps right into the situation. Narrated by Cornelia and Claire in alternating chapters, this is the story of how two lives intersect and a great relationship blooms from an unexpected seed. Poet de los Santos's debut is a light, sweet read with just a bit of substance underneath. Sarah Jessica Parker is slated to star and coproduce the film version with Sideways producer Michael London, and it seems like a good match. This may be one of those books that will be even better on the big screen. Recommended. —Beth Gibbs, Davidson, NC
Two heroines, Clare Martin and Cornelia Brown, discover the power of friendship and the meaning of love in this remarkable tale. De los Santos crafts two irresistible characters in her debut novel. First we meet Cornelia, a hopeless romantic, addicted to classic films in which dashing men like Carey Grant bedazzle glamorous leading ladies like Grace Kelly. Cornelia is a 30-something underachiever whiling her time away as the manager of a Philadelphia coffee shop. While she neglects her interior life, Cornelia keeps her intellect sharp by engaging in clever repartee with the eccentrics who patronize Cafe Dora. But everything changes when Martin Grace strolls through the cafe's door. Martin is matinee-idol perfect-the witty banter, the impeccable clothes, the air of mystery. Cornelia is hooked. The relationship whizzes along, bringing Cornelia an offer of marriage. But before she gets to live happily ever after, Cornelia delves deeper into her feelings for Martin. Is she willing to settle for a safe and reliable relationship with a weak physical and emotional connection? Maybe chemistry only exists on movie screens and sparks don't fly for mere mortals. As Cornelia struggles to find her romantic bearings, our other heroine is facing tragedy. Clare, a tenderhearted pre-teen, is devastated when her mother experiences a mental breakdown and abandons Clare during the holidays. Through serendipity, Clare and Cornelia cross paths at the cafe, and the author deftly interweaves their stories. These two fragile souls instinctively cling to one another and share their dreams. Clare longs for a safe and secure home life and a reunion with her mother; Cornelia hopes to create a family of her own and find love. De los Santos's writing engages throughout this powerful story. It's impossible not to cheer for these characters as they search for happiness. A timeless gem.
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