Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
Jun 30, 2015
This was one of those books I should have done a little more looking into before actually reading it. But it was on Modern Mrs. Darcy's minimalist summer reading list (she narrowed down the full-length summer reading guide to just five must-reads), and when I took a brief glance at Goodreads, a couple of people I follow had given it five stars.
All those things made it seem promising. But ugh. Ugh, bleh, meh.
I disliked this book on so many levels and for so many different reasons.
Cornelia works in a cafe in Philadelphia. She's short and spunky and likes old movies. She is content with her life and doesn't feel much ambition to change anything. But then, one day a Cary Grant lookalike walks through the door of the cafe, and Cornelia's whole world changes. (All of the old movie references were one of the few things I actually liked about this book, although I can't stand The Philadelphia Story, so maybe that should have given me some clue about how much I'd like the book.)
Meanwhile 10-year-old Clare is very concerned about her mother, who is doing really strange things like buying every color of towel in the store or cooking up a feast in the middle of the night or walking outside in December in a summer dress. Clare doesn't know what to do. She tries to call her father, but he and her mother divorced many years ago, and he's never taken much interest in her life. That doesn't change even when she informs him about her mother's erratic behavior.
In case you haven't figured it out, Clare's father turns out to be the same person as the Cary Grant lookalike. Cornelia starts dating him without even realizing that he has an ex-wife and a daughter.
But things become complicated when Clare's mother drives away and abandons her. Clare is forced to go to her father, and he is forced to take her in. And Cornelia is the only reason this situation works out. She and Clare hit it off immediately, and Clare stays at Cornelia's apartment while they try to find her mother. In the midst of all this, Teo Sandoval, Cornelia's childhood friend and now brother-in-law, shows up rather unexpectedly. He brings stability to the situation and together they figure out what they should do to help Clare.
I usually try to make my reviews a healthy mix of criticism and praise, but unfortunately, I have very little to praise about this book. Sure, I liked Cornelia, Clare, and Teo. And the writing was actually fine (it's told from two points of view: first person Cornelia and third person Clare). But everything (yes, I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say everything) about the plot didn't work out for me.
For one thing, it was totally unrealistic--not just Clare's complete trust in Cornelia (given the trauma she'd just been through, maybe it was natural for her to find someone stable to latch on to), but also Cornelia's instant love for Clare. She was a nice little girl, that's true, but relationships of love and trust take time. After a mere two weeks, Cornelia already puts her love for Clare on the same level as Clare's own mother, and there's just no way that two weeks can match nearly eleven years, and it irritated me that the author would try to pass this off as realistic.
Speaking of the author, she also ignored all of the troublesome or difficult characters. We only ever know Martin Grace (Clare's father) or Viviana (Clare's mother) on very superficial levels. But the one omission that is so glaring as to make it unforgiveable is that of Ollie (Cornelia's sister and Teo's wife). She is there for drama's sake and not much else. We know so little about her that it is easy to brush past her feelings as unimportant to the story. She is conveniently distant, cool, and, most importantly, absent. That's not only poor writing, it's cowardly (and yes, that sounds dramatic, but in my opinion you'd only ignore the sister/wife if you were afraid to humanize her).
And then there were all of the things that, oh wow, rather conveniently happened in order for things to work out just perfectly. I won't tell you what they were in case any of you want to read the book (which, I'm sure after this glowing review, many of you will). But just know that the author stops at nothing--deaths, divorces, inheritances--to give her characters the things they apparently deserve.
I'm not much of a chick-lit reader, so maybe plots that border on the ridiculous are the norm for this genre, and I just had the wrong sort of expectations. I almost stopped reading a half dozen times but kept talking myself back into it, thinking that it was going to redeem itself, but it didn't.
If you've read it, I would most definitely be interested in your opinion, especially if you liked it. Maybe you saw something I didn't.
Content note: Maybe it goes without saying given the rest of my feelings for the book, but there's a fair bit of language and sex in this one.