You can add me to the legions of book bloggers who unwittingly read the sequel to this book first.
I thought Belong to Me – the sequel – was one of the best books I read all year. So I felt I had to read the “prequel” even though ordinarily I hate reading books out of order. And I wondered, would it be possible for me to be objective about these characters that I already loved? I can’t actually answer that hypothetical. All I can say is that I found the first book a bit less polished and some of the characters not as roundly drawn, but these are quibbles in degrees, not inches or yards. In short, I found the prequel almost as enchanting as the sequel, and am happy to say it was not “ruined” at all by having read the second book first. In fact, after I finished Love Walked In, I went back and read Belong to Me again, just because it was so good, and I wanted to see how the books flowed in order!
Cornelia Brown, a thirty-one year old underachieving café manager, came to Philadelphia because her favorite movie was “The Philadelphia Story” with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. She spends her time watching old movie romances and developing her talent for quick and witty repartee. She tells us that her life – her “real” life – began when a Cary Grant-look-alike named Martin Grace walked into the café one day, and she handed him her telephone number.
In alternate chapters, we hear from Clare, a precocious eleven-year old who lives alone with her ethereally beautiful but mentally unbalanced mother. When the mother abandons Clare, Clare seeks out her estranged father, who coincidentally happens to be Martin Grace. Martin comes to the cafe with Clare and asks Cornelia for help with caretaking, especially since he goes out of town a lot.
At the same time, Cornelia’s brother-in-law, Teo Sandoval, shows up at the cafe. Teo, great looking and kind, is a doctor, and seems to know just how to handle children.
Clare is even more instantly drawn to Teo as a parent figure than she is to Cornelia, although there’s a bit of girlhood crush in the mix. But she bonds with them both, and while she wants her mother back, she can’t conceive of a life without Cornelia and Teo.
How does it all come out? Well, of course I can’t tell you, but I can be fairly sure you will fall in love with Clare as much as Cornelia did, and that you will want to get to know this “good and brave” little girl and learn the effect she has on all of those around her.
Evaluation: This is an intelligent, entertaining, well-written story about all kinds of love – from platonic to romantic to lustful to maternal to the love between two good friends. I highly recommend this as well as the sequel, Belong to Me.
Published by Dutton Adult, 2005