Rating: [rate 4.5]
“My life — my real life — started when a man walked into it, a handsome stranger in a perfectly cut suit and, yes, I know how that sounds.”
When Martin grace enters the hip Philadelphia coffee shop Cornelia Brown manages, her life changes forever. Charming and debonair, the spitting image of Cary Grant, Martin sweeps Cornelia off her feet, but as it turns out, Martin Grace is more the harbringer of change than the change itself…
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, eleven-year-old Clare Hobbes must learn to fend for herself after her increasingly unstable mother has a breakdown and disappears. Taking inspiration from famous orphans (Anne Shirley, Sara Crewe, Mary Lennox, and even Harry Potter) Clare musters the courage to seek out her estranged father. When the two of them show up at Cornelia’s cafe, Cornelia and Clare form a bond as unlikely as it is deep. Together, they face difficult choices and discover that knowing hat you love and why is as real as life gets.
From first impressions, this book has an old setting type of feel. The story and the characters feel like they came from a quaint 1920’s place, but really, it’s quite modern. Perhaps it’s because of Cornelia Brown’s little cafe and the quaint cast of characters inside, or the references to old movies and Cary Grant. It may be the seemingly countryside setting and Cornelia’s uniqueness, or maybe other things inside the novel, but it had this really nice old time feel even if it’s really quite modern — especially with mentions of laptops and cellphones with memory cards and other things at the latter part of the novel.
The book talks about love in a big general sense but also in the more specific sense — from romantic love to parental love to the love between friends and family, and finding out the love of one’s life. Cornelia meets Martin Grace who she instantly likes, and a little while later Clare comes in and Cornelia loves her and Clare learns to love her as well. Then comes in Teo, who Clare loves immediately, and then there’s Cornelia’s family and Clare’s mother. There’s big love and small love but love nonetheless — and Marisa de los Santos wrote it in such a beautiful way that you get to fall in love and believe in the love that everyone has for each other in the story.
One thing I really loved in the story was Teo Sandoval, Cornelia’s brother-in-law, who showed up at the middle of the story. Teo is the lovable male character who was described so vividly that I’d love to actually see him “radiate” his emotions. Plus, Teo is actually half Filipino and the part where he and Clare cooks pansit was probably my favorite scene in the novel. :D
The novel was kind of predictable at first and before I even got to the middle of the novel, I already knew the connections of the chracters in the novel. It was kind of a downer, but the action in the novels pick up at the middle, providing a very satisfying and heartwarming ending. :)
I hear this has a sequel already — Belong to Me. Cornelia and Teo are such lovable characters that I’d love to read them again. :)