Published by Gallery Books on 29th June 2021
Buy on Amazon
Perpetually cheerful and eager to please, Gracie Cooper strives to make the best out of every situation. So when her father dies just five months after a lung cancer diagnosis, she sets aside her dreams of pursuing her passion for art to take over his Midtown Manhattan champagne shop.
She soon finds out that the store’s profit margins are being squeezed perilously tight, and complicating matters further, a giant corporation headed by the impossibly handsome, but irritatingly arrogant Sebastian Andrews is proposing a buyout to turn the store into a parking garage. But Gracie can’t bear the thought of throwing away her father’s dream like she did her own.
Overwhelmed and not wanting to admit to her friends or family that she’s having second thoughts about the shop, Gracie seeks advice and solace from someone she’s never met—the faceless “Sir”, with whom she connected on a blind dating app where matches get to know each other through messages and common interests before exchanging real names or photos.
But although Gracie finds herself slowly falling for Sir online, she has no idea she’s already met him in real life…and they can’t stand each other.
‘To Sir, with Love’ is a nostalgic dose of an all-time favourite rom-com of mine – Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail – done with the storytelling bones of the movie, set in a somewhat similar context and written with the same light-hearted sprinkling of fairy dust and wistful cuteness as you’d come to expect of Lauren Layne.
The uplifting sweetness that comes out of ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and the incarnations prior Ephron’s version is captured perfectly: the fictionalised, romantic version of New York and the specific population of indie shop owners that Layne writes about, the closeness of family and their banter, the intruder who eventually becomes the object of kismet in Gracie Cooper’s life, even as she struggles juggling a virtual stranger and a man who should be her enemy. With the added Disneyed-sheen of fairytales and Gracie’s love of the feel-good cartoon characters that weave a common thread of turning her fantasies to bleed into reality, how is it then not possible to read this with your feet (mostly) a few inches above the ground the whole time?
As a story told only in Gracie’s POV however, we get her longing and yearning, her general optimism about life in general, but it does dim the connection between her and Sebastian somewhat when the weight of the latter’s affection and regard becomes a desperate guessing game of inference as you try to read between the lines. Consequently, the ending is one that’s a foregone (and happy-ever-after) conclusion, but one that isn’t quite the sort that leaves you with the sated fullness of a satisfying book binge.
‘To Sir, With Love’ then, is perhaps Layne’s personal and affectionate homage to unforgettable rom-coms past; to those who align themselves with this particular romantic vision, then Gracie’s and Sebastian’s journey is one that you’ll already know well and will want to read over and over again.