Love Walked In

( 206 )


When Martin Grace enters the hip Philadelphia coffee shop Cornelia Brown manages, her life changes forever. But little does she know that her newfound love is only the harbinger of greater changes to come. Meanwhile, across town, Clare Hobbs—eleven years old and abandoned by her erratic mother—goes looking for her lost father. She crosses paths with Cornelia while meeting with him at the café, and the two women form an improbable friendship that carries them through the ...

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Love Walked In

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When Martin Grace enters the hip Philadelphia coffee shop Cornelia Brown manages, her life changes forever. But little does she know that her newfound love is only the harbinger of greater changes to come. Meanwhile, across town, Clare Hobbs—eleven years old and abandoned by her erratic mother—goes looking for her lost father. She crosses paths with Cornelia while meeting with him at the café, and the two women form an improbable friendship that carries them through the unpredictable currents of love and life.

Love Walked In, the first novel by award-winning poet Marisa de los Santos, is bursting with keen insight and beautifully rendered prose. Invoking classic movies to illuminate the mystery and wonder of love in all its permutations, Love Walked In is an uplifting debut that marks the entrance of an enchanting literary voice.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Bogart and Bacall, Hepburn and Tracy. Their romances and their films have stirred the hearts and minds of movie buffs for decades and have set the bar high. But movies aren't like life…or are they? Marisa de los Santos' debut novel is a delicious modern-day fairy tale come true that's not only a captivating love story but a heartfelt homage to some of our favorite films, too.

Cornelia Brown is a 30-ish café manager: underemployed, alone, and hardly expecting to star in her own version of The Philadelphia Story. Yet that, remarkably, is just what happens when Martin Grace walks through the door. For a woman who measures life in terms of her favorite movie moments, this has Hollywood written all over it. Meanwhile, across town, young Clare Hobbes is living a nightmare. Forced to fend for herself when her unstable mother suffers a breakdown, and unable to convince her estranged father to respond to her pleas for help, she is alone and terrified. Oh, the drama!

So put your feet up, shoo the dog off the couch, and prepare for an extraordinary ride to a world where Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart set the standard; where an appealing, big-hearted heroine finally learns all about love; and happily-ever-after, though perhaps with some surprises, is finally given its due. (Spring 2006 Selection)
From the Publisher
“This is a book that will be passed from friend to friend with the words, ‘You have to read this.’” —Richmond Times Dispatch

“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...This [is a] poignant, heart-tugging story about a single woman and a little girl who develop an unlikely bond.” —The Washington Post Book World

“A bewitching, warmhearted grown-up fairy tale about old movies, charming princes, and finding happily ever after in the place where you’d least expect it.” —Jennifer Weiner, author of Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, and Little Earthquakes

“Marisa de los Santos’s funny and beautifully written love story is as luminous as the silver screen.” —Lolly Winston, author of Good Grief

“A touching, triumphant story of the power and variety and responsibility of love. A joy to read, filled with characters you wish you knew in real life. Love Walked In is every bit as engaging as the classic movies Marisa de los Santos lovingly invokes.” —Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club

“Exquisite and stylish, Love Walked In proves that love in all of its forms—romantic, friendship, familial—is all around us.” —Sarah Jessica Parker

Susan Adams
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.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
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. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
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. 2006, Penguin, Ages 15 up.
—Anita Barnes Lowen
Library Journal
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. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/05.]-Beth Gibbs, Davidson, NC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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 andfind 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. Film rights to Paramount, with Sarah Jessica Parker to star and, with Michael London, co-produce
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452287891
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 199,123
  • Lexile: 940L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.92 (w) x 5.34 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Marisa de los Santos
An award-winning poet with a PhD in literature and creative writing, MARISA DE LOS SANTOS is currently at work on her second novel.


Marisa de los Santos grew up in Baltimore and Northern Virginia and attended the University of Virginia. After graduation, she received her M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and a Ph.D. in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. She achieved her earliest success as an award-winning poet, and her work has been published in several literary journals. In 2000, her debut collection, From the Bones Out, appeared as part of the James Dickey Contemporary Poetry Series.

De los Santos made her first foray into fiction in 2005 with the surprise bestseller Love Walked In. Optioned almost immediately for the movies, this elegant "literary romance" introduced Cornelia Brown, a diminutive, 30-something Philadelphian with a passion for classic film and an unshakable belief in the triumph of true love. In the much anticipated 2008 sequel, Belong to Me, de los Santos revisited Cornelia, now a married woman, newly relocated to the suburbs, and struggling to forge friendships with the women in her new hometown. Belong to Me was selected for the Barnes & Noble Recommends program.

Good To Know

De los Santos' love affair with books began at a young age. She claims to have risked life and limb as a child by insisting on combining reading with such incompatible activities as skating, turning cartwheels, and descending stairs.

Here are some interesting outtakes from our interview:
"I'm addicted to ballet, completely head-over-heels for it. I did it as a little kid, but took about a thirty year hiatus before starting adult classes. I do it as many times a week as I can, but if I could, I'd do it every day! In my next life, I'm definitely going to be a ballerina."

"I'm terrible with plants, outdoor plants, indoor plants, annuals, perennials. I kill them off in record time. I adore fresh flowers and keep them all over my house all year round because they're beautiful and already dead, but you won't find a single potted plant in my house. So many nice people in the world and in books are growers and gardeners, but the sad truth is that I'll never be one of them."

"I'm an awful sleeper, and the thing that helps me fall asleep or fall back to sleep is reading books from my childhood. Elizabeth Enright's Melendy series and her two Gone Away Lake books, all of the Anne of Green Gables books, Little Women, The Secret Garden, the Narnia books, and a bunch of others. I have probably read some of these books twenty, maybe thirty times. I read them to pieces, literally, and then have to buy new ones."

"I am crazy-scared of sharks and almost never swim in the ocean. Yes, I know it's silly, I know my chances of getting bitten by a shark are about the same as my chances of becoming president of the United States, but I can't help it."

"My favorite way to spend an evening is eating a meal with good friends. The cheese plate, the red wine, the clink of forks, a passel of kids dancing to The Jonas Brothers and laughing their heads off in the next room, food that either I or someone else has cooked with care and love, and warm, lively conversation-give me all this and I'm happy as a clam."

"I adore black and white movies, particularly romantic comedies from the thirties and forties. I love them for the dialogue and for the whip smart, fascinating, fast-talking, funny women."

"I am the only adult person I know who dislikes olives."

"I'm crazy for fresh home-baked bread and butter. I'd take bread over chocolate any day."

"I play no musical instruments, but I sing up a storm in the car."

"In my next life, I will speak five languages. In this life, I speak one. It's sad really."

"My biggest guilty pleasure is InStyle Magazine. My second is chewy candy. Think gummy bears. Think Twizzlers."

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    1. Hometown:
      Wilmington, Delaware
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 12, 1966
    2. Place of Birth:
      Baltimore, Maryland
    1. Education:
      Un. of Virginia, BA in Eng; Sarah Lawrence College, MFA in Poetry; Un. of Houston, Ph.D. in Eng. and Creative Writing
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Love Walked In

By Marise de los Santos

Dutton Adult

ISBN: 0-525-94917-8

Chapter One


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. My friend Linny would snort and convey the kind of multipronged disgust I rely on her to convey. One prong of feminist disgust at the whole idea of a man changing a woman's life, even though, as things turned out, the man himself was more the harbinger of change than the change itself. Another prong of disgust for the inaccuracy of saying my life began after thirty-one years of living it. And the final prong being a kind of general disgust for the way people turn moments in their lives into movie moments.

I do this more than I should, I'll give her that, but there was something backlit and sudden about his walking through the door of the cafe I managed. If the floor had been bare and not covered with tables, chairs, people, and dogs, the autumnal late-morning sun would have slung his narrow shadow dramatically across the floor in a real Orson Welles shot. But Linny can jab me with her three-pronged disgust fork all she wants, and I'd still say that my life started on that October morning when a man walked through the door.

It was an ordinary day-palpably ordinary, if that makes any sense, like it was asserting its smooth usualness. A Saturday, loud, smoke already piling up and hovering like weather over me and the customers in Cafe Dora. I sat where I always sat when I wasn't waiting on someone-on a high stool behind the counter-and I watched Hayes and Jose play chess. Everyone said they were good players. They themselves said they were. "Not prodigy good," said Hayes. "Not Russian, Deep-freakin'-Blue-playing good. But hell." Hayes was from Texas and wrote the wine column for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He liked to swear in offbeat ways, liked to walk in, turn a chair around backward with a bang, and straddle it.

As I watched, Jose lifted his shaggy head, gave Hayes a liquid-eyed, sorrowful look, and moved a chess piece from one square to another. I don't know the game well, but whatever Jose had done, it must have been something, because Hayes tossed back his head and hooted, "Hot damn, boy! You pulled that one right out of your ass!" Hayes looked at me with a wry smile and a genial cowboy twinkle in his eye, and I lifted one corner of my mouth in a kind of rueful facial shrug. "What can you do?" my face said.

But don't get attached to Hayes. As he was already in the room, he's obviously not the man who walked into it bearing the new life on his shoulders, and he doesn't finally figure into this story much. Not sure why I started with Hayes, except that in lots of ways he's a neat little embodiment of the old life: a self-invented, smartish, semialluring wine snob disguised as a cowboy, not un- nice, with fairly amusing comments tripping off his tongue and probably a real person under there somewhere, but possibly not. In college, I read Piers Plowman in which this man Will goes on a journey and runs into characters like Holy Church and Gluttony. Think of Hayes as a character like that: Typical-Denizen-of-Cornelia's-Old-Life. I've always found allegories kind of comforting. When you encounter people named Liar and Abstinence, you might not be crazy about them, but you know exactly what you're getting into.

Another regular, Phaedra, made her entrance, all blowsy auburn curls, leather pants, and nursing-mother breasts, and tugging a giant black pram behind her-one of those English nanny prams with high, white rubber tires. Five people jumped up and nearly cracked one another's skulls trying to hold the door open for her. Phaedra directed a beseeching look at the couple sitting at the table nearest the door, a look that turned out to be unnecessary. The man and woman were already hustling up their cappuccinos, jackets, camera bags, and backpacks on metal frames, not minding a bit.

"Cornelia!" Phaedra sang at me across the room in just the sort of musical voice you'd expect to come out of her mouth. "Could you? Cafe au lait? Loads of sugar? And something sinful!" We don't have table service. Phaedra made a helpless, sighing gesture with her shoulders and her long hands, indicating her child, her exhaustion, the whole ancient weight of motherhood. Phaedra was a pain. But Allegra was a different story. Bearing the coffee and a croissant, I came out from behind my counter and made my zigzag way around tables and dogs for the sake of Phaedra's baby, Allegra.

And there she was, wrapped in a leopard-print blanket, just waking up. A blue-eyed, translucent, bewitching witch of a baby, fresh as new bread in that smoky room. Allegra resembled Phaedra, same white skin, same glorious Carole Lombard forehead, but with carrot-orange hair that flew out in all directions. I waited for the pang; the pang came. I never saw Allegra without wanting to touch her, specifically to sleep with her in the crook of my right arm. I put the croissant and the coffee in front of Phaedra, then cradled my elbows with my hands. Allegra was asleep and making nursing motions with her mouth because what else would babies dream about?

"Face it. You want one," said Phaedra. With effort, I shifted my gaze from gorgeous child to gorgeous pain-in-the-ass mother. "See that?" said Phaedra. "You had to literally drag your eyes away from her." Ouch, I thought, and then sat down to talk for a minute, Phaedra's misuse of the word "literally" having created a warm spot in my heart, tiny but large enough to prompt a five- minute conversation.

"How's business?" I asked. Phaedra was a jewelry designer.

"Not good. I'm starting to think people just don't get it," said Phaedra. Her signature pieces, or what would be her signature pieces if anyone bought and wore them, were made out of sea glass and platinum, a juxtaposition of the ordinary and extraordinary, Phaedra claimed, that forced one to rethink one's perceptions of "value" and "preciousness." Maybe people didn't get it. Or maybe they got it but didn't feel sufficiently moved to shell out eight hundred dollars for a bracelet made of old Heineken bottles.

Phaedra lifted her coffee to her lips, eyeing me brightly through the steam. "Cornelia, what if you wore some of the pieces in the cafe, just to generate interest?" Her tone suggested the idea had just popped into her head. In fact, this was the third time she'd asked.

"I can't wear jewelry at work," I said, not elaborating but rolling my eyes in a way I hoped suggested some unseen powers-that-be who hovered over me, forbidding jewelry. The truth was that I never wore jewelry anywhere, ever. I'm five feet tall and built like a preteen, eighty-five pounds soaking wet, as my father says, and my fear is that, given my smallness, jewelry will make me look like a geegaw or doodad, a spangly ornament to hang on a tree. It's a shame, too, because I adore it. Not so much Phaedra's kind-cool, angular objects-but serious jewels: diamonds, cuffs and chokers, brooches like shooting stars, tiaras. Jean Harlow jewels, Irene Dunne on the ship in Love Affair.

Allegra stirred in her leopard-print nest, yawned, and shot out a fist. Phaedra lifted her onto her lap, instantly dipping her swan neck, dropping her face into the orange hair, breathing in her child's scent. An authentic gesture, automatic, unstudied. I felt prickles shoot down my arms. I touched a finger to Allegra's hand, and she gripped it hard and hung on.

"You should have one, you know," said Phaedra, harping, and this instantly got my hackles up, until I saw her face, which was something like kind. Phaedra was always a better person with Allegra in her arms. So I just trilled a little laugh and said, breezily, "Me with a baby. Can you imagine?"

"Of course, I can. Perfectly," said Phaedra. "And so can you."

While I resented her smug smile, and while I'd have died before admitting it to her, I had to admit to myself that she was at least partly right: I couldn't imagine it perfectly, but I could imagine it. Had imagined it, in fact, more than once. But, every time, what brought me to my senses was my conviction that before a person dropped a new life into this world, she should probably get a real one herself.

The truth was, I was treading water and had been for some time. If you're wondering why a thirty-something woman who had gone to all the trouble of attending a university and slogging through medieval allegorical texts had risen no higher on the career food chain than cafe manager, I don't blame you. I wondered myself. And the best answer I'd come up with was that I hadn't figured out anything better-not yet. If I were to ever have a full-fledged vocation, as opposed to a half-assed avocation, I needed to love it and, in my experience, it isn't always easy to figure out what you love. You'd think it would be, but it isn't. Also, if you stay in it for any length of time, like anyplace else, a cafe becomes a world.

I felt suddenly weary, looking at Phaedra and Allegra and the shining black pram. And if a woman weighing less than ninety pounds can be said to heave herself, I heaved myself out of my seat and lugged myself back to my spot behind the bar.

All of which is meant to demonstrate the ordinariness of the day and how the ordinariness was even taking on shades of dreariness and futility. Because you have to understand what my life was like in the "before" in order to see just how much it changed in the "after." Ordinary, ordinary. Except that-and I honestly believe this, Linny's pooh-poohing of movie moments notwithstanding-just before, a minute before the cafe door opened one more time, the ordinary day turned itself up a notch, in preparation.

The light falling through the high, arched windows went from mellow to brilliant, turning the old copper of the espresso machine to pure gold. And the music-Sarah Vaughan, whom I worship, singing George and Ira, whom I worship-was suddenly floating and dipping like some kind of bird in the clear space above the cigarette smoke and chitchat. The coffee smelled sublime, the flowers I'd bought that morning pierced the air with their blueness, the coffee cups lost their chips and glowed eggshell-thin, and standing in my red sweater and vintage suede skirt, my boots solidly on the floor, I felt almost tall.

The door of Cafe Dora opened, and Cary Grant walked in.

If you haven't seen The Philadelphia Story, stop what you are doing, rent it, and watch it. It's probably overstating the point to say that until you watch it, you will have been living a partial and colorless life. However, it is definitely on the list of perfect things. You know what I mean, the list that includes the starry sky over the desert, grilled cheese sandwiches, The Great Gatsby, the Chrysler building, Ella Fitzgerald singing "It Don't Mean a Thing (If You Ain't Got That Swing)," white peonies, and those little sketches of hands by Leonardo da Vinci.

If you have seen it, then you know there's a moment when Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord steps from a poolside cabana. She's got a straight white dream of a dress hanging from her tiny collarbones, a dress fluted and precise as a Greek column but light and full of the motion of smoke. A paradox of a dress, a marriage of opposites that just makes your teeth hurt it's so exactly right.

I was fourteen when I first saw it. It was three days before Christmas, which in my family's house meant, means, and will always mean, Yuletide sensory overload: every room stuffed to the gills with garland and holly, the whole place booming with Johnny Mathis, and a monstrosity of a tree towering in the living room, weighed down with ornaments of every description, including dozens defying description that my brothers, sister, and I had made in school over the years.

Fourteen was not a good year for me. I was the latest of late bloomers, of course, about two feet high and scrawny as a cat, still shopping in the children's department, profoundly allergic to every member of my family, and convinced that nothing could make me happy. But then my grouchy channel-surfing landed me in the middle of a black-and-white heaven: Tracy, the dress.

I was so struck, I forgot how to swallow and began to truly asphyxiate on a sip of 7-Up. And when, a little later, Tracy unfastened the belt from her willow waist and slipped her faultlessly formed self out of that faultlessly formed garment, I stood up and yelled, "Holy shit, that's her bathing suit cover-up!" which my father, who was sitting on the floor fastening-no joke-jingle bells to the collars of our cats, did not appreciate.

I turned every atom of myself over to the rest of the movie. People must've gone tearing through the room, because people always did go tearing through rooms, especially my brothers Cam and Toby, who were eight and nine at the time. But a volcano could have begun spewing molten rock inches away from me, and I would not have noticed. I sat. I watched. If a girl could sling a poem over her swimwear as though it were an old T-shirt, what else might be possible?

I slid my fingers over my face, feeling for Tracy's winged cheekbones. And when Dexter (Cary Grant) took Tracy to task, saying, "You'll never be a first-rate woman or a first-rate human being until you have some regard for human frailty," I recognized it as wisdom and wondered whether I had it, that kind of regard, and just how to get it if I didn't.

In college, I took a film studies class subtitled something like "Turning the Formula on Its Head" in which the professor talked about the trick The Philadelphia Story pulls off. It should never have worked: creating a fantastic love scene between two characters whom you know are not in love with each other, getting you somehow to root for them wholeheartedly during the scene, but then to feel completely satisfied when they end up with other people.

Before you get the wrong impression, you should know that I'm not and never was one of those film people, the kind who argue into the wee hours about the auteur theory and whether Spielberg is the new Capra, or whether John Huston impacts, in unseen ways, every second of American life. I don't know from camera angles, and I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of pre-World War II German cinema, but I fell a little in love with the film professor when he looked upon us with shining eyes and proclaimed, "No, it should not work. But work it does!" because he was so passionate and right.

When I heard Mike (Jimmy Stewart) say to Tracy in that tender, marveling voice, "No, you're made out of flesh and blood. That's the blank, unholy surprise of it. You're the golden girl, Tracy," I clasped my hands under my pointy chin, prayed that she would run away with him, and swore to God that someday a man would say those words in that voice to me or else I would die. But then, at the movie's end, my father heard cheering and left water running in the sink to watch his lately distant, disaffected teenage daughter bang her fists on the arms of her chair and turn to him crying, "with a face as open as a flower" (my dad's own improbable words), saying breathlessly, "She's marrying Dexter, Daddy."

I'll admit it. I've always been more than a little proud of myself for having been fourteen and deeply benighted about almost everything, but having had the sense to recognize what is surely a universal truth: Jimmy Stewart is always and indisputably the best man in the world, unless Cary Grant should happen to show up.

His name was Martin Grace. An excellent name, which, you may have noticed, shares all but three letters with "Cary Grant." Of course, if you're not a freak of nature, you probably didn't notice, and you'll be relieved to know that it didn't even spring to my mind right away. It was later, as I lay in bed that night, that I figured it out, mentally crossing out letters with an imaginary pencil, concentrating pretty hard, but sort of affecting an offhand, semi-interested attitude about it, cocking my head casually on the pillow, even though there was no one in the room to see me.

Truth be told, I'm a little superstitious about names. Back in college, I dated an enormous, blond, dumb fraternity boy from Baton Rouge with a voice like a foghorn purely on the strength of his being named William Powell, whom everyone knows from the Thin Man movies, but who is even better in Libeled Lady and is one of those men whose handsomeness you believe in completely even though you know it doesn't exist.

My mother met the boy and knew instantly what I was up to. "Your nose looks like Myrna Loy's," she'd said. "Be satisfied with that." Even so, I didn't ditch Bill until a few nights later when I stood in his Georgian-mansion-turned-dank-cave of a frat house and watched Bill dancing shirtless on a tabletop, his bare, unfortunate belly pulsating like an anguished jellyfish. The bellyfish pulsated, and William Powell, with a delicate shrug, chose that moment to detach himself from Bill forever and slip out into the honeysuckle-scented night.

Slippery things, names. Still: Martin Grace. Good. Very good.


Excerpted from Love Walked In by Marise de los Santos Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Interviews & Essays

Q: Was the transition from writing poetry to writing a novel easy?
A: I've always been a reader of novels. Honestly, even when I wrote poetry exclusively, when it came to reading, novels were what I loved most and, more than any other form of literature, novels are what shaped-and what continue to shape-my personality in deep, lasting ways. The simple truth is that I wrote poems because I knew how to write poems and I didn't write novels because I didn't know how and because I didn't have a story to tell. Maybe no one knows how to write "poetry" or "fiction"; maybe one only knows how to write specific poems and specific novels. Certainly, until I had a story to tell and until I had characters whose voices I could hear very distinctly, I had no idea how to begin to write a novel. And then one day I found that I had characters and the shadowy outlines of a plot living in my head. That's part of the story. The other part is that after my first child was born-he's six now-something shifted. I'm not sure why, but while I could still concentrate on writing and still wanted to write, something was different. It became increasingly difficult for me to summon the kind of concentration-not level or quality, but kind-I needed to write poems. I'm a writer, though; I needed to write something. So when Cornelia and Clare showed up in my imagination with their pieces of plot, I had some idea of what to do with them! Q: Is any of Love Walked In based at all on your own family life?
A: My mother has manic-depressive illness, also called bipolar disorder. I've written poems about her illness and about the breakdown she had when I was fourteen, which bears some resemblance to the extended breakdown Clare's mother has in Love Walked In. At least some of Clare's story rose out of those personal experiences. As for Cornelia, she came from so many sources and experiences that I couldn't really describe them. She just sort of began to live as a voice in my head, a certain cadence of speech, and a certain kind of wit. Cornelia just was, and once she was, she began to do. Q: Love Walked In carries the theme that love comes in many different forms. Can you elaborate?
A: Love is untidy and surprising and inconsiderate. It blindsides you, more often than not. Not just romantic love, but all love. You fall in love with your oldest friend. You meet the man you think is made for you and end up loving his daughter instead. You go home one day only to discover that your family's love is far more complex than you'd ever understood. Even when you anticipate the onset of love, it never takes quite the form you'd imagined it would. Having children is a perfect example of this. You're pregnant for nine months, falling more in love every minute, waiting for the baby, and then, he's born, and you realize what boundless means; you realize that you weren't even close to being prepared. All those movies in which people tell other people, "I would die for you"? You realize that there's nothing special about that. It's an automatic, the bare minimum. In Love Walked In, Cornelia says, "But getting what you love? Having what you love love you back? Oh, my friend, it's miracle, your one tiny life's head-on collision with divinity." And she's right. Whether it's the love of a mother, a child, a friend, a lover, love's IT. Our big chance. In love, we rub shoulders with the eternal. Q: You make many references to classic films in Love Walked In. Are you a movie buff?
A: I love classic movies, all kinds, but the romantic comedies from the 1930s and 1940s are my favorite. I just love them; the elegance, the dialogue, the dazzling wit. They're part of who I am. As far as leading men go, I have to agree with Cornelia that Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart are tops, but I'm probably more intrigued by the women. I love how smart they are, how bright and changeable their faces are. I love their talk. Katharine Hepburn, of course. She's marvelous. And Irene Dunne, for sure. Love Affair, My Favorite Wife, The Awful Truth. She's just perfection. Both of those actresses have that balance of lightness and gravitas, charm and vulnerability; both of them know how to move their bodies and how to turn up a corner of their mouths at just the right moments. Rosalind Russell, too. Her unbelievable ability to fast-talk; she's so funny and smart. Jean Arthur. Barbara Stanwyck. Later, Audrey Hepburn. I could go on and on. Q: Your novel is set mostly in Philadelphia. Do you have a connection to that city?
A: Yes. My family and I have lived in Wilmington, Delaware for about two and a half years, but before that, we lived in Philadelphia for five years. I loved it. We lived in a row house right in the thick of things, just off the Avenue of the Arts, and it was just a vibrant, varied life. It was the first place I lived as an adult that felt like home to me, maybe because we'd chosen it. We didn't live there because we were students, and we didn't even work there. We commuted to Delaware on the train for work. Philadelphia has a distinct character, a real heartbeat, and we had the kind of intimacy with it you can only get by living in a place and walking all over it every day. After we had two kids, the commute started to wear on us, so we moved. We're happy where we are now, but I can definitely envision a return to Philly. Rittenhouse Square is still one of my favorite places in the world. Q: What are some books you love?
A: E.M. Forster's Howard's End and A Room With a View; Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God; Jane Austen's Emma and Pride and Prejudice; George Eliot's Middlemarch; Everything by Barbara Kingsolver, especially The Poisonwood Bible and Animal Dreams; Charles Baxter's The Feast of Love; Elizabeth McCracken's The Giant's House; Ann Patchett's The Magician's Assistant; Justin Cronin's The Summer Guest; Annie Proulx's The Shipping News; Nick Hornby's About a Boy; A.S. Byatt's Possession; "The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" by Michael Chabon Q: What are you working on next?
A: I'm writing a second novel, a sort of follow-up to the first. Cornelia is one of three main characters, and a few other characters from Love Walked In show up, including, eventually, Clare. But it's very much its own novel, a stand-alone story with its own mood, its own climate. Certainly, I didn't set out to write a sequel; in fact, it struck me as rather illogical to write a sequel to a book that hadn't come out yet. But Cornelia was still right there, a voice in my head, insistent, and I knew I wasn't finished with her yet. Or, more accurately, she wasn't finished with me! In this book, she's married and has just moved to the suburbs. The two other main characters are a woman named Piper, who is, in many ways, the anti-Cornelia, and a thirteen-year-old spooky-smart boy named Dev.
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Reading Group Guide

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 harbinger of change than change itself.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, eleven-year-old Clare Hobbs 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 café, Cornelia and Clare form a bond as unlikely as it is deep. Together, they face difficult choices and discover that knowing what you love and why is as real as life gets.


An award-winning poet, Marisa de los Santos currently teaches English at the University of Delaware. Love Walked In is her first novel. Her first collection of poems, From the Bones Out, was published by the University of South Carolina Press in 2000. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Southwest Review, Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Virginia Quarterly Review.

Q. Why did you choose to set this novel in Philadelphia as opposed to a bigger city like New York?

When Love Walked In first started to take shape inside my head, I was living in Center City, Philadelphia, and I never considered setting the novel anywhere else. I have tremendous affection for the place. New York is an astonishing city, dazzling, but I've always had a soft spot for cities that are smaller, less glamorous, less firmly planted in the culture's collective imagination. Philadelphia isn't smug because it can't afford to be. It's scrappy, vibrant, a little raggedy, but full of history and unexpected pockets of loveliness. It's also a very livable, negotiable city, and, while Cornelia may have bigger cities in her future, when Love Walked In begins, Philly just suits her.

Q. There is much reference throughout the novel to Cornelia's physical appearance and stature. Why was it important to you for Cornelia to be such a physically small person?

I hear this question fairly often, and it's an interesting one for me to consider because Cornelia's smallness was a very intuitive decision for me. She just was small; from the beginning, it was something I knew about her. But like most intuitive decisions, when I look back at that one and examine it, I see all kinds of reasons for it. Mostly, I see that Cornelia's size has had everything to do with who she is when the novel opens. Growing up, Cornelia's smallness was something she grappled with and worked against. Because her body refused to cut her a break and develop stature, glamour, or curves, she developed those aspects of herself that were developable: her wit, her intelligence, her convictions, her strength of character. It would have been much easier for her to go the cute and helpless route, but she refuses that. She becomes a big person in a small body. Also, I like that she and Clare are the same height. It's a sort of physical manifestation of the way their personalities rhyme. But I like that they won't stay the same size; Clare will outgrow Cornelia eventually.

Q. How did all the classic movies you reference inspire this novel?

Cornelia comes by her love of classic movies honestly. I'm a fan, particularly of the romantic comedies of the 1930s and 1940s. I think we associate that era with high glamour, but, ultimately, that's not what draws me to those films. First of all, I love the language: that elegant, rapid-fire, razor-sharp, incredibly funny but incredibly revealing dialogue. You listen to those people talk and understand the real necessity and nobility of humor. The language feels so fresh, and, certainly, I wanted to make language feel fresh in the novel. I didn't want to foreground language or decorate with it, but I wanted to use it in unexpected ways.

Second of all, I love the women in those old films. The men are glorious, but the women steal every show. Carole Lombard, Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, Jean Arthur. They're so subtle and sexy and vibrant and wicked-smart. They're not invulnerable, though. They're not perfect. They're capable and strong, but they're human. I wanted Cornelia to be human in that way, too.

Q. Was it difficult to make the transition from poetry to fiction? Did you always write fiction as well?

Before I wrote Love Walked In, I'd never written any fiction, at least in my adult life. Not a short story. Nothing. So if I'd stopped to think about the transition from poetry to fiction, it probably would have been very difficult. It probably would've scared me silly. Luckily, it happened gradually, and I didn't stop to analyze it. One day, I had a character in my head, a voice, and over time, that voice developed into Cornelia. She was quite fully fleshed out in my head before I had a sense of her story, and then the plot started to form, and then Clare showed up. All of this happened before I wrote a single word, and it took a long time. Then, I started to write down what I'd been thinking about, and there I was, writing a novel.

Q. What are you working on now?

I'm working on a second novel, a sort of follow-up to the first. I hesitate to call it a sequel because it's a very different book. Cornelia is a main character, but she shares time pretty equally with three other main characters, a woman named Piper who is in many ways the anti-Cornelia, a thirteen-year-old spooky-smart boy named Dev, and Dev's mother, Lake, a woman with a secret. Cornelia is married and living in the suburbs, where she's a fish out of water, and her life intersects with the lives of these other characters in unexpected ways. If the first book was about finding love, the second book is about what we do once we've found it.


  • Discuss Clare's attraction to fictional orphans. Why is she so fascinated by them, even before her mother leaves? Why can she relate to them? In what ways is she abandoned even before she is actually abandoned?
  • Cornelia claims that she doesn't fantasize about living in an old Hollywood movie but it becomes clear that she does. In what ways does she try to keep her own desires for the perfect Hollywood romance at bay? Why does she think she'll never have it? Does she harbor false or unrealistic expectations about love? In what ways, in the end, is Cornelia's story "old Hollywood?"
  • Why do you think Cornelia is so immediately drawn to Martin Grace? What does he represent to her? In what ways does he live up to her expectations? In what ways does he fail?
  • Discuss Martin's reaction to Clare's situation. Why do you think he never told Cornelia about Clare? Once Clare reappears in his life, what do you make of his actions and reactions to both Clare and to the missing Viviana? Do you think he handles it well? Try to imagine his perspective. Discuss.
  • In what ways are Cornelia and Clare alike? Why does Cornelia immediately feel the need to comfort Clare? How do they fill empty places in each other's lives? Also, why does Clare take to Teo so quickly when she can't do the same for her father? What about Cornelia and Teo together comforts Clare?
  • Clare realizes quickly that her father does not love her. Do you think that she's correct in her assessment? Do you think, in general, she is fair to Martin? Is Cornelia? When Martin told Cornelia he loved her, did you believe him? Why or why not? Do you think it's possible that he could love Cornelia but not his own daughter?
  • Why does Cornelia insist on taking Clare to her own house for Christmas? Do you think that was a mistake? In what other ways does Cornelia try to accommodate Clare? Why do you think she does these things? In what ways does returning to the house help Cornelia to better understand Clare? Why is this so important later on?
  • On p. 184, Clare thinks about love: "What she came to was that even if someone wasn't perfect or even especially good, you couldn't dismiss the love they felt. Love was always love; it had a rightness all its own, even if the person feeling the love was full of wrongness." Do you think Martin is a bad person? Do you think he deserves Cornelia's love? Clare's? Why or why not?
  • What do you make of Clare's reaction to Martin's death? Discuss the conversation she has with Teo on p. 204. Why does Clare think she's evil? Do you think she is? Why do you think she can have such open conversations with Teo? What about him makes him so trustworthy to her? Why are his opinions so important? What void does he fill in her life?
  • Throughout the novel, Linny is a very stabilizing force. What about her soothes Cornelia? Why are both Clare and Cornelia so relieved when Linny arrives just after Viviana? What role does Linny's character play in the novel? In what ways is she the opposite of Cornelia? Why is that something both Clare and Cornelia need so badly?
  • Were you surprised by Viviana's return? Did you believe that she would return? Do you think Cornelia's plans for herself and Clare were realistic?
  • What does Mrs. Goldberg represent to Cornelia? How do her memories of Mrs. Goldberg help her through difficult situations? How do her stories about Mrs. Goldberg help Clare? What does Mrs. Goldberg's house represent to Cornelia? To Clare? Why does Clare want so badly to stay there?
  • In the end, do you think Cornelia makes the right decision to leave Clare with Viviana? How is leaving them at Mrs. Goldberg's different than them returning to their own home? Why does it seem safer to all of them? Do you think Clare will really forgive Cornelia for leaving her?
  • Why is Cornelia surprised to discover that she is in love with Teo? Were you surprised? Why or why not? In what ways is he exactly what she was looking for? In what ways is he not? What do you make of his relationship with Ollie? Do you think he and Cornelia have a chance? Why or why not?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 206 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 206 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Book!

    I wasn't sure what to really expect of this book. Let's just say I was ultimately delighted with it once I started reading! This book was well written, all the way around. The characters are well developed and believable as was the plot. With that being said, once you think you have how it is going to end all figured out, there will be a twist to the plot that changes everything! The end of the story is ultimately satisfying as well. Great read, be sure to read the second book with these characters in it as well! If you like this author you might also like books by Jennifer Weiner as well.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 30, 2009

    Old School Romance

    This lovely,fresh novel gives us some old time romance, great
    movie references and literary references but also has an important story.
    We meet two lonely characters that we come to love. There is the
    beautiful overly-qualified manager of a Philadephia coffee shop who is
    still looking for love and longing to be a mother- Cornelia. We also
    get to know the very lonely 11 year old Claire who adores her increasingly
    ailing mother and longs for a father figure to replace her absent dad
    Martin. Their unexpected friendship and connection is at the heart of
    this lovely story.
    I also enjoyed the frequent references to the late, great
    Cary Grant.
    You'll enjoy it!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 14, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Handsome, debonair, integrity; what more can one ask for?

    I love a classic "screwball comedy"! Heartwarming, heart felt, humorous, old fashioned real love...I loved the characters! Kick back and enjoy the entertainment!

    Recommend EXPLOSION IN PARIS,by Pirrung and BREAKING THE RULES, by Bradford....

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Love Right Around the Corner

    Well I read Marisa's second book, Belong to me, and loved it I loved this one even more. In loved walked in you learn about relationships between teen and adult and about lover to lover. I know when people are always looking for the right person they will be surprised to find they have been around all of the time. She does a greta job describing the characters because each time you feel like you are that character!! I can't wait for Marisa to write another book. Good read it willbe hard to put this one down!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Loved Walked Into Me

    I love this, it's so sweet. The cover is what caught my eye, it stood out to me, and the summary hooked me. After reading it, I was in love with it. I felt emotionally attached and I could relate to the characters. <BR/><BR/>Very well written!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2010

    I emailed the writer after reading this book!

    And I have never done such a thing in my life. The reason? Yes, the story was engrossing, but mostly because her turn of phrase, lyrical writing and imagery were so powerful and moving they filled my mind with great sweetness. This book made me positively happy; I cherished her phrasing and read parts over and over to enjoy her great gift of language. It is easy to understand how Ms de los Santos was a successful poet before she began writing novels. I bought this book for a number of my friends, because I wanted them to experience the same happiness I found in reading this book (and the sequel).

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2009

    Wonderful, spirited, satisfying

    Cornelia and Clare each starts out from her own separate world but soon they are palpably drawn together like trains on converging tracks. I was irresistably drawn as well so that I couldn't wait for them to meet and fill the other's desperate need. Vivid descriptions of Cornelia's and Clare's perceptions painted picture after picture that I instantly recognized as something I had felt but never had been able to define. While Clare's situation was anything but light, references to lighthearted old movies with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn added a delicious sense of living in one of those high-spirited, uplifting stories.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 22, 2014

    Very much enjoyed, read quickly

    This was my kind of book. I found the elder narrator to be extremely likeable and funny, someone I would like to be friends with. I also think the younger narrator was written well, which can be hard to do. Anything that keeps me interested enough to read in less than a couple of days is recommended!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    Literary Romantic Fiction

    I just finished rereading one of my favorite books ever. The author writes in a sophisticated and clever style with lots of movie references. The main characters are complicated and compelling. The twists in the story keep it unpredictable. If you want to read more about these characters, there is a sequel, Belong to Me. Enjoy!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2013

    Read and enjoy

    Great story, comfort read, well written. Was away on vacation and here wasthis book on the shelf in a beautiful library. Hello friend! I sat down and read it again. Belong to me, the next book was wonderful too. Could have done without the teenager part but overall a great story. No dirt, no sex, violence, just a book well written to enjoy

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2013

    So great!

    I read the second book in this series first, unfortunately. While still wonderful to understand the background of the characters more, I wish I had read this book first. I love the writing style of the author so much! The characters are easy to love and I really want to read more about them. Excellent read, highly recommend!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2012

    A twice read book

    This is an excellent book for anyone who can feel empathy for another person. The characters make you want to be a better you. Could I react the way they did in a crisis? This book makes me hope I could.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2012

    adult read

    the story line was OK but I didn't appreciate the premarital intimacy or the foul language. I would not recommend this for my teenage grancdaughters.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 5, 2009

    Book club pick

    I read this book last year, but I'm only getting around to rate it now. I found the story to be quite good, and I liked the author's writing style. At times I found the references to old movies a little annoying, but that really didn't get in the way of my overall enjoyment. I thought the characters were very real and I did feel for them - even Martin who was a real schmuck.

    I know this was a love story, but what I really enjoyed was the way Clare processed the odd happenings in her life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2008

    Good, easy read

    I just finished this book and really enjoyed it. I did find it a little difficult to get into at first, but then the two lead characters drew me in and I couldn't wait to see how everything turned out. I fell in love with both of them. I am sure Hollywood will be making a movie of this soon. I can't see how they could pass it, family, loss and a happy ending.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2008


    This an interesting heartfelt story about a single woman and a litle girl and the bond they share. I enjoyed the characters. The book was written well and very entertaining.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2008

    A Must Read

    I was searching for a good romance novel and this fulfilled my want. I could not put down this book. It kept me interested and was heartwrenching all at the same time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2008

    Couldn't put it down

    I won't lie. I was browsing the shelf when I saw this. I thought it sounded familiar so I picked it up and read the back cover. I was sold simply because it was set in my hometown of Philadelphia. When I started reading, I was immediately drawn to both Cornelia and Clare. The author has a way of really letting Cornelia's voice carry the story. It isn't the typical family situation and doesn't play out with happily-ever-after. An excellent beach read for the summer!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 3, 2015

    Wonderful Characters - Great Writing

    I love this book and all the characters that live in it. I re-read it once I year. It's like comfort food to me. Try the first few pages, you'll know right away if this is a book for you.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2013

    Love walked in

    Excellent, fast read. Loved the two main characters.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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