Love Comes Calling
I’m a big fan of Siri Mitchell’s work. Moon Over Tokyo and Something Beyond the Sky are among my favorite contemporary Inspirational romances. This latest novel by her is sweet and fun, expertly capturing the zany humor of the slapstick movies so popular during the 1920s and 30s. While it was a delight in many ways, I’ll admit the madcap, screw-up antics can become wearing after a bit if you are not an admirer of that comedic style.
Ellis Eton always has the best of intentions and the worst of results. Take her economics exam for example. She had meant to study. She had even set aside the time to do so. But activity in the dorm had distracted her, one thing had led to another and rather than studying she’d wound up playing mah-jongg. Her philanthropic endeavors have a tendency to backfire too. Take the grape juice she had let a friend put in her closet – rather than fermenting and turning into wine, it had wound up exploding and leaving an awful smell – and stain – over half her clothes!
She can’t seem to get a handle on her career plans either. The only skill she really seems to have is acting. She did brilliantly with the play she wrote, directed and wound up starring in when one of her leads left early. She just knows she can be a success if she heads to Hollywood. But of course she blew her savings and will have to figure out how to earn more money for travelling to California. And she needs to do it before summer’s end if she is going to avoid another semester at Radcliffe!
Opportunity literally knocks on her door when old friend Jane comes calling. She and Ellis are lookalikes but of course very different personality wise. Jane is practical, talented and intelligent to Ellis’s flighty, daring and fun. She needs Ellis to work her job as an operator while she deals with a family emergency. A bit of a change to the hair and speech and its easy peasy right? But while Ellis does a bang up job of pretending to be her friend she is far less talented at being an operator. Calls are dropped. She sends people to the wrong number. And then she overhears – and comments on – a call threatening friend and neighbor Griff Phillip’s safety! How can Ellis keep Griff safe without revealing to her upper crust Boston family just how she is spending the first weeks of summer? And how will she ever get to Hollywood if she doesn’t hold on to this job?
By solving the problem herself of course! Ellis works to keep Griff safe without making herself too available to his romantic advances. But it’s hard to do things right when a handsome man is pursuing you, gangsters seem interested in what you’re doing and you’re trying to hold down a job while deceiving your parents. Will all the fun and games result in success – or her typical well intentioned failure?
This book had a nostalgic feel for me. I can remember spending cold or rainy Saturday afternoons watching black and white classics on the TV starring Danny Kaye or Lucille Ball that involved well meaning folk getting themselves involved in dark situations and turning that into comedic gold, just as Ellis does. And of course the serious, sober, longsuffering counterpart/love interest finds their zany antics adorable, just as Griff does. The formula works well for a sweet love story and this is no exception. I rooted for Griff and Ellis all through the novel, knowing that he was exactly the steadying influence that she needed and that her warm, steady affection was exactly what he needed.
The characters as individuals work pretty well too. The focus is on Ellis and we get to see her struggle to do things right and how her slightly off-key thinking pattern continues to move her out of the frying pan and into the fire. What makes us love her in spite of that is both her youth and the fact that Ellis has a genuinely good heart. Her affections are always real, even if her brain waves are completely scattered. At the end of the book the author tells us that Ellis is patterned after someone with ADHD. Given that in this time frame Ellis wouldn’t have received medical intervention of any kind it made sense to me that she was as much a victim to her disorder as the people around her often were.
Griff’s a genuinely good guy who would have seemed a card board cut out hero if it weren’t for the fact that he shared his fears and frustrations with Ellis. He also shared what lay at the heart of his love for her and that went a long way to ensuring the HEA for me. Someone like Ellis would be tough to live with but Griff had a good handle on why he was willing to take on that challenge.
Besides doing an excellent job with the two leads I thought Ms. Mitchell handled the historical aspect brilliantly. I got a real feel for the time period and was especially delighted with her look at some contributing factors to corruption in the 1920s. She makes a strong correlation between the disillusionment of the vets returning from WWI and the wild antics of many during the Flapper era; using this in some of her characters was masterful and illuminating. Even the writing style used and the storyline used are evocative of movies and tales from the period. It was all very well done.
If I had a quibble it was with how some of the characters treated Ellis. Her parents, I felt, could have supported her clear need for greater structure by teaching her tricks to handle her flightiness. I never got the sense that they were very supportive of Ellis but instead were rather demanding of her. I realize that a hands off parenting style was more typical of that era but these people had the money to hire someone to help her and that could have made a big difference in her life. I also didn’t appreciate the attitude of Ellis’s sister or Jane. When asking people for help you don’t treat them like you’ve hired them for the job and they’ve somehow come up short. Both ladies needed lessons in gratitude and grace.
Additionally, the plotting of the how and why of where Ellis is to intervene in the adventure and why that turns into such zany fun is not sound. Simple things could have changed that easily but that is typical of these sorts of stories and I didn’t count that against the book at all.
This book is a great read for fans of Ms. Mitchell or for anyone who enjoys this sort of fun, kooky comedic style. I am happy to recommend it.