To Sir, With Love
To Sir, With Love is the story of a young woman trying to save her family’s business, and trying not to have chemistry with the man who will most benefit from its demise. Little does she know, they already have a connection. They have met online, on a dating app with no pictures, where they communicate under the screennames “Lady” and “Sir.”
Gracie Cooper manages her family’s boutique wine shop, Bubbles & More, selling to her loyal customers and going for the high-end look her father always expected of the business. With both of her parents gone and her siblings busy with their lives, Gracie is left to try to keep the store afloat. This job is made harder when she gets a generous offer to buy her out from Sebastian Andrews’ company, which holds the shop’s lease. But the Coopers are a proud people, and Gracie shreds the offer. Sebastian is infuriating; he thinks he knows what’s best, and that there’s no way to keep the doors open, despite Gracie’s creativity. When the two clash, Gracie knows he is going to be a pain in the ass, and calls in the big guns to try to prove that Bubbles & More can survive.
I loved Gracie’s development from someone trying to keep her father’s dreams alive to following her own dream. She doesn’t lose her romantic sensibilities, though she realizes she needs to take action to make her life what she wants it to be. Sebastian is great – kind of a Mr. Darcy type, and you can tell he sees right through Gracie in a lot of ways. She tries to keep her guard up around him, but they can’t really help opening up and talking candidly when they interact. Still, outside of their chemistry when they do interact, we don’t get a lot of characterization for Sebastian.
The secondary characters are all pretty great; they have their own personalities and don’t just feel like faceless mannequins to move the plot along. The only issue I had was with the sister-with-marriage-trouble subplot – it seemed to be coming to a good conclusion before it totally went the cliché route, which disappointed me. I did love that Gracie has a varied, well-balanced village who love her and challenge her when she needs it.
Between chapters, the reader sees Gracie and Sebastian’s messages on the app where they first connected, under their pseudonyms. Despite their verbal sparring in real life, they couldn’t get along better online. The “Lady” and “Sir” interludes are fun enough to read, but we enter the novel with their rapport established off-page, and that doesn’t work. Aside from Gracie telling us that she loves “Sir” and how much they have in common, the reader doesn’t get to see him be her prince charming. Sebastian is the real presence in the novel, and the reader can see clearly why Gracie would fall for him; he’s handsome, successful, generous, and witty. We don’t know a lot about Sir, or Lady, for that matter. The details they reveal about themselves are pretty surface-level, so while the reader is familiar with Gracie and “Lady” as our point-of-view-character, Sir really doesn’t make too much of an impact for the reader. Because the online relationship isn’t well-developed, it’s hard to suspend your disbelief that Gracie is in love with Sir and Sebastian at the same time. Really, the end is just too melodramatic, given the novel’s trajectory. The reader knows what is coming, so dragging it out just weakens the conclusion.
While I have found Lauren Layne to be inconsistent from book to book, To Sir, With Love was surprisingly enjoyable and fun to read. It doesn’t hit the high I would need for a DIK, but it’s still worth reading.
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