Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

I’ve been curious about Marisa de los Santos’ debut novel, Love Walked In for a while now and I decided to read it when I was trying to pick a good book for Valentine’s last week. Seemed like an appropriate choice at the time. Thank you to my good friend Celina for recommending this one and for providing a copy. 🙂 I think it’s interesting that Marisa de los Santos is half-Filipino and I hear there’s even a half-Filipino character in the book.

Here’s the summary from Marisa de los Santos’ website:

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 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 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.

Marisa de los Santos’ background as a poet is reflected in the lovely writing in her debut novel, Love Walked In. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of thirty-one-year-old Cornelia and eleven-year-old Clare. It was very easy to like both characters and I enjoyed reading both sections of the story even if their voices are different. Cornelia has a way with words that makes her descriptions lyrical. Also, I could relate to so many aspects of her life – like not knowing the right career path for her, her height (I’m five foot flat too but definitely not 85 pounds), how passionate she is about the things that she loves. Here’s a line that I really liked:

“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 got that right, Cornelia! Too bad I didn’t fall in love with Cornelia’s leading man in spite of his many positive attributes. I don’t want to mention names to keep this review spoiler-free but if you’ve read the book, you’ll probably understand why I have a quibble about him and why I didn’t completely fall for this book. Believe me, I really wanted to love it but I just couldn’t get over that thing. However, I still enjoyed reading the book as a whole because in addition to Cornelia’s point of view, Clare’s side is also beautifully written. I love that Clare is a big reader and she’s a fan of so many good books like L.M. Montgomery’s Anne books, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess and even Harry Potter. I find it endearing when a character in a book is a reader. Clare is such a capable girl for someone her age and I felt for her right from the start. I was worried for her because of the problems that she needed to deal with – good thing she was able to find help before things got out of control. I also love the Filipino references in this book – how Clare and Teo cooked pancit and they ate Filipino desserts like bibingka and ube. I have to agree with the reasoning that Teo is as handsome as he is because of his half-Filipino and half-Swedish mix. Half-Filipino and half-something-else people really tend to be good-looking. This is a satisfying read for anyone who’s looking for a bit of romance and I’m not surprised that other readers love Marisa de los Santos’ writing. This book made me want to watch all the old films that Cornelia mentioned, starting with The Philadelphia Story.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Maw Books
Rhapsody in Books