So it was with great trepidation that I approached this story. I had heard great things about it from my friends, some of whom had had the privilege of beta reading it, so I was willing to give it a chance. The fifties aren't my favorite era, and this was also a romance, but I still purchased a kindle copy as soon as it came out, and then sat down to read it.
I can't say that I read it in one sitting, or even completely in order (because I did skip ahead at one point to glance at the ending), but I was soon sucked into the rise and fall of the the story. Since I skipped ahead at one point, it obviously was dragging at one point, but I honestly don't remember where it was dragging.
Callie was an interesting main character to follow, a mix of stubborn naivety, and jaded cynicism. It's clear that she has been hurt somewhere in the past, and she's trying to leave that past behind her. She wants happiness and success, goals the reader can't help but wish her the best, but she thinks she can find them in the wrong places. Paired up against her is Mr. Wade Barnett, who is the personification of her ideals. He already moves through the circles she wishes to reach, already seems to have the respect she hungers after, and most importantly, he seems content - even happy - with his place in life.
I love the format the author used for the story, first person from Callie's point of view for the most part, but at the end of many of the chapters we get a letter from Mr. Barnett to some friends of his giving his side of the story. Dual first person is usually a pet peeve of mine, but this - this was done right, and I loved it.
The story begins with Callie trying to write obituaries for the paper she works at when her boss walks in with the news that she, the dispensable employee, has been chosen to work with Wade Barnett on one of his more experimental projects. We learn from his letters that he was looking specifically for her, as she was the last of her family, and he feels the need to find closure with this family for some reason.
Contrary to what her former boss had expected, their magazine, Ladybird Snippets, flourishes. What's more, she and Mr. Barnett get along very well, despite the fact that she finds him rather old-fashioned. She finds his insistence of talking about Christianity annoying, but he does introduce her to all sorts of famous people she had always dreamed of meeting.
Her path to greatness seems set and sure, until Jules, the non-dispensable worker who didn't get to work with Mr. Barnett, becomes jealous. He doesn't realize that her move had been meant as a demotion, and thinks that he should have gotten it instead. He threatens Callie, telling her that if she doesn't dig up some dirt on Mr. Barnett, her own great secret, the past she's been running from, will be brought out into the open for all to see.
She doesn't want to do this to him, because she's come to genuinely respect him despite his oddities, but self-preservation has been the name of her game for years. However, digging up dirt proves harder than she thought, since the man's life is pretty much spotless.
This book felt like I was watching one of those old 50's movies. I had honestly been transported back to that day and age, and I loved how the fictional characters interacted so easily with the truly historic. The conversations snapped with wit, and only once did we get one that felt preachy. The plot was simple, yet complex, and though I didn't quite understand why Callie's secret was so horrible, it may be because I don't live in that era. It did serve as a way to tie a few backstories together, and for that I give it points.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I look forward to more from the author.
Profanity: LOW - few mildly offensive words, mostly at the beginning
Sexuality: SUBTLE - hinted, but not explicit,
References to murder, some smoking, and drinking.