Monday, February 16, 2015

The Moment of Everything by Shelley King

Reviewed by Jeanne

Maggie Dupres and her best friend Dizzy left South Carolina to land fast paced, lucrative jobs in the computer industry. It was a heady time—late nights brainstorming, the adrenaline rush, the comradery.

Then the Silicon bubble burst.

Now Maggie is scraping along, spending her days in the Dragonfly, a used book store, where she reads historical romances and engages in skirmishes with Jason, the store’s sullen employee. Her mother is pressuring her go back, meet a nice boy, get married, and be the sort of wife her mother is—a woman who lives for her husband to come home.  Maggie is desperate to hang on, even as she eats Ramen noodles and struggles to pay her rent.  Dizzy still has a job, but he too yearns for the heady start-up days of yore—and he thinks he may have found a way to do that.

The Silicon Valley Women Executive Association Book Club has two openings for members. Not only a great place to network, but the woman who runs the club is an investor.  All they need to do is show up and make a great impression—which Dizzy thinks he can do simply as being the first guy allowed in the club, and he thinks Maggie’s English major credentials should make her a shoo-in.  They’ll meet people, dazzle them, and get funding to start a new company.  Easy-peasy.

Maggie isn’t so sure.  And she isn’t interested in reading the book of the month, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which can’t hold a candle to the formula historical bodice-rippers she’s reading.  Hugo, owner of the Dragonfly, helpfully gives Maggie an old copy of the book to get her started.  As she begins slogging through the book, she finds handwritten notes from Henry and Catherine, two people carrying on a passionate correspondence in the pages.  Fascinated, she begins searching the book for more notes, until she falls asleep.  The next thing she knows, it’s almost time for the book club meeting and she hasn’t read the book.  

Expecting the worst, Maggie allows herself to be dragged to the meeting where she hopes to find a nice corner in which to hide while Dizzy works the room.  Maggie watches and listens as one reader after another complains about the book—it’s dry, it’s dated, it doesn’t speak to this generation—and realizes that their hostess is not pleased. Taking a deep breath, Maggie begins to defend the book she hasn’t read by using the comments from Henry and Catherine. 

Maggie makes quite the impression and wins the attention of Avi, the hostess, who wants to know what she’s doing now. Since she can’t really say she’s hanging out in a used bookstore reading trashy romances, Maggie says she’s helping to get the struggling Dragonfly to turn a profit.  Avi is intrigued.  If Maggie can make the book store profitable, there may be a plum job opportunity.

This is a romance book, but it’s more about the romance of books than anything else.  Oh, sure, there’s a cute guy who may or may not be Mr. Right, and there’s the romance of Catherine and Henry, but mostly this is about books and those who love them.  Will Maggie discover what became of Henry and Catherine?  Will the Dragonfly be crushed by the chain bookstore?  Will Maggie be dragged back to South Carolina?  Has Maggie met Mr. Right?  Not all these questions have a firm answer, but the fun is in the reading, especially passages sure to delight those who know the love of real books.  The characters are well done, especially Hugo, but I adored Henry and Catherine too. There are also a few surprises along the way, as Maggie discovers that things are not always as straight-forward as she thought.  I enjoyed it, and if you love books and bookstores, you might too.

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