Author: Eleanor Hallowell Abbott
Genre: Fiction (Vintage / Correspondence / Invalid / Boston / Secret Identities / Comedic Romance)
Publisher/Publication Date: Legacy Romance (2/14/2012)
Source: The publisher
Did I finish?: I did, in one evening! (It's about 80ish pages.)
One-sentence summary: A housebound Boston businessman takes his cold fiancée's suggestion and purchases a mail order friend, and finds himself falling in love with the mysterious Molly Make-Believe.
Reading Challenges: E-books
Do I like the cover?: I just love it -- I'm a sucker for these kind of dramatic costume-y shots, and it fits the feel of Molly Make-Believe, who has a dramatic entrance in a veiled hat.
I'm reminded of...: rather than authors, I'm reminded of cute classic films like The Shop Around the Corner and Christmas in Connecticut
First line: The morning was as dark and cold as city snow could make it -- a dingy whirl at the window; a smoky gust through the fireplace; a shadow black as a bear's cave under the table.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy it -- it's $0.99 at Legacy Romance, and likely available as a public domain offering.
Why did I get this book?: The cover -- it's so striking!
Review: This was a cute book. Absolutely cute. I was a reminded a bit of cute classic films like The Shop Around the Corner and Christmas in Connecticut -- a little screwball, very improbable, and ultimately adorable.
The premise is very simple: Carl Stanton, a Boston businessman, is housebound with rheumatism (in this case, terrible pain and malingering cold of some kind) while his cool and gorgeous fiancée Cornelia winters in Jacksonville with her mother. In her goodbye letter, Cornelia tells him she will "honestly try to write every Sunday" but that she's unwilling to literally promise that -- never mind sending him daily missives filled with sentimentality. As a dig, or a joke, she includes an advertisement for the Serial-Letter Company and suggests he look in to it. For a fee, he can choose the correspondent of his choice -- a Banda Sea Pirate, murderous and blood-curdling; a Gray Plush Squirrel, prowly, scampery, deliciously wild; a favorite historical character, historically reasonable and vivaciously human; or love letters in shy, medium, or very intense.
Unable to resist -- who could? -- Carl provides his brief biography, writes a check for an extravagant amount, and thinks smugly that he'll save the letters to show Cornelia, in hopes of teaching her how to be passionate. A day later, a messenger shows up with a cheery, sweet, loving letter and a woolen blanket and that's when Stanton's world gets a bit messy. His correspondent is charming and chirpy and adorable, and Stanton is consumed with wanting to know The Truth: who is his Molly Make-Believe? Like any reasonable person, he assumes the worst, and wants the best, and in general tortures everyone about this.
Abbbott's writing is a bit florid, but I really enjoyed it: it made me laugh, it was so evocative, and it has the feel of a vintage advertisement or postcard, all curlicues and extravagant promises. This section is from early on, one of his first, brief letters from fiancée Cornelia:
Not till the fifth day did a brief little southern note arrive informing him of the ordinary vital truths concerning a comfortable journey, and expressing a chaste hope that he would not forget her. Not even surprise, not even curiosity, tempted Stanton to wade twice through the fashionable, angular handwriting. Dully impersonal, bleak as the shadow of a brown leaf across a block of gray granite, plainly -- unforgivably -- written with ink and ink only, the stupid, loveless page slipped through his fingers to the floor. (p12)
Even though this book is set during Boston's miserably wet winters, it was a perfect read for these unseasonably delicious warm days. I spent one night on my porch reading this -- it's about 80 pages -- and it was a great diversion from the heavier reading I've been doing.
*** *** ***
I'm thrilled to offer an e-book copy of Molly Make-Believe to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/international readers, ends 4/13.