The narration gets off to a charming start describing how Leah and Robert met. I doubt this has shown up in many other romantic works — he catches her shoplifting a book. Robert pays for the book and runs Leah down, confronting her, then offers to buy her a drink.
They hit it off — both lost a parent at an early age and love Madeline books. When Leah excuses herself to go to the restroom she’s disappointed to find Robert gone when she returns but finds he has written his address in the book she stole. Leah immediately heads there where she finds love and later marriage.
During their early years together, barely scraping by, they joke of traveling to Europe by going to such exciting places as Berlin, Wisconsin and Paris, Wisconsin. Children come along, and the relationship has its ups and downs as Robert aspires to be a writer. He struggles with writers’ block and frequently leaves home for a day or two at a time to find inspiration but has little to show for his dreams, except a series of children’s books which don’t sell particularly well.
Then Robert goes and doesn’t come back. Weeks go by. His two teenage daughters are distraught. One day Leah pours cereal from a box rarely eaten by anyone else in the family and discovers that Robert has left flight information to Paris. The one in France not Wisconsin. Leah and the girls fly to Paris and stumble upon an English language bookstore in the Mirais area, the only part of Paris not bulldozed and rebuilt by either Napoleon or Louis XIV. The owner is happy to sell the barely profitable bookstore and Leah is able to pull strings and extend her visa as a “business owner.”
The children settle into a French speaking private school and while the bookstore doesn’t pay much the family manages to carry on. While being mugged Leah meets a younger, charming man who works as a liaison for American students studying abroad. He’s attractive and speaks fluent French. We sense romance in the works and after all she’s been through any reader will hope that Leah accepts his offer to become a pair.
Out of the blue a friend they left behind in Milwaukee calls, announcing she has found a manuscript, a half-finished novel that Robert had been working on. Everyone hopes it will provide clues to his whereabouts. Then one of the teenagers thinks she spotted her father in a crowd. Leah swears that Robert has left a note on of the books in the bookstore.
The search for Robert ratchets up, but for such a dramatic build-up the conclusion falls flat. Don’t mistake this book for a mystery, let alone a thriller. Callanan writes beautifully and for at least half the manuscript the reader will feel close to Leah, thought at times she can be a bit frustrating. Whether you like Paris depends on your expectations and your patience. Once Robert leaves, not a great deal happens. And how exciting is running a bookstore?
I would give it a B-, mostly because of the quality of the writing. It’s often stunning. Some of you may really love it, especially if you like Paris — the one in France, not Wisconsin or Texas.
Steve E Clark as seen in the New York Times is Author of Justice Is for the Lonely and Justice Is for the Deserving, Kristen Kerry Novels Of Suspense. You can purchase his books via SteveClarkAuthor.com/BuyBook or request it at your local book store. Want to know more about Steve Clark, read more reviews or speak directly with Steve? Learn more about Steve at SteveClarkAuthor.com