How had this book never appeared in my feeds on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or elsewhere? When my friend Barbara gave it to me, I had never heard of it! The intro page sure hooked me: three quotations, one by Darcy (the P and P original one), one by Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary, and one by Colin himself in which he says that even if he landed on Mars, “the headlines in the newspapers would read: ‘Mr. Darcy Lands on Mars.'”
There’s an idea for a sequel.
Right away March gives us some serious matters to contemplate. Bea Crane, who works in a burger joint while hoping to find a teaching job, is 22 when she receives a letter from her mother, who has been gone a year, saying that, though Bea’s Mom, Cora, always felt like she “had given birth to” Bea, Bea is actually adopted (3). Bea is mature enough to realize that her “wonderful, doting parents who had made Bea feel loved every day of her life” are still her parents, but she feels natural curiosity about who “had given birth to her” (5).
Then March shifts to the birth mom, Veronica, whom we like right away because she’s too distracted by Colin Firth in “his pond-soaked white shirt” to make a pie properly and because she sees in him “six feet two inches of hope” (16). Amen, sister. She’s 38 and unmarried. She got pregnant with our heroine at 16 and gave her to parents who could devote their lives to her. She has wanted desperately for her daughter to contact her since Bea’s 18th birthday. Her career specialty is the “special elixir” pie that makes husbands desire their wives again (18). She also makes pies “gluten free, dairy free, and even sugar free” to meet all her customers’ needs (18).
(There are very few flaws in this text, but, I will say that, when I was totally absorbed, Veronica messes up, describing the BBC Darcy’s line as “you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you” . She had been watching Colin, and now she’s watching Matthew? I was distracted by the slip. I was also disappointed with the first grammar error: “until the truth comes out . . . as does her own true feelings for him” . Subject-verb agreement is an essential rule, subject to no debate, such as the split infinitive one may be.)
Then we get a new story, of Gemma Hendricks who, at 29, is feeling suffocated by her husband, who wants three kids and a stay-at-home wife. She’s going to stay with friends in Boothbay Harbor—where Veronica lives and where Bea is headed!
When inn owner Isabel says the magic words “It’s Colin Firth month,” we know he’s going to be the magnet that draws all our ladies together, though that happens differently from how we might anticipate. Gemma, nervous about her problems as she is, gets excited as soon as she hears Colin is “here is Boothbay Harbor” (apparently “to film scenes for his new movie”) (40). “I love him,” she says, and Isabel immediately concurs (40). I had such fun watching all the women try to find him—and simultaneously watching Bea see Veronica for the first (that she can remember anyway) time.
Life gets especially interesting when Veronica decides to apply to be an extra in the Colin Firth movie just as Bea is figuring how first to contact Veronica. There is an interesting set-up for the link among the women: Gemma wants desperately to do some reporting. Her old friend offers her an assignment, which she doesn’t want but really needs: in honor of Hope Home’s fiftieth anniversary, Claire wants a “full-coverage story on the place,” which, no doubt will involve Veronica, who stayed there, and Bea, who, in utero, did, too (79). When Gemma goes back to the hotel to contemplate the story, she helps herself to “a small slice of the best Key lime pie” she’d ever had; we know, of course, the irony that it was made by a woman she’ll no doubt soon interview (80). Just after Gemma promises to introduce Bea to Isabel and June for a possible job at the inn, Isabel and June go to Veronica’s house for a pie-making course.
I realized about this point that the story isn’t really about Colin Firth, but he’s the thread that pulls everything together. There’s a supposed sighting when Gemma takes Bea out to lunch to hear Bea’s story of learning she was adopted, just as there is the first time Bea goes to the diner to see Veronica. They all love Colin. What hot-blooded woman doesn’t?
At the same time, there is a deep emotional thread throughout the story, especially around Bea and her mom, Cora, and around Veronica and her feelings for her long-lost child. Bea says that “one of the last movies” she saw with her mother was The King’s Speech (100). That was my dad’s last movie. “Tears stung” my eyes, as they stung Bea’s just remembering (100). Gemma has a lot of emotions, too, particularly as she interviews a pregnant teenager who is keeping her baby and then realizes she (Gemma) doesn’t yet feel linked to the growing embryo in her the way she feels she should. The text deals with some serious issues—teenage pregnancy, adoption, what being a good parent really means—and yet, the Colin Firth link keeps it light.
Before Bea establishes contact with her birth mother, she grounds herself—in a temporary home she loves, a comfortable job, and a few people who know her. On her new dresser, she puts “two favorite family photographs” and tells the images, “You are my parents, no matter what” (138). The scene really made me think about how difficult finding birth parents is, not just for the parents but also for the children, especially when the parents she treasured are gone. Then, she feels ready. When she finally gets dressed and goes, however (finding leaving a message just doesn’t feel right), she has trouble physically locating Veronica. She isn’t at home, she isn’t at work, but she is—da dum!—working as an extra on the new Colin Firth movie. (How did I not see that coming?) As if she hasn’t been through enough, being allowed to walk freely on the set becomes difficult, too, though in that process, she meets two potentially interesting men, Patrick Ool, supposedly “a notorious womanizer,” and Tyler Echols, who, though initially grumpy, does at least reveal that he tried desperately to help his little sister when she was looking for her birth mother. My hopes are with the latter if there’s going to be a romantic interest, what with the “Darcy first impression is poor” and “great big brother” scenario. I wasn’t thrilled, then, when the guy I think must be Wickham asked her out and got a yes.
In terms of romance for Veronica, it’s clearly not happening in the form of Hugh Fledge, who harasses her regularly, usually when drunk. It may, however, come from the widowed policeman, Nick DeMarco, who makes her uncomfortable because he was “a fringe friend” of Timothy Macintosh, who denied fathering her child when she was 16 and needed him. She’s working on an Amore pie when Nick comes to visit, which seemed to be an encouraging sign. Things seems to progress more rapidly in their lives than they do in the real world (though Veronica’s been waiting 22 years, so I guess it’s about time) in the romantic lives of Veronica (hot policeman is there when she gets the call and comes right over when she cries after the first, overwhelming meeting), Bea (dating Patrick but tutoring Tyler’s sister and thus getting to know him pretty well), and even Gemma (husband comes to Maine to reconnect with her and to establish that, somehow, they’ll find a way to make them both happy).
Meanwhile, they’re all watching Colin Firth films.
When things start to come together, I realized there were very few pages left, certainly not enough for me to spend as much time with these characters as I wanted to. If that’s not a sign of a great story, I don’t know what is. When Bea reaches out to Veronica in a pivotal moment, and Veronica reaches right back, March gives us Bea’s thoughts: “Cora Crane would like Veronica Russo a lot” (303). Tears came to my eyes as Bea thinks about her mother approving of her choice to forge a relationship with the woman who gave her life. Her mother will always be with her, just as the ones we love are always with us. What I was hoping for each of the three women—Bea, Veronica, and Gemma—happens, but even better than I had imagined. It’s glorious!
When Colin finally makes his appearance, Bea looks up to the sky and says silently, “I saw him for you, Mama” (318). And I cried.