As a librarian myself, I had great fun fantasizing, wondering what the heroine, obviously a librarian, would want as her secret wish. To find Keanu in the stacks? To open a book and wondrously find a winning lottery ticket? Or something as ordinary as having everything in Dewey order? Naaah, hers is a much more basic wish, the staple of all romance books.
Librarian Claire Cooper is distracted from story hour by a man whose mere presence causes her to lose her place. She thinks that he looks like a dashing hero from a novel, this man with long hair and wearing a leather bomber jacket, the kind of man she dreams about. He certainly doesn't look like a father picking up his kid. He’s neither a dashing hero nor a daddy. He’s a private eye who’s trying to find an eight-year-old runaway.
Nate Callahan is looking for young Andy as a favor to Sister Evangeline, director of Sacred Children’s Home, who knows that the young orphaned boy loves books. The sister has a fondness for Nate, who was raised at the orphanage, too.
Nate and Claire find Andy, who’s run away because he’s about to be placed in a foster home. A flu epidemic at the orphanage forces the three to remain together. This enforced togetherness, this view of life as a family, causes Nate and Claire to reevaluate lifelong held beliefs.
Both Nate and Claire had dysfunctional upbringings. Nate was raised at the orphanage and decided that being alone, being independent, being attached to no one is how he wants to live his life. Claire had a nomadic existence when her father, a widower in the military, moved them from base to base, a lifestyle which didn't allow Claire to make close friends.
Consequently neither Nate nor Claire thinks that they need anybody to make their lives complete. A traumatic incident as a teenager has colored Claire’s whole life, leaving her emotionally and sexually stunted. These two, Nate especially, have big chips on their shoulders. He’s unfriendly, while she’s colorless and lifeless as a pale ghost.
The library doesn't play a significant role, either. This title could have read The (Nurse’s-Waitress’-Florist’s...take your pick) Secret Wish. Even though Claire is prim and repressed, I don't think that Ms. Grace was guilty of stereotyping. Surely there are prim and repressed nurses, waitresses, florists...take your pick.
Why authors want to create such unhappy people is beyond me. Yes, we have the obligatory HEA, but the characters’ transformation from contentious to contented just didn't feel authentic. It’s almost too much of a leap of faith. Nate and Claire didn't seem real and weren't very interesting with their one note songs. If I want to read about people who are unhappy, with dysfunctional upbringings that have colored their whole lives, I'll read mainstream fiction. There’s nothing new, nothing interesting and nothing worth $3.50 or hours of your reading time.
As I studied the cover, looking at the people, especially at their smiling faces, people who were so much more attractive, so much more alive and happy than their print counterparts, I noticed the background of library books, with no spine labels in sight. Maybe that should have been Claire’s secret wish . . . spine labels.