Title: To Sir, With Love
Author: Lauren Layne
Source: ARC from the publisher
Release Date: June 29, 2021
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Perpetually cheerful and eager to please, Gracie Cooper strives to make the best out of every situation. So when her father dies just months after a lung cancer diagnosis, she sets aside her dreams of pursuing her passion for art to take over his Midtown Manhattan champagne shop. She soon finds out that the store’s profit margins are being squeezed perilously tight, and complicating matters further, a giant corporation headed by the impossibly handsome, but irritatingly arrogant Sebastian Andrews is proposing a buyout. But Gracie can’t bear the thought of throwing away her father’s dream like she did her own.
Overwhelmed and not wanting to admit to her friends or family that she’s having second thoughts about the shop, Gracie seeks advice and solace from someone she’s never met—the faceless “Sir”, with whom she connected on a blind dating app where matches get to know each other through messages and common interests before exchanging real names or photos.
But although Gracie finds herself slowly falling for Sir online, she has no idea she’s already met him in real life…and they can’t stand each other.
I had the biggest smile on my face after finishing To Sir, with Love. Also, you know the feeling you get when you drink something hot and the weather is so cold? A little random, I know, but I had that warm feeling of satisfaction hours after reading the book.
Lauren Layne has always been a one-click author of mine – I’ve read a huge chunk of her backlist, and I’ve enjoyed most of them. Two of her books are even in my romance hall of fame! It was a no brainer that I would read To Sir, with Love as soon as I can, and even more of a no brainer that I expect that I will enjoy it.
First things first – while this book has a strong romance subplot, I would say that this has a stronger focus on our heroine Gracie’s personal growth and journey. I wouldn’t say this book is purely a romance, but it’s also not purely women’s fiction. A little confusing, I know, but the right answer is somewhere in between. I just want to give my fellow romance readers a warning so they know what to expect, and I want to stress that none of this dampened my enjoyment of the book.
To Sir, with Love opens with Gracie getting an offer from Sebastian, a rich businessman, to buy out the champagne store that has been in her family for ages. Gracie’s immediate reaction is to decline the offer – she put in so much time and effort to make the store as profitable as possible, and selling now would be admitting defeat. Gracie’s siblings wouldn’t support selling the store either. Even though all three siblings technically own the shop, Gracie is expected to do everything, and her brother and sister provide her with no help. As days go by, however, Gracie can’t stop thinking about the fact that she never actually wanted to run this champagne store, and that she pushed her dreams aside for her family. Is running her family’s store enough for her? And if it isn’t, what now?
While Gracie is going through this personal crisis, we discover that she has been spending a lot of time messaging a certain Sir in a dating app. Gracie and Sir send each other these sweet and long old-fashioned messages, and their affection for each other is so obvious. On the flipside, despite rejecting Sebastian’s offer to buy her shop, they build this fun antagonistic relationship that soon develops into a friendship. Sebastian often pops out of nowhere and offers his unwelcome opinions and advice about the store’s moneymaking schemes, and he even joins in on some! Grace and Sebastian’s budding romance made me so giddy, and I was positively tearing at the pages (or I guess clicking furiously on my kindle) to get to their scenes. They had so much chemistry!
Full disclaimer – I’ve never seen You Got Mail, so I’m not really sure if in the movie, the viewers are aware of Sir’s identity. I don’t think To Sir, with Love bothers to hide it, but to be on the safe side, I’m not going to say anything. Gracie starts the book content with her pseudo-romantic relationship with Sir, but as she spends more time with Sebastian, she starts to realize that there may be something more waiting for her romance-wise, and maybe even her career.
At its core, To Sir, with Love is about Gracie’s journey to shrug off all the pressure bogging her down, and for her to finally do what she wants. Gracie has lived her family and father’s dream for so long, and it was heartbreaking to see how sad and unhappy she is. It takes a while for Gracie to gather strength and courage to fight for her dream, but what she does, it’s all systems go. She makes difficult decision after difficult decision, and finally starts to live a fulfilling life for herself.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of To Sir, with Love. Gracie and Sebastian are great characters to root for, and I could not get enough of them! I would have loved more romantic scenes (more steam, please!), and I definitely hope that this is not the last we’ve seen these characters.