book review

Second Chances

What do you do when your bright, shiny, fabulous life in New York City blows up spectacularly: apartment uninhabitable, abruptly single, and jobless? If you’re Grace Hammond, you go back home to Connecticut for a few weeks. Y0ur story is shared in Mary Simses’ The Rules of Love and Grammar.

If you’re Grace Hammond, you also find yourself delving into who you are and who you want to be, even as you sleep late and devour countless pints of ice cream. As your father’s big 65th birthday party approaches, you also face the dreams and demons of growing up in a small town, the tragedy of your sister dying, and the possibilities of love with a stranger or a second chance with the boy who moved away as well as the possibilities of an entirely different career thrown away because you didn’t believe in your own worth and talent.

Simses grew up in small-town Darien, Connecticut, where I have lived for thirty years. I didn’t know what she would make of the experience, how things would go for Grace, but the cover was beautiful, the prose compelling, so I dove in to read the story she had to tell. While the book was ostensibly about Grace, her family, friends, and love interests, Darien (called Dorset in the book) also played a major role. Our tight community was rendered with loving insight, including a marvelous portrait of The Sugar Bowl, small businesses, and revered traditions such as summer sidewalk sales. Let me assure you, the characterizations and the descriptions are accurate, insightful, and well-wrought in Simses’ capable hands.

The story is a fast, light read peopled with vivid, well-drawn characters (I particularly love Cluny), believeable rom-com moments, and genuine coming to terms with the past in order to live in the here and now. Dialogue is a strong point, relationships spark and glow, and the settings are superb. I loved spending time in Grace’s world, smelling the fresh ocean air, enjoying the warm familiarity with loved ones, pedaling up long hills to peerless views.

Second chances resonate through the whole story, throughout romantic relationships, family connections, and life’s work. Ultimately, Grace makes choices that are genuine, heartfelt, and smart, so while the book ends on a “happy for now” note, I am confident that Grace makes a wonderful life for herself and the ones that she loves.

Thank you, Mary Simses, for a fun time in the place that I know and love — now with a new view from a person who knew it when.


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