Publication Date: June 29, 2021
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
I want to preface this review by saying I’m a sucker for anything written by Lauren Layne. I will automatically be excited and buy whatever book she is publishing without even knowing or caring what it is about. In my book, she’s one of the top contemporary romance authors out there. With To Sir, With Love, Layne once again hits it out of the park.
Gracie Cooper, a thirty something New Yorker, has been talking to a guy on a blind dating app. She doesn’t know what he looks like or his name, only that he goes by Sir and ended up on the app as a joke from his friends. Despite this, Gracie, who goes by Lady on the app, and Sir have struck up a genuine friendship and maybe something more. Meanwhile, in Gracie’s real life, she’s pushed aside her passion for art to make good on a promise she made to her dad before he did to continue running the family’s champagne shop. However, the shop is struggling and Gracie is being hounded by the building owner, a giant corporation headed up by the arrogant, yet irritating handsome Sebastian Andrews, with a buyout offer. As Gracie confides in Sir and finds her feelings growing for him, little does she know she’s met him in real life and cannot stand him.
The premise of this book is nothing new. I don’t know if this premise has an official name but I’d call it a pen pal romance with a hint of enemies to lovers. It’s a story that has been told and reinterpreted many times in plays such as She Loves Me and movies like You Got Mail. Despite the fact that the plot is nothing new, Layne still manages to make this story feel fun, fresh and new. I love the modern interpretation of this story – it’s gone from letters, to emails, to now a dating app. It felt so refreshing, yet familiar. Even though I knew Sebastian and Sir were one in the same, I still felt like on the edge of my seat to see how the story would play out. I accidentally stayed up until 3am reading this because I lost track of time and got so sucked into the story.
Where Layne always excels is in the romance. I don’t know how she does it, but she always manages to get my heart invested in all her stories. My heart was aching so many times in this as Gracie was struggling with her feelings for Sebastian and Sir, not realizing they were the same guy. I loved the snippets of the conversations that Gracie and Sir were having and how they were perfectly woven into the action of the story. You could really feel the affection between Gracie and Sir in those messages and I get why she was always smiling at her phone when she had a new message for him. My heart hurt so much when she finally took the risk to ask him to meet in person and he didn’t get back to her right away and then the answer was no. I knew it was Sebastian behind the screen and that was the reason he said no, but I still felt Gracie’s pain.
While I loved watching Gracie and Sir’s relationship develop, I also loved watching Gracie and Sebastian’s relationship play out in real life. Gracie’s very much the type of girl who believes in the love at first sight/Disney fairy tale. She’s been holding out for her dream man, a “Sagittarius musician with floppy brown hair, crooked smile and a dad bod.” However, when she runs into Sebastian on the street of NYC, she feels an instant connection to him and feels “he’s the one” before that comes crashing to a screeching halt when she realizes he’s the one trying to destroy her family business. I loved that they were initially set up as being antagonists to each other. I totally get why Gracie had such strong feelings towards him at first – she’s given up everything for her family’s shop – but I loved how their relationship progressed and she came to see him as a person and not some big bad guy out to destroy her business. There was definitely a simmering attraction between the two of them and I kept wanting one of them to act on it, but inevitably something kept popping up that would derail the progress they were making. It was the perfect push and pull between them that ramped up the tension. Add in Gracie’s conflicted feelings for Sir into the mix and it’s the perfect recipe for all the feelings.
Despite knowing how the overarching story would end, I loved the journey Layne took us on to get there. That’s one of my favorite things about romance novels – you know you’ll get that happy ending, but it’s how you get there that really makes the story compelling and unique. Layne’s always takes a reader on such a fun journey filled with all the swoon-worthy feelings and the right amount of heartache. Nothing feels predictable in a tale that should be thoroughly predictable since it’s a retelling.
This story also feels like such a classic and quintessential Lauren Layne book to me. Her stories always remind me of classic rom-coms with a hint of Sex and the City and this one definitely delivers on that vibe. I honestly cannot say enough good things about it.
If you’re looking for a light-hearted romance that hits all the right emotional beats and feels fun and fresh, look no further than To Sir, With Love. I cannot recommend this one enough. It’s the perfect summer read for sitting by the pool or beach with a drink in hand!