Carrie West is happy with her life . . . isn’t she? But when she sees this provocative online ad, the thirtysomething librarian can’t help but be tempted. After all, the photo of the anonymous poster is far too attractive to ignore. And when Wednesday finally arrives, it brings a first kiss that’s hotter than any she’s ever imagined. Brian Newburgh is an attorney, but there’s more to his life . . . that he won’t share with Carrie. Determined to have more than just Wednesdays, Carrie embarks on a quest to learn Brian’s story, certain that he will be worth the cost. But is she ready to gamble her heart on a man who just might be The One . . . even though she has no idea how their love story will end?
Let me tell you a story.
It’s appropriate that this week is Heroine Week, sponsored by Romance Around the Corner, because this is a love story, and it’s a love story about a heroine.
If you’ve read this blog, and read my posts, you know that my Calling is as a librarian. I’d call it a career, or a job, or the way I pay my bills, but it’s more than that– it’s my identity, it’s in my blood and my brain and nearly every interaction I have with almost every person I meet. And, while I am not a religious person, I think it’s a capital-C Calling, the one profession in all the world that combines every single interest and love and passion of mine and then, miracle of miracles, lets me share them all with other people.
Carrie West is a librarian. Many romance heroines are librarians. There’s a big, broad cultural tradition of the spinster librarian, of the secret-sex-fiend librarian, of the repressed and joyless librarian, of the academically-minded librarian. Some writers get the details of the job right, and some get them horribly, terribly wrong. I suspect that part of the reason we see so many librarian heroines is that readers love books, and writers love books, and librarians, we assume, go into the job because they love books.
And for some librarians, I’m sure that’s true. I certainly also love books, and have loved them my entire life, and want others to love them too.
But while Carrie loves books, she is a librarian because, more than that, she loves stories.
When Carrie decides to meet Brian in Celebration Park, on her lunch break, behind her library, she does so not only because he’s beautiful and she misses kissing, but because she wants to know his story. And she’ll keep working at him, pushing gently and kindly, until she learns his story. “I’m a librarian,” she says. “I can work from the outside in.”
So much of our work is about people’s stories. The reference interview where a patron asks for an application for Section 8 housing, the reader’s advisory question asking for more books about kids with abusive parents, the teenagers in the book discussion group who don’t know who to tell about the bullying that’s going on at school. Our stories live in books, and that is why we love them, but our stories live in each other, too, and our job is to find those stories in our patrons, and hear their stories, give them space to tell their own tales. That’s power, and it’s connection, and it’s why a heroine like Carrie rings truer to me than any number of bookish types who have trouble interacting with actual people.
We see Carrie at work in the library, and we see her at home, and interacting with her friends and with Brian. But even when she’s not at work, she is still a librarian, still shaped in the way that makes her seek out stories, find value in them, understand how much it matters to Brian to finally be able to share his. In the end, I think, that’s what we’re all looking for: someone to share our story with, who will say, “Yes, I get it. I understand.”
So, for me, my very personal reaction to reading The Story Guy was that rush of relief that comes from seeing a reflection of my own story. Yes, she gets it. She understands. This is why I do this job. Carrie loves Brian, but I, as a reader, as a librarian, love Carrie, and I feel utterly privileged to get to read her story.
The Story Guy is out today. I hope you’ll want to read Carrie’s story, too.