Recommended Read, Review

Review: The Shoe Diaries by Darby Baham (2021)

The Friendship Chronicles, #1

Heat Factor: It’s low heat, but only because the hero and heroine aren’t in the same room together all that much. 

Character Chemistry: When they ARE in the same room, hooo…it’s fluttery.

Plot: Rae loves shoes and ends up making a “risk list” to push her to open her life up to happiness—and one of those items seems to keep circling back to her college love, Jake.

Overall: This was absolutely more of a Women’s Lit than Romance because Rae’s dealing with so many other plot critical things—but it’s fun, romantic, and makes your heart swell up.

I was not prepared for the variety of feelings this book took me through, but I have to say it was well worth it. 

After getting her heart broken in college, Rae has played strictly within the rulebook–she’s gotten a safe and steady job (even if she’s not fully satisfied with what she’s writing), she’s dating (but avoids long term entanglements at the first sign of trouble), and she stands firm as the emotional caregiver for her close-knit group of friends (but she doesn’t really let people return the favor). When her friend Christine ends up in the hospital with a serious illness, Rae decides to make a “risk list” to push her to open her life up to possibility and greater happiness. As a reward for each item completed, Rae gets a new pair of shoes. 

There are so many things going on in Rae’s life that are challenging–besides Christine’s illness, Rae’s dating situation is endlessly frustrating, and so is her job. Although she gets along with her boss fine on the surface, it’s mostly because Rae is pushing down huge parts of who she is and what she COULD be creating in order to be palatable to her boss and the paper’s homogenous readers. It’s hard to read, because from the beginning of the book Rae’s voice is meticulous, honest, and straightforward–so by the time you’re reading about her issues at work, it’s very clear that she’s got more to offer than she’s being utilized for. (Not to mention just the basic scream-into-your-pillow race and socio-political bullhonky she’s facing as a black woman in the workplace…in Washington, DC…at a place analyzing news and politics…with what’s going on in this country…)

The relationships in this book were phenomenal. Although you don’t get to know the other friends in this group all that intimately (except for Christine), their interactions are buoyant and feel so real. It’s a much-needed antidote for the sadness and tension going on with Christine. In fact, I felt that the women were so powerful that Rae’s relationships with the men in the story were less vibrant in comparison…and I was really okay with that. I thought the many shoes that were mentioned would get in the way for me personally (I pretty much wear one pair when it’s hot / one when it’s cold, and that’s it), but I ended up having a blast looking up what the shoes could look like online while I read.

I have to say that I was totally captivated by Christine and Rae. Christine’s illness progression was so visceral and wrenching–it took me by complete surprise. I think above anything else, her friendships and watching her love her very sick friend caused the biggest heart tugs and swoops.

That’s really the reason I would argue this is a solid women’s lit book rather than a romance (it was marketed as both). Rae’s relationship with Jake becomes more of a symbol of her inner work and courage than it is the primary driver of the plot. But don’t let that stop you hardcore smut readers–it’s a really fantastic book with characters that shine, and it swept me up pretty effortlessly. A very beautiful and engaging read.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

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