Two crossword puzzle lovers come together and fall apart in this smart, romantic debut.
Stanley Owens and Vera Baxter meet as teenagers in 1960 when they tie for first place in the National Spelling Bee. Their initial dislike of each other quickly turns into a tentative friendship. Although they have their oversize intelligence in common, Stanley has no desire to follow his mother’s plan for him to go to Harvard. Instead, he asks Vera to fake-marry him so he can use their wedding gift money to start a new life as a crossword puzzle writer. But what Stanley doesn’t know is that Vera hopes their sham marriage might turn into something real—she’s secretly in love with him. Pulling off a fake wedding proves slightly more complex than Stanley anticipated, and the repercussions of their con job follow them through jobs, colleges, and other relationships. As Stanley and Vera grow closer, his feelings for her become stronger—but his inability to be honest drives them apart again and again. Their only way of finding each other is by leaving clues hidden in newspaper crossword puzzles. When Stanley finally realizes his true feelings for Vera, will he be able to get her back? Or will it be too late? Bartsch creates two characters who are, although frustrating at times, easy to root for. The side characters, like Stanley’s mother and Vera’s college roommate, are also fully drawn and fun to read. Although Stanley and Vera’s relationship does become a bit repetitive at times, readers will still be invested in their love story and its whimsical details.
Bartsch’s delightful novel creates a lovely marriage between words and romance.