The Shoe Diaries
by Darby Baham
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 25 Jan 2022 | Archive Date 31 Mar 2022
HARLEQUIN - Romance (U.S. & Canada), Harlequin Special Edition
It’s never too late to put your best foot forward
From the outside, Reagan “Rae” Doucet has it all: a coveted career in Washington, DC, a tight circle of friends and a shoe closet to die for. When one of her crew falls ill, however, Rae is done playing it safe. The talented but unfulfilled writer makes a “risk list” to revamp her life. But forgiving her ex, Jake Saunders, might be one risk too many…
From Harlequin Special Edition: Believe in love. Overcome obstacles. Find happiness.
The Friendship Chronicles
Book 1: The Shoe Diaries
About the author: Darby Baham (she/her) is a debut author with Harlequin Special Edition and a New Yorker of five years who sometimes desperately misses the sprawling shoe closet she had while living in Maryland. She’s had personal blog posts appear in The Washington Post’s relationship vertical and has worked in the communications industry for more than two decades. The New Orleans, LA native is also a lover of big laughs and books that swallow you into their world. Her first book, The Shoe Diaries, debuts in 2022.
“With the launch of her aptly titled Friendship Chronicles series, debut author Baham deftly channels her own Sex and the City vibe to craft an emotionally engaging story featuring a superbly rendered protagonist whose realistically complicated and relatably messy life will long resonate with anyone trying to make positive changes for themselves at work or at home." -Booklist on The Shoe Diaries by Darby Baham
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 22 members
After one of her best friends, Christine, is hospitalized, Raegan Doucet realizes that her life isn’t the way she always envisioned it on every possible level. This is why she decides to make a “risk list” to get out of her comfort zone. The reward? A new pair of shoes for every goal achieved on her list. In the process, Rae will discover several interesting things about herself in terms of work, love, relationships and emotions. In addition, she will have to leave behind her fears and overcome her past with Jake Saunders in order to give love a new chance.
I have to say that this book impressed me with its writing format. Everything goes around Raegan and her introspection process that leads her to make the decisions which will make her a better woman. The story is very well written and narrated in an amusing way. Also, the secondary characters are well drawn. That said, one little detail that I can’t miss is that Christine is Latina, and there are a few misspellings on some Spanish words (sorry; as a Latina, I can’t help notice them. DM me next time, Ms. Baham! 😉).
On the other hand, I would have liked more Jake and Raegan interactions. At least one or two more scenes (since this is all about Rae, as I said earlier), to fully appreciate their love.
This story could be called “the black version of Sex & the City”, but it’s much more than that; the plot highlights the union between friends, family values and how love always wins over fear.
This is my first book by this author, and it won’t be the last. The clever way Ms. Baham shows Raegan’s emotional journey was unique. I look forward to the next book in this series.
P.S.: I want Raegan’s shoe collection!!
FULL REVIEW IN HARLEQUIN JUNKIE: @harlequinjunkie
• ARC given by Harlequin Books via Netgalley. Thanks for your trust.
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.
I think that romance novels are a good way to understand how the world changed and what is going on.
This is a riveting and entertaining story, a story about black women who have to fight and the love for shoes.
To be honest I've got some shoe fetish and couldn't help loving the shoe description and how the heroine love them.
It's a multilayered story: you can read it as a romance (root for the characters and blah blah) or as a description of what a black professional woman has to face.
I loved both the aspects, rooted for the characters, and had fun.
An excellent story.
Many thanks to Harlequin Special Edition and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
Essentially A Black Sex And The City. This story is essentially Sex And The City, but replacing the mostly white cast with a mostly black one and replacing the "city" in question with DC. Same shoe fetish (though possibly amplified here?), used remarkably well as a plot device in this particular case. Same big oops moment with a former flame early on, only for the book to ultimately become a second chance romance later - with an interesting interlude in between. Minor discussions of the HBCU life and the central character wanting to be much more radical as a professional journalist than the "stodgy old white men" are allowing her to be, but at least here said "old white dudes" aren't thinly veiled racist caricatures, as so many similar novels from less talented authors have done. (The desire to be more radical is more central than the HBCU mentions, to be clear.) Overall a strong tale that will clearly play well with a couple of demographics in particular, but may not be something that will play as well in a more general audience. Still, excellent book and very much recommended.