The Bronte Book Club for Hopeless Romantics

By: Laura Briggs

"So, can it be cured?" I asked Marty, hopefully, as I tucked my thumbs in the pockets of my jeans — fingers crossed on the outside, where he could see them. It couldn't hurt, letting him see I was eager.

Marty shook his head. "It depends, Paige," he said. "First we have to figure out what's wrong. And I'm afraid the diagnosis looks a little grim."

If we were talking about anything but my little Volkswagen Beetle, this might be a truly tragic conversation. But as it was, I still felt a surge of disappointment as I gazed dolefully at my poor little blue car practically on blocks in front of the library. Marty wiped his hands on a greasy rag and closed the hood of my car as if confirming his previous words.

If Lewis Cove's engineering genius didn't have an answer, then my summer vacation of sandy shores and paperback beach reads was probably doomed. I sighed.

Lewis Cove is fairly quiet in the summertime, as if the distant warm salt breeze and heat waves on the sand find their way across the miles to lull bright garden hibiscus blossoms into sleepiness, and lift ripples of heat from the old stone buildings and brick and mortar in the heart of the right-off-the-coast’s highway village. People buy popsicles from the modern Five and Dime in the old department store building, and an ice cream man makes the rounds in neighborhoods of old craftsman houses with painted sides and shingled rooftops, where kids play beneath water sprinklers.

But for me, the first three weeks of summer were really busy, thanks to the library's summer reading program, and the fact that we finally have funds to repair the leaky roof over the tower room. I had definitely been looking forward to getting away for a little peace this weekend, and for longer in the coming weeks. A chance to dive into a few delicious paperbacks while lounging on a beach towel ... before the mechanics of my little Beetle dashed my dreams, anyway.

I watched on the library steps as Marty drove away in his wrecker, pulling away my poor car. Then I reached for the handle of the old-fashioned door that would let me enter my workplace again.

Lewis Cove’s library isn’t an ordinary-looking one — in fact, most people mistake it for somebody’s elegant home, since not many towns have libraries in three-story Victorian houses with craftsman-style remodeled interior.

Her name — yes, I said 'her' — was Wilshire Manor before she became the Alice Wilshire Lending Library. There’s a mixture of styles and architectural eras crammed into three stories of faded pink Victorian splendor beneath white gingerbread trim. Its windows are stained glass and leaded panes, with gables that lend themselves to reading nooks and window seats — and there's even a turret room on the third floor.

Inside, high-ceilinged main floor and the rooms at the top of the grand walnut staircase, all remnants of the once-glorious days of the Wilshire family. For all the dark wood beams and intricately-carved fireplaces, for every stick of grand furniture left behind over the eras, however, there are three dozen more bookshelves to rival it. Some were left by the family; most were donated or bought over the years since this place has been a library since the 1960s. Bookshelves wrapped around the fireplace mirror, framing every window and window seat, filling every room with titles from thick coffee table-style photography books to musty travel volumes, to paperback classics and soft cover modern bestsellers.

Her nickname at the turn of the 20th century was the ‘Grand Dame of Gull Avenue', although every kid in town now simply calls it 'the pink house.' Even with a little paint peeling from its gingerbread trim, and the walls of its exterior faded to pale rose, it’s still a grand sight.

First story has everything from classics to children's books; second story is research books and hard-to-find volumes that are either rare or out of print. The third story is off limits, mostly storage and empty rooms, except for a small apartment (where I, the librarian, have a cozy spot all to myself). That's the biggest perk of being Lewis Cove's official librarian.

"Looks like you guys are going to be stuck with me for awhile," I said to Stacy as I closed the door behind me.

Stacy is the library's best employee. Well, our only employee, actually, besides myself, the librarian. It's not as if Alice Wilshire Library needs a staff on par with New York City's Metropolitan Library, even with our maintenance issues.

"Paige, what happened?"

"On-the-Go's finest mechanic has declared my car a door nail," I answered. "On par with Jacob Marley himself. So until further notice, I guess I'll be spending my vacation rounding up extra copies of Charlotte's Web and James and the Giant Peach." Like I said before, our summer reading program, the 'Explore Adventures through Books,’ was at its zenith, with one more week of kids logging stacks of adventure stories to earn prizes and candy.