The Shoe Diaries
by Darby Baham
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
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
“Reminiscent of Sex and the City and the Shopaholic series in the best possible way. Her stories are a lot of fun and yet she still tugs at your heartstrings.”–Gail Chasan, Special Edition Editor
Bright and early on a Saturday morning, I found myself in a swanky gym locker room, less than a fifteen-minute walk from my apartment. Robin, Jenn and I had spent the past week sitting beside Christine’s bed more than anywhere else, but in desperate need of a distraction, I’d agreed to join Rebecca at a morning spin class at our local gym. And while I’d jumped at the chance to do something, anything really, other than think about Christine’s drip-drop slow recovery, it dawned on me not too soon after I met up with her that there was one small problem with me agreeing to the class: I hated spin.
Like, literally hated everything about it. It wasn’t that I didn’t think it could help; I knew a lot of people who swore by its health benefits, and certainly knew I’d be guaranteed to have an hour off from worrying. But over the years, spinning had become almost cult-like with its many variations, such as Soul Cycle, Trap Cycle and how could I forget the one that claimed it felt more like working out in a nightclub? Beyond even that, the thing I disliked most about spin was the way my butt felt during the class. Everyone always said that eventually your butt gets used to the feeling of the bike, but when I’d tried it before…nah.
Regardless, there I was, putting on my spin sneakers on the wood-grain floors, marveling at the rotation of women coming in and out of the doors, looking like the exact models you might expect to see in spin class ads: blond hair tied in either a loose high ponytail or twirled in an up-do that took thirty minutes to do, but seemed effortless; Lululemon workout gear, S’well water bottles and enough sweat that they glistened, but not so much where they were actually drenched. I glanced up to see if Rebecca looked as nervous as I felt.
“Are you sure we’re ready for this?” I asked, trying to give us one last shot at running away.
“Ha, yes, I’m sure.” She paused. “I mean, kind of sure.”
I could sense her hesitation. Maybe she, too, was worried that we weren’t really the duo that fit in with the rest of the spin-bots before us? Even if we did have some things in common with them.
“You know our butts are going to be on fire afterward, right?” I asked, anxiously making sure the pink Velcro on my turquoise-and-white sneakers was fully snapped closed so that the shoes didn’t become a death trap for me on the bike pedals.
“Yeah, I know.” Rebecca’s once assured voice had been replaced with a nervous chuckle, and I remembered exactly why we were friends. Neither of us felt entirely comfortable where we were, but we were going to try it together. “But we’ve tried other things before, and it worked out. I’m sure this will be fine. Remember when we did Zumba this summer for a couple of months? That was fun!”
“Zumba was fun—wait, why did we stop going there again?”
“Umm, great question,” she said, walking over to the water fountain to fill her own S’well water bottle. “Honestly, I think it’s because we just didn’t make the time for it. Who wants to go to Zumba when there’s happy hours, right?”
What group did you hang out with in high school?
I went to a very small, liberal arts, college preparatory high school. Our graduating class had less than 250 students, which is pretty small in a city like New Orleans. All that to say, outside looking in, you might say that I hung out with the “cool kids” in high school, but I was not a cool kid myself lol. I think it was more the fact that all the Black kids were friends and a lot of the cool kids were Black, so I was adjacent to the cool in a way.
What are you passionate about these days?
Mental health especially for people in the Black diaspora, setting an example for young people that prioritizes wellness and showing up as your full self as much as it does being “excellent,” my friends and family, my writing, and my faith.
If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken the time to do the pre-writing work like developing the characters and plot before jumping in. I ended up having to go back and do all that anyway in 2018 when I started working on this version of it. It ultimately helped center me so that I can finally see the whole story.
Ebook or print? And why?
Both! Ebooks are great for traveling or commuting on the subway, but I also love reading a print book in bed on the weekends and putting down a device for a bit.
What is your favorite scene in this book?
My favorite scene is in the last chapter of the book when Reagan and Jake are flirting in her apartment, their guards are fully let down, and there’s just this sense of hope in the whole scene. And then it ends with her deciding to wear the shoes she’s been holding onto for years, worrying that something might go wrong when she does.
“As we gathered our things to leave, he looked down at my shoes and noticed they were suede. “You know they’re saying it may rain tonight.”
“Yeah, I know. But it’s high time these shoes get out of the closet, rain be damned.”
That statement alone also shows how much Reagan has grown since the first chapter.
So here I go again with a Special Edition review. Please keep in mind that this is the description for the line:
Harlequin Special Edition features contemporary, real-life characters and situations—men and women who are relatable, with friends, family, and careers, as they experience the twists and turns on the journey to true love.
So with that out of the way, this book fits the bill to perfection. However since I have never seen a single episode of Sex in the City, I don’t have that reference point. That said, I don’t really find it to be a romance book but more of a women’s fiction with romantic elements. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked the book but I guess I was just hoping for more romance in the plot.
Reagan is a character that took a long time for me to come around to when it came to the romance portion of the book. I never really thought she gave Jake much of a chance and I would have liked more from Ms. Baham in that aspect. The ending felt kinda rushed and I needed an epilogue. Hopefully, I will get that closure in the next book. Oh yes, I plan on reading this series. I’m totally invested with the girls and can’t wait to see what Ms. Baham has in store for them.
I’m totally jealous of the shoe closet. And I understand what the shoes represent to Reagan. I have a purse fetish and get all the feels. And I totally agree with Ms. Baham’s favorite scene in the book. She nails Reagan’s growth, her commitment to honoring Christine, and finding hope with Jake. Jenn, Rebecca, and Robin are great supporting characters in the book. They are family, including Christine. Even when they go back to New Orleans and see Reagan’s family, you finally see a glimpse of who Reagan really is.
The workplace arc is nicely done, too. I haven’t been in the corporate world for a while but I totally got it. It’s tough for women and I can’t even imagine what it is as a black woman. She handles it very well and I’m glad that Reagan never let her true self get in the way of her wants and needs.
Overall, I really liked the book. Reagan had some major growing up to do and she does. With her friends by her side, she can do anything. Just wish the romance was a bit stronger. Can’t wait to see who Ms. Baham writes about next.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
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.
Author Website www.DarbyBaham.com
Darby Baham’s Washington Post bylines
I had the perfect date dress. Why did it hang in my closet unworn for more than a year? — March 2016
When it comes to relationship advice, sometimes it’s best to ignore your friends — February 2016
I’m the oldest sister in my family and I’m single. And that’s okay. — March 2016
I was afraid to say ‘I love you.’ Here’s how I found the courage. –
NOTE: Here is the link to subscribe to receive books specifically from Harlequin Special Edition — https://www.readerservice.com/content/series/harlequin-special-edition/
Darby’s book will be included in the January edition.
The Shoe Diaries Sales Links
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card.