by Jeff Bartsch
Highly awkward teenager Stanley Owens meets his match in beautiful, brainy Vera Baxter when they tie for first place in the annual National Spelling Bee-and the two form a bond that will change both of their lives.
Though their mothers have big plans for them-Stanley will become a senator, Vera a mathematics professor-neither wants to follow these pre-determined paths. So Stanley hatches a scheme to marry Vera in a sham wedding for the cash gifts, hoping they will enable him to pursue his one true love: crossword puzzle construction. In enlisting Vera to marry him, though, he neglects one variable: she's secretly in love with him, which makes their counterfeit ceremony an exercise in misery for her.
Realizing the truth only after she's moved away and cut him out of her life, Stanley tries to atone for his mistakes and win her back. But he's unable to find her, until one day he comes across a puzzle whose clues make him think it could only have been created by Vera. Intrigued, he plays along, communicating back to her via his own gridded clues. But will they connect again before it's all too late?
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When I first picked up Two Across, I really didn't really know what to expect. The synopsis really intrigued me though and I loved the cover, so I could not wait to start reading. Although this story started out slow for me, as I continued reading something amazing happened - I could not put this book down for the life of me. Gosh, this story had so much to like about it and the ending - well it made my heart both sad and happy in the space of just a few pages.
Two Across is not only an adorable and fun story, it is a strong debut for this talented author who is able to draw the reader in with strong character development and a storyline that flows effortlessly.
If you love crossword puzzles (especially learning how they are created), love to read about characters growing up emotionally or just love a story of two people who are destined to be together, but can't seem to make it work, then you will love Two Across. I am really looking forward to see what the author, Jeff Bartsch, releases next. I for one will definitely be reading more of his books in the future!
4 1/2 stars
Jeff Bartsch grew up in Milwaukee, where at the age of 14 he delivered newspapers before dawn on the city’s coldest day on record, at 26° below zero. He pursued the primarily indoor study of creative writing at the University of Wisconsin, and held the Katey Lehman Fellowship in the MFA program at Penn State University. He is an award-winning copywriter who has worked on campaigns for many major brands. When not writing, reading, or drinking beer, he enjoys riding his fancy Italian road bike as fast as he possibly can without hurting anyone, himself included (one broken collarbone was more than enough). He lives in New York.