Newington book fan couple plan new chapter together

AS romantic proposals go, this was a real page-turner.

Wednesday, 7th February 2018, 04:00 am
Neil Chue Hong and Stephanie Mlot at The Open Book shop

Neil Chue Hong, 41, director of the Software Sustainability Institute at the University of Edinburgh, started making his plans last year.

He wanted the next chapter in his life to be with Stephanie Mlot, 32, the New Yorkers both having made the Scottish capital their home.

Both are self confessed bibliophiles. So it made sense that he would arrange to take her to The Open Book – a second-hand bookshop in Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway – for a break.

One of Scotland’s quirkiest holiday destinations, book fans from around the world take it in turns to run the shop there in exchange for free bed and board for a fortnight.

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Stephanie thought the break in Scotland’s National Book Town was a lovely birthday treat. She couldn’t wait.

But it became even more special when Neil went down on one knee behind the counter to ask for her hand in marriage.

Stephanie, a journalist for the tech news website, said: “I already loved the idea of spending a week here for my birthday running a bookshop – which is just the coolest job ever.

“Then when Neil proposed I was so excited, it was so unexpected. I accepted of course.”

Neil, knowing Stephanie’s tastes, had bought her a ring mounted with a pearl rather than a diamond.

Then he ordered a specially hollowed out book, for keepsakes, to hide it in.

He said: “I’d decided on the right moment, went out to look round the other bookshops and when I returned I told Stephanie that I’d got something she might like.

“I hid the one with the ring underneath a collection of essays by Hillary Clinton.”

When Stephanie opened the book with the ring in it, he dropped on to one knee to pop the question. “That was the toughest part – finding space between the chairs behind the counter to kneel down and ask,” he said.

The Newington city-dwellers are lovers of literature and theatre. They met at a book group three years ago and got chatting about the work of Patrick Ness.

Neil is also an aspiring author and playwright, and has had pieces workshopped at theatres in the capital and Glasgow.

Such is their love of books that they are not sure whether they sold more than they bought during their stay at The Open Book.

News of the proposal soon reached the organisers of the Big Bang festival of literature, art and science, being run by the Wigtown Festival Company, which also looks after The Open Book.

Jessica Fox, the festival director, said: “It was wonderful to hear such romantic news – the first marriage proposal at the Open Book, and so close to Valentine’s Day, it was perfect.”