This very sweet romance novel had all the makings of the kind of book in this genre that I really enjoy: a guarded, Mr Darcy-type brooding love interest, someone setting up a new life in a little village, a straight-talking heroine and plenty of books.
Title: The Bookshop of Second Chances
Author: Jackie Fraser
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: 17th November 2020
Ownership: eARC provided by the publisher
Rating: 4 stars
About the Book
Not only has Thea just been made redundant, but she also finds out that her husband has been sleeping with one of her friends, and is intending on leaving her. Thankfully, rather than having to live in a small flat in the same town in which she grew up and has lived in during her relationship, she inherits a great-uncle’s house and book collection in a small Scottish town.
Assuming she might just clear out the house and sell it on, Thea heads up to Scotland, where she meets a local landowner, a crowd of friendly villagers and a grumpy bookshop owner who has a complicated and unpleasant history behind him.
I actually enjoyed this book a lot more than I was expecting. I love to read romance, but often spend so long raising my eyebrow at improbable situations and misunderstandings and cringey chemistry that I often don’t enjoy it as much as I want to.
However, perhaps because the characters were in their late forties, the silly situations are done away-with. Instead we meet Thea, who has recently had assumptions about her working life and relationship completely destroyed. She’s not actively searching for a new life, but decides to take an opportunity when it presents itself. She’s straight-talking, friendly and pragmatic – which makes a nice change from some of the kinds of characters that you can come across in this genre. In fact, being straight-talking means that some of the standard misunderstandings that would otherwise appear are immediately nipped in the bud.
I suspect that not everyone would feel something for the bookshop owner, Edward Maltravers, who is rude, somewhat misogynistic and jaded. He’s not an easy character to like … but for me, personally, I recognise a few old crushes in that kind of personality – one that is guarded and shuttered – and I enjoyed the slow development of an understanding between both Thea and Edward.
Most of the time, Thea isn’t even looking for love. Which means that, although there’s a lot of self-reflection in this book, there’s less of Thea agonising about what she should or shouldn’t do, because she’s just not considering it as an option. She has plenty of healing of her own to do first, and I enjoyed that the whole story felt more like Thea coming to grips with her job and her new way of living, rather than her falling madly in love.
And finally, the setting was lovely – wholesome Scottish village, antiques, bookshops, countryside, sea … yes please.
There were a few very uncomfortable moments between Thea and Edward’s brother later on in the novel, and some of Edward’s own actions are more problematic than attractive. I also couldn’t understand why someone as straightforward as Thea had just meekly accepted the end of her marriage. But overall, the whole story just worked really nicely for me.
I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.