Guest Book review: The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling

18 Jun

Today I’m delighted to welcome my lovely friend Liz to One More Page with her review of The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling. Liz was one of the first bloggers I met at a book event and we soon discovered that not only do we live in the same town but also love many of the same books so I’m very chuffed that she’s written this review for me today. Welcome Liz!

LBLH hi res coverOnce upon a time in a crumbling London bookshop, Posy Morland spent her life lost in the pages of her favourite romantic novels.

So when Bookend’s eccentric owner, Lavinia, dies and leaves the shop to Posy, she must put down her books and join the real world. Because Posy hasn’t just inherited an ailing business, but also the unwelcome attentions of Lavinia’s grandson, Sebastian, AKA The Rudest Man In London™.

Posy has a cunning plan and six months to transform Bookends into the bookshop of her dreams – if only Sebastian would leave her alone to get on with it. As Posy and her friends fight to save their beloved bookshop, Posy’s drawn into a battle of wills with Sebastian, about whom she’s started to have some rather feverish fantasies…

Like her favourite romantic heroines, will she get her happy ever after too?

Now, I’ve not reviewed a book for the longest time, so apologies if this is a little rusty, but hopefully my enthusiasm will ring through.

I was sent a proof of Annie Darling’s The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts with a note from her editor saying that she knows contemporary romance isn’t something I usually read but that she thinks I’d love this because of the Georgette Heyer / Regency twist.

Well, this intrigued me loads!

A contemp with a Regency strand? Well, by Jove, that seemed right up my street, and you know what. Reader? The editor was right.

I devoured the book in giant gulps and adored it utterly.  Set in London, Posy inherits the rather sad Bookends shop when the owner passes away. Posy and her brother Sam live above the shop and have done so for many years. Their parents ran the bookshop for the owner, a rather larger than life character called Lavinia, who’s story I would love to know more of.

The problem here is that Bookends hardly makes any money. It’s tucked away in a rather dilapidated mews and the mews itself is also under new ownership by one Sebastian Thorndyke, the grandson of the lady who also owned Bookends.  

Posy, our main character, has a love/hate relationship with Sebastian. She adored him as a child as he is rather handsome but her infatuation came to an end when he shoved her in the coal cellar.  Now they are friendly rivals and really, Sebastian is immediately set up as completely out of Posy’s league. He’s wealthy, he has an unpleasant reputation, he is arrogant and he tends to not listen when people talk to him about important things.  And yet, he and Posy have this great rapport which is hard to fake when writing characters like this. There’s definite banter with a hint of something more…which I ate up with a spoon!

Posy decides that Bookends needs a new name and a new leaf, as such. She loves books and reading and bookshops and what she’s good at and where her true love lies is romance. She is a bosslevel romance bookseller. And so she decides to turn Bookends into the most niche of bookshops: exclusively selling romance novels to her clientele.  Along with things like stationery, notepads, mugs and oh, tote bags. Gloriously beautiful tote bags.

Right from the start we realise how much the author and therefore Posy loves books and romance. We get a lovely sweet call-out to other favourite authors, both new and far more classic during an early scene.  We also get a swift picture of other bookshops in and around London that Posy knows well.  Here’s a character I could identify with thoroughly. Someone who can navigate herself around London by bookshop.  I feel you, Posy-girl, I really do.  I felt like she had been written FOR me.

Naturally Sebastian interferes. He thinks the bookshop ought to be rebranded as a crime bookshop.  And he refuses to listen to Posy and well, shenanigans happen.  Cue lots of drama, wine and fights and a bit of a crisis of faith.  But the people Ms. Darling surrounded Posy with back her up all the way and it made my eyes water because booksish friends are the best friends a girl can have.

As for the Regency twist, well, let’s just say Posy, in a fit of pure frustration turns to her laptop and starts writing an angry story featuring herself and Sebastian but set in the era most readers would have come to know from reading Georgette Heyer.  I laughed so much and it was done so well and so tongue in cheek, I would be inclined to read the completed faux-Regency for sure.

The book is adorable as hell.  The characters are super fun. Posy has a great character arc where she goes from timid and a bit of a push-over to someone who stands her ground but she never loses her vulnerability which I liked. Sebastian initially comes across as a pure asshat, I won’t lie.  But a loveable one at that and soon you start to figure out his story and why he does what he does and why he goes about it in such a high handed and possibly destructive way.

The secondary characters are very relateable too and so likeable. I loved the relationship between Posy and her younger brother Sam. He is such a boy and rings perfectly true with my experience of boys and brothers in general.  They had lost everything when their parents died and they are the most important person in each other’s lives.  The author gives us a few select scenes and never over-eggs to drama, which is a clever thing as too much schmaltz is never a good thing!

Overall, I would give a big fat two thumbs up for The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts – it’s the kind of book that lifts your heart and makes you smile and laugh out loud in quite a few places. It’s the warm hug we all need every now and again.

This is the first book in a series by Ms. Darling and I’ve been told the second book deals with one of Posy’s shop assistants, the lovely if grumpy Verity. I cannot wait to read it.  More speed to your writing pen, Annie!

Thanks Liz – this sounds wonderful and I’ve now added it to my ‘to read’ pile too.

The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts is out now as an ebook and will be released in paperback format on 25th August from Harper.

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