Not gonna lie: I was initially drawn by the title alone. Bookshop. Love. Finding things. Three things that never fail to pique my curiosity.
Then I read the blurb. Dead father. Failing business. Stories of a small town interweaving through one shop. My curiosity doubled.
But when I read the book, cover to cover, did How to find love in a bookshop meet my expectations?
Emilia has just returned to her hometown in the Cotswolds, following her father’s sudden death. Upon his death bed, she promises to look after the family business: the quaint, much beloved bookshop called Nightingale Books.
Things, however, aren’t as easy as they seem. And not just for Emilia. There’s the lady of the manor, the single dad looking for books to share with his son, the shy chef trying to find the courage to talk to her crush: everyone’s got secrets in this village!
And as for Emilia’s story, can she keep the promise she made to her father and save Nightingale Books? Or does her happiness lie beyond the bookshelves?
Just going to say this now. This book has way too many characters.
I understand what it’s trying to do. In the first quarter of the book, I could feel a soap opera atmosphere running between the pages. A town filled with people harbouring secrets between the pleasant cottage homes, ranging from innocent crushes to shady business deals. A town where all of these secrets are connected to the Nightingale Bookshop, and to our central character, Emilia.
But with a large cast, you run the risk of not giving each character a satisfying conclusion. Which sadly, with this book, is most definitely the case.
By the end, a handful of characters had their plots resolved either with cliches or with solutions far, far too easy when compared to the amount of tension surrounding the character’s inner conflict. If the cast was narrowed down to a select few – Emilia, Julius, Dillon and Mrs. Basildon in particular – I really think the plot could have felt more focused.
No thread was ever left unresolved, mind you. Just…tepid.
What was not tepid was the description. Good God, Veronica Henry knows how to write setting – whenever she described Nightingale Books, or the village as a whole, it felt like I’d been pushed into the comfiest chair imaginable. Her language is warm, inviting and every scene inside the bookshop is drenched in a sense of love. Say what you will, Veronica Henry has managed to nail exactly what it feels like to walk into a brand new bookshop, right down to the dust on the book covers.
And the main plot line, with Emilia struggling to cover the costs of the shop, trying to reach out to the wider community, struggling with her love life and her own sense of identity – this plot line was what kept me hooked, from start to finish. Emilia was the clearest voice, with a relatable and friendly tone that made you want to see her succeed. While there are aspects that simply ticked boxes required in this genre – unrequited love? Check. Rivalry with the girlfriend of said crush? Check. – I think, overall, Emilia and the fate of the bookshop gave the book enough tension to keep me hooked.
My final verdict? If you know that you like this genre, and can forgive some of the predictability of the plot, then I think this is right up your alley. And for the uninitiated, like myself, it made for an easy-read with a cup of tea.
It is not challenging or ground-breaking, but at its core it is a book that celebrates bookshops. How they can bring people together. How they can open doors to people. And how they can stand as a beacon, when life just doesn’t go your way.
And who can argue with a book like that?
Have you read any books by Veronica Henry? Do you have a bookshop story you could share? Feel free to comment below, or message me @ERHollands!