Nightingale Books, nestled on the high street in the idyllic Cotswold town of Peasebrook, is a dream come true for booklovers.
But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open. The temptation to sell up is proving enormous – but what about the promise she made to her father? Not to mention the loyalty she owes to her customers.
Sarah Basildon, owner of stately pile Peasebrook Manor, has used the book shop as an escape from all her problems in the past few years. But is there more to her visits than meets the eye?
Since messing up his marriage, Jackson asks Emilia for advice on books to read to the son he misses so much. But Jackson has a secret, and is not all he seems…
And there’s Thomasina, painfully shy, who runs a pop-up restaurant from her tiny cottage. She has a huge crush on a man she met and then lost in the cookery section, somewhere between Auguste Escoffier and Marco Pierre White. Can she find the courage to admit her true feelings? (Goodreads)
When I was asked to join the book tour, I remembered that Rebecca had previously read and reviewed book (LINK HERE) and she really enjoyed. So, I was more than a bit excited to read the book for myself.
After reading the blurb, I had a certain expectation about the book. I thought it would be a book with a couple who fall in love either in the book shop or with the book shop playing a big part of how Emilia (the main character) meets and falls in love with her significant other. So it came as pleasant surprise that although this was true, the bookshop played a much larger part in the community as a whole and that its cupid wielding powers had a vast influence over some of the inhabitants of Peasbrook.
The book opens in a moment of bitter sweetness for Julian, Emilia’s father, as although he has just bought the bookshop and is starting a new life with his baby daughter, he is doing so as a single father. There is no further explanation on the circumstances surrounding his circumstances and you don’t get the full story of why Emilia’s mother isn’t in the picture further on. It gave me time to try to figure out why Julian was raising his daughter himself and even when we are given the flashback further in the book, at first I had my suspicions that it was a case of Emilia’s mother realising that she had married Julian too soon and that this wasn’t what she wanted. Thus after having the baby she ran off. I won’t divulge if I am right or wrong, but what happened does give prominence on why the bookshop is an important part of Emilia’s life.
The book quickly fasts forward to the present and unfortunately it moves to the time where Julian is on his death bed and Emilia is by his side. It is very heart-breaking to read and it sets up the book nicely as Emilia tries to live up to her father’s legacy.
From here on out, we are privy to the lives of this little community and you begin to feel how this little shop is almost like the heart of the community. Very quickly, you see that Julian didn’t really run it as a business but almost like it was service to those who lived in the town. Although I know personally, how a book shop can bring people together and it has this certain element to is that very few shops have, even I could see that this was in no way to keep it viable. Emilia also find this out and has to come up with a plan to not only keep it going, but to build it up as a successful business.
Through this plan, we get to know the others who are mentioned on the blurb and their back stories. In each side plot, we see how the book shop brings love into their lives. Each one of the stories is varied and interesting, showing people at different stages of their love life. Though the blurb only mentions three of these sub plots, there is at least three more. This took me by surprise as I found myself becoming interested in a couple of the plots not mentioned in the blurb more than Thomasina or Jacksons. That’s not to say that their stories aren’t interesting, it’s just that there were some other stories that kept me readin on more to find out what would happen.
Two of these that instantly spring to mind are; Bea, the new mother who is finding life in the country as a bit repetitive and boring, after having left a high flying post in a city magazine and Dillon, the gardener who works for Sarah at the stately home and his unrequited love with Sarah’s daughter.
In the case of Bea, it was her relationship with her husband as you could see as an outsider that something wasn’t right with their marriage and in Bea feeling fulfilled with her life. I could see the latter change when she begins to help Emilia freshen up the shop to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Something reignites within her that had been dulled due to becoming a mummy. I sympathised with her, even though I don’t have children for it seems such a shift in her life from being a career woman to staying at home with a baby. You could see that she does lover her daughter, but has been trying to fill that void left since she gave up her job, with superficies things. So it was nice to see her coming back to life.
On the subject of her husband, I began to share Bea’s fears that he may be having an affair since he commutes to the city Monday to Friday and returns to Peasbrook for the weekend. All the warning signs are there, with him being distant and short with Bea. Yet, when the truth comes it out, it was something I wasn’t expecting.
As for Dillon’s story, it was the traditional class divide with him being in love with Alice for some time. While under the guise of friendship, he is always looking out for Alice, especially when he feels that her fiancé Hugh is no good for her, but he knows if he says anything, it could be construed as jealousy. Being the chivalrous gent that he is, Dillon steps back and watches afar, as Alice looks to be making the biggest mistake of her life. It really is a good old fashioned romance and I kept rooting for Alice to wake up and smell the coffee on the subject of the rat bag Hugh.
The only other story that I found myself really drawn into had to be Sarah’s, Alices mother. Now, before I go any further, I do not normally like any storyline about affairs, but something about Sarah’s story really made me feel for her; especially when I found out why she sought the comfort from someone else. Sarah is one of the most complex characters in the book and I couldn’t help feel sorry for her as she hid her grief over the passing of her lover from the world. She admits to herself that she knows it was wrong to cheat on her husband, but she couldn’t stop her affair. This was a story that was far from black and white and the shades of grey really made it more compelling.
This is one of the great gifts Henry has. She has created flawed and interesting characters that you become invested in. You want to see how it all pans out in the end and she gives you hope that they will not necessarily get a happy ever after, but that they will find the beginning to a happy life. This is what the end of the book gives and you are left to imagine that the people in this book are just on the start of this journey.
How To Find Love in a Bookshop is a lovely contemporary romance, which shows the different aspects of what love really means. Whether it is admitting that you were wrong and rather self-centred, which resulted in the breakdown of that relationship or standing back to allow the person you love to find out for themselves that the person they are with is wrong for them. Love is a many faceted thing and this is a book that demonstrates this beautifully.
This is my first book by this author but I know that I want to read more as her gift at crafting complex characters in many different situations is one I rarely come across in this genre. She keeps the balance of giving hope, while making her world instantly relatable.