Thursday, 3 August 2017

True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop by Annie Darling - Review

Full disclosure: I'm not really a big romance reader (well, not since I used to raid my nan's bookshelf as a teenager for the Mills & Boons she bought at 5p each from the market), and in the case of this book, the title, cover and even the author's name make it pretty clear that "gritty urban thriller" is probably off the table and romance is most definitely on it. (To be fair, I'm not that big on gritty urban thrillers either.) However, I *am* all for variety in my reading matter, and I'm certainly not such an old misery as to be entirely averse to a spot of romance if it's fun, interesting and well written.

Bookshops/teashops/a combination of both seem to be big news in publishing at the moment and titles featuring them abound. This is the sequel to a previous book, The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts (which I haven't read), featuring the same shop - the romance-themed Happy Ever After - but a different central character. In this case, it's the bookshop's admin manager Verity Love (*the* most perfect name for a romantic heroine), a twenty-seven year old self described spinster, Jane Austen addict - she has a quote for every situation - and owner of a difficult cat called Strumpet (excellent name also).

Verity's invented an imaginary boyfriend, perfect Peter Hardy (oceanographer), entirely in order to get her friends off her back, but of course this backfires when they inevitably seize an apparent opportunity to meet him and Verity has to throw herself on the mercy of a random handsome stranger. It's all a bit far fetched, but it would be curmudgeonly to complain. Handsome stranger Johnny, announcing upfront that his heart Belongs To Another, offers a mutually beneficial arrangement whereby he acts as Verity's real fake boyfriend, Peter Hardy (oceanographer) having been retired, at social occasions - hence getting both sets of friends off their backs. There follows a summer of weddings and parties as Verity and Johnny get to know each other better.

I did relate to Verity, an introvert who finds the modern world just a bit too overwhelming at times and needs her alone time to recover. She has friends, a job and a loud, eccentric family but just doesn't feel she has space for a boyfriend. Will she change her mind and can Johnny ever get over the thoroughly undeserving woman who currently holds his heart to ransom? Well, the answers to those questions will come as no great surprise, but it's fun getting there.

This is a light, cosy, humorous read which once I got into it, I thoroughly enjoyed. The ending was perhaps a bit too pat after a long build up and as I said, there are no big surprises, but the story was fun and I liked all the characters, with Verity's family being particularly good value.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys contemporary romance, or even those who think they don't but are prepared to give it a chance!

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