Picture this… a traditional book shop, three-storeys high, nestled in an idyllic Cotswold town surrounded by rolling hills and green fields, and a quirky cast of bibliophiles all with their own eclectic tales of love and life, and all fighting to keep the shop afloat.
You don’t have to read between the lines to capture the essence of this addictive, summer odyssey from Veronica Henry, a popular author and scriptwriter with her finger firmly on the pulse of the dramas of everyday life.
Nightingale Books, nestled on the high street in the Cotswold town of Peasebrook, is a dream destination for scores of local book lovers. But its owner, 32-year-old Emilia Nightingale, who has inherited the shop after the death of her beloved father Julius, is struggling to keep the business going.
Julius opened Nightingale Books back in 1983, firmly believing that ‘a town without a book shop was a town without a heart.’ It became a mecca for Peasebrook society, a place of solace and enlightenment, a quiet spot in a busy world where readers valued Julius’ advice, wisdom, knowledge and kindness.
Unfortunately, Julius concentrated more on pleasing his clientele than looking after the books, and the shop’s finances are in a mess. The temptation to sell up is proving enormous for Emilia but she made a pledge to her dying father that she would never close the shop’s doors.
There is also 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. And there is a lot more to her frequent visits than meets the eye.
Since messing up his marriage, Jackson has been asking Emilia for advice on books to read to the son he misses so much, but Jackson has a guilty secret and is not all he seems. And there’s Thomasina, painfully shy, who finds comfort and escape in cookery.
She runs a pop-up restaurant from her tiny cottage in Peasebrook and has a huge crush on a man she met and then lost in the shop’s cookery section. It was love at first sight but she can’t find the courage to admit her true feelings.
As Emilia fights to keep her book shop alive, will she and her customers find the happy ending that they all so desperately need?
How to Find Love in a Book Shop is a delightful feelgood read for both bookworms and true romantics, a deliciously nostalgic portrayal of a cosy, tight-knit community where people genuinely care about each other and the landmark institutions that are an integral part of their town.
The book shop itself is a metaphor for the beating heart of the town, the place where lost souls gather, not just to enjoy books but as a refuge from the problems and painful secrets that beset their lives.
And in an age when book shops are threatened by the onslaught of store chains and the digital era, Henry’s warm and affectionate tale is a timely reminder that for many independent sellers, the fight for survival is not fictional but heartbreakingly real.
(Orion, hardback, £12.99)