Book Review: The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser

Title: The Bookshop of Second Chances
Author: Jackie Fraser
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication date: May 4, 2021
Length: 431 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A woman desperate to turn a new page heads to the Scottish coast and finds herself locked in a battle of wills with an infuriatingly handsome bookseller in this utterly heartwarming debut, perfect for readers of Evvie Drake Starts Over.

Thea Mottram is having a bad month. Her husband of nearly twenty years has just left her for one of her friends, and she is let go from her office job–on Valentine’s Day, of all days. Bewildered and completely lost, Thea doesn’t know what to do. But when she learns that a distant great uncle in Scotland has passed away, leaving her his home and a hefty antique book collection, she decides to leave Sussex for a few weeks. Escaping to a small coastal town where no one knows her seems to be exactly what she needs.

Almost instantly, Thea becomes enamored with the quaint cottage, comforted by its cozy rooms and shaggy, tulip-covered lawn. The locals in nearby Baldochrie are just as warm, quirky, and inviting. The only person she can’t seem to win over is bookshop owner Edward Maltravers, to whom she hopes to sell her uncle’s antique novel collection. His gruff attitude–fueled by an infamous, long-standing feud with his brother, a local lord–tests Thea’s patience. But bickering with Edward proves oddly refreshing and exciting, leading Thea to develop feelings she hasn’t felt in a long time. As she follows a thrilling yet terrifying impulse to stay in Scotland indefinitely, Thea realizes that her new life may quickly become just as complicated as the one she was running from.

When Thea discovers that her husband has been cheating on her with her close friend, her carefully ordered life falls apart. And when said husband and said friend declare their intention to start a life together, Thea moves out of her house, packs her belongings, and has to figure out what’s next.

Answers are provided by the news that a distant relative, a great-uncle she barely knew, has left his Scottish home to her, along with a nice sum of money to go with it. At loose ends, Thea heads to Scotland to see the property and decide what to do with it, intending to spend at most a few weeks assessing the place and making plans to sell it.

She doesn’t count on how lovely the place is, or how charming the small village nearby. Uncle Andrew left behind an impressive book collection, including many rare and valuable editions, so Thea contacts the local bookseller, a grumpy man named Edward, to arrange to sell some of the books. Edward is indeed grumpy, but he’s also quite engaging and very attractive, not to mention being the estranged brother of the lord whose estate borders Thea’s new home. All in all, Thea finds him fascinating, and they develop an easy rapport, only enhanced once she takes on a job working in Edward’s bookstore.

As the months pass, Thea finds herself falling into a comfortable rhythm in her new home, but she’s still not over the betrayal of her marriage and the sense of self-doubt it’s left her with. Still, as she gets to know Edward, she eventually realizes that life may have a few surprises left for her… even the possibility of a new romance.

It’s refreshing to read a book about love between mature adults, and also a nice change to have a lead character be a woman in her mid-40s. Thea is lovely, but she’s experienced and not naive, and feels that the romantic part of her life is over with, now that her husband has left her. She doesn’t expect to find new opportunities or to have a dashing local find her attractive, and she certainly doesn’t expect that this little town in Scotland may turn out to be a place where she’ll find happiness.

The Bookshop of Second Chances is a lovely, engaging read. The dialogue is often quite funny, and Thea herself is a delightfully practical, blunt-speaking, and intelligent character to spend time with. The dynamics between Edward and his brother Charles are fraught, silly, and often humorous, but there are also some real issues there to navigate, and it was interesting to see those play out.

The main romantic storyline between Thea and Edward is well-paced, as she spends a great deal of the book not looking for more than friendship while she heals from the pain of her marriage and learns to trust and be optimistic again.

All in all, this is a sweet, entertaining, and thoughtful take on finding new purpose and new love in middle age. I really enjoyed it, and recommend it heartily!

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Thursday Quotables: The Husband’s Secret

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

The Husband's Secret

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
(published 2013)

I’m right in the middle of reading this one, and mixed in with all of the really moving family moments, there are quite a few funny bits too:

One of the mums from school, who had three sons almost exactly the same ages as Cecilia’s three daughters, had said that some remark Cecilia had made was a “teeny weeny bit sexist,” just before they started the Fete Committee meeting last week. Cecilia couldn’t remember what she’d said, but she’d only been joking. Anyway, weren’t women allowed to be sexist for the next two thousand years or so, until they’d evened up the score?

And another:

Actually, what she remembered most about that trip to Berlin was kissing a handsome, brown-haired German boy in a nightclub. He kept taking ice cubes from his drink and running them across her collarbone, which at the time had seemed incredibly sexy, but now seemed unhygienic and sticky.

Can’t resist:

Cecilia had noticed that beautiful women held themselves differently; they swayed like palm trees in the breeze of all that attention. Cecilia wanted her daughters to run and stride and stomp. She didn’t want Polly to bloody sway.

Last one! Short but sweet:

She was a far better mother when she had an audience.

I’m really not all that far into the book yet — but based on how many lines are making me laugh or kind of shake my head in recognition, I’m betting that I’ll keep on enjoying it.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Leave your link in the comments — or, if you have a quote to share but not a blog post, you can leave your quote in the comments too!
  • Visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Flashback Friday: Good in Bed

ffbutton2Flashback Friday is a weekly tradition started here at Bookshelf Fantasies, focusing on showing some love for the older books in our lives and on our shelves. If you’d like to join in, just pick a book published at least five years ago, post your Flashback Friday pick on your blog, and let us all know about that special book from your reading past and why it matters to you. Don’t forget to link up!

Keeping things light this week! My pick for Flashback Friday:

Good in Bed (Cannie Shapiro, #1)

Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
(published 2001)

Synopsis (Goodreads):

For twenty-eight years, things have been tripping along nicely for Cannie Shapiro. Sure, her mother has come charging out of the closet, and her father has long since dropped out of her world. But she loves her friends, her rat terrier, Nifkin, and her job as pop culture reporter for The Philadelphia Examiner. She’s even made a tenuous peace with her plus-size body.

But the day she opens up a national women’s magazine and sees the words “Loving a Larger Woman” above her ex-boyfriend’s byline, Cannie is plunged into misery…and the most amazing year of her life. From Philadelphia to Hollywood and back home again, she charts a new course for herself: mourning her losses, facing her past, and figuring out who she is and who she can become.

Good in Bed is probably the first book I heard referred to as “chick lit” — and while in general I really dislike the term for its derogatory overtones (but that’s a topic for another blog post!), I don’t mind it so much here. Maybe that’s because Good in Bed defies all the expectations that “chick lit” seems to promise — hearts and flowers, shopping, BFFs and looking for love. Yes, some of that does factor into this book, but it’s also honest, sneaky, snarky, and in places, really devastating too.

Granted, the synopsis does make Good in Bed sound like a single-girl-on-the-prowl type of book — but it’s really a deeply emotional portrayal of a woman who is smart and strong, and who goes through some unimaginably painful experiences. Cannie is not perfect by a long shot, and maybe that’s why so many women relate to her. She doesn’t have great taste in men, things don’t always work out for her, and her weight is an ongoing issue. She goes through one particularly terrible experience, and the chapters dealing with this are truly heartbreaking — so that when she does find moments of happiness, we really want to cheer.

Good in Bed isn’t high-brow literature by any means, but it’s a terrifically fun read with a big heart and surprising depths. For someone who doesn’t usually frequently the “chick lit” sections of the bookstore, enjoying this book was a great surprise.

Have you read Good in Bed? If so, how does it measure up for you against other books lumped under the “chick lit” heading?

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday fun:

  • Grab the Flashback Friday button
  • Post your own Flashback Friday entry on your blog
  • Mention Bookshelf Fantasies as the host of the meme
  • Leave your link below
  • Check out other FF posts via the linky
  • … and discover some terrific hidden gems to add to your TBR piles!

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Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!