Author: Jenny Colgan
Nina is obsessed with books. She lives a life surrounded by the romance and adventure suspended and brightened between beloved dog-eared binders. Her flat-mate and best-friend rues the day that Nina and her avalanche of fictional friends moved in, dotting the staircase with binders and dangerously sagging already warped floors; yet for her day job this guilty little pleasure is perfect. Nina can match anyone with the book they need to open their hearts and cure their souls. She knows what they should read next and where their next, bright adventure lies. But business and modernization changes (read, ruins) everything and Nina soon finds herself out of a job when her beloved Birmingham library decides to twist itself into a media centric center for the young, not-so-bookish crowd.
With an increasingly irate friend and a dwindling bank account, Nina is thrust into the cruelty of the real world and discovers that the only escape is another dream: a bookshop of her own. Only, leasing is expensive and although she more than has the stock (she can’t let all those books from the library be destroyed, can she) she can’t afford or sustain the logistics. But a portable book van that travels the country and brings books to small towns that don’t even have a library? That’s a true dream. Yet . . . the only available van is in the wilds of Scotland. Can she uproot everything and start her entire life over again? Can she even drive that terrifying behemoth of a van?
Cozy, heart-warming, book obsessed, and thrillingly romantic, Little Shop of Happy Ever After is an unforgettable ramble through the fiercely gorgeous highlands of Scotland, the joys of life, the terror and intense possibilities of starting over, the tragedy and magic of love, and the encouragement of a good book. Nina is a protagonist to root for; a young woman who is lonely and yet intensely fulfilled by the imagination and perfection of fiction. It’s a story with a moral: don’t always hide from reality, put down the book and live out your dreams, and yet it’s also a love letter to the powers of fiction and the saving grace that is the words, dreams, and thoughts of generations written down and shared across the boundaries of time and space. Book addicts will find themselves equally charmed and yet encouraged to put those books down and see the beauties they describe for themselves.
Nina is a romantic soul, both in her quest for a job that means something (as averse to her fellow sell-out colleagues that pick money over fulfillment) and her hidden desire for the perfect man. Accused of being the shy, capitulating wall flower, her new life opens up possibilities unsought and also a dangerous sort of heartbreak. You won’t ever hear the forlorn whistle of a midnight train quite the same way, nor will you look at second chances as just the stuff of a decent fiction.
Combining the elegance of description (and fresh country breakfast descriptions that will just break your city-dwelling heart with desire), Little Shop of Happy Ever After is one of those rare books that I’ll never forget. It oozes charm with descriptions that empower and echo the flavor of the best cozy mysteries. Not normally a fan of romance (my jaded realism insists it’s never as bold or perfect as fiction), the travails of Nina’s love life are enchanting and you’ll find yourself at times longing, at times weeping, and yet always seeing the positive joy in even life’s failures. It’s hard to truly describe the purity of this work, both for its artistic splendor (all the wins for Coogan’s enchanting writing style) and its happy focus that actually works and makes us reevaluate our own thinking. This book has to be one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received, and an introduction to a new author I already feel myself becoming obsessed with. All the stars, all the love. Don’t miss this subtle little gem!
– Frances Carden
Follow my reviews on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/xombie_mistress
Follow my reviews on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/FrancesReviews/