The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling

I am not ashamed to say that I love a bit of romance and when the gorgeous pastel tones of Annie Darling’s book cover were presented to me with the promise of “Happy Ever After”, it was futile to resist.

The book is based around Posy Morland who lives with her brother, Sam in a flat above the shop where she works called Bookends in an offbeat mews in Bloomsbury, London. When her employer and friend, Lavinia, bequeaths her the shop in her will, Posy is daunted by the prospect of running the bookstore, not really knowing where to start but realising that it needs an overhaul in order to survive. The rest of the mews was also owned by Lavinia and has been left to her handsome and successful grandson, Sebastian who Posy has known all her life and for whom she holds an attraction as well as a loathing as he is brooding but rude; sexy but scathing; generous but impossible – all of the hallmarks of the will-they-won’t-they chemistry which makes a good romantic fiction.

Posy also has an array of friends from the shop as well: Nina, the tattooed girl who is destined to choose bad boys over and over again; Verity, the introvert who likes to hide out in the back office and is the financial control of the bookshop; Tom, a lover of books but not necessarily romantic ones; and there are minor characters from the street shops leading down to the mews.

When Posy decides that the way forward with the shop is to specialise in romantic fiction, not everyone is on board and her staunchest opponent in this is, of course, Sebastian. But she is determined in this and has to find a way to make it happen whilst also trying to deter Sebastian’s alternative idea of turning it into a crime novel store.

It is clear that the bookshop is the most important thing in Posy’s life, after Sam, her teenage brother, as it holds a whole load of memories for her. Her parents worked there before her and when they were killed in a car accident, Lavinia and Perry, Lavinia’s husband took Posy and Sam under their wing, providing them with a home and, for Posy, a purpose beyond caring for Sam. As a result, Posy has not had any time for romance and when Lavinia’s death and the conditions of her will thrust her and Sebastian together, she is forced into his company day-in day-out and has to re-examine the way that she feels about him.

And, of course, she finds herself attracted to him despite his rudeness and overbearing manner and tries to find an outlet for this in writing her own romantic fiction, Ravished by the Rake.

Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed by this book and I am not really sure why as it had everything that I could possibly want for a quick light read with a little humour and a modicum of titillation but, for whatever reason, I didn’t get a fully satisfying read from it. I think that despite the verbal sparring between Posy and Sebastian, I never got a real sense of the attraction between them. The only time that I really felt like there was a spark between them that was tangible for me was when Posy was writing her own bodice ripper as a way of channelling her subliminal attraction for Sebastian. The characterisation as Sebastian as a Regency rake and Posy as the resisting but ultimately powerless maiden who is made to succumb to the sheer sexual power of Sebastian were the best parts of the book for me. That may say more about me than Annie Darling’s writing.

The inclusion of Posy’s fiction though did help to lead to a satisfying conclusion which I heartily enjoyed although the way it unfolded was to be expected.

What I take from reading this is that I am becoming jaded, old woman that I am, as narratives like this have to progress with the misunderstandings and misdirections that are necessary to create tension and I understand this as it is all about the anticipation otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a book if they got it together on the first page. But, for me, the delays only serve to irritate rather than entertain. The whole to-ing and fro-ing meant that I was skim reading pages because I just wanted to shout out “For God’s sake, just snog him already!” and whilst, in the past, this build-up may have brought me a frisson of expectation that I would have secretly enjoyed, in this instance and as an older woman, it just made me wonder why people aren’t more direct as they would save themselves a lot of unnecessary time wasting.

I do have to admit though that I may have to revisit the fiction of Georgette Heyer which is mentioned frequently in this novel as if these Regency romances are anything like Posy’s fictional effort within this book, I may just enjoy reading them!

Parts of this review were previously published on Reedsy Discovery.

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