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Book Review: The Bookshop of Second Chances (ARC)

Published May 4th 2021

Author: Jackie Fraser

Set in a charming little Scottish town, The Bookshop of Second Chances is an uplifting story of fresh starts and new beginnings by a hugely talented debut author.

Thea’s having a bad month. Not only has she been made redundant, she’s also discovered her husband of nearly twenty years is sleeping with one of her friends. And he’s not sorry – he’s leaving.

Bewildered and lost, Thea doesn’t know what to do. But, when she learns the great-uncle she barely knew has died and left her his huge collection of second-hand books and a house in the Scottish Lowlands, she seems to have been offered a second chance.

Running away to a little town where no one knows her seems like exactly what Thea needs. But when she meets the aristocratic Maltravers brothers – grumpy bookshop owner Edward and his estranged brother Charles, Lord Hollinshaw – her new life quickly becomes just as complicated as the life she was running from…

An enchanting story of Scottish lords, second-hand books, new beginnings and second chances perfect for fans of Cressida McLaughlin, Veronica Henry, Rachel Lucas and Jenny Colgan.

The Bookshop of Second Chances transports the reader to a small town rural Scottish village where everyone knows each other and they all know each other’s business.  I was drawn to this novel as I not only love books set in bookshops, but I also adore stories about second chances and starting over. The bookshop itself stood out to me in this story and became its own character as I loved how it was described with all of the different sections with books everywhere.

Thea Mottram is in her mid-forties (43 at the start and she turns 44). As the description states, she not only is made redundant, but her husband of almost twenty years has cheated on her with her friend. She is heart-broken by the betrayal and escapes to Scotland from England when she suddenly inherits a house from her great-uncle. She leaves the house to her husband to buy her out eventually and he seemingly moves on with the “friend.” I loved the emotions that she went through as they felt very realistic. She is shocked by the experience and has a lot of pain that she is dealing with and she became a very relatable character. I’m not sure if I fully agree with her just letting her husband stay in the house and not kicking him out is the best decision, but it felt relatable as not everyone will react the same way in her situation.

When she arrives in Scotland, she meets the Maltravers brothers whose family owns the surrounding estate to the lodge she just inherited. The younger brother, Charles, Lord Hollinshaw, is interested in buying the lodge from her. His estranged older brother, Edward, owns the local bookshop in town. Thea gets to know Edward through the large collection of books that came with the lodge. Edward is sullen and has a lot of walls up that intrigues Thea to get to know him better.  The two of them start off as bantering acquaintances before they start to acknowledge that there could be something brewing between them.

The writing and pacing of the story was great as it built up to Thea starting her healing process and trying to move on from the traumatic experience she faced with her husband. The background characters were very interesting and I enjoyed how they gossiped about each other, but also was there for support. It showed the love that is typically found in a small town. One very minor detail that I found interesting was the topic of weather and temperature where they used Fahrenheit (73 and 75 degrees) instead of Celsius (23 and 24 degrees). I am guessing this was changed for the US edition, but it was interesting as other books that I’ve read follow the country they are set in rather than the country they are published for. Again, this was an extremely tiny detail, but it just stood out to me, especially with phrases like “made redundant” are used so it was an interesting mix of common US and UK wording.

Although Thea was a good character, individually, I questioned her willingness to be with Edward. She learns about his past and I am positive I would not have chosen to be with him, if I was in her situation. Edward seemed to not be very mature emotionally as he discusses a past experience from the time he was a teenager and It seemed odd that he would fixate on it considering it’s been decades. I understand that some situations are difficult to move past, but I would think the fact that it was during the seemingly immature teenage years that would help him move on. Charles was not much better as a character as he was very immature, too. With the three main males in the story being very unlikeable and people still wanted to be around them, it was hard for Thea and the other characters to balance them. As I said, I liked Thea individually, but she lost me whenever she was around the other characters.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read with some escapism. I am not sure how much Thea grew in this story, but I did appreciate her journey. For me, I wish that she did not have a romance and instead focused on her own healing, but that’s just me. The bookshop and all of the literature discussion kept me intrigued as I loved each scene featuring either a conversation about a novel or just general descriptions in the bookshop. It’s a light-hearted read about moving on after cheating and remembering that second chances can come at any age and I would be intrigued to read from this author.

**I want to give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Books, for a review copy of this entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

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