Book Review Time: The Bookshop of Second Chances

The title caught my eye. “Bookshop.” Ok, so, books obviously play a role. And I love books. “Second Chances” adds an element of intrigue. It implies a past conflict or disappointment. Possibly a dramatic failure has taken place. A circumstance that would necessitate a reboot and maybe a change of scenery. A story that could likely end with growth and rediscovery. With my interest piqued, how could I not pick up this novel and buy it immediately (from my local bookshop, no less)? And so I did. But it came with its own set of surprises.

The story begins with our main character, Thea, knee deep in muddy waters. Her husband of several years has left her for a woman she assumed was her friend. And to add insult to injury, she was sacked from her job; deemed redundant. Redundant is an icky word, isn’t it? Given the circumstances, there isn’t much reason for Thea to leave her self-imposed seclusion in her apartment in Sussex. That is until she receives word that she has inherited a house in Scotland from her recently deceased great uncle, a man she barely knew, but for whom she must have left a lasting impression. This news allows Thea a much needed escape route. She can hide out in Scotland, sort out Uncle Andrew’s estate, explore her new surroundings, perhaps make some new friends, find a low-key job, and above all else, distract herself from the problems that lie in wait back home. 

The Bookshop Of Second Chances is a novel that touches the heart in subtle ways. Instead of relying on conventional rom-com tropes, Jackie Fraser takes a different approach.Thea isn’t looking for a romantic savior. There’s no pining for a knight in shining armor. She recognizes the mess she’s in. None of it of her own doing, but a mess, nonetheless. And she knows she must navigate this thorny territory on her own. She handles her separation and the impending divorce with a level of grace, I found bewildering at times. In the face of infidelity, Thea’s generosity to the parties involved is quite exceptional.

Relocating allows Thea the breathing room to mourn the demise of her marriage. Yet, in spite of her pain, she displays an engaging receptiveness that draws the locals of Baldochrie, Scotland to her. This even includes potential love interests. But Thea, with unfailing humor, writes off these suitors. Because who in their right mind would be attracted to a soon-to-be divorced, middle-aged woman? The exact answer to this question is obvious to just about everyone, except Thea.

There’s so much to like about The Bookshop Of Second Chances. Even the fictional antiquarian bookshop, run by the grumpy misanthrope, Edward Maltravers, sounds delightful. The story begins in the aftermath of a failed relationship. And Thea could have easily been written as the bitter wife. A woman scorned. But she rarely comes across that way. Thea’s story is one of resilience. After experiencing deception firsthand, she will no longer tolerate lies nor subterfuge. She speaks truth even to those with fancy titles (this particular comment will make more sense once you read the book). And it’s inspiring to observe Thea as she gently and organically pieces together a new life for herself. None of it’s easy. But she soldiers on. And there’s an added measure of excitement, because love manages to sneak its way in.

I tend to be a patient reader. I’m okay with stories that take their time. I don’t mind pages, or even chapters, devoted just to the description of a scene. No dialogue. No forward progression of plot. If you’re not similarly inclined, this novel may feel slow-moving. But give it a chance. It might just surprise you.

An enjoyable debut novel containing romance, wit, a cat named Holly Hunter, and books…lots of books, for your consideration, The Bookshop Of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser.

Be well and happy reading!


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