The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara

23652519When I found out about Thrift Books, I immediately ran through my “can’t find at the library” list of books for things to buy. I was able to get 4 books (including this one) for $12.88! They were all like new or better, which was great.

I’ve been hearing about this book for a year from Ali’s Twitter feed, so I was crazy excited to be able to read it without taking a trip to England or expensive transatlantic shipping. However, it took me much longer to finish than her previous books.

A black sheep daughter inherits her grandmother’s flower shop in a seaside English town. Even though she’s not sure she’s going to keep it, she ends up sucked into the town and running the business. She used to visit her grandmother with her brother when she was a kid, but then there was an incident and her life turned upside down. Which is fine, cause every heroine needs a backstory, but ugh, this one is dragged out until almost the very end and the pay off is nothing special. I mean, yeah, it’s sad, but after all that build up, I wasn’t as moved as I knew I should have been.

I enjoyed the romance, but again, it was only so-so. I think I must have built this one up too much in my head.

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Technical Hitch by Jane Sigaloff

358914This book has been on my TBR list for a long time as it’s published by the now-shuttered Red Dress Ink imprint, which was my chick lit reading list 10 years ago. I don’t know if I’ve moved on or if the book quality was part of the reason this imprint hasn’t survived, but my main reaction to this book was – meh.

Our main characters are Jessica James, wedding planner, who gets “cold feet” just hours before her own wedding and then spends most of the book thinking she might have made a mistake, and Emma Carlisle, who got married to the biggest movie star because her boss (and her new husband, Jack’s publicist) suggested that it would be a good idea. But maybe they’ll fall in love anyway? Plus, Jessica’s BFF (who happens to be the sister of Jessica’s would-be groom) is always lovelorn, until she suddenly isn’t and they’re getting married – yay? Also there’s some business about how Jessica’s sister might not be legally married to her husband because they got married abroad and all the sister is whining about is the “illegitimacy” of their baby. Just…okay.

If it sounds pretty ridiculous, it basically is. There’s no one to really root for and everyone was annoying me. But it was a quick read once I finally sat down to read it, so there’s that.

Speaking of, as I’m not going to make my original goal of 30 books this year (I keep getting distracted!), but I’m going to try to finish up strong with 26, which works out to a book every 3 days this month. Crazy? Possibly, but you know how competitive I am, so let’s do this!

The French for Love by Fiona Valpy

The French for Love by Fiona ValpyFinally found a winner! A Friends of SFPL book sale find that was actually worth the $2!

Our (British) heroine Gina has just lost her job, her boyfriend and her favorite aunt within a few months. Her aunt has left her a house in Bordeaux, France that she has to decide what to do with. Wine runs in the family, so Gina decides she’ll keep the house and work on her Master of Wine certification. But being in her aunt’s old house dredges up a secret that Gina wishes she never knew, especially since all the people involved are dead. Gina’s only saving grace is her nearby neighbor, an elderly Frenchwoman with a family full of sons. Cedric catches Gina’s eye immediately, but seeing him with his wife and kids, she realizes she can never have him. Or can she?

I guessed the “twist” about Cedric almost from the jump, but Gina’s ignorance of the truth of the situation isn’t cloying. Her integration into the community reminded me a lot of “Under the Tuscan Sun” (the movie) and I could totally picture this as a film starring Emily Blunt or one of those girls from Game of Thrones. The final romantic scene plays just like a movie that I want to watch.

A Girl Like You by Gemma Burgess

9712341I’m not sure how this book got on my list and when I started it, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. Our heroine, Abigail, was just a little too “crazy girl on a first date” for me. But as the book wore on, she grew on me. There were a ton of characters in her group of friends and it was a little hard to keep them straight, but in the end it didn’t really matter.

Abigail is frustrating in that I related to her so well that I just want to shake her at times, knowing I’m guilty of the same obsession and/or indecision that she faces. The ultimate romance is telegraphed pretty early on, but the pay off really works once it does happen. By halfway through the book, I couldn’t put it down, so I guess that’s a pretty good endorsement.

And sadly, it’s the last of my London splurges, so I’m back to American chick lit for now. Guess it’s time to plan another trip to the UK!

The Cake Shop in the Garden by Carole Matthews

23262632I finished this book in two days, but I’m still not sure what to think of it.

Fay Merryweather lives in the house she grew up in at 41, working as a full-time carer to her bed-ridden mother (by her own choice) and running a cake shop out of the house and garden, which sits on the canal in Milton Keynes. Fay does everything she’s supposed to, regardless of her own feelings. Her sister has long decamped to New York as the mistress of a married partner in the law firm where she worked (but she’s been sacked since then) and her father died twenty odd years ago. Her mother treats her like crap and her partner, Anthony, is a drip. My favorite bit is that he is the director of a handbell choice, which Fay cannot stand the sound of. As a former handbell ringer, that just tickled me.

Fay’s life starts to liven up with Danny Wilde, former City worker who up and bought a narrowboat six months ago, stops by Fay’s shop and starts to do odd jobs. Though he’s at least 10 years younger than her, they’re attracted to each other. Fay’s shop also employs a Latvian girl named Lija, who is pretty much my favorite person in the whole book. She’s brusque, but loves Fay and makes excellent cakes.

Danny’s entrance into Fay’s life starts to wake her up a bit, but she’s weight down by responsibilities (both actual and self-imposed), so she can’t act like she should. Then it all goes to hell and hell some more. Some of the twists were obvious and others less so, which made it an enjoyable read. I did want to strangle Fay on more than one occasion, though she’d probably just let me and apologize for making me do it.

It was a nice glimpse into a life outside of London and it made me want to get to know more about the system of canals in the UK (which I loved when I visited Maida Vale a couple of years ago). Maybe next trip!