21 November 2011

Book Review: The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon

When story-lover Anna takes over Longhampton's bookshop, it's her dream come true. And not just because it gets her away from her three rowdy stepchildren and their hyperactive Dalmatian.

Unpacking boxes filled with childhood classics, Anna can't shake the feeling that maybe her own fairytale ending isn't all that she'd hoped for. But, as the stories of love, adventure, secret gardens, lost dogs, wicked witches and giant peaches breathe new life into the neglected shop, Anna and her customers get swept up in the magic too.

Even Anna's best friend Michelle - who categorically doesn't believe in true love and handsome princes - isn't immune.

But when secrets from Michelle's own childhood come back to haunt her, and disaster threatens Anna's home, will the wisdom and charm of the stories in the bookshop help the two friends - and those they love - find their own happy ever afters?

I've been lucky enough to have read all of Lucy Dillon's previously published novels (The Ballroom Class, Walking Back to Happiness and Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts), all of which have been brilliant stories, and such lovely reads. I was therefore thrilled to receive her new book, The Secret of Happy Ever After, complete with gorgeous wintery cover and decided I had to get stuck into it. With Lucy's books, I always feel like I'm guaranteed a lovely, heart-warming story and this book certainly delivered on that. I think I would even go so far as to say that it's my favourite of her books so far, and that's no mean feat considering how much I have loved her previous books. So without further ado, allow me to tell you exactly what it was about The Secret of Happy Ever After that had me hooked.

Although the book begins with a prologue following a new character into Longhampton called Michelle, she isn't actually what I would consider the actual main character of the book for the most part. Michelle is living alone after the end of her awful marriage to a slimy husband, and is running a very successful homewares shop. However, she won't admit her feelings of loneliness to anyone, not even her best friend Anna. When the opportunity arises to buy another shop, the bookshop next door in fact, she does and puts Anna in charge of it, knowing how much her best friend adores books of all shapes and sizes. The friendship of the pair however is soon put to the test because neither will divulge their secrets to each other, and the weight becomes too much to bear for the women. Michelle's secrets however are ones that she is sure going to ruin her hard-earnt reputation, and she's troubling herself worrying about it. She does come across quite cold and harsh, even to her best friend Anna but reasons for that do become clearer as you read on.

Anna is struggling with very different problems. I really liked Anna though, she is such a realistic character and I felt so sorry for her throughout the book. She's happily married to her husband, but the marriage isn't fulfilling Anna completely. Yes, she's step-mother to his 3 daughters, but Anna is desperate for a baby of her own and xx isn't so sure. However, Anna tries to be the best mother to the 3 girls that she can be, and run the bookshop as well, the job of her dreams really. Anna's passion for books is absolutely fantastic and it made the book such fun to read, hearing her gush about all the childhood books that I enjoyed, and seeing her trying to bring more people into reading is fantastic! I don't think I have ever read a book set in a bookshop with a character so passionate about books, and I'm really pleased Lucy Dillon has created such a wonderful character and setting for this book. She's very much the opposite of Michelle, very warm and inviting and I think that's why I warmed to her so much, there was nothing to dislike!

Something I really liked about this book was the small book reviews at the start of each chapter by characters in the book. It's just a nice little creative touch, and it was fun to be reminded of a lot of my childhood reads again, especially the fantastic Malory Towers! It was also nice to see a reappearance of the leading character from one of Dillon's previous novels, Rachel from Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, and catch up with her and her life, without it intruding too much on this book. I just found this book was a pleasure to read from start to finish, and I never really wanted to put it down. I was so wrapped up in whether Anna was ever going to get the family of her own she'd always wanted and whether she'd make the bookshop a success, and why Michelle was such a cold fish and what exactly this dark secret is that her ex-husband holds against her throughout the book. As I said, although I felt Michelle was very cold and somewhat unlikeable in parts, you do feel sorry for her because you know something is bubbling away beneath the surface, and I was just willing the women to confide in each other! This read really touched me, I did shed a bit of a tear for a few particular scenes and I just think this is the perfect book to curl up with under a blanket and just devour... it's simply brilliant.

You can buy The Secret of Happy Ever After in paperback and on eBook/Kindle right now! (Links go to Amazon.co.uk)


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  2. This one is top of my Christmas wishlist as like you I've loved all of her previous books.

    Might have to break my ban of buying books (as on economy drive) as don't think I can wait until Christmas to read it lol

  3. I have a soft spot for books that feature bookshops so this goes on my wish list! And, as I haven't read anything by Lucy Dillon before, this sounds like a good starting point to get acquainted with her work. Thanks for sharing your review!