18/12/2013

Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop (by Jenny Colgan)

I hadn't read anything by Jenny Colgan until earlier this year, when I read - and enjoyed - 'The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris'. So when I spotted another of her novels on the Bookbag shelves, it was the work of a moment to ask if I could review it. I was delighted to receive a very attractive hardback, just the thing to read in the run-up to Christmas.

The story is about Rosie Hopkins who lives with her boyfriend Stephen in the village of Lipton. Rosie is a town girl who came to look after her great aunt Lilian a year or so previously. Lilian has moved to a lovely care home, and Rosie runs her traditional sweet shop. Chocolate and sweets seem to be a theme in Jenny Colgan's books.

This book is actually a sequel to one with an equally unwieldy title, ‘Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop Of Dreams’. However, as the author tells us in a prologue, it doesn’t matter. She gives a quick overview of the first book, explaining all that needs to be known, and indeed it proved to be sufficient - mostly. I could get right into the story immediately, but there were some moments when I felt a bit like a newcomer in a room of old friends.

The story moves forward apace, balancing Rosie’s worries with her day-to-day work, and Stephen’s early days as a teacher in the local primary school. The small village setting means that everyone knows everyone else, and it was easy to feel almost as if I were a part of Rosie’s life for a few weeks.

While most of the minor characters are somewhat caricatured, and the plot is full of dramatic, even clich├ęd situations - including: a nerdy child whose ‘earth mother’ is about to have a new baby, a lovely gay doctor, , a confused elderly man, a threat to the school - it’s a very readable book with one or two quite moving sections.

Fluffy chick-lit? Undoubtedly. It was well-written, and mildly amusing in places, with a bonus of no explicit intimacy, despite a bit more bad language than I’m comfortable with. All in all, it was a pleasant read which I enjoyed, with the added bonus of some simple sweet recipes at the back.

Recommended if you enjoy this kind of light women's fiction. Available in Kindle form as well as hardback; it will be released in paperback too at the end of 2014.

You can also read my longer review of 'Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop' on the Bookbag site.

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