A real pleasure today to be helping launch the blog tour and sharing my review of The Village Shop for Lonely Hearts by Alison Sherlock: published today (9th July) by Boldwood Books, it’s now available for kindle (and free via Kindle Unlimited), in paperback and as an audiobook. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided through netgalley).
Alison’s an author I haven’t managed to read before – but I can see that many readers really enjoyed her Willow Tree Hall books (now why didn’t I spot that series before?). But this is the first book in a brand new series – focused on Riverside Lane in Cranbridge, a rundown village in the English countryside – and I always particularly enjoy starting at the very beginning.
Let’s take a closer look…
A feel-good story of new beginnings set in a gorgeous country village, perfect for fans of Katie Fforde and Milly Johnson.
After losing her job in New York, Amber Green isn’t looking forward to visiting her godmother in the sleepy village of Cranbridge. With its empty lanes and rundown shops, it’s hardly a place to mend her lonely heart.
But when Amber discovers that Cranbridge Stores, owned by her godmother Cathy and son Josh, is under threat of financial ruin, she realises that her skills as a window dresser might just be able to help save the struggling shop.
When disaster strikes, Amber and Josh must unite to save both the shop and the village from flooding.
Can Cranbridge Stores become the heart of the village once more?
And as the village begins to come back to life, perhaps Amber will discover a reason to stay…
This was a book I really enjoyed, but I will whisper that I did find it just a little bit slow at the beginning. Amber looks around the village of Cranbridge, sees how dead it looks, and really doesn’t want to be there – and if I’m honest, however well drawn it was, neither did I really. But I’m so glad I kept going – by halfway it had picked up really nicely, as Josh and Amber grew a bit closer and worked together to revive the fortunes of the village shop. It was all extremely well done, as the author slowly breathed life into both the setting and the characters.
I’m always a real fan of a book that focuses on a community and the individuals within it – I thought this book particularly hit its stride in the last third, as the community pulled together in adversity, and by the end I thoroughly loved it. The characterisation is excellent – the sparse customers become strong and engaging characters, the relationship between Amber and Joss gains momentum, and I really enjoyed the themes of loneliness and fresh starts.The romance is real and believable, and I also really enjoyed the focus on friendship and support.
There’s such a strong sense of place to this book – the village itself and the river that runs through it, the pub and the warring couple who run it (the food they serve was a lovely touch!), the newspaper offices who move into the empty shop next door. Cranbridge Stores itself is particularly well described, and it almost becomes another character as we watch its transformation after years of sad neglect.
The drama that draws the village together is particularly well written – plenty of threat and danger that made the pages turn faster. And I must add that the closing scenes are a particular triumph – both heartwarming and emotional.
I see this book is the first in a planned series, and it really does introduce and establish both the characters and the setting quite perfectly. I’ll be looking forward to reading more…
About the author
Alison Sherlock is the author of the bestselling Willow Tree Hall books. Alison enjoyed reading and writing stories from an early age and gave up office life to follow her dream. Her new series for Boldwood is set in a fictional Cotswold Village, and the The Village Shop for Lonely Hearts is the first title.