I’m delighted today to be joining the blog tour for The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday by Kiley Dunbar, and sharing my review. The ebook was published by Hera Books on 5th May, and it’s now available for kindle, Kobo, or via Apple: if you’d prefer a paperback it will be available on 22nd July (available for preorder). My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to everyone involved in providing my advance reading e-copy.
The first book of Kiley’s that I read was actually her second, Christmas at Frozen Falls, and I totally loved it – you’ll find my review here, and find it on my Books of the Year list for 2019. I then thoroughly enjoyed Summer at the Highland Coral Beach in March 2020 (review here) when Plockton (the inspiration behind Port Willow Bay) immediately joined Lapland on my ever-growing bucket list. I never have managed to catch up with her first book, One Summer’s Night, but I did read and review the sequel, One Winter’s Night – it worked quite perfectly as a standalone, heartwarming, uplifting and gorgeous (you’ll find the review here).
So I was already really looking forward to reading her latest when I spotted the most wonderful review by Julie over at A Little Book Problem. Go on, pop over and take a look – you’ll find it here, and I’m happy to wait… irresistible, eh? Although I’ll admit that a man with tattoos doesn’t really have quite the same effect on me, she certainly gave the book a quite wonderful build up!
Let’s take a closer look…
The Fully Booked Bookshop Café invites literature lovers to run their very own bookshop … for a fortnight.
Spend your days talking books with customers in your own charming bookshop and serving up delicious cream teas in the cosy café.
Bookworms, what are you waiting for? Your holiday is going to be LIT(erary).
Apply to: The Fully Booked Bookshop, Down-a-long, Clove Lore, Devon.
Jude Crawley should be on top of the world. She’s just graduated as a mature student, so can finally go public about her relationship with Philosophy professor, Mack.
Until she sees Mack kissing another girl, and her dreams crumble. And worse, their dream holiday – running a tiny bookshop in the harbour village of Clove Lore for two weeks – is non-refundable.
Throwing caution to the winds, Jude heads down to Devon, eager to immerse herself in literature and heal her broken heart.
But there’s one problem – six foot tall, brooding (but gorgeous) Elliot, who’s also reserved the bookshop holiday for two weeks…
As Jude and Elliot put their differences aside to run the bookshop, it seems that Jude might be falling in love with more than just words. Until she discovers what Elliot is running from – and why he’s hiding out in Clove Lore.
Can Jude find her own happy ending in a tiny, tumbledown bookshop? Or is she about to find out that her bookish holiday might have an unexpected twist in the tale…
Sometimes you can just tell, can’t you – that you’ve found a book you’re going to love? Even before you start to read – it’s dedicated to the author’s readers (isn’t that lovely?) and promises to be a celebration of storytellers, booksellers and book lovers. But to be honest, I was ready to love this book before I’d even read a word – I already knew I’d enjoy the author’s writing, and is there any reader who hasn’t harboured the dream of being able to run a bookshop for a fortnight, especially in the most beautiful of harbourside locations? But if I was already won over by the whole premise, I really wasn’t prepared for quite how much I was going to love absolutely everything about this wonderful book – my first thought, when I reluctantly turned the final page, after reading from cover to cover in one glorious sitting, was “this book was just perfect”.
Jude has cared for her gran since she was seventeen, while her parents run their bakery in the Borders, putting her own life on hold. But with a lifelong passion for reading, she’s finally achieved something that’s always been rather a dream – a degree in English, and perhaps the chance to apply for a job related to the world of books. She’s also pinned her hopes on her future relationship with Mack – as he’s a professor and she’s a student (albeit a mature one), they’ve needed to keep things particularly quiet until now. But life has a way of not turning out the way you hope for – the book world isn’t awaiting her with open arms, and the love of her life turns out not to be quite the man she thought he was either.
And then her gran then decides she’d rather like to move into the new complex for retirement living – wanting to spread her wings a little rather than spend her afternoons finding filthy words on Countdown – and she finds herself uncomfortably in the way when she tries to help out in the bakery. Despite the constant and wonderful support of her lovely friend Daniel, the future really is looking rather gloomy. But then she hears that she’s been successful in her application to spend a fortnight running a bookshop in Devon – there was a long waiting list, and it’s been a while since she paid for it as the perfect break for her and Mack. It’s an opportunity she just can’t turn down – she’ll do it on her own.
The whole story is told by Jude – she has a wry humour and the loveliest take on every situation, was so easy to identify with, and by the time she arrived in Clove Lore, I’d already entirely taken her to my heart. The bookshop itself was everything I wanted it to be – all the little nooks and crannies, the dust motes in the air, the treasured books shared with her by the eccentric owner, the scruffy dog sleeping on the pile of clothing on the windowsill (and what a character he turns out to be). And as well as the wonderful bookshop, there’s a cafe to run too – perhaps all a bit much for one person, but she’s arrived with baking supplies and her father’s notebook of recipes (and she’s quite good at scones). If she can only get over her fear of numbers, the adding up and handling the money, everything will be just fine. And then she finds that she won’t be the only one handling the books and scones and the money – while it really is a two person job, she never expected to be joined by Elliot.
And I must stop telling the story, and tell you instead why I loved this book. Quite apart from the books and the cafe (and the dog, and the central part he plays in the story), I really so enjoyed the relationship between Jude and Elliot – quite apart from the fact that he’s distinctly gorgeous with his mane of hair and his rippling tattooed muscles, and that he’s more than happy to take on the handling of the money (phew!), they have the loveliest sparring relationship as he begins to make Jude’s heart beat a little faster. But he’s a man with hidden depths, and Jude fears she’s made the wrong choice yet again: but his story – slowly revealed – turned out to be not at all what I expected, and I thoroughly enjoyed following every twist and turn.
The setting is just fantastic – Clove Lore is based on Clovelly (that’s another place added to my bucket list), and it’s brought vividly to life with the visitor centre, the donkeys, the pub by the harbour and the vertiginous (and slippery) cobbled streets. And then there’s a whole community, full of quirky and well drawn characters, to welcome Jude and Elliot – I particularly liked old romantic Mrs Crocombe and her notebook, and Izaak’s visits to the shop with a vague idea about a book that became a regular challenge and guessing game. And I loved the fact that there was real diversity in the cast of characters – relationships and back stories you might not be expecting, all quite beautifully handled.
Emotionally, the story was everything I wanted it to be – and then a little more. It’s sometimes very funny indeed, but it’s a gentle humour, and I loved Jude’s voice more with every page that turned – I’m still laughing about some of the little touches, like her indecision when she and Jude are becoming a little closer and he suggests that they dance. But the whole book is poignant and touching too, a bit of drama and more than a few tears along the way – and there’s a real warmth about it all, the story and its telling, that can’t help but make you feel good. I must say how much I’d love a friend like Daniel – and, rather unexpectedly when I didn’t think he was my type at all, I really think I’d rather like an Elliot too.
Yes, I loved this one without reservation – without question one of my books of the year, and I really can’t imagine that anyone who loves the books I do could fail to agree. Do add it to your reading list, and you won’t regret it for an instant.
About the author
Kiley Dunbar writes heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places. Kiley also works as a senior lecturer, teaching creative writing at the Manchester Writing School. One Winter’s Night was shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel Award 2021.