The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser

What would you do when your life falls apart around you? Your relationship is over. You lost your job. You have no idea what you’re going to do next, but you receive word of an inheritance from a great uncle, so you decide to visit where he lived. This is the plot of Jackie Fraser’s The Bookshop of Second Chances.

Thea Mottram is not doing well. She has been let go of her job. Her husband of nearly twenty years has left her for one of her friends. She’s lost and confused. While contemplating what to do next, Thea is sent a letter from a great uncle in Scotland. He has passed away and has left her his home and his sizable antique book collection. Desperately needing an escape, Thea decides to head up to Scotland for a few weeks to start clearing out the house and to get a sense of what to do with his books.

When Thea arrives in Scotland, she is instantly at ease. No one knows her – well if they know her, it’s tangentially through her great uncle, but most importantly no one knows about her relationship imploding and her job loss. Her new home is a quaint cottage with comfortable rooms and an adorable lawn covered in tulips. The locals in the nearby town of Baldochrie are inviting, warm, and just a little bit odd. She could get used to living here if she decides to stay. The only person in town that doesn’t like her is the owner of the local bookshop Edward Maltravers. This is inconvenient as she wants to sell parts of her uncle’s book collection to him. He tests her patience the more time she spends with him. When Thea lands a job at the bookshop, their relationship evolves as she learns more about Edward, his contentious relationship with his brother who is the local lord, and the longstanding family feud that everyone in town knows about. Thea eventually thinks that she would like to stay in Scotland forever. Her interactions with Edward greatly impact her decision. Staying in Scotland could prove to be just as messy as the life she left behind, so Thea has to figure out what exactly she wants to do.

This is a closed-door romance that is very low stakes. While there is some romance on the page, the private moments happen behind doors and off page. While I enjoyed The Bookshop of Second Chances, I found myself slightly annoyed with some of the main characters. They gave off emotionally immature vibes and were constantly trying to explain away bad behavior as happening because they didn’t know any better. As a result, I had to remind myself that the characters in this book were in their mid 40s or older and not in their early 20s. The scenery and the side characters helped me get over my icky feelings, leaving me happy I had read this book and hoping that everything would work out positively for involved in the end.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zeven

storied lifeA. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island – from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J. s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J. s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming.

As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love. (description from publisher)

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is also available for check out as a free ebook through the RiverShare Digital Library.