Thursday, March 20, 2014

Title:       Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams [Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop, book 1]
Author:   Jenny Colgan
Rating:   ★★★★1/2
Availability: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Book Depository

Whenever I need a little cheering up by a romantic story, I pick up one of Jenny Colgan's later works from her sweets/chocolates series. In one Twitter exchange where I shamelessly fangirled over The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, Jenny asked if I had read Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams. I've had the book for ages but I never got around to reading it, afraid it wouldn't live up to my expectations from Colgan's books. Oh darling, I shouldn't have bothered...being afraid.

Were you a sherbet lemon or chocolate lime fan? Penny chews or hard boiled sweeties (you do get more for your money that way)? The jangle of your pocket money ...the rustle of the pink and green striped paper bag ...Rosie Hopkins thinks leaving her busy London life, and her boyfriend Gerard, to sort out her elderly Aunt Lilian's sweetshop in a small country village is going to be dull. Boy, is she wrong. Lilian Hopkins has spent her life running Lipton's sweetshop, through wartime and family feuds. As she struggles with the idea that it might finally be time to settle up, she also wrestles with the secret history hidden behind the jars of beautifully coloured sweets. Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams - a novel - with recipes.

I have kept it no secret that I'm a fan of Colgan's sweet series. In the four books that I've read from her (with the exception of Amanda's Wedding), I've come to expect to finish the book feeling good, about the world, or about love, or just plain smiling. Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams is no exception.

At the start, I was a little bored (hence the 4.5 rating). It wasn't that the pacing was slow, I just wasn't into war stories, especially in countries that I cannot relate to. I wasn't exactly titillated with the generally non-romantic style of speaking of the characters. Colgan's style, as I've come to recognize it (if you've never read her books), is about writing about everyday, ordinary people. You know, that auxiliary nurse, or perhaps a banker, or a teacher, or a really buff farmer. She doesn't romanticize the daily toils, but it still comes off as pleasant.

Maybe it's because she doesn't try too hard for her books to come off as romantic. Or maybe it's that I can relate more to the everyday going-ons where men are not staring into my eyes intensely, hungering for me, itching to rip off my bodice at every waking moment. Instead, she writes about the realistic way people fall in love -- you know, falling in love with that boorish man who can be truly grouchy but is sweet on you, and only you. Or getting a little spring on your step because this totally hot guy is flirting with you...or at least you thought he was, only he turns out to be gay.

Only, they take place in England. Or Paris. Where my little hopeless romantic heart dreams of visiting someday. So I am hopelessly enamored.

Then, when I realized that the war story isn't just a war story, and that it is, in fact, a story about love, regrets, missed chances, and a one-sided love that could last forever for a man long-gone, the story became more interesting for me. My heart wept for Lilian as the whereabouts of her life's love was slowly revealed. The scene was short, heck, it was just a flashback, but it felt poignant. No dramatizing; I was simply sympathetic and emphatic to that kind of loss.

Every character in the story had their own personality, and every one with some kind of quirk. Rosie's friends Tina and Jake are the only exception, I think. I've actually come to love this little town, even though I am not fit for rural life (I was born and raised in the city). Surprisingly, Lilian, the character who bored me at the start, became my favorite one in the end.

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams didn't make me laugh or cry. Instead it made me feel hope, and made me wonder, and made me rejoice. And that was enough.

What was the last book you finished a book with a smile on your face?