Last spring, a lovely editor at HarperCollins, Martha Ashby, asked if I’d be happy to read a new romantic fiction series she was publishing. Of course I jumped at the chance, and I was sent a ring bound proof of The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling.
The cover was beautiful, encouraging me to dive right in, and when my husband asked if I’d mind if he watched the snooker, I was keen to to tell him I would be delighted if he watched it. All day. While coloured balls were potted and commentators spoke in hushed tones, I read The Little Bookshop – the whole thing – with only brief pitstops for cups of tea and cake.
By the end I was in a whirl of dizzy, glowing happiness at how wonderful and funny and romantic it was. I emailed my thoughts to Martha, and was rewarded with my first ever cover quote on a book that I had completely fallen for.
I remembered it was a series and, while I was excited about reading the second book, I couldn’t imagine I could love it as much as I loved Posy’s story.
Then, last week, Martha sent me the follow up, True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop. This time it was about Verity, manager of the bookshop, and as I opened the first page, wondering if it would scoot towards the top of my toppling TBR pile, I was reminded how good Annie Darling’s frank, funny writing is.
It jumped to the top of the pile and I consumed it in two days, my toes curling in glee and horror at each new scenario Verity was thrust into, and as her fictional boyfriend plan got more and more complicated. The premise is brilliant, the nods to Jane Austen funny and comforting, and I found myself crying tears of joy in a packed Costa Coffee as I read the final chapters.
Now it’s over (sob) I’m waiting eagerly for the third in the series, Nina’s story. And still I’m skeptical – how can it possibly live up to True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop? How can the heroine be more loveable? How could the hero possibly be as gorgeous and desirable? But that’s what I thought about the first one, and look what happened.
For me, they are romantic fiction perfection. Funny and warm, deliciously indulgent, and heart-stoppingly romantic.
I love them, and I hope, if you pick one up in a bookshop or download it to your Kindle, you’ll feel the same. I’m all about spreading the bookish love, so I’ll be running a giveaway on Twitter over the next couple of days for one of my followers to win both books, along with a signed copy of The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse and a couple of other goodies, so if this sounds like the series for you, then keep an eye out!