REVIEW: Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan
Are you a licorice or peppermint fan? Melt-in-your-mouth caramel or sticky saltwater taffy? Nothing invokes nostalgia like an old-fashioned candy shop. But nostalgia isn’t really Rosie Hopkins’s thing—not with her busy London life that includes fantastic friends and her boyfriend, Gerard. Even so, Rosie does her Aunt Lilian a favor and takes a job in her small village sweetshop. As Aunt Lilian struggles with the idea that it might finally be time to retire from the business, a long-kept family secret makes life in the sweetshop a lot more interesting than Rosie had anticipated…
Dear Ms. Colgan,
I enjoyed “The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris” earlier this year so much that I jumped at the chance to try another one of your books. And it’s about sweets and chocolate as well, albeit from the English side of the channel. I don’t think you can go too far wrong with a book with lots of chocolate in it.
The openings to each chapter are a lovely, funny trip through British sweetie-dom. It makes me want to try each one – work my way through a sweet shop as it were. I take it these are from the astringent, no nonsense point of view of Aunt Lilian. I loved Aunt Lilian and took to “hearing” her in my head as voiced by Eileen Atkins. Lilian is a hoot. Dry humor abounds through the book as seen in her sarcasm. I also like her lifelong friendship with Hetty and how the Lady is shown as slightly down at the heel with holey jumpers, aged vehicle, dog and drafty great country house.
Yet it’s not all acerbic wit from Lilian as her sweet, sad youthful love story shows. Mixed in with the present day action, it presents the quiet life in the village during the war years and how many things haven’t changed that much in the intervening decades. One thing that stood out to me about Lilian’s lifetime there running the sweet shop is how she knows everyone’s favorite treats and has remained so beloved by all there.
The other story here is that of Rosie and it’s chick-lit but not. Rosie actually likes her nursing profession, has a boyfriend and no intention of staying in Derbyshire longer than is needed to help Lilian get back on her feet, clean the sweetshop and sell it. But then – and I enjoyed seeing this too – country life starts to grow on her, so to speak, despite her initial reservations and the drenching she seems to get when she can’t anticipate the weather.
You switched things around on me with the ultimate hero. I was all set thinking we were going one way when I began to get the hint that there would be a change in direction. Initially I enjoyed Rosie’s encounters with the hero. There were definite sparks flying and they didn’t start out romantically. But, here’s the thing. Once Rosie realizes who her Prince Charming is, he looses his charm, and even his snark. He becomes less than who I think Rosie deserves and never does offer up an apology that I think she also deserves.
Too many things get wrapped up too neatly in the last pages of the book. Villains and neglectful mums get told off. Lilian faces down a long time rival after settling into the perfect place and Hero gets back into Rosie’s good graces too easily. I adored the first half of the book but the second half just didn’t live up to it. B-