Not overtly Christmassy

‘Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet shop’ – Jenny Colgan

4-star-rating

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Rosie Hopkins is looking forward to Christmas in the little Derbyshire village of Lipton, buried under a thick blanket of snow. Her sweetshop is festooned with striped candy canes, large tempting piles of Turkish Delight, crinkling selection boxes and happy, sticky children. She’s going to be spending it with her boyfriend, Stephen, and her family, flying in from Australia. She can’t wait.

But when a tragedy strikes at the heart of their little community, all of Rosie’s plans for the future seem to be blown apart. Can she build a life in Lipton? And is what’s best for the sweetshop also what’s best for Rosie?

Yes, reading a book with ‘Christmas’ in the title when the big man himself isn’t due to come for another nine months does sound crazy however, ‘Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop’ isn’t as festive as you might think. And that’s what I think makes it a good all-year-rounder. Plus, not to mention that all the snow is actually rather topical at the moment.

Ok, so honestly, I started reading this nearly three years ago. Life got busy and here I am finding the time and desire to read again. I started from the beginning and found myself slipping in to the ‘sweet shop’ world that Colgan so easily creates. It’s not a hard book to get into and you certainly don’t need to have read any of the other series recently to get your teeth into the plot. Rosie and her sweet shop make a welcome return in this sweet (no pun intended) albeit predictable tale of the snowy village of Lipton at Christmas time.

The developing plot has some unexpected turns that definitely made the predictable story line more enjoyable and this is what made me rate this a solid four stars. It’s certainly not a slushy romance and, whilst there were a few chuckling points, I enjoyed the surprise of the story. The ending was satisfying as women’s fiction goes and all became right with the world, as it should, because it is Christmas time, after all. There is less focus on Lilian and her past this time, as Rosie has now stepped up to run the sweet shop. I think this was obviously lacking in the plot and wonder if Colgan could have elaborated more on this, particularly in the second half of the novel.

All being said, this is a decent tale to read. It’s worthy of a cosy blanket and a decent cup of tea… so probably not one to pick up when the weather is glorious outside. However, if you are after a feel good factor book where happiness is found by all, then this offering is one that shouldn’t be ignored, whatever the time of year.

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Sweet

‘Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams’ – Jenny Colgan

4-star-rating

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams - Jenny Colgan

‘Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams’ – Jenny Colgan

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.

In a similar vein to Colgan’s other novel that I have read, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, Rosie Hopkins follows our heroine, Rosie, as she goes about trying to sort out the sweet shop her Aunt Lilian has long since abandoned through old age. A typical chick flick, you can expect to read of stunning suitors and stereotypical “country bums” as Rosie begins to discover that life in the countryside isn’t as bad as she initially thought it to be.

What I liked the most about this was reading about Rosie’s journey, not only her shenanigans in the tiny village, but how she changes within herself. It is blindingly obvious that her London boyfriend, Gerard, is not “the one” and, in my opinion, it took Rosie far too long to realise that. Gerard is, in essence, a lazy man looking for a mother replacement. I question why Colgan let him linger for so long in the story and feel that his departure could have easily been swiftly told.

That being said, I found it difficult to identify who Rosie would settle down with. There are several candidates up for offering, but Colgan cleverly keeps you guessing: gradually striking out the different potential suitors along the way. This was a surprise for me as I consider such “chick flicks” to be more predictable – well done, Colgan.

Just like The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, we not only follow Rosie’s story, but discover Lilian’s past. I found this endearing and heart-warming, especially considering how Rosie’s path begins to echo that of her Aunt’s. It was a sad and regretful tale, which made me want Rosie to make the right choices, particularly as the story reached its finale.

If you are expecting a funny, girlie novel, then you will be disappointed. True, this is a pretty good read, but I did not find it funny – definitely not on a par with Sophie Kinsella. There were some parts that offered a slight chuckle, but that was about it. Indeed, about two thirds of the way through, I felt Rosie Hopkins start to become a bit lack lustre and lose its pace. Colgan makes up for it in the final few chapters, as the ending tidily reaches its conclusion. There is a sequel to this story that I intend to read, and hope that the next instalment has enough bite to keep me entertained.

A chick flick with a bit of substance

‘The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris’ – Jenny Colgan

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris - Jenny Colgan

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris – Jenny Colgan

 As dawn breaks over the Pont Neuf, and the cobbled alleyways of Paris come to life, Anna Trent is already awake and at work; mixing and stirring the finest, smoothest, richest chocolate; made entirely by hand, it is sold to the grandes dames of Paris.

 It’s a huge shift from the chocolate factory she worked in at home in the north of England. But when an accident changed everything, Anna was thrown back in touch with her French teacher, Claire, who offered her the chance of a lifetime – to work in Paris with her former sweetheart, Thierry, a master chocolatier.

 With old wounds about to be uncovered and healed, Anna is set to discover more about real chocolate – and herself – than she ever dreamed.

I’ve heard the old adage time and time again, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, but I really couldn’t help myself when I first saw the cover to ‘The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris’. So don’t make the same mistake that I did and assume that this is another ‘chick flick’, ‘candy floss’ girl read. Because I think Jenny Colgan has been successful in writing a novel with a bit more substance.

The dual-narrative following Anna today and Claire in the 1970s works really well, but I don’t think the reader gets to appreciate it properly until about a third of the way through the narrative. This takes me back to my first point that the author has written a girly novel with a bit of substance. It took me a while to get into the book because I was expecting stereotypical characters from girly novels. Anna and Claire are not those characters and the flashbacks during the story let you piece together parallels with their stories, which I think you only really get to appreciate towards the end of the novel. As a result, you are left still thinking about the characters and their stories, after you have finished reading.

The setting in Paris is delightful. Having visited the city earlier this year, it was lovely to read such vivid descriptions of the place and people, and even if you haven’t visited, the author really brings to life the Parisien atmosphere and the delights of chocolate shops which, believe me, are as delicious and exquisite as she describes.

Whilst the novel does become a little predictable as the story progresses and the reader begins to recognise the parallels in the dual-narratives, by this point the connection you have with the characters leaves you wanting there to be a happy ending for all involved. In this sense the typical “girl meets boy” formula is a bit of a let down to the novel because you know where the story is going. However, I found the ending beautifully written and actually had to re-read it several times to get the full essence of what was happening.

This is an enjoyable book with likeable character and lovely descriptions of Paris. Once you have got into the story and accepted this is a little different to typical women’s fiction, I think you will appreciate that the author is trying to do something a little different. Failing that, you will find yourself wanting to go for the chocolate cupboard each time you read a little bit more.