Reviewed by Emma Crowley
When Marnie Appleton inherited a sweet shop from her grandfather she was determined to do his legacy proud. The shop has been a much-loved feature of the little seaside town of Shipley for years, but now Marnie needs to bring it up to date, and she’s recruited gorgeous new assistant Josh to help.
Marnie gets busy redecorating the shop and choosing delicious new sweets to stock, but things are never that simple: new neighbour Isobel, a fame-hungry blogger, is on a crusade against sugar, and she’ll go to any lengths to secure bad publicity for Marnie’s shop.
Marnie fights back with homemade sugar-free treats, but with her best friend Beth heavily pregnant, her grandmother Celia recovering from an operation, and her very recently ex-boyfriend Alex returning to Shipley with a new love, Marnie has a lot on her plate.
And then there’s Josh, with whom Marnie is struggling to keep her relationship strictly professional…Will both the sweet shop and love flourish?
The Beachside Sweet Shop by Karen Clarke has the most eye-catching, colourful cover that when I saw it on Twitter I knew I had to read it even without glancing through the blurb. It is the first in a planned series with The Beachside Flower Stall to follow soon after the publication of this book. It's a typical read of the chick lit genre and I found it to be very enjoyable, a nice easy read ideal for when you want something very light to settle down with for a couple of hours. I've read quite a few books recently where cafés or teashops have been the focal point so it was refreshing that a sweet shop by the sea is the setting for Marnie Appleton's story. The cover says this is a feel good romantic comedy and I would agree as it does give you that warm feeling inside with a few laughs and some romance along the way. It was a lovely, quick read which was uplifting and cosy and a book which made you feel happy and contended.
Just over two years ago Marnie Appleton inherited the sweet shop from her grandfather and since then she has been happy enough running it as the sweet shop formed a huge part of her childhood. In fact this story is filled with nostalgia all surrounding sweets as the descriptions of all the wonders sitting on the shelves in the shop would bring such happy memories back for so many readers. Memories of times when they were younger and would have visited sweet shops with their pocket money or to be treated by an adult once a week and you would stand and stare at all the tempting treats and attempt to make up your mind as to what you would fancy. The descriptions of all the various sweets were just mouthwatering and although it's a cliché to say I would think you need some form of something sweet to hand while reading this book. Marnie does enjoy her job although times are becoming increasingly tough.
The shop is becoming that little bit worn with age and with the advent of healthy eating and healthy living maybe not so many people rush to buy sugar laden sweets. Yet if the traditional sweet shop run by Marnie's family were to disappear years of memories and special moments would vanish with it. Marnie knows she is reaching that turning point in her life and as we get a glimpse into her back story it all becomes clear. In the past she had big dreams and aspirations to travel the world with boyfriend Alex, they had many destinations in mind and she had been due to go to New York with him until the sudden death of her grandfather. In one way it shows Marnie has such loyalty to her family and those around her and she stayed home when she was needed even though it meant sacrificing her relationship. Her grandmother Celia had broken her ankle and needed to be kept an eye on. Celia's presence in the book wasn't over bearing but instead she provided plenty of the comedic moments in her job as a dog trainer and her own dog added so much humour and laugh out loud moments when needed. Despite Marnie sacrificing everything to keep the sweet shop going and stay with Celia, I could see she was struggling internally with a pull to get away and experience the world. Her mother did the same and rarely comes back so I think that's why she felt why should she be the one who has to stay. This battle for Marnie continued throughout the book and I could see how someone could be so torn in two.
There weren't too many characters to become familiar with and I liked that because often I feel an author can create too many characters we have to follow and they can become surplus to requirements and rather underutilised. Beth, Marnie's best friend, married to builder Harry is pregnant with her first child and attempting to complete a P.H.D while helping Marnie out in the shop. Beth was such a brilliant character and I wanted her to feature even more in the story. She was the backbone in the friendship and offered reason and sense when Marnie couldn't see it. She always wanted the best for Marnie and helped keep her mind at ease and offered practical solutions to the problem regarding keeping the sweet shop going in the face of stern opposition. If only we all had a fiend like Beth we know we would be looked after and supported.
As well as the fact Marnie is constantly wrestling with her emotions, a new face in town is determined to put the shop out of business and will use any means possible to achieve this. The health freak and lifestyle blogger Isabel Sinclair was the perfectly crafted baddie always there to foil any positive attempts made by Marnie to keep the shop going. She had a vendetta and was on a crusade and wanted as many people as possible to boycott the shop. Isabel was an awful person and she made me angry with her various actions so many times that I wanted to give her a good slap not to wake herself up but just to vent my frustrations at her ridiculous, overbearing, immature attitude. Every story has to have the one person who is not nice and sweet and Isabel certainly was that person. But Marnie wouldn't go down without a fight.
When handsome surfer type dude Josh makes an appearance and begins to worm his way into both the shop, and maybe even Marnie's affections, you would think things begin to change and move in a more positive direction but there was such a lot that began to happen that I never quite knew what would happen in the end. Marnie experiences a roller-coaster of emotions and experiences and her beliefs waver. She wants to throw in the towel and just escape away on a plane to somewhere hot and exotic and forget everything and place it somewhere in a compartment at the back of her mind. Realistically can we really do that? It's not that easy and would we really take the easy way out given the opportunity and leave friends and family behind you need us? Marnie battles with her conscience but I loved how her ideas started to flow and slowly I felt she began to get herself together and wanted to keep the shop going. I enjoyed how things started to come together near the end and there were a few surprises thrown in some of which I didn't see coming.
Overall The Beachside Sweet Shop was a lovely read infused with warmth, humour and romance combined with just the right amount of will it, won't it succeed due to outside forces. The brief mentions of the flower stall - blink and you will miss them - have me keen to read the next installment in the series and I am glad there is only a few weeks to wait.In the mean time do curl up on the coach for a few hours and enjoy Carrie's story.
Many thanks to Bookouture via NetGalley for my copy of The Beachside Sweet Shop to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.