Reviewed by Emma Crowley
It's a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a good job, four bossy sisters and a needy cat must also have want of her one true love. Or is it?
Verity Love – Jane Austen fangirl and an introvert in a world of extroverts – is perfectly happy on her own (thank you very much), and her fictional boyfriend Peter is very useful for getting her out of unwanted social events. But when a case of mistaken identity forces her to introduce a perfect stranger as her boyfriend, Verity’s life suddenly becomes much more complicated.
Johnny could also use a fictional girlfriend. Against Verity’s better judgement, he persuades her to partner up for a summer season of weddings, big number birthdays and garden parties, with just one promise - not to fall in love with each other…
True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop is the second in the series from Annie Darling focusing on a unique bookshop in a quiet corner of London. I absolutely adored the first book The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts and was gutted it had to end. As soon as I had finished it I just wanted to tell everyone I meet or talked to on the internet that you should read this book so I was more than eagerly awaiting this next instalment. I had very high expectations for this one given how enthralled I was with Posy's story in book one.
This new book is not a bad book by any means but I think I had placed my expectations far too high, it just didn't grab me in the same way as it had before. There was something missing in it that I can't quite put my finger on and talking to a friend she felt the exact same way. If I was picking this one up not having read the first in the series, I would be wondering what all the fuss was about. So I do think it is best to read book one and then read this one. Of course they are both standalone reads but book one is a more compulsive read. The book couldn't have been all that bad seen as I kept reading until the end and it wasn't, it's just when you have such high hopes for something and they are dashed it can prove to be quite frustrating.
This new story picks up a few weeks later on from we last met the characters and this time it focuses on Verity Love who deals with all the admin at the bookshop. For some reason I had thought the series would just continue focusing directly on Posy and the bookshop so it took me several chapters to re-familiarise myself with the characters and to understand Verity was the sole focus this time around. It makes me wonder if there is a third book will Nina be the central character? Verity is a complicated character, she has a lot sides to her and many little foibles that affect her day to day life. She can come across as quite abrupt and rude in some cases but underneath it all there is this person desperate to find love and have what most of her friends have – happiness and a solid long term relationship. Even though she will say that is the complete opposite to what she desires.
Like many other characters in this genre she has been hurt in the past and that clearly affects how she deals with people and relationships on a day to day basis. Verity doesn't want to meet anyone in her life, so she claims, she has a busy job, great friends,a nice small apartment above the shop and she needs nothing else to complete her life. So it's sad to see she feels the need to create a boyfriend in the form of Peter Hardy, oceanographer. Clearly she hadn't gotten in over her head with this white lie and before exposure occurs she has to put a halt to their 'relationship'. I felt sad for Verity that she was forced to do this. Why couldn't she just say to Posy, Nina, Sebastian, Mattie and Tom, who all work in the bookshop and tea rooms, that I have nobody and I don't want anybody in my life. Honesty is always the best policy.
Verity sticks to routine rigidly and a Friday night spent on her own at a local restaurant is just perfect for her as she awaits 'Peter Hardy'. Things take a turn when Posy and Nina follow her and she is forced to find a man quick. One thing leads to another and we are introduced to Johnny a high flying architect with a set of friends to match. He steps into the breach so to speak and one thing leads to another and a proposition is made. A mutual agreement which will benefit both parties. Johnny is desperately in love with a woman he can't have at all and like Verity his friends put him under constant pressure to find a woman. So the pair agree to be each other's dates for all the events upcoming over the summer. It will get everyone off their backs and maybe there won't be so many questions being flung at the pair of them.
If this was real life I would have thought this would never have happened, it seemed so off the wall and was bound to cause even more problems. Once one has started lying the lies seem to flow even more readily. I'd love to say I really liked Johnny as a character but I didn't. He just came across as self centred and really the woman in his heart was his ultimate goal. Verity seemed to be more emotionally invested in this whole scenario than he did and it was clear people were going to get very hurt. I hated Johnny's friends for the way they treated Verity where as the crew from the bookshop were much more warm and welcoming towards Johnny.
Verity has a life philosophy, what would Elizabeth Bennett do?, which she uses to help her out in situations or times of stress. I have to say all the references to Pride and Prejudice went over my head as I have never read it and don't think I ever will so I sped through these parts. One thing which I felt was missing in this book was the mention of books etc which was so prevalent in the first story I think that's what partly made me love Posy's story so much. But I was glad the chapters written as a romance story from the past weren't included here as they had dragged book one down.
It was enjoyable enough reading of the events and situations Verity and Johnny found themselves in but the question always remained at the back of my mind should the pair get together themselves or would it just cause too much trouble for Verity? I think she got herself into something that became increasingly hard to break away from both physically and emotionally. I enjoyed when Verity opened up to Johnny and explained the reasons for her being the way she was and not going into the detailed reasons as I found I was nodding along finding parts of myself within Verity and the way it was all explained was written very well and I could identify exactly with what she meant. OK I mightn't have agreed with it all but some parts felt very true to my own stance on certain things in life.
For me the best parts of True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop were Verity's family and the scenes where she is with them were just brilliant. They had me laughing out loud at their antics surrounding the planning of Con's wedding. Verity's father Ken was a vicar. He married Dora and they had five daughters - Verity, Merry, Con, Chatty and Immy. They lived such a haphazardous life in the vicarage but it was clear to see love and friendship was there in abundance. Merry was a brilliant character who gave such support and advice to Verity when she needed it most. She really got Verity and all her little quirks. Time and time again things Merry said thanks to her straight talking had me laughing out loud and wishing she was my friend. The scenes at the vicarage when push comes to shove and Con finally has to make decisions regarding the organisation of the wedding were blunt and funny. In fact I wanted even more of Verity's family to feature and I think it would be great to have a book featuring them as a whole or even a series with each sister once Annie Darling has concluded the book shop series.
Overall True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop was a good read but it didn't match the first in the series in terms of readability and I didn't fall in love with Verity as much as I had Posy. I will definitely read a third book if one is written as I like the overall concept but I am just that little bit disappointed my expectations weren’t reached with this read.
Many thanks to Harper Collins UK for my copy of True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.