Wednesday 1 November 2023

Guest Review: Midnight at the Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

Carmen is at a loose end. Her gorgeous bookshop is the filming site of a cheesy Christmas movie, she's been ousted from her sister's house, and the love of her life has just flown thousands of miles away. It's threatening to be a very unjolly Christmas indeed!

But when the elderly owner of the shop comes to Carmen with a Christmas wish that threatens to never come true, Carmen knows she must buckle down to get the funds to save not only his trip, but the shop itself. While fending off a shady tatt-selling businessman, Carmen discovers wonders to the shop she could have never imagined, and opens a labyrinth of bookish backrooms for the customers to get lost in.

With her deadline looming, it might take more than a fresh coat of paint to solve Carmen's problems. But with the help of their neighbours, her nieces and nephew, and a very distractingly cute male nanny, Carmen might just pull her greatest magic trick yet...

Review: This book is a sequel to The Christmas Bookshop by the same author. Although it is not absolutely necessary to have read the first book, I think that it increases the enjoyment of this storyline to know what transpired previously. The story in both cases is set in an ancient bookshop in Edinburgh, owned and run by an eccentric elderly gentleman, now with the assistance of the heroine of the tale, who is trying to turn it into a profit-making business without spoiling its quaint ambience. I listened to the audio version of the book, read ably by one of my favourite narrators.

In this story, the reader catches up with Carmen, still trying to come up with ideas to increase the profitability of the Christmas Bookshop, but now with extra pressure on her to bring in some  more income, as the shop’s owner wants to go on a very special, and very expensive, expedition. It looks increasingly likely that he may have to sell the shop to an unscrupulous businessman who would like to use it to cater to tourists by selling tatty souvenirs. To add to Carmen’s woes, she has a film crew making a Christmas movie on the premises, her sister has turfed her out of her basement to make way for the new nanny and her boyfriend has set off for the Amazon on a project lasting at least 6 months. All this with Christmas fast approaching. Things begin to look up with the discovery of what lies at the rear of the bookshop, always shut off until now; customers now have access to all sorts of wonders, and start to flood in like never before. It looks as if Carmen might just be able to send her boss off on his trip of a lifetime, when the local shopkeepers and her family give her a helping hand. If only the love of her life would return as well.

I throughly enjoyed returning to the Christmas Bookshop and catching up with Carmen and her family. The story is told with Jenny Colgan’s trademark humour combined with more serious moments. As I expect when reading one of her books, the story is populated with colourful characters and wonderful situations. Among them, Carmen’s sister is once again a contradiction, wanting to disapprove of her sister while also loving her and wanting the best for her. I loved Carmen’s nieces and nephews and their often hilarious interactions with their aunt. A character who definitely stood out in this story was the children’s new nanny, who turned out to be a red-headed man with quite a personality and a wicked sense of humour, but not really a fitting replacement for Carmen’s absent boyfriend. As with the previous book about Carmen and the bookshop, there are lots of descriptions of the city of Edinburgh readying itself for Christmas, bringing the setting to life for the reader. In summary, for me, this is a really entertaining book with a strong festive theme which I can recommend to all.

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