Brought together by a charming bookstore in England, three women fight to defy expectations, dream new dreams, and welcome love into their lives.
As a counselor, Sophia Barrett is trained to help people cope with their burdens. But when she meets a new patient whose troubles mirror her own, she realizes she hasn’t dealt with the pain of her recent past. After making a snap decision to get away for the summer, Sophia moves overseas to an apartment above a charming bookstore in Cornwall, England. She is hopeful she will find peace there surrounded by her favorite thing: great literature. Bookstore owner Ginny Rose is desperate to save her business without asking for help from a husband who’s decided to take a break from their marriage. Ginny never imagined she’d be solely responsible for keeping afloat her husband’s dream, but the unexpected friendship with her new renter has her feeling more optimistic. Between the two of them—and Ginny’s brother-in-law, William—the bookstore might stand a chance. Then Sophia finds a notebook in the bookstore that contains journal entries from Emily Fairfax, a governess who lived in Cornwall more than 150 years ago. Sophia learns that Emily harbored a secret passion for becoming an authoress—as well as a deep love for her childhood friend, Edward, whose station she dared not dream to touch. Eager to know more of Emily’s story, Sophia goes on a quest—dragging Ginny and William with her—to discover the heart of the woman behind the beautiful entries. Soon Ginny’s need to save the bookstore becomes more than a way to save her marriage, and Sophia finds new purpose of her own. Together they find that sometimes both heartache and hope can reach across the centuries.
As a counselor to victimized women, Sophia Barrett is quite skilled at offering solutions and guiding her clients to a place of healing. When it comes to her own hurts? Not so much. Sophia recently suffered an emotional breakdown following the one year anniversary of the death of her fiance, David. Her feelings around the death are complicated, as it is revealed to readers that, to some degree, the relationship was beginning to take an abusive turn just prior to David's passing.
Wanting to finally face and resolve the long avoided issues and emotions within herself, Sophia makes a spur of the moment decision to rent a flat above a bookshop in Cornwall, England. The property owner, Ginny Rose, has her own struggles and soon enough both ladies come to lean on each other, bonded through their mutual hard-luck experiences. In Ginny's case, it's a combination of the bookshop struggling to make a profit and the state of her marriage growing increasingly rocky. Even though the shop started as the dream of Ginny's husband, he's largely checked out of both the business and the relationship. Having given up everything for him, Ginny is determined to throw everything she's got into keeping the shop financially afloat because it's the only home she feels she has left.
Though the bond between Sophia and Ginny might have started on a tenant - landlord footing, they're soon unbreakable best friends. Sophia starts helping Ginny revamp the shop to draw in more customers. During one lengthy book sorting process, Sophia comes across what looks like a reprinting of a journal belonging to one Miss Emily Fairfax, a Cornwall governess from over 150 years ago (The Secrets of Paper and Ink actually opens with a bit of Emily's story). Intrigued by the story of star-crossed love she finds in the journal pages, Sophia dedicates herself to unearthing more on the life of Ms. Fairfax. In the process, she finds a new romance herself, with none other than Ginny's brother-in-law.
This book will likely have plenty of high praise simply for the fact that it is a story set around a bookshop. As far as the specific plot here itself.... everything was just much too convenient for me: Ginny needs a new website for the shop but can't really afford a top tier web designer, but husband Garrett's good friend just happens to be a web designer who likes Ginny so much he'll happily do it for free... Boom. Suddenly she has mad business to the shop with very little work necessary on her end. Sophia wants to research the life of Emily Fairfax, but overwhelmed with where to start. No worries, her new crush just happens to have a professor friend who has just the right connections for Sophia to find every answer she seeks in only 2-3 steps. Everything, even down to the "twist" at the end is just SO PREDICTABLE IT'S BORING.
The dialogue is silly and cringey a good part of the time. With the exception of the Emily / Edward passages, nearly every character in this story feels way too 2-D.
Christian themes are not all that present until the closing chapters, where Harrel chooses to douse readers with it all at once right before they go.
FTC DISCLAIMER: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.