Published by Berkley on February 2, 2021
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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The cozy comforts of an English village bookstore open up a world of new possibilities for Evie Starling in this charming new romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Samantha Young.
At thirty-three-years old Evangeline Starling's life in Chicago is missing that special something. And when she's passed over for promotion at work, Evie realizes she needs to make a change. Some time away to regain perspective might be just the thing. In a burst of impulsivity, she plans a holiday in a quaint English village. The holiday package comes with a temporary position at Much Ado About Books, the bookstore located beneath her rental apartment. There's no better dream vacation for the bookish Evie, a life-long Shakespeare lover.
Not only is Evie swept up in running the delightful store as soon as she arrives, she's drawn into the lives, loves and drama of the friendly villagers. Including Roane Robson, the charismatic and sexy farmer who tempts Evie every day with his friendly flirtations. Evie is determined to keep him at bay because a holiday romance can only end in heartbreak, right? But Evie can't deny their connection and longs to trust in her handsome farmer that their whirlwind romance could turn in to the forever kind of love.
Evangeline Starling is fed up with where life has taken her in her thirty-three years, and after yet another failed date and being passed over, yet again, for a promotion by her misogynist boss, she is done. She is done with her stupid job. She is done with trying to find love. She is done being the only one of her friends who isn’t married and having babies. Evie needs a break from her life, and she finds it in a little town by the sea in England where she is going to run a bookstore for the next four weeks. A few weeks away from Chicago, doing something fun for her inner nerd is just what she needs to hit the reset button so she can figure out what to do with her life. Evie just didn’t realize that her vacation break would feel more like home than home ever did.
The little town of Alnster has embraced Evie like she was one of their own instead of vacationing tourist. Everyone is lovely and so friendly, especially local farmer Roane Robson. If Evie hadn’t sworn off men in an attempt to clear her brain, she would be so tempted by the soulful eyes that Roane directs her way. Especially since they have such a connection that it feels like she has knowns him forever. But right now, the only thing wants from Roane is friendship, and if she keeps telling herself that every day, maybe she might even believe it. When an opportunity comes for Evie to extend her vacation for another three months, she jumps at the chance, but can she hold back the attraction for Roane or is she going to give in to his sweet smiles. But a relationship with Roane is so much more complex than a simple summer romance should. Falling for Roane means upturning her life permanently or returning home to Chicago and leaving them both broken hearted. Can she take the risk or is all this just much ado about nothing?
Samantha Young is channeling Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as well as Beatrice and Benedict with her newest release but I found her also channeling a little bit of Jane Austin’s Emma in Evie’s desire to matchmake and fix everyone’s problems. As a stranger in this small village, Evie isn’t constrained by old family grudges. She can’t understand why someone can’t look past thirty year old hurts and simply do what is right. So like Emma, she whispers in the right ears and tries to get everyone to make the right decisions.
The only thing I found frustrating, as I have in several other stories, is the fact that Evie has sworn off men because of her bad experiences but when she meets Roane and they have such a instant strong connection, she can’t see that he is the complete polar opposite of all the bad relationships she has ever had? If you know what bad looks like, you should be able to easily recognize good when it is staring you in the face or at least give him a chance rather than holding him at a distance. Evie also has no strong ties to Chicago, except her estranged mother and her college BFF who I thought was very selfish and self-centered in that she doesn’t want Evie to abandon her but Greer has a husband and a baby on the way and her life doesn’t center on Evie, so why be so selfish and not encourage Evie to find a new life. Evie instantly finds her place in this adorable town that has welcomed her with open arms. While I could understand that she wouldn’t want to base her life changing decision on a maybe romance with Roane but what’s the rush to go back? As hard and frightening as it may be to uproot your entire life, it was all working out for her. So why was she planning to leave so quickly instead of embracing this new possibility? It’s times like these where you want to be able to jump in the story, pull these characters aside and go “Stop being a dumbass!”
I actually found some of the “conflict” to be incongruous with the Evie we are introduced to and who tells Roane that she is trying to figure out of she is truly lonely or does she think she is lonely because people make her feel that she should be part of a couple, and is also smart enough, when she decides to give her and Roane a chance, to say I might be leaving when my time is up or I might stay, let’s wait and see where our relationship stands at the time rather than putting so much pressure on it right now. Evie is quite level-headed, which I really liked about her, so when she finds out that Roane is much younger than her and didn’t mention it, because she initially declared that she would never date a younger man again since they are so immature, she completely overreacts from the level-headed Evie who should have immediately realized that Roane never ever acted immature which is why she is surprised to learn his age. She can be shocked but having a fit goes against character. Again, I understand a need for plot and conflict to make for an interesting story but there were moments of that conflict which didn’t fit with the Evie we knew.
This is the perfect book for any book nerd. Really, which one of us wouldn’t dream of taking a vacation where you just got to play with books for a month? This story was simply so enjoyable with Evie being embraced by this adorable small town, even though we do see some of the downside of living in such a small town all of your life, but for us booklovers, it would be the perfect place to escape from our ordinary ho-hum lives.
“Sometimes after a long day at work where I’d been especially productive and useful, I’d come home, I’d order takeout, watch Netflix, and then I’d get in my big comfy bed that takes up most of my studio apartment, and I’d switch on my e-read. For an hour before bed, I’d sit there, warm, safe, and engrossed in a great story. And I’d feel content.” I turned toward him so our knees touched. “Because not everyone has that in their life. There is a lot of darkness out there, a darkness that some people don’t want to think about. Human trafficking, modern slave labor, extreme poverty, homelessness…Not everyone gets to spend their nights in a warm bed, enjoying books. Maybe some people think my life is pathetic, but my life would be a dream to some people. What right do I have to whine about wanting more from my life, when what I have is more than some people can even imagine having? I’m privileged in a way that doesn’t have to do with great wealth. I’m privileged by comforts we take for granted, like education, having food in the refrigerator, a roof over my head, heat, clean water, and easy access to books. A life that has been blessedly free of violence.
“So why do I have days where I feel miserable and lonely?” I asked him, wondering if I’d ever work out the answer. “Is it because I’m genuinely lonely and looking for love? Or is it because all of my friends have found companionship, even love in most cases, and I feel their quiet pity for me because I haven’t? Is it because society tells me that’s what I should want out of life? Or do I really want it? Am I so spoiled by my upbringing I’m conditioned to continually want more than what I have?” I shook my head and then immediately stopped when the room shifted off its axis. I gripped the counter and took a deep breath. “I thought if I came here and put some distance between myself and my life, I might figure out what I wanted so I could finally do something about it.”
“Do something about it?”
“If I’m content, truly content, to live alone, then I’ll make peace with the fact that society judges it unusual for me to stay single. But if I really want to find someone to share my life with, then I need to start making more of an effort to find that person. Even though it’s hard and it hurts, and I may never find him.”
At Roane’s silence, I suddenly felt stupid for telling this man things I hadn’t even told Greer.
“It all must sound silly to you.”
“No,” he said emphatically, his hand coming down to rest on top of mine. I saw a light of understanding in his eyes. “I realize the pressure is worse for a woman–which is bloody ridiculous in this day and age–but men feel the pressure too.” He released my hand, his small smile almost self-deprecating, as his gaze dropped to his plate. “I’ve never been that guy who could sleep around, have one-night stands. And living in a small community hasn’t made finding someone easy. I’ve had a few long-term relationships but the last was two years ago. And the men round here, they don’t mean anything by it, but they give me a good ribbing for not availing myself of willing tourists and women from other villages who’ve made it clear they’d be happy to see to me.
“I’ve never wanted that.” I felt a little breathless at the intensity in his eyes. “It doesn’t do it for me. I need to feel more than just the presence of a warm body. Sex is better for me when I care about the woman I’m with.”
Already warm from my hangover, I flushed uncomfortably hot at his words. “Oh.”
His smirk was somewhat bitter. “Men aren’t supposed to want that, let alone say it, right? It makes them less of a man not to be out there sowing his wild oats. There’s something effeminate about a man that is turned off by sex with a stranger and believes wholeheartedly in monogamy.”
“Women don’t think that.” I certainly didn’t. In fact, I found his honesty way too intriguing for my own good.
“No. But like you said, everyone has this idea of what you should want out of life. And you’re right. There are places in this world where folk are just trying to survive. We’re privileged enough that our lives have moved beyond basic survival, but it means we have time to impress these stupid ideas of ‘normality’ upon each other.” He ran a hand through his bed-mussed hair. “My mum, Milly, and all the like, they badger me almost every week about ‘settling down and finding a woman to keep me company.'” Our eyes locked as he continued. “But unlike you, I know that I want that. Definitely. I want someone to love, to share life’s difficulties with, to have bairns and watch them grow. To make a little world with someone. Which means there are days, thankfully few but they exist, when it doesn’t feel so nice for all those people who are supposed to care about me to hound me about the thing I want most in life.”
Emotion clogged my throat.
Not just because I was sad that Roane felt that way.
But because for the first time in a very long time, I felt like someone saw me. Understood me. Truly.
Tears I didn’t even feel embarrassed about shimmered in my eyes as I reached for Roane Robson’s hand and curled mine tight around it. “You’ll find it, Roane.” I believed he would.
“You don’t know that.” He squeezed my hand, giving me a small smile. “You don’t know me or the future.”
“I don’t know the future, agreed. I do know you a little, and I see you a lot.”
He understood. I saw it in the way he studied my face and by the way his hand tightened in mine. “I see you too, Evie.”
It was too big a moment to share with an almost stranger, but it was happening, and it was real.
I made a decision in that moment. To put aside my attraction for Roane and embrace the connection between us. I’d felt something similar the instant I met Greer. Just like with Greer, I was determined to make a friend of Roane.
“When I have a day off and don’t feel like upchucking, do you think you can show me your farm?”
“Friends then?” he surmised, his expression relaxed and happy again.
“I just told you some of my deepest worries. We’re friends or I have to kill you.”
Chucking at my teasing. Roane nodded. “I’ll take friendship over death.”
“Wise choice. I’m inexperienced at murder. It could get messy.”
He shook his head at my nonsense. “Hurry and eat the rest of your breakfast. Shadow and I need to get to work, but we’re not leaving until you’ve had at least three more bites.”
Groaning, I glared at my plate. “I don’t think I can.”
“Well it’s that or I remind you of the moment last night you started singing a song called ‘When You’re Good to Mama’ to Old Man Thompson.”
My eyes widened in horror, and Roane began to shake with laughter. “From Chicago?”
He shrugged. “You said it was from some musical.”
Yes. The musical Chicago.
“When you’re good to Mama, Mama’s good to you,” I squeaked out.
Roane gave a bark of laughter. “It was the best night of Old Man Thompson’s life. We thought he’d need his pacemaker checked.”
“You did not!” I gasped, aghast.
Seeing him bury his face in his hand with laughter, I smacked him playfully across the back. “Stop!”
Unfortunately, that only made him laugh harder.