Today Heartshaped is reviewing three of author Beth Good’s novellas from her Oddest Little Shop series. Two more will be coming later.
Reading a novella is a lovely change for a blogger used to reading full novels. Rather like a sorbet after a fish dish, they clear and refresh the reading palate., and they slot neatly into the space between short-stories and novels. It’s the Goldilocks Syndrome; there are times when one is too short and the other is too long, but novellas are just right. Beth Good’s books are certainly all that; refreshing, pleasant, and the perfect length for an afternoon’s reading.
So – to the books, and first out of the starting gate is:
The Oddest Little Romance Shop
Izzie has the perfect plan for a perfect life. Work hard, get married, settle down, start a family. But when a mysterious Valentine’s day card arrives, asking in a bold scrawl, ‘Will you marry me?’, it upends everything.
Because Izzie thought she’d found Mr Right – and the card isn’t from him.
Puzzled, she sets out to discover the identity of her secret admirer . . . and is shocked by the truth. Torn in two directions, Izzie doesn’t know what to do.
Should she stick to the plan, or is it time to take life in a bold new direction?
I loved the prologue of this book. It was everything that is sweet and innocent about childhood, friendships, and that blossoming awareness that there is an ‘opposite sex’. My heart melted at the tenderness expressed by Lewis, and then laughed at his horrified surprise in finding his hand being held. It’s a story that is repeated the world over, again and again, and never gets tired.
We jump into the present with Izzie preparing for her wedding to Norman. She has accepted his proposal after knowing him but a short time, and while this may seem implausible to some, things like this happen all the time. In her mid-twenties, Izzy wants a family of her own, children, stability, and she sees no other prospect on the horizon. Sadly, this is not a great whirlwind-swept-off-her-feet-romance; Izzie is ‘settling’. She says herself:
It felt like my life was going nowhere. Or maybe round and round in circles. There was something missing.
Her friend Annie is the perfect foil. Sharp, funny, and out-going, Annie asks the reader’s questions for them. She is the one who shines a light on the odd suddenness of Izzy’s relationship. Norman on the other hand is revealed to us slowly, carefully, and is everything we expect him to be. Controlling, possessive, unpleasant, and deadly, deadly dull.
The arrival of a mysterious Valentine’s card, not from Norman, is the catalyst that shifts the story on to the next level. The realisation that its old, and then who it may be from, rocks Izzy to the core, and forces her to confront what has been ‘wrong’ for many years. What ensues, is a fabulous genre mix of thriller, crime, and romance. But mostly romance.
The next book will require a stash of your favourite chocolate, if you’re a chocolate lover:
The Oddest Little Chocolate Shop
When Clementine discovers that Monsieur Ravel’s beloved chocolaterie is about to close, she rushes to rescue it – without thinking through the consequences.
A lost Persian cat, a depressed but utterly gorgeous French chocolatier, an allergic shop assistant in search of true love, the oddest little chocolate shop Clementine has ever seen.
Can Clementine save them all, or has she bitten off more than she can chew?
After many chocolate-free months, Clementine discovers her favourite chocolate shop is closing. As she peers at the empty window, she finds a cat out in the bitter cold and takes it into the shop, thinking it must belong there. She comes to a staring halt when she meets Dominic Ravel, the gorgeous Frenchman who is the Chocolatier and owns the business. He in turn stares at her while they have a slightly stilted and amusing conversation.
Clementine’s thoughts are like a run-away juggernaut. I love how her thoughts race one after the other, tripping and stumbling their way through her head, as well as the way the author weaves them seamlessly into the narrative. It made me laugh, and there isn’t a woman alive who hasn’t had her brain jumbled thoughts when confronted by an unexpectedly lusty male. Dominic is somewhat more inscrutable at first, anxious and under family pressure, but with Clementine he relaxes and we find a charming man.
At one level, I was incensed at the idea that Clementine was rather useless. She has clearly been told repeatedly that she’s not very good at things, and clumsy. Yet she held a good job, gave Dominic some good advice, and is clearly very practically minded and loaded with common sense…. most of the time. She does get very flustered when she’s anxious or embarrassed, which is quite a different thing altogether. She’s feisty and funny, and a marvellous character.
A wonderful story with about going for what you want, believing in yourself, and falling in love in unexpected places!
The final book today is my favourite.
The Oddest Little Book Shop
After ten long years away, television star Daisy Diamond is finally going home.
She’s not back at the gorgeous seaside resort of Port Pol in sunny Cornwall five minutes before she realises the mistake she’s made. Her childhood sweetheart Nick Old – affectionately known as ‘Devil’ – is still living there, running the local bookshop, and he is determined to rekindle their flame.
Daisy is no longer the dewy-eyed romantic of her school days. Her life may not have gone according to plan, but she’s not afraid to show Nick how much she’s grown since he famously dumped her at the school leavers’ disco.
Even if it means bending her heart out of shape a little . . .
Television star Daisy Diamond is back at home in Cornwall house-sitting for her parents before filming starts the next series of her show. She has just split from her erstwhile boyfriend and co-star who cheated on her. The paparazzi haven’t a clue she is there – so far – and she is hoping for a relaxed and enjoyable time.
There is something lurking in Daisy’s past, an unresolved issue that hurt her terribly. Through the course of the story we meet Nick Old, her boyfriend from ten years past. As they verbally spar and knock chips of each other, the under current of passion and tension is almost palpable. Throw in a mad wife, an 9-year-old daughter, an uncharacteristic make-out session with a married man when she is snapped by one of paparazzi, and the gates of hell open.
What ensues is hilarious, scary, and heart-breaking. You’ll end up pulled in different directions over Daisy’s decisions, and will have moments of hate and sympathy in equal measure. Daisy is a tremendously funny, delightful and amiable young woman, whose moral compass is true and sure on the whole. Equally, Nick is an honourable man, whose decency has led him to ten years of unhappiness, alleviated only by the love of his daughter, and thoughts of what might have been.
Amid the humour and romance the author takes the time to include certain issues such as the autistic spectrum, anger management, and bereavement. She writes with such a light-hand and so sensitively, you may hardly notice that those weighty matters are there. This was my favourite of the three novellas. It had depth and complexity mingled with wit and humour.
Beth Good writes beautifully and can draw a character for the reader with just a few words. Often novellas can feel like a Chinese take-away, you feel full after eating the last fork (chopstick)-full but an hour later you want more. Not so with this author. each book is whole and complete in and of itself; readers were not left wanting. Like their titles, they are the oddest collection of romances, a little off-beat, idiosyncratic, and an utter delight to read. They’re sweet and lovely, laced with humour, alive with romance, and with the merest hint of darkness and wickedness. All of which combines to lure the reader deeper into the story until, like me, you cannot put the book down.
Do yourself a favour. Read these books. Read them on the train, in your lunch hour, sitting in the car waiting for whatever….
I’m looking forward to the next two I’ll be reviewing soon. In the Meantime, I’ll be looking at her other titles to check which I want to add to my ever-growing TBR Mountain!
Born and raised in Essex, England, Beth Good was whisked away to an island tax haven at the age of eleven to attend an exclusive public school and rub shoulders with the rich and famous. Sadly, she never became rich or famous herself, so had to settle for infamy as a writer of dubious novels. She writes under several different names, mainly to avoid confusing her readers – and herself! As Beth Good she writes romantic comedy and feel-good fiction. She also writes thrillers as Jane Holland, historicals as Victoria Lamb and Elizabeth Moss, and feel-good fiction as Hannah Coates.
Beth currently lives in the West Country where she spends a great deal of time thinking romantic thoughts while staring out of her window at sheep. (These two actions are unrelated.)
You can find her most days on Twitter as @BethGoodWriter where she occasionally indulges in pointless banter about chocolate making and the Great British Bake Off. Due to a basic inability to say no, she has too many children and not enough money, which means she needs as many readers as she can get.
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