TRUE LOVE AT THE LONELY HEARTS BOOKSHOP is a fun, romantic read with an Austen-esque twist
2017 marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. Since the publication of her first novel SENSE AND SENSIBILITY in 1811, the 19th century novelist has influenced a generations of writers, inspiring books such as BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY (1996), THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB (2004), AUSTENLAND (2007) and DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY (2012) to name but a few.
The latest novelist to be inspired by Austen’s work is Annie Darling. Her new book, TRUE LOVE AT THE LONELY HEARTS BOOKSHOP, follows the life of Verity Love, a self-confessed Jane Austen fangirl and manager of London bookshop Happy Ever After. Fed up of her friends trying to hook her up with lonely individuals, Verity decides to make up a fictional boyfriend – Peter Hardy, Oceanographer – whose presence is very useful for getting her out of social events. But when a case of mistaken identity forces her to introduce a perfect stranger (Johnny) as her boyfriend, Verity’s life suddenly becomes much more complicated and by the end of the summer, there’s a bad case of heartache that even Verity’s beloved PRIDE AND PREJUDICE might not be able to cure.
TRUE LOVE AT THE LONELY HEARTS BOOKSHOP is the second book in THE LONELY HEARTS BOOKSHOP series, although it can be read as a standalone story. With the main character as a self-confessed Jane Austen fangirl, it’ll come as no surprise that the book is peppered with references to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. In fact, Verity’s life philosophy is “what would Elizabeth Bennet do?” which she uses to help her out in times of stress.
The main character, Verity is a likeable yet complex individual. As an introverted woman, she struggles with the daily social interactions that most people take in their stride. She hates to be hugged or touched and she’d much rather prefer to spend time in solitude than interact with anyone she doesn’t know. As such, she comes across as a little abrupt and rude at times which can make her difficult to like at the start but by the end of the book, her kind heart and quirky ways have won you over.
The same can be said of Johnny, who initially comes across as arrogant and self-centred. Johnny is desperately in love with a woman he can’t have and like Verity, his friends put him under constant pressure to find a girlfriend. It’s clear that the only woman in Johnny’s heart is his ex-girlfriend Marissa and as such, it’s easy to dislike him but by the end of the book, you’ll have warmed to his ways.
In contrast, Darling has created some wonderful warm characters with Verity’s family. The Loves are a modern version of the Bennets with Verity’s four chatty and loud sisters providing most of the light relief and some of the book’s most comical moments.
While TRUE LOVE AT THE LONELY HEARTS BOOKSHOP makes for a light-hearted and entertaining read, there are some parts of the storyline that are a little farfetched and the dialogue is a little cheesy in parts. Considering the story is set against the backdrop of a romantic book shop, I also expected more novels to feature in the storyline (even some of Austen’s other books would be welcome), especially as this was so prevalent in the first story in the series.
That said, if you’re looking for an easy, fun, romantic read with an Austen-esque twist, you’re sure to enjoy TRUE LOVE AT THE LONELY HEARTS BOOKSHOP.
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Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.