Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop – Kiley Dunbar

Published By: Hera
Pages: 292
Released On: 01/09/2022

With just two weeks until Christmas, everything in Clove Lore should be perfect. But the latest holidaymaker to the Borrow a Bookshop is feeling far from festive…

Icelandic ex-bookseller Magnús Sturluson might be surrounded by love stories in the Bookshop, but he’s nursing a sadness that not even fiction can fix.

When Alexandra Robinson finds herself stranded in Clove Lore, she finds a safe place to hide from heartbreak. After all, all that’s waiting for her at home is a cheater boyfriend and the memories of her parents. As Alex finds herself embraced by the quirky village community, she finds her tough exterior thawing – and as she grows closer to Magnús, she finds an equally soft heart under his gruff shell.

It seems that Clove Lore is working it’s magic once again – until a great flood on Christmas Eve brings devastation in its wake. It’s up to Magnús and Alex to batten down the hatches and help bring the village back together again, while also introducing the locals to the Icelandic tradition of the jólabókaflóð – Yule book flood – where families and friends gather on Christmas Eve to exchange books and read together.

But can Magnús and Alex truly rescue the ruins of the village, and salvage their Christmas spirit? Or is there another complication lurking even closer than they thought?

*****

Thanks to NetGalley and Hera for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

The title of this book has the words “Christmas” and “bookshop” in it, so that’s an instant 5-star book for me.

I’ve not read a Kiley Dunbar book before but going on this, I will definitely be taking a look at her others, especially as I’ve found this is not the only festive book she’s written – and we all know how much of a sucker I am for a festive book.

I loved that the two protagonists – Magnus and Alex – liked each other straight away (as is noted in the author’s acknowledgements). Most happily-ever-after type books start with the man and woman hating each other before miraculously falling in love. And don’t get me wrong, I love those kinds of books just as much, but it was nice to see something slightly different. Another thing I thought was really nice is that this wasn’t just about Magnus and Alex. Yes, they’re our main characters, but everyone else has their own story going on. The protagonists could have easily been changed to another person, their stories are so developed and interesting.

There’s a large cast of supporting characters, and they’re all delightful, there’s no-one I didn’t like. They are a proper close community and that really comes through for the reader. They have their ups and downs but at the end of the day, they’re all here for each other and they support each other, and those kind of communities don’t come around very often. I’d love to live in a place like that, especially if it contains a hunky Icelandic man and a bookshop. I mean, what more do you want?

I also loved the use of a non-English character like Magnus. I’ve never been to Iceland but I’ve always wanted to go, particularly at Christmas time, and I really liked that Kiley had included so many references from a traditional Scandinavian Christmas.

I didn’t realise that reading this book would cost me money though. She mentions a number of Scandi-related food items, and they all sounded so delicious I went and ordered a baking recipe book, full of Scandinavian Christmas sweet treats, and whilst I’m aware it’s only August and 33 degrees (at time of writing), I cannot wait to get stuck into those wintery flavours.

Even thought it has “Christmas” in the title, and it’s set during December and there are festive elements, for me, it’s more about the spirit of Christmas rather than the day itself. It means it’s a perfect book to read at any time of the year – although I’ve never let the season dictate my reading habits.

It turns out this the second “borrow a bookshop” story, but I didn’t find that out until after I’d finished, which proved that it’s not necessary to read the first before this. Sure, it may give you more context but it doesn’t affect the reading of this one at all.

It’s a cosy and warming book, without being corny. It feels very realistic but with a touch of magic – much like Christmas itself – and you can’t help but find yourself smiling constantly. It’s not a very long book, and if you’re like me, you’ll finish it in one sitting but that’s good. I don’t think I could have faced putting it down halfway through. I was so invested in this village and in this community.

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