Review: The Christmas Bookshop

When the department store she works in closes for good, Carmen has perilously little cash and few options. She doesn’t want to move in with her perfect sister Sofia, in Sofia’s perfect house with her perfect children and her perfectly ordered Edinburgh life.

Frankly, Sofia doesn’t exactly want Carmen there either. Her sister has always been sarcastic and difficult. But Sofia has yet another baby on the way, a mother desperate to see her daughters get along, and a client who needs a retail assistant for his ailing bookshop, so welcoming Carmen might still have some benefits for everyone.

At Sofia’s behest, Carmen is thrown into the daily workings of old Mr. McCredie’s ancient bookshop on the streets of the old dark city. Can she use her design skills to revamp the store and bring it back to popularity in time to benefit from Christmas shopping traffic? Can she choose between bad boy literary rock star Blair and quiet Quaker student Oke? And will she heal the rift with the most important people of all: her family?

This is only the second Jenny Colgan book I’ve ever read, though I have more on my TBR list. She’s one of my mom’s go-to authors, which I can usually take to mean that I’ll like her books as well. For the most part, anyway.

I was really interested in the relationship between Carmen and her sister, Sofia. Sibling relationships grab me in as I have none, so I love to see different types of siblings dynamics in a book. These two don’t really get along, as Sofia is the “perfect” sister and Carmen has just been in her shadow all her life. So when Carmen goes to live with Sofia after Sofia finds a new job for her, it eats at Carmen as it feels like she can’t do anything for herself. But Carmen thrives in reviving the old bookshop, and gets more customers in than the shop has seen in quite some time.

Sofia’s kids were a big part of Carmen’s story too, as she never interacted with her nieces and nephew before. Pippa, the oldest, is a little crap if you ask me. She’s so pretentious and worships the kids’ nanny, Skylar (who is a two-faced snob), but near the end Pippa is a bit more tolerable. Jack doesn’t have much scene time, but he’s a typical little boy, so he’s fun. Meanwhile, Phoebe is adorable and seems to relate to Carmen as being the youngest and having an older sister who’s seemingly perfect, so they get along great from the start. 

There is some romance in this book, including Carmen being in somewhat of a love-triangle with author, Blair, and university lecturer, Oke. Honestly, I wasn’t even here for the romance (for once) and I felt that aspect fell flat in this story anyway. I was more interested in Carmen’s family relationships and her learning to manage a bookshop.

There is a bit of distraction when Colgan suddenly switches from focusing on Carmen’s perspective to someone else for a brief moment, which was a little annoying. I’m not sure if all her books are like this or if it was just this one. It wasn’t horrible, but it just threw me off a couple of times as I wasn’t expecting it.

Overall, this is a cute read, though it doesn’t feel super Christmassy despite the title. I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it, but if someone was looking for this author or something that sounds like this, I would.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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