Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop Of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

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Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop Of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: Sweet but not sickly comedy of nostalgia, country mud and peanut brittle, this is another winning read from one of the most versatile and reliable queens of British chick-lit.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: March 2012
Publisher: Sphere
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0751544541

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Overall Winner: Romantic Novel of the Year 2013

Winner of the Romantic Novelists Association Award 2013: The Romantic Comedy Novel

Rosie Hopkins is reluctant to leave her beloved London, Gerard, a live-in boyfriend of eight years and her work as auxiliary nurse. But when an elderly aunt who had spent her life running a traditional sweetshop in a small village in the North of England becomes just too elderly to cope, Rosie surprises everybody – even herself – by taking up the challenge. A 100% townie who can't ride a bike and doesn't seem to own a waterproof, a pair of wellies or even walking boots, Rosie soon discovers that the countryside has its charms, not least of which is the local supply of masculine eye candy. Soon she will find herself re-opening the shop (just to sell it as a running concern, you understand) as well as somewhat accidentally, saving and enriching lives all around, from a lady of the manor's Lab to her own dignified, but possessed of an acid tongue, great aunt Lillian.

Jenny Colgan is one of the queens of British chick-lit and, unlike many writers in this fuzzily delineated genre, she managed to avoid the formulaic-books-from-template trap that must be very tempting for any successful writer of popular fiction. For a long time, her (very) bitter, (hilariously) funny and (not too) sweet Amanda's Wedding was my favourite chick-lit novel, and although her further novels didn't quite match up to that one (perhaps with an exception of a totally unheard-of chick-lit novel about a boy, with magic) they were always very readable, entertaining and unexpectedly touching. And so is Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams.

This last Colgan offering is full of standard plot devices not to say clichés: a city girl coming to the countryside, a mummy's darling boyfriend who never pops the question, an intelligent child with a pushy mother (clearly a cousin of Bertie from 44 Scotland Street but no less an attractive a character for that), an old spinster remembering a lost love, a woman getting her life out of a rut as a side effect of a total change of scene; and so on. By rights, it should be an annoying collection of clichés. And that sweetshop, such a perfect vehicle for for nostalgia that the books could have easily been sickly-sweet and mawkishly nauseous. But it's not. Nostalgia is there all right, but the sickly-sweetness is almost entirely avoided thanks to humour, alternately down-to-earth (in the main storyline) and ironically sharp (in the excerpts from Lillian's book: Sweets, The User Manual which start each chapter).

I grew up in Poland and thus with an entirely different set of nostalgia triggers and consider many sweets referenced in Sweetshop of Dreams quite unremarkable or downright horrid, a kind of thing you must grow up with to possibly like. Despite that, or maybe because of that, I found all the candy-related material fascinating. And the clichéd – or let's just call them tried-and-tested - plot devices and characters work beautifully in creating an entertaining, charming whole in which the overall direction was entirely predictable and yet it was quite unclear how and by what twists it would develop.

I thought that Lillian's back-story from the 1940s was unnecessary, mostly boring and predictable. I kept expecting it to come up with something relevant to Rosie's adventures, but it just petered out in a very bland way. The same plot and character development could have been achieved with just a couple of reminiscences. Apart from that, I thoroughly enjoyed Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams. The heroine was mostly likeable (I often find chick-lit female characters unbearable), the romance was understated, the other characters fun and interesting, the jokes funny and the setting utterly charming.

Definitely recommended for a cosy sofa-bound Sunday (or any other time when you might feel like you'd rather be on a cosy sofa).

Rosie Hopkins Sweetshop of Dreams is part sub-genre (or is it a sub-sub-genre) of romance-with-food exemplified by the likes of Chocolat by Joanne Harris and even more so, The Food of Love by Anthony Capella. The Gypsy Tearoom by Nicky Pellegrino and Heartburn by Nora Ephron also offer food and romance, or food and human drama combinations.

Buy Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop Of Dreams by Jenny Colgan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop Of Dreams by Jenny Colgan at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop Of Dreams by Jenny Colgan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop Of Dreams by Jenny Colgan at Amazon.com.

Booklists.jpg Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop Of Dreams by Jenny Colgan is in the Romantic Novel of the Year 2013.


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