In some ways, The Village Shop for Lonely Hearts is very relatable.
Fresh from being laid off from her fancy New York job, Amber Green has nothing better to do than look in on her godmother in the sleepy town of Cranbridge before deciding what to do next with her life.
There she meets Josh, the surly and unsatisfied son who has been forced to put his own dreams on hold and man the family store following the death of his father.
Together, they embark on a mission to save the family store from ruin, but what they end up saving is their faith in themselves… and each other.
The Village Shop for Lonely Hearts Gets the Job Done
I wanted to like The Village Shop for Lonely Hearts. I really, really did. The hardest thing about reviewing novels is just how much respect I have for any author (like Alison Sherlock) who has actually done the near-impossible and completed an entire work with a beginning, middle, and end.
And YOU might like this book! Obviously, people do, given its 1,500+ reviews at 4.5 stars on Amazon. But for me, it’s going to be a pass except under very narrow criteria.
The story itself, while very cliched, is fun! I have no problem with a good formula, and girl meets boy, girl helps boy, and girl falls in love with boy while also realizing her own self-worth is a classic. It’s also set in an English village, which I am a sucker for.
The characters are interesting, from the main ones of Amber and Josh to all the different shop regulars you meet. And the description of the window dressing designs that Amber does in the shop to make it more appealing really paints a mental picture.
What then, given all those positives, is my issue? It comes down to the writing.
It’s a personal hang-up, but it really rubs me the wrong way when an author keeps repeating themself in the same sentence or few sentences. In this case, it’s often about Amber’s lack of confidence, lack of self-esteem, full of self-doubt, etc.At a certain point, hammering the point home feels redundant.
Now, that being said, the writing does flow well and is very readable. While it’s not Shakespeare, it does (mostly) do what it promises: “The perfect feel-good read for 2021”.
Perfect might be pushing it, but feel-good read, definitely. There is also something appealing about starting a book that from page one you know how it will end and you are ok with not being challenged beyond that.
Overall I would say if you have a Kindle Unlimited account and you are looking for a book to act as a balm to a tired brain at the end of a long day, you could do worse than to pick up the Village Shop for Lonely Hearts.
I personally won’t be going back to visit Cranbridge anytime soon though.
What Happens in the Village Shop for Lonely Hearts
Having been recently laid off from her job designing window displays in a big NYC department store, Amber Green reluctantly agrees to do her mother a favor look in on her godmother.
This is actually a big ask since her godmother is in England and Amber was on the way to moving in with her parents in New Zealand.
She arrives in the small town of Cranbridge to find it mostly empty with the stores shuttered. Almost immediately she runs into Josh Kennedy, her Godmother’s son, and while crossing a small bridge bumps into him and knocks them both into the river. We have our meet-cute.
Amber is cleaned up by her godmother, Cathy, and shown to the apartment above Cranbridge stores. The shop has been in the family for generations but is now piled high with random stuff (including an old tractor) that makes shopping there appealing.
Cathy has not changed anything since her husband died a few years before and all of Josh’s best efforts to modernize and improve the store have been ignored.
Ambers meets some of the regulars and Grandma Tilly, who used to run the store with her own husband before Cathy.
Soon Amber is dreaming of how the store could look if cleaned up and the natural beauty of the building exposed. But Ambers self-confidence has been lacking after years of bullying as a girl and doesn’t put her ideas or herself forward.
The town is quiet, mostly due to people selling and moving away, but also because it’s full of remote workers or commuters with nowhere to gather and meet their neighbors. Amber tentatively offers to redo the front windows, and immediately there is an improvement.
Cathy decides she wants to take a vacation to visit Ambers mother in New Zealand, and after seeing Ambers windows, gives her and Josh carte blanche to redo the shop in her absence.
They start the huge job of cleaning out so they can make room for Ambers’s designs, and try to move the tractor (which has huge sentimental value from Josh’s late father) out of the shop.
It dies in the middle of the floor and can’t be moved. Amber sees it as an opportunity and proceeds to design around the new feature point.
Things slowly pick up in the store as Amber’s self-esteem grows with each customer interaction and positive feedback about the store. Her feelings for Josh grow too, and his for her, as they work together daily.
What’s supposed to be only a few weeks of help already feels too short.
At Halloween, they attend a costume party and Josh sees Amber dressed up for the first time. She gets drunk and asks for a goodnight kiss that Josh, being a gentleman, doesn’t give her but she takes it as a rejection.
Things are awkward in the store until there is a huge rainstorm where the town bands together to help the townsfolk get out of their flooding houses. Cranbridge Stores becomes the meeting ground and many people see the newly improved store for the first time.
Business continues to pick up even more with Josh’s idea to use local produce from neighboring farms to stock the store. Amber and Josh continue to dance around their feelings, and she books her trip on to New Zealand.
Josh’s grandmother decides to revive the Christmas fair and puts Amber in charge. Around this time, Amber realizes the worst of her school bullies is a reporter for the local paper.
Seeing her bully rattle a customer with insensitive questions, she finds the courage to throw her out and face down her old demons.
The Christmas fair arrives, and Cathy is due back any moment with a surprise: Ambers parents!
Amber realizes there is now no reason to leave Cranbridge, which is good because she finally realizes she is in love with Josh. She tells him by accidentally pushing him in the river again and announcing it in front of the whole town.
Amber and Josh settle in as the shop owners, knowing they have their families around them and many years of love and commerce ahead of them.
Looking to make reading a more regular thing? Why not start a book club! Check out my article on How to Form a Book Club for tips on creating the ideal club for your lifestyle.
Did you read The Village Shop for Lonely Hearts? What did you think?
I would love to hear your thoughts about what you did (or didn’t) like about it, so leave a comment!