Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“All things take time, and usually a lot more time than you expect.”
Whenever I fancy reading a good romance/rom com, I can always turn to Rachel Burton to deliver the goods! A Bookshop Christmas is the Christmas book I’ve needed for weeks and it’s been an absolute dream to experience. Everything from the characters and the storyline to each single snippet of dialogue has been perfected, and that ending has left me on such a high! I’m so happy to be sharing my review of this brilliant book – if you like the sound of it, do grab yourself a copy (it’s currently 99p on Kindle until the end of December!) or you can support by sharing this review!
About the book
A snowstorm. A stranger. A spark. And it’s Christmas!
It should be the perfect start to the perfect love story.
But real life is far messier and more complicated than in the pages of the books in Megan Taylor’s family bookshop – the last few years have left this young widow in no doubt of that. Moving back home to York should have been a fresh start, but all it did was allow her to retreat from the world.
When prize-winning author Xander Stone rams his supermarket trolley into her ankles and then trashes her taste in books, Megan is abruptly awoken from her self-imposed hibernation. It’s time to start living again, and she’s going to start by putting this arrogant, superior – admittedly sexy – stranger in his place.
Just as she is beginning to enjoy life again, the worst happens and Megan begins to wonder if she should have stayed hidden away. Because it turns out that falling in love again is about more than just meeting under the mistletoe…
Rachel Burton’s words captured every part of me once again and her prologue left me with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat – an unexpectedly emotional start to the book but one that really sets the scene and tells us so much about our main character, Megan, and her life. She’s lost her husband and now has to navigate a life without him in it, something which all of us dread. No one wants to lose a loved one, and how on earth are you supposed to live a life without someone who has always been there? Without knowing Megan at all, I immediately became attached to this character and was desperate to jump into the pages and give her a really big hug. Fast forward a few years later and Megan owns her own bookshop, and we join her as she’s making those final preparations for Xander Stone’s book launch. She even bumps into this guy at the supermarket (she doesn’t know who he is at the time) and finds him obnoxiously rude. Aside from Mr. Rude, the book feels extremely cosy with a wonderful narrative that only left me wanting more. A strong opening to the book, as expected!
Plans for a Christmas Eve party at Taylor’s Bookshop were soon underway and this book instantly became the Christmassy book I’d been craving for so long! The shop’s book club, the Die-Hards, provide us with such a variety of different characters and personalities that were such a joy to read about, and the odd bit of humour/banter between the girls was just perfectly written. I even felt like I was an extra member of the group sitting in on their sessions! Aside from all the funny scenes, the author has also perfectly balanced this with more of Megan’s backstory and her move from London to York after the death of her husband. I loved the detail the author has injected into not only Megan’s character and her life, but also into the story as a whole. Even though I wasn’t far into the book here, I was fully invested in everything up to this point. I was desperate to see more of Xander in this story and wondered if he and Megan could make some sort of friendship work after they get off to such a rocky start.
“My crippling guilt wasn’t going to change the fact that Joe was dead any more than my not having gone to get that coffee in the first place would have stopped him from dying. It was time to live my life again.”
After a few more meetings with Xander, Megan begins to feel some unexpected things in his presence. Did she have a crush on this guy, even after how rude she’d found him to be initially?! Whatever these feelings were, Megan feels guilty for even looking at an attractive man – what would Joe think? I really understood how she felt here and her situation was heartbreaking. When is the right time to move on after being widowed? The support of her friendship circle was very heartwarming, even if they do tease her a little bit after she denies those feelings for Xander. I got the impression (and so did Megan) that there was a lot more to Xander than what we see on the surface, something I became so eager to uncover. Who was the real Xander? Was he really as cool and collected (and full of himself) as he appeared in his previous interviews? With the book launch looming, I really enjoyed joining Megan and her mum as they finalised plans and got everything ready, and the book already felt like the perfect escape for me. The author is just the best at making you feel at home, and it was just bloody lovely!
Megan and Xander begin to spend some time together alone and start to really get to know one another before Xander has to hop on a train back to London. They talk books, childhood, growing up, family – and then the topic of why Megan doesn’t have a ring on her finger comes to light. Even though it felt a little intrusive at first to ask such a thing to someone you barely know, I felt that discussing this between them really deepened their bond and made them understand each other a little more. Xander had even had his own little piece of heartbreak at around the same time Megan lost her husband, something else they had in common. This is one of my favourite parts in a romance; the ‘getting to know you’ part. Of course, the author had written this perfectly! I also loved how the new tearoom was mentioned – a nod to the author’s previous book, The Tea Room on the Bay I think (which I ADORED by the way! You can read my review of it here.) The start of this book was everything I could have hoped for, and then some!
Megan and Xander go out for lunch together and it’s the perfect opportunity for them to get to know each other even more without any distractions, and learn more about Xander’s adorable little sausage dog, Gus. I also felt super proud of Megan for taking the leap and agreeing to live a little. It’d been so long since she’d been anywhere or done anything that didn’t involve the bookshop or meeting her two friends at the tearoom. However, even though things go as well as they could have gone with their conversation, there’s a snow storm which leaves them pretty much stranded. Would they be stuck in this place until the snow disappeared? How exciting is this?! I loved how the pair speak about tropes in romance novels, and lighten the situation they’re in by likening it to the plot of a romance novel. I even loved how Megan says she hates the enemies to lovers trope, even though that was kind of what was happening with herself and Xander! Would they be able to have a normal night stranded in a hotel room, or will their feelings get the better of them? I did understand just how uncomfortable Megan felt at first, especially as her thoughts were still with her late husband.
I could have done a little squeal when Megan mentions Ben and The Two Teas tearoom from the author’s previous book! Little details like this make me so happy and I loved how the author pulled off this little cross over of books. Just the idea of all these characters knowing one another was just fantastic and gave the book such a cosy, small-town feel. It isn’t long before that cosy feel turns cold as Megan and Xander have their first little argument. Megan finds something mysterious in Xander’s car, something that brought up as many new questions as answered ones. Just WHO was Xander?! Seeing him so cold and angry after I’d just gotten around to loving him was sad to experience, but it was clear that he was very protective of Megan’s discovery. The strange discoveries don’t end there either – as Megan makes her way back to Taylor’s bookshop, there’s a surprise visitor who she’d not seen for a very long time. Would there be more bad news? Would their bookshop survive another Christmas? There was so much to uncover in the second half of the book and I was more than ready for it!
“There was something about him that made me want to open up, to say the words out loud, to admit how far I’d come but also, no matter how hard I tried, how I sometimes felt as though I was being pulled back down.”
News that Taylor’s Bookshop may have to close really made me sad. I always find it sad when bookshops don’t survive; wasn’t there anything anyone could do? This news pushes Megan to really think about the future she wants, and she knows she can’t stay at the bookshop forever, even if it was making a profit. When the opportunity to do some novel editing for Xander pops up, she’s excited to get started. Maybe she can jump back into the career she left behind after Joe passed away? Meanwhile, Megan and Xander’s relationship is developing well, but Xander made it clear that what Megan wants is key, and that means taking things slowly. Even after their recent little tiff, I still couldn’t help but love Xander and just knew he’d be able to give Megan everything she needs to help her to thrive. The Christmas Eve party was also getting closer, and with a few more details to finalise, they needed to crack on! I loved how much there was to this story besides Megan’s growing relationship with Xander – the little details and additional events make all the difference in a book!
After Xander spends the night with Megan, she wakes feeling that unbearable guilt and grief that seems to regularly consume her. The explanation of her feelings was so raw and brought those tears to my eyes once again. I knew her situation was hard, but I desperately wanted her to fully let Xander in and learn just how wonderful life could be again. However, she knows what she’s doing is right and her feelings for Xander are real, it was just taking time for her to get used to all the change. After finally pulling herself together, she gets a blow when that rude version of Xander shows his face in the bookshop and accuses her of something she hasn’t done. Why does he do this?! Just as I get around to liking him again, he speaks to Megan like she’s something on the bottom of his shoe and it was heartbreaking! However, this argument was much more than what it seemed on the surface. The detail in these scenes was amazing and the help and advice from her nearest and dearest just filled my heart with hope. Surely this was something that could be fixed?
The bond between Megan and her mother has been written with so much care, and it’s so clear how much her mother has helped her and everyone around them after Joe’s death. With loose plans to move to Spain up in the air, one certain conversation between Megan and her mum seems to make everything make sense for everyone, and I was completely lost in this dialogue. Every other thought left my mind when I read this scene (and there is a LOT on my mind lately) and it simply amazed me, leaving me with a satisfied feeling. I still had many questions at this point in the book. Would they really sell the bookshop? Would Xander be gone for good? Would Megan ever get the career and life she’d dreamt of? I had so much love for all the characters in the book, and I began to understand and appreciate why Xander had been acting the way he had. Losing a loved one can affect people so differently, and I understood that there was no set path when recovering from such grief.
I couldn’t get enough of the dress rehearsal for the Regency Christmas Eve party – despite everything that’s been going on for Megan lately, she takes it in her stride and forces herself to join in, even though the one person she wishes was there was probably miles away in London by now. Megan also receives a proposition – would she be able to go back to a career that was right for her after all these years? There was so much emotion here in the book too; Megan feels angry at Xander, even after she’s handed a pretty lovely letter from the man in question explaining everything, but she also misses him to death! I knew what was coming here, and I really wanted these two characters to patch things up and live happily ever after. I wasn’t 100% certain they would after everything they’ve been through though. Are their lives just too complicated and will their grief from losing loved ones hang over them and prevent them from being able to love each other fully? Oh, the stress! (But I loved it!)
“To live a life that is full of the things we want, we sometimes have to take risks. We have to step out of our comfort zones. We have to do the hard things.”
I loved how the book has a big focus on new beginnings, taking risks and encouraging happiness, even if that means doing things the hard way. I think many readers will be able to relate to a lot of points this book covers, and even learn helpful lessons from these characters as they navigate their way through their lives after trauma. I have certainly taken so much away from Megan and Xander’s story! The way the book builds up a unique kind of suspense towards the end of the book was so great, even if that suspense was built around Megan and Xander’s relationship. I also really loved how the Christmassy feel just gets more and more intense the closer to the end we get, and I suddenly got that feeling you get where you just don’t want a book to end. I not only wanted the bookshop’s Christmas Eve party to be a success, but I also hoped Megan and Xander would get their own happily ever after! The book continued to be so beautifully written throughout those final few chapters, and I really think this book has been one of the best Christmas-themed books I’ve read. Even one of the best romance books!
The Regency Christmas Eve party was absolutely magical and was such an entertaining section of the book to read! The feeling this ending gave me was pretty indescribable, but it was made even better (if that was possible) by hearing Megan and Xander’s final conversation. I could not have asked for a more satisfying ending, even if everything didn’t turn out the way I’d expected. We also fast forward to one year later, something I always hope for in a romance book, purely because I’m dying to see the progress the characters have made. I really liked how Megan addresses the reader here and brings us up to date with everything that’s happened over the past year. I could give so much away but instead, I’ll just encourage everyone to read this book at some point before Christmas – it’ll put you in the most Christmassy, euphoric mood! A couple of other highlights were after the book was finished, and the author has included a really nice playlist, the Die-Hard book club’s favourite books as well as Xander’s top reads. I am DEFINITELY going to read some of these, and I am already desperate to start this book from the beginning!
This book is absolutely perfect and I just love Rachel Burton even more after finishing it! I always love her characters, but there was something extra special about Megan and Xander. Their pasts, their traumas and their losses unexpectedly become the glue that holds them together and combined with all the festive cheer, the balance has been written really nicely. There’s fantastic humour, characters you’ll love and laugh with and a story line that will both break your heart and fix it back together again. Rachel Burton has done EVERYTHING right in this book. It’s the most perfect piece of festive fiction to read before Christmas!
A huge thanks to the author, Rachel Burton, for writing this beautiful book, and to Aria Fiction and NetGalley for the copy! You can purchase your own copy of A Bookshop Christmas over on Amazon, available on Kindle and in paperback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Instagram for more updates!
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