GENRE: Split-Time Fiction
PUBLISHER: Thomas Nelson
RELEASE DATE: February 26, 2019
Brought together by a charming bookstore in England, three women fight to defy expectations, dream new dreams, and welcome love into their lives.
As a counselor, Sophia Barrett is trained to help people cope with their burdens. But when she meets a new patient whose troubles mirror her own, she realizes she hasn’t dealt with the pain of her recent past. After making a snap decision to get away for the summer, Sophia moves overseas to an apartment above a charming bookstore in Cornwall, England. She is hopeful she will find peace there surrounded by her favorite thing: great literature.
Bookstore owner Ginny Rose is desperate to save her business without asking for help from a husband who’s decided to take a break from their marriage. Ginny never imagined she’d be solely responsible for keeping afloat her husband’s dream, but the unexpected friendship with her new renter has her feeling more optimistic. Between the two of them—and Ginny’s brother-in-law, William—the bookstore might stand a chance.
Then Sophia finds a notebook in the bookstore that contains journal entries from Emily Fairfax, a governess who lived in Cornwall more than 150 years ago. Sophia learns that Emily harbored a secret passion for becoming an authoress—as well as a deep love for her childhood friend, Edward, whose station she dared not dream to touch.
Eager to know more of Emily’s story, Sophia goes on a quest—dragging Ginny and William with her—to discover the heart of the woman behind the beautiful entries. Soon Ginny’s need to save the bookstore becomes more than a way to save her marriage, and Sophia finds new purpose of her own. Together they find that sometimes both heartache and hope can reach across the centuries.
Let me say first of all that, while Harrel’s books are more women’s fiction with a dash of romance, that dash is super well done. Romantic tension sparks off the page, and the tenderness of the romances on these pages made my heart ache at its beauty. If she ever wants to write a purely romantical novel just for fun, I will be first in line!
However, I will also be first in line for any future women’s fiction novels Harrel delivers. I loved The Heart Between Us, but The Secrets of Paper and Ink spoke to my heart and my soul. There’s something very special about this novel – a love letter to the healing power of books, a reminder that ‘happily ever after’ make look different than we expected it to, a peek at the messy-beautiful strength of women who have survived their own worst-case scenarios, and a beautiful picture of redemption, grace, and contentment. I am still sitting here, thinking about this story, and I don’t think it will leave me for quite some time.
The ‘past timeline’ woven throughout the present is seamlessly done and absolutely captivating. I devoured every word of Emily’s story, as well as Sophia’s quest to separate its reality from fiction. The emotions grip your heart and hold it fast, both in Emily’s story and in Sophia’s & Ginny’s present-day narratives. All three women know what it feels like to suffer shattered dreams and to be uncertain if you’ll survive the aftermath. Their three-fold story in The Secrets of Paper and Ink gives hope to other weary souls in the same place in life … an acknowledgment that true restoration lies only in the One who writes our stories and that the dreams He dreams for us are so much greater than what we dare to dream for ourselves.
The bookstore feels like a home away from home, even for the reader, a comforting setting that wraps us up in all the feels. The heroes are completely yummy – good guys who may not be perfect but their hearts are in the right place and their tender strength is a place of safety. (I wouldn’t complain AT ALL about a follow-up novel or novella with these characters. Just saying. In case Lindsay is reading this. Ahem.) The story itself has depth and dimension, not skirting over tough issues like abuse, infidelity, divorce, but also pouring out grace and mercy to fill in the broken places without becoming trite or preachy.
Bottom Line: I realize we’re only at the end of February, but The Secrets of Paper and Ink will definitely be on my ‘best of 2019’ list in December. The characters have firmly taken up residence in my heart, and their story is still lingering there as well. The setting is everything-Jane-Austen-England-bookstore delightful, and it makes me want to book my own trip to live above a bookstore and work there during my stay. A creative, tender, and masterfully done story of life, love, letting go, and truly living.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 5 stars / In a class by itself
KissingBook Level: 4 / Keep a fan and fainting couch handy!
Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. She’s held a variety of writing and editing jobs over the years, and now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels. When she’s not writing or chasing after her children, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time. Connect with her at www.LindsayHarrel.com.
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