The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon

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RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “When Anna takes over Longhampton’s bookshop, it’s her dream come true. And not just because it gets her away from her rowdy stepchildren and their hyperactive dalmatian. As she unpacks boxes of childhood classics, Anna can’t shake the feeling that maybe her own fairytale ending isn’t all that she’d hoped for. But as the stories of love, adventure, secret gardens and giant peaches breathe new life into the neglected shop, Anna and her customers get swept up in the magic too. Even Anna’s best friend Michelle – who categorically doesn’t believe in true love and handsome princes – isn’t immune. But when secrets from Michelle’s own childhood come back to haunt her, and disaster threatens Anna’s home, will the wisdom and charm of the stories in the bookshop help the two friends – and those they love – find their own happy ever afters?”

REVIEW: I absolutely adored this book right from the moment I read the blurb. I think the fact that I run a book blog pretty much screams from the rooftops that I’m an avid book lover, and Anna has what would be pretty much my dream job – running an independent bookshop with lots of personal touches that becomes an area of significance for the local community, and causes even those characters whom we think will never get along to forge bonds. What is less known about me from readers of the blog is that I also adore dogs. We rescued a retired greyhound in 2013 and he is the most important thing in the world to me; I don’t know what I did without him in my life to cuddle, push my books on the floor, fall asleep on my laptop and tear up the grass in the garden by pretending he’s still running on a racetrack. So it was lovely for me to find a chick lit book that combined my two favourite things (other than pizza) – books and dogs – and, more importantly, that wasn’t predictable. This is a problem that often puts me off reading chick lit, but this book was far more meaningful than any ordinary fluffy piece of fiction. Dillon deals with real issues while still making the book entertaining, heartwarming and extremely difficult to put down! Anna’s struggles with her home life, where she feels out of place after her husband’s three daughters from a previous marriage – Becca, Chloe and Lily – arrive with their dog Pongo (who sounds very similar to my own dog in terms of his behaviour!) and soak up all of her husband’s attention and her own time. Anna’s desire for a baby of her own is something I think Dillon writes brilliantly; the reader really feels for Anna, and feels her pain when others around her get their wish while she is left looking after other people’s children rather than her own. Anna’s difficulties are mirrored by her best friend Michelle, who is pretty miserable herself after having to abandon her own dog in order to run away from a psychologically abusive ex-husband, whom her family all adore and are desperate for her to return to. Both women form a strong bond, and even when their ups and downs begin to turn them away from each other, this is still a story of real and true friendship, and of realistic relationships that aren’t always as perfect  – or as fulfilling – as we might expect them to be. When I finished the book I was sad to leave the characters behind, as they are all so likeable and I had grown attached to many of them; especially the dogs, Pongo and Tavish. I would highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more of Dillon’s novels!

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