Book Club



The Christmas Bookshop

If you’ve had it up to your eyes with holiday preparations and are looking for a light-hearted story to escape into, The Christmas Bookshop, by Jenny Colgan, might be just the ticket.

The title is a bit misleading, in my opinion. Yes, there’s a bookstore. Yes, the plot unfolds in the lead up to Christmas Day. And yes, it does initially seem like the story is about whether Carmen, the protagonist, can save a small Edinburgh bookshop by helping them turn a profit during the holiday season. But really, the bookshop is there to provide a beautiful setting.

I’m not spoiling anything by revealing that Carmen does save the shop. It happens early in the novel. She pulls it off quickly and easily thanks to a chance encounter with a famous writer who wants to use the picturesque store for a book promotion. I think this is when the real story kicks in and the novel becomes a more traditional, Hallmark-style Christmas love story. Will Carmen choose the arrogant author who sees the festive season as a way to make money, or the humble Brazilian Quaker who doesn’t celebrate Christmas at all?

And of course, true to the theme running through every Christmas story since Dickens’s classic, we also wonder whether Carmen will discover the true meaning of the season.

Colgan is what I call a “holiday” writer. By that I mean her books tend to focus on, or take place during, specific holidays. Like Elin Hilderbrand, Debbie Macomber and Karen Swan, Colgan has a whole array of Christmas books and beach reads. This is an incredibly successful business strategy that many authors follow—and they all hit the New York Times bestseller lists! More power to them!

Sometimes readers want nail-biting thrillers, sometimes we want regency romances, and sometimes we want our stories to reflect what we’re doing at that moment. If we’re ramping up for Christmas, we want our protagonist to be doing the same. It adds to the atmosphere and makes the holiday just that much more enjoyable for us.

Audiobook Review

Cards on the table here, I’m VERY fussy about audiobooks. I don’t expect expensive radio drama style productions with A-List talent all the time, but I do want the narrator to be consistent with the voices and accents. The Christmas Bookshop is narrated by Eilidh Beaton and she does a reasonable job, but I’m not sure I’d use an Audible credit for it.

Valerie Francis

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

Well, you’re not going to believe this. Reece Witherspoon and I picked the same book for our February book clubs. Sort of.  Late last year, I came across THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE by Marie Benedict and was fascinated by the premise. Benedict writes historical fiction, much like Philippa Gregory,

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Valerie Francis

A Girl Named Howard

This month, rather than recommend one book to read, I’m recommending the entire body of work of one author because Anne Rice, who passed away December 11, 2021, single-handedly revolutionized the role of vampires in literature.  Yes, vampires.  And the impact she’s had is more significant than you might realize.

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Valerie Francis


Val McDermid is a first-class crime writer, and if you’ve yet to discover her fiction, now’s your chance. With her latest novel, 1979, she’s launching a new five-book series featuring journalist Allie Burns. Her backlist is so robust that she doesn’t actually have to write any books at all, but

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