The scent of paper bound in polished leather and the fire-warmed storefront made Mr. Fenton’s bookstore an ideal escape from an abusive step-parent for Christy Shaw. He never expected more than a few stolen moments of comfort, but when Mr. Fenton himself offered Christy a paying job, Christy jumped at the chance. With his fresh new ideas, he manages to put a bit of his own mark on the bookstore—one that draws in customer after customer and Mr. Fenton notices. Of course, Christy would like Mr. Fenton to notice him for much more than just ability to hawk their wares, but the prickly older man is so private, Christy is nearly content to settle for subtle hints at friendship.
Lawrence is relieved that his little bookshop in a less fashionable neighborhood in London fares well. And he knows perfectly well that he owes no small part of that success to Mr. Shaw. In fact, hiring the young man was quite a bit of a risk, but even Lawrence realizes his small kindness has been paid back several times over. So much so that for months, Lawrence considers making Mr. Shaw a partner in the venture. As the sordid details of Mr. Shaw’s home life start coming to the fore, Lawrence is beginning to realize he feels more that just a bit protective of a fellow book lover. Yet he would be devastated if Mr. Shaw ever expected Lawrence was anything up the most respectable of men.
Fate intervenes, however, when Christy’s drunk stepfather comes barreling into the bookshop close to Christmas, looking for Christy’s wages to buy more drink. The uproar could cost them the bookstore, but worse, it could cost Mr. Shaw and Mr. Fenton the intimate friendship they’ve been building…and possibly prevent them from getting closer still.
Alright, this is a sweet little holiday read. I knocked the whole thing out on a cross-country flight—perfect for a busy holiday season. The characters are a bit saccharine in their sentiments. Christy moons over Mr. Shaw like the young man he is (I won’t reveal exact ages as that seems to be a bit of a thing in the book) and Lawrence is old enough to initially misidentify his feelings towards Mr. Shaw as almost fatherly. Personally, I think the flip-flopping of narrators (all in third person) helps keep the prose interesting and not too repetitious.
From page one, we know there is an attraction for Mr. Fenton that Christy feels and I very much enjoyed watching this grow bit by bit over the course of the book. Likewise, we get to see Lawrence slowly learn he actually feels a romantic attraction to Mr. Shaw. There are so many little scenes between these two that highlight the innocent emotions they bear for each other, but the times (I’m guessing late 1800s) mean that the attraction is certainly something to keep deeply buried. Allegations of homosexual activity are also at the center of the climax and oh-so-hot resolution. Truth be told, though, the explicitly sexy wrap up was a fun surprise, but also a bit of a non sequitur, especially the “challenge” Christy proposes at the end. While I enjoyed how frank they were in their desires in this now-found space of their intimate relationship, it did feel decidedly modern and decidedly more sexually overt than either one had seemed capable of.
There is also the major side story of this abusive step-father. He doesn’t appear on page much except to (usually) beat the tar out of either Christy or his mother. What I found interesting is that Moone takes the trouble to add a bit more dimension to this alcoholic character. He is said to be very apologetic after he’s committed egregious acts (but the reader is also often reminded that “he’s her husband” and we’re still in an era were a married woman was little better (no better?) than their husband’s property), and also takes pains to let the reader know that this character at least TRIES to stop being a drunk and he does actually get off the drink for a short span…but all that comes crashing down when he’s back on the bottle. It was a welcome touch of realism to the fairy tale-esque quality of the love story between Lawrence Fenton and Christy Shaw.
On the whole, I would certainly recommend this to anyone who likes historical reads or holiday ones. It would also be a nice choice if you’re looking for a sweet love story about an couple with a bit of an age difference (even today, I think this age difference might be a *wee* bit comment worthy).