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Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Little Shop of Found Things

Title:  The Little Shop of Found Things
Author: Paula Brackston
Publisher: 2nd October 2018 by St Martin’s Press
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, time travel
My Rating: 3.5 crowns


A new series about a young woman whose connection to antiques takes her on a magical adventure, reminiscent of Outlander

New York Times bestselling author of The Witch's Daughter Paula Brackston returns to her trademark blend of magic and romance to launch a new series guaranteed to enchant her audience even more.

Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. So when she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.

It’s while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century. And shortly after, she's confronted by a ghost who reveals that this is where the antique has its origins. The ghost tasks Xanthe with putting right the injustice in its story to save an innocent girl’s life, or else it’ll cost her Flora’s.

While Xanthe fights to save her amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave.

With its rich historical detail, strong mother-daughter relationship, and picturesque English village, The Little Shop of Found Things is poised to be a strong start to this new series.

My Thoughts

Having read a couple of Paula Brackston ‘witchier’ novels, I was up for trying the first in a new series for her. With an attractive cover and the promise of a dual time narrative, I signed up.

Being the first in a series, what we have here is a slow build - mother and daughter starting over in a small town ready to move on and begin anew after hardships. The main lead, Xanthe, has an ability to connect with objects that ‘sing’ to her the history of their previous owner. Their new abode has a resident ghost from the  1600s who demands Xanthe's help save her daughter in that time - thus the strong pull she feels for the chatelaine (had to look that one up!), that will in turn, assist her to time travel. What I did appreciate is the historic detail, inclusive of settings/buildings, clothing, servants lives, attitudes to religion, and sentencing of convicted criminals. I enjoyed the modern tale also and hope future books in the series will flesh out more with Xanthe’s mother Flora, helpful friend Liam and many in the local community who really needed to be fleshed out a bit more for the reader to engage.

With characters and plot taking their time in being established, I began to struggle. When  Xanthe so easily alternates back and forth between past and present, I had trouble letting go of logistics. To fully appreciate this scenario, one must suspend understanding in a number of matters eg. the time travel dynamics with no one surprised when Xanthe appeared or disappeared and in odd types of dress given the relevant time period. Her language was alluded to as being strange in the past, but the way she spoke and her forthright expectations really would not have been accepted in the 1600s; there were just too many unrealistic interactions if she was to assume the role of a servant. Add I did not really fall for the ‘insta romance’ if she was fearful of the retributions from the ghost in present day.

‘Xanthe felt suddenly swamped with guilt. How could she have been so easily and completely distracted from what she had come here to do?’

So, whilst the concept is clever and it may make for a good series, I was not overly convinced with the opening instalment. While there were parts I enjoyed, I couldn't fully get into this book. It is an easy read with time travel, romance, mystery and historical fiction all melded together with a sprinkle of magic thrown into the mix.

‘The present that she knew, the way things were in her time, could only have come about if she had traveled back to the past.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

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