Sunday, May 15, 2022

Blog Tour: Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner


I've got another gem of a read for you! I read The Jane Austen Society  almost exactly a year ago, and now author Natalie Jenner is back with an equally charming novel about three women who decide they're going to change the rules at their beloved bookshop. 

It's 1950's London; World War 2 is over but England is still in recovery. Not only are supplies still a bit short, but the women who took over while the men fought are getting a rude awakening: the men are back. Men have taken back their jobs, and ladies who were used to capably handling life, work, and family are finding themselves stuck back in roles they have outgrown and no longer want. 

Bloomsbury Books is a long established bookshop in London, run by men who have--yes--51 rules on how to work. They are a stuffy bunch, and Vivien and Grace are stifled by the rules and unable to see any of their ideas for improving the shop move forward. Evie soon joins the women at the shop (you'll recognize her from The Jane Austen Society) and together the three women become friends. The shop has been slowly declining in sales--mostly because the men refuse to update the inventory and cater to tourists who visit. 

I loved each of the women: Vivien is a real go-getter; a talented writer who keeps little notebooks nearby and is constantly filling them up--but has nowhere to go with her talent. Grace is a married woman who has a less than ideal domestic life and feels trapped, but longs for more freedom. Evie, of course, brings her talents and interest in cataloging books and bringing long-lost female novelists to light. 

The men who work at Bloomsbury Books are also interesting, and have stories to tell: Alec, Vivien's nemesis, who takes over as general manager and realizes it's not where his passions lie; Mr. Dutton, who has to take a leave of absence from the bookshop and has a big secret of his own. He's also the author of all those rules--archaic and impossible to follow. 

There's finally the quiet Ashwin Ramaswamy, who works in the basement of the bookshop. Evie connects with Ash and their friendship may just deepen into something more. However, Ash feels very unwelcome in London and may return to India. I found myself rooting for these two! 

Mr. Dutton's leave of absence from Bloomsbury opens the door to the women taking control and making changes to the bookshop. They make some impressive friends with authors, wives of publishers, and wealthy American women. A plan is hatched--but will the ladies succeed? 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Any plot that involves a bookshop has my interest. I loved the setting, the different interests in the book world that propelled each of the women to work for their dreams; the friendships that developed, and also the romances that were waiting for each of them, too. This was a novel about women empowering themselves, finding their voices, and using their smarts to get what they wanted. The men thought they were in control, but they were not!

A big thank you to St. Martin's Press, Laurel from Austen Prose PR, and author Natalie Jenner for a chance to be a part of this blog tour. Bloomsbury Girls will be out in the U.S. on Tuesday, May 17th in hardcover, audio, and e-book. 

Rating: 5/6 for a terrific novel about female friendship, women navigating post-World War 2 life, and a bookshop that becomes the catalyst for BIG life changes. 

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