*I received a free ARC of this book with thanks to the author and Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources blog tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Can the past always be forgiven?
Ben Stratton and Bryony Nightingale. Everybody thought they’d be together forever. But, when Ben leaves the small market town of Castle Clare to travel the world, Bryony is heartbroken, seeing his departure as the ultimate betrayal.
Throwing herself into her work running the much-loved children’s bookshop, Bryony determines to forget Ben and to start dating again. But Ben doesn’t make it easy for her, sending her postcards filled with his love and posting her foreign editions of all the great romantic novels from the countries he’s travelling through.
Then, after six long years, the unexpected happens and Ben returns, determined to win Bryony back. But will she forgive him and does he have the courage to tell her the truth about why he left her?
Natural Born Readers is the third book in the warm-hearted Book Lovers series by the bestselling author of The Rose Girls and A Weekend with Mr Darcy.
Natural Born Readers is the third in the Book Lover series by Victoria Connelly, and in many ways it is my favourite so far!
The story does stand alone, but is very much enriched by having read the previous two books first, as they give the back story to the romances of the rest of the Nightingale family.
Which is one of the first things I enjoyed about this book… we get to check back in with Callie, Sam, Polly, Jago and Archie! And the rest of the Nightingale family. This far into the series, I really feel as if they are my family too and am eager for any snippet about Grandma Nell’s health, or Frank’s gardening! We also got a bit more of the local book club, and spent some lovely time with side character Flo Lohman and her great-nephew, Sonny.
Because these books are not just about the – sweet, clean – romantic adventures of the Nightingale siblings. They are about family. The kind of family that is warm, loving, supportive, chaotic, and utterly book-loving. But also, the kind of families that… are not.
We have already faced domestic abuse in previous storylines and it returns again here, along with exploitation of the elderly and outright stealing. We see the devastation caused by such acts, especially when they betray the trust of someone that was supposed to be a loved one. A family member.
There is also plenty of internal conflict, as Bryony is completely unable to forgive Ben for going travelling years ago, despite the fact that they clearly both still love each other and are meant to be together. I got a little irritated with Bryony to be honest. Her dramatic anguish over Ben’s huge ‘betrayal’ seemed a little selfish and self-centred, and the way she treats poor Colin is just shameful.
Still, it’s very hard to hold a grudge against her, when the person her actions seems to hurt most is always herself. Plus we get to see her attitudes mature as the story progresses and she gets to spend more time thinking about other people instead of being focused on her (lack of a) love life!
As I’ve come to expect from this author, this book is a delightful romantic read; a real feel-good treat. It has the right balance of dark and light, sorrow and humour, and the characters feel like real people with real hopes, dreams and flaws. Even Bryony and Ben, who want their heads knocking together! I could read about the Nightingale family daily and not get tired of the warm, cosy glow they emanate and all the bookish chat.
I’m looking forward to Josh’s turn in Book 4 and hope Victoria Connelly continues with Lara, Cousin Megan and any other Nightingales she can think of!
Ben. The man she’d loved since primary school. Not that she loved him anymore, she told herself as she chose a few new titles to showcase in the window. Those feelings had been crushed the moment he’d walked out on her all those years ago. He’d wanted to travel, he’d said, to leave Castle Clare far behind him. Well, fine. If he didn’t want to stay with her, then it was better that he went. The fact that he’d begged her to go with him didn’t weigh much with Bryony. His departure had been a betrayal. He’d loved something else more than her and she could never forgive that. Nor forget it.
– Victoria Connelly, Natural Born Readers
Don’t forget to stop by the other blogs on this tour (see the poster below for details) for more great content and reviews! Check this link for my review of The Book Lovers, here for my review of Rules for a Successful Book Club, and observant readers will spot that I am back on the 20th of this month to bring you my thoughts on the fourth book in this series.