Thursday, February 10, 2022

With Love from London by Sarah Jio: Excerpt & Review

 With Love from London

Book Summary

A librarian inherits a bookshop from her estranged mother, leading her halfway across the world on a journey of self-discovery that transcends time and honors the unbreakable bonds of love and family.

When librarian Valentina Baker was a teenager, her mother, Eloise, unexpectedly fled to her native London, leaving Val and her father on their own. Now in her thirties and fresh out of a failed marriage, Val feels a nagging disenchantment with her life--and knows she is still heartbroken over her mother's abandonment.

In a bittersweet twist of fate, Val receives word that Eloise has passed away, leaving Val her Primrose Hill apartment and the deed to a bookshop Val never knew she'd owned. Though the news is devastating, Val finds herself more determined than ever to discover who her mother truly was. She jets across the Atlantic, departing Seattle for a new life in charming London.

Slowly but surely, Val begins to piece together Eloise's life in the UK, falling in love with her pastel-colored flat, cozy neighborhood, and tucked-away storefront. But when she discovers that The Book Garden is in danger of going under, Val must work with its eccentric staff to get it in working order. In the process, she learns more about Eloise than she ever thought possible. And as Val races to save the shop, Eloise's own story unfolds, leading both mother and daughter to unearth revelatory truths.

About the Author

Sarah Jio is the #1 international, New York Times, and USA Today bestselling author of eleven novels. She is the host of the Mod About You podcast and also a longtime journalist who has contributed to Glamour, The New York Times, Redbook, Real Simple, O: The Oprah Magazine, Bon Appétit, Marie Claire, Self, and many other outlets, including NPR's Morning Edition. Jio's books have been published in more than twenty-five countries. She lives in Seattle with her husband, three young boys, three stepchildren, and two puppies. 

My Thoughts

After being dumped by her husband of twelve years, Valentina learns that her mother has passed.  Valentina has not seen nor heard from her mother since she was twelve years old.  Valentina is told that she has inherited a building in the Primrose Hill neighborhood of London, England that contains two apartments and a bookshop.  As a librarian, Valentina finds the idea of owning a bookshop appealing.  Books have always helped her through the rough moments of her life.  Valentine arrives at the Book Garden and meets Millie, her mother’s best friends and Liza, a tenant.  When Valentina finds her favorite book in the shop, she opens it to find an envelope with her name on it.  Her mother has left her one last scavenger hunt.  Valentina hopes this will allow her to learn more about her mother and why she left all those years ago without a word.  Valentina receives word for the solicitors that the death taxes are higher than expected.  If she wants to keep the Book Garden, Valentina along with Millie and Liza must find a way to raise the funds.  Can Valentina save the bookshop, and will she learn what she needs to know about her elusive mother?  

With Love from London by Sarah Jio is a dual timeline novel.  We get Valentina’s story which is set in 2013 and Eloise’s story that begins in 1968.  I normally have a hard time with novels that have multiple timelines, but Sarah Jio made it flow beautifully.  I was able to go from one section to the other without difficulty. I thought With Love from London was well-written with realistic characters.  I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of London’s Primrose Hill neighborhood.  I loved how Valentina and other characters just loved books. It is always wonderful when you meet a fellow reader and booklover.  My favorite quote is, “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having too many books.” Another delightful quote is  “…a favorite book is like an old friend, waiting for you with open arms.”  With Love from London is a poignant novel.  There are a couple of scenes where you will want to ensure that you have a tissue handy.  The romances were touching, and one was amusing.  I enjoyed the humor sprinkled throughout the story.  There was, though, some predictability to the tale.  There were a couple of items that I figured out early on and then waited to see if my guesses would come to fruition.  The ending left me with a smile on my face.  I look forward to reading each new Sarah Jio novel and she did not disappoint me with this one.  If you love romance, books, and people who love books, then With Love from London is the right novel for you.  


Chapter 1


London, England

November 3, 2013

“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind,” says the stranger sitting next to me on the airplane—a sixtysomething woman with feathered bangs and a hair tie clinging so tightly to her left wrist that I’ve spent most of the flight worried it might turn into a medical emergency.

In my years of assorted travel, I’ve had a long history of questionable airplane seatmates: the ninety-year-old man who touched my leg 3,781 times, then lapsed into a flatulence-fueled nap; the crying baby of all crying babies; the woman who drank too many mini bottles of rum and passed out on my shoulder, drooling.

However, on this particular flight, it seems I’ve been graced by the “Sentimental Orator.” We’d barely cleared the runway, and Chatty in seat 26B had already quoted Shakespeare, Marilyn Monroe, and, if I remember correctly, Muhammad Ali.

My tired, blank stare obviously troubles her, because the corners of her mouth plummet into a disappointed frown. “You poor child,” she says, shaking her head. “You don’t know C. S. Lewis? A shame.”

“Yes,” I say, closing my eyes as I press my head against the seat back, attempting sleep—or, at least, pretending to. “It’s . . . ​very sad.”

And it is. I’ve just been accused of not knowing a quote by one of my favorite authors, though I’m presently too exhausted to defend myself. But what’s sadder? The very quote itself.

“There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

My eyes shoot open as the plane begins to descend over London and a burst of turbulence jostles me against the Sentimental Orator who, I predict, will soon start reciting Gandhi, or maybe Mother Teresa.

My mind churns. What if C. S. Lewis was wrong? What if there aren’t better things to come? What if . . . ?

The plane rattles again as it slips beneath a cloud, landing gear deployed. A moment later, we’re touching down at Heathrow with a thud.

I peer out the window. So, this is London.

The Sentimental Orator gasps and fumbles for her inhaler as I take in my first view of England and its seemingly endless gray. A thick layer of fog and dark clouds blend like a muddled watercolor painting—and my own gray mood. Gray on gray on gray.

I sigh as I collect my bag from the overhead compartment and walk numbly ahead. I’m thirty-five years old. This should be chapter thirteen of my life—maybe even chapter sixteen. But somehow, I feel as if I’ve been catapulted back to the very beginning, or worst, thrust into a laborious rewrite.

“Chapter 1: An American Divorcee in London.”

“Miss,” the Sentimental Orator says, tapping my shoulder. “I think you forgot . . . ​your book.”

She hands it to me and I eye the cover with equal parts humiliation and denial. How to Get Divorced and Not Lose Your Mind. I’d only read two chapters, as covertly as possible, but quickly lost interest and tucked it into the seat pocket for the next passenger’s guaranteed delight. I mean, what therapist in their right mind would title a chapter: “The Best Way to Get Over Someone Is to Get Under Someone”?

“You poor thing,” the Sentimental Orator says, smiling to herself.

Give this model citizen a gold star!

“Are you going through a divorce?”

Is it just me, or did she say the word “divorce” several decibels louder? The pair of women to our left look over, their faces beaming pity—for me.

I nod. “Yeah—recently.” More nearby eyes descend on me. I might as well have a sticker on my back that reads: recently divorced.

“Remember, dear,” my transatlantic seatmate says, “that it takes six months for every year you were together to get over someone.”

I’d heard this before—from other well-meaning people—but it always left me feeling confused and, well, a bit terrified. Nick and I were married for twelve years, so by those calculations, will I wallow in sadness and self-loathing for . . . ​six more? Who made up this ridiculous statistic, and can we all agree that it’s completely bogus?

It has to be, right?

I sidestep a couple in front of me to avoid the Sentimental Orator’s inevitable, forthcoming question: “Do you mind my asking . . . ​what happened?” And then I’d be backed into that awful corner, where I’m required to explain that my husband, an attorney, left me for the twenty-three-year-old paralegal he’d been secretly seeing for months. And yes, I actually believed he was working late all those nights. Her name? Oh, it’s Missy, who shows off her endless legs and fake eyelashes on Instagram.
My own account is booksbyval. When I should have been posting inspiration from the novels on my nightstand, I stalked Missy. Guilty as charged. You’re wondering: Is she . . . ​attractive? Smart? Yes, on both counts, though don’t you think it should be illegal for someone with perennially pink, pouty lips to also graduate summa cum laude?

They’re a couple now. Missy and Nicky. MadeForEachOther, or so read one of her recent posts, where she casually hinted at the new love in her life: my husband, or rather, soon-to-be ex-husband.

I feel like a zombie as I walk to the passport control area, grateful to have parted ways with the Orator. I scan my passport into a machine, and it begins flashing red and beeping. A moment later, a customs officer appears to tell me I’ve been randomly selected for further screening.

Of course I have.

“Miss, I’ll need you to come with me,” he says, leading me to a nearby room, where I hand him my passport. “Here for a holiday?”
“Uh—” I stammer as he fumbles through my bag, my underwear right on top of my jeans, and the old ratty AC/DC sweatshirt I can’t seem to part with, even if Nick did give it to me the year we first started dating. “A holiday?” I shake my head. “No.”

“Business then?” he continues, as he searches through my carry-on bag with gloved hands.

“No,” I say, rubbing my forehead. “Not business.”

“Well, then, what is it, miss?”

I swallow hard, deflecting his intense gaze, which feels as if it’s piercing into me. “My mother died,” I finally blurt.

A tinge of humanity appears in his eyes—only a glimmer, but it’s there. Perhaps that’s the only good thing about death—that it softens the hardest edges.

“I’m very sorry,” he says, returning my passport, then pausing briefly. “You’re all clear. Welcome to England.”
I nod as he leads me out a separate entrance, then follow the signs to baggage claim, where I collect my two large suitcases on carousel 11 and make my way outside to find a cab. I wave at a waiting driver, who’s leaning against his car, smoking a cigarette.

“Where to?” he asks, loading my luggage.
“Primrose Hill,” I say.

He nods. “Coming home?”

Now that the divorce is nearly final and the Seattle house sold, Primrose Hill will be my landing place. Still, it’s foreign to me.

I shrug. “Sort of.” 

Are you ready to ready With Love from LondonWith Love from London is available from Amazon*.   You can find Sarah Jio's other novels hereThe Violets of March is my favorite book by Sarah Jio. I used photos from Primrose Hill today where With Love from London is set.  I wanted you to see the beautiful pastel-colored homes, the bookshop, the cafes, and the nearby park.  I appreciate you joining me today.  Live, Local, and Dead by Nikki Knight is on deck for tomorrow.  It is the beginning of A Vermont Radio Mystery series.  I hope that you have a cheerful day.  Take care, stay safe, and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader 

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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