A year after the death of her abusive fiancé, domestic violence counselor Sophia Barrett finds returning to work too painful. She escapes to Cornwall, England–a place she’s learned to love through the words of her favorite author–and finds a place to stay with the requirement that she help out in the bookstore underneath the room she’s renting. Given her love of all things literary, it seems like the perfect place to find peace.
Ginny Rose is an American living in Cornwall, sure that if she saves the bookstore she co-owns with her husband then she can save her marriage as well. Fighting to keep the first place she feels like she belongs, she brainstorms with her brother-in-law, William, and Sophia to try to keep the charming bookstore afloat.
Two hundred years before, governess Emily Fairfax knew two things for certain: she wanted to be a published author, and she was in love with her childhood best friend. But he was a wealthy heir and well out of her league. Sophia discovers Emily’s journals, and she and William embark on a mission to find out more about this mysterious and determined woman, all the while getting closer to each other as they get closer to the truth.
The lives of the three women intertwine as each learns the power she has over the story of her life.
For those of you who have been with me for a while, you know how much I adore a good past meets present read! In fact, this is one of my favorite tropes and I generally always rate these types of reads quite highly . . . . generally, but not always.
The Secrets of Paper and Ink appealed to me most in the chapters dealing with the present, rather than the past. While I completely understand the need for the chapters related to Emily Fairfax and the past, how her story tremendously impacts Sophia and her own life in the present, I found myself rushing through Emily’s chapters to read more of Sophia’s story.
From the beginning, I found Sophia’s strength to be her most admirable quality. Though she certainly doesn’t feel strong, or capable of moving past her pain, she is still willing to take a great big leap of faith to help herself. In Sophia’s case, the leap takes her across the big pond to Cornwall, England where she finds cheap accommodations and an ideal position working part time in a bookstore. On some level, Sophia knows she has found her salvation the moment she enters the bookstore. What’s more, she instantly recognizes another broken woman in the face of her new landlord/employer, Ginny.
In no time flat, Sophia has not only made herself at home, but made herself a fine new friend in Ginny. Together, the two women work hard to revitalize the flagging bookstore and make it a place that can serve and support both their needs and wants. For Sophia, the bookstore isn’t just an escape, but a chance to find her way toward a truly happy and healthy future. For Ginny, the bookstore represents a struggle to hold on to her failing marriage and make something of the mess she finds herself in. What neither woman expects is that not only will the bookstore save them both, but it will do so in most unexpected ways.
Within her first few days at the bookstore, Sophia finds an old novel that takes her on a journey into the past in order to solve the mystery of the past and uncover the identity of Emily Fairfax. With the help of Ginny’s handsome and attentive brother-in-law, William, Sophia searches and searches for the story of a woman who has all but been forgotten. The novel is the story of this young woman, one who wanted desperately to tell her story but was prevented from doing so because of her time and place in history. In so many ways, Sophia identifies with Emily Fairfax and with every step closer to identifying Emily, Sophia comes one step closer to her own moment of revelation, the moment when she can finally tell her own story, let go of her terrible past, and step forward into her bright future.
The Bottom Line: The very bottom line is this, I sincerely believe I would have liked this book even more if Sophia and Ginny’s stories alone had been covered and Emily’s left for another book altogether or not at all. Sophia and Ginny are by far the strongest of the characters and I found Emily, though somewhat interesting, to be nowhere near as strong as Sophia and Ginny. This is one of the few instances in which I did not care for the past coming back to impact the present. In fact, I could have done without that aspect of the read at all. What kept me at three starts is just how much I did like Sophia and Ginny. Each woman is at the lowest point in her respective life and with the help and support of one another, each is able to pick herself up, put herself back together, and come out stronger on the other side. With each page, each event, each new bombshell, Sophia and Ginny must dig deep, and I so enjoyed seeing them blossom and take control of their own lives. In the end, each finds a life only once dreamt of and now made possible through their own hard work and determination. As always, I do so love a character, male or female, who takes charge, takes control, and makes a better life for him/herself!