Valentine’s Love (2018) by Helena Stone is a beautifully crafted, heartwarming love story.
The story follows protagonist Ty O’ Malley who owns a gift shop called Spoilt for Choice and enjoys nothing better than helping his customers find the gifts they need to show their appreciation of those they love. Often these situations are with their significant others and while Ty is helping them, he is putting to one side his own emotional affairs in matters of the heart with the same sex and the pain and hurt he feels about the breakdown of his relationship with a man who he loved who left him three years prior. I couldn’t help thinking of Jane Austen when I was reading parts in this book because like Ty, a lot of her work was about romance and yet she struggled to find it in her own life. But alas, Ty is thankfully not going the same path as dear Jane as hope is on the horizon in the form of a customer who comes into his shop called Ben Cronin. With the help of Ty’s cupid-like assistant, there is now a chance for finding his own love of his life to buy gifts and shower in love and affection. But there is of course a snag like in all good ‘will-they-won’t-they?’ romance as Ben has come into the shop looking for gift ideas for another mystery man who has his heart all aflutter …
I think the chemistry between Ty and Ben is very natural and drives the plot forward with ease. You definitely find yourself rooting for them to get together and for Ty to finally move on from his arsehole ex-boyfriend. The emotions and fears that both men feel about making this big leap and adjustment to their lives is written very well especially Ty’s feelings on the issue as he has far more baggage coming into this possible new relationship. He is learning to trust again and finding it difficult to allow his heart to be put in another man’s hands again.
I also love in this book how the author fitted in a bit of social commentary and how it is often assumed that someone is romantically linked to someone of the opposite sex and is buying gifts for them. Though there is a bit more to that part of the story which I don’t want to give away, it was a point well made and something which needs to be brought up in fiction, and in general, more.
Another thing I loved about this book is that as an Irish person, it felt very authentic of Ireland to me. The characters in this book are like Irish people I meet all the time and that isn’t always the case with the representations of Irish characters in fiction. I mean the amount of times I have lost my shit over representations of Irish people involving leprechauns, a belief in mythical creatures and an all-round naive outlook of the world has been a hell of a lot. So I very much appreciated that the author did not use the stereotypical approach to the story. These characters are strong, everyday Irish people with human emotions and modern outlooks and that is the real Ireland that I live in every day. Also loved that Monkstown was the setting because my late and very much loved father was from Monkstown.
Ty and Ben are such a lovely couple to read about and this story is one of those lovely romances that you can sit reading with a cup of coffee and marshmallows and feel all warm and happy inside.
A fantastic read. Very beautiful. And a read for all year round, not just for Valentine’s!
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