Welcome to Rosie Hopkins Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan is the best kind of comfort read, a romance set in a village filled with hunky blokes, excellent pubs, eccentric villagers and a likeable heroine. And, best of all, as the title indicates, a lolly shop that sells all sorts of old fashioned favourites.
I love Flying Saucers and associate them with trips to Port Fairy in Victoria, where the local lolly shop sells them from a big glass jar for 10 cents each. Plenty of Flying Saucers were eaten by the characters in this story, which starts with the heroine, Rosie Hopkins, leaving London to look after her ageing Great-Aunt Lilian who has lived in a small village and ran the local sweet shop her whole life. For those of you who have never experienced a Flying Saucer, you suck on the tasteless coloured wafer until the burst of sherbet inside explodes on your tongue. At ten cents each, Flying Saucers are great value.
When Rosie arrives in Lipton, she realises that Lilian desperately needs help. Lilian is unable to look after herself properly any more and has been subsisting on lollies (including Lemons Sherbets) from her shop, which has been closed for several years. I have an enormous fondness for Lemon Sherbets, and have been known to suck on them until my tongue bleeds. Similar to a Flying Saucer, there is a lovely burst of sherbet in the middle, although in the case of a Lemon Sherbet, the sherbet is surrounded by a lemon flavoured boiled lolly. Yum.
Rosie is an Auxiliary nurse who has been living with her boyfriend for eight years, although it is apparent from the first pages that he is not the hero of this book. Rosie is a city girl who loves living in London, and finds things in the country to be wetter, muddier and more complicated than she originally imagined, although after assisting the local doctor to operate on Lady Lipton’s dog, she quickly settles into village life. Rosie is a bit of an emotional marshmallow when it comes to her long-time boyfriend, who is a little bit fat and marshmallowy himself. Personally, I don’t really go for marshmallows unless they are home made using lemon juice, in which case I’ll clean up a tray of the stuff by myself.
Rosie launches from disaster to disaster, and from hunk to hunk. At one point, she had three potential blokes on the go, including the boyfriend back in London. One by one the fellows are narrowed down so the hero can emerge, (one turns out to be gay, another is the local man-about-town and perfect for someone else, and so on). The boyfriend is also eliminated from the running after a visit to Lipton. Lolly Bananas. Hmmm. The texture is okay, but the flavour is a bit banana-ish for me. Anyway, different things for different people.
The present story is broken up with the story of Lilian’s wartime romance with a young man in Lipton seventy years ago. Surprisingly Lilian’s acid tongue didn’t scare him away, but some people love sour lollies. I do. There is nothing like the sensation of your mouth puckering up with a combination of sour and sweet acid lollies.
The book includes recipes for Peanut Brittle (which Lilian describes as leaving your breath smelling like a diabetic monkey’s), Marshmallows, Coconut Ice and Tablet, which looks wonderful. I can feel a sugar headache coming on just looking at the photo of Tablet above. The ingredients include a lot of sugar, sweetened condensed milk (which is basically just sugared milk) and a drop of milk. I’ll be making a tray of this sometime soon.
Also included are excerpts from a book about lollies which has apparently been written by Lilian, with sections where she has said derogatory things about certain lollies blacked out. I laughed when I read that the only good chocolate to come out of the United States of America are Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, probably because I agree with this opinion one hundred percent. Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups are excellent, but I have yet to taste another American chocolate that is edible.
True love eventually finds its way for Rosie, and things work out happily for Lillian too. Conversation lollies have been around forever, with sweet messages like; ‘BE MINE’ or ‘PUPPY LOVE’ but they must have updated the messages because these days they also have ‘TEXT ME.’
Jenny Colgan has written loads of other books with titles which include the words ‘Cupcake’, ‘Bakery’, ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Café,’ so there are clearly loads of people like me who enjoy sweet things to eat along with their romance. I can highly recommend Welcome to Rosie Hopkins Sweet Shop of Dreams for those of us that do.
Oh, go on, you knew I wouldn’t finish this post without some chocolate for you all. Help yourself to a Chocolate Caramel or a Hazelnut Whirl. Enjoy. Hugs and kisses, Rose.