I absolutely adore the opposites attract trope in romance novels, so when I read the synopsis of The Bookshop of Forgotten Dreams, I knew it would be a fun read. Small town girl running a bookstore collides with a city boy actor with anger management issues? Combined with forced proximity? It had no choice but to be amazing. While I did find certain elements of the book required the reader to step back from reality a bit, especially around the hero's actions in the beginning and his subsequent punishment, overall this book was engaging, memorable, and a book that will make your heart sigh in contentment. Translated from French to English, I didn't feel that anything was lost, and the story moved along at a brisk yet satisfying pace.
Maxime Marechal has almost reached the point of no return. After numerous incidents of acting out and getting arrested, his reputation is close to going up in flames, and he has no one but himself to blame. Filled with anger and needing a release, he seeks out fights at every turn, and therefore the only solution is to remove him from that temptation and provide him a different outlet. So a deal is made with the judge - avoid jail and perform community service under "house arrest" for two months at a bookshop where repairs are desperately needed. Seeing no third option available, Maxime takes it. And finds himself living with a woman who tempts him in ways he never expected. Sarah is terrible with men and the prospect of sharing her home with a man like Max is daunting. Unfriendly and stubborn, he is the exact opposite of the man she is dating. But as they spend more time together, she begins to see another side to him, and that side appeals to her. It's the Max who could have been, and it's the Max who could be if he could find the motivation. Sarah may not be who he thought he wanted, but she is exactly who he needs.
Max did not start off well in this book, an obvious bad boy with a deep-seated anger towards others and a need to get what he wants without caring about the consequences. He treated everyone like crap around him, and he would rather crash and burn than accept help. But he definitely did not want to go to jail, so he was forced to accept the hand that was offered to him. Sarah had no desire to have Max in her home, but she was struggling to keep her bookstore alive, and after a flood with no way to pay for repairs, she needed help. Shy and awkward around men, she seemed like a total mismatch with Max, but what I loved is that over time, the reader starts to see Max change. He didn't even really see in himself the potential to change until he began to shed his shell, and Sarah showed him the way. I know it can feel cliche, that a woman's touch can turn a bad boy good, but it felt very genuine to me. He was so gruff towards Sarah in the beginning, thinking she was beneath him, and then when he realized how good of a person she was - too good for him - you could see him slowly starting to shift how he reacted to her. I think he wanted to be good enough for her, but he wasn't sure how. The couple had some bumps in the road, and all good things must eventually come to an end as he was only meant to be there for two months, but the way the story wraps up is so magical. I loved it so much.
Some other reviews I've seen mention that this book just doesn't feel believable, because of the sentencing of Max's crime and then how he suddenly becomes a better guy because of the right woman, but I think the love in the story is so beautiful. Could it happen in real life? Sure. Is it super likely? Probably not. But I don't read romance for how "real" it is - I read romance for the "what if," not for the "what is" of life.
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**