The bookshop setting with a mystery enticed me to read Mollie Rushmeyer’s The Bookshop of Secrets. The mystery itself is tied to first print editions that once belonged to the protagonist’s mother. Classic old books, a bookstore, family secrets, mysteries, treasure—what more do you need?
Mollie writes “Contemporary Fiction with a Heart for History.” So you’re going to get a delicious blend of old and new. Delicious in more ways than one. There are plenty of enticing literary-themed dishes on the menu.
Here’s a list of all the books I’ve featured so far having to do with books, authors, bookstores, or libraries:
- Annie’s Stories — Cindy Thomson — The protagonist’s father was an Irish storyteller and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is all the rage in 1901.
- My Dearest Dietrich — Amanda Barratt — Based on the life of pastor, theologian, author, and Nazi resistor Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- A Picture of Hope — Liz Tolsma — The World War II protagonist is a journalist
- Where Grace Appears — Heidi Chiavaroli — The contemporary Martin family is based on Little Women
- The Girl Who Could Breathe Underwater — Erin Bartels — The protagonist is a novelist whose first novel too closely resembles people in her life
- The Orchard House — Heidi Chiavaroli — Inspired by the life and home of Louisa May Alcott
- The Moonlight School — Suzanne Woods Fisher — Inspired by the life of educator Cora Wilson Stewart who brought literacy to Rowan County, Kentucky
- The Fifth Avenue Story Society— Rachel Hauck — Part of the story revolves around a library, an English professor, and his literary idol
- Things We Didn’t Say — Amy Lynn Green — An epistolary novel set in Minnesota during World War II
- The Writing Desk — Rachel Hauck — A dual timeline novel about two novelists.
- Nightfall in the Garden of Deep Time — Tracy Higley — The protagonist is a struggling, wannabe novelist who finds inspiration from well-known authors
- Night Bird Calling — Cathy Gohlke — Lillianna’s goal of establishing a library for folks of all backgrounds and ethnicities meets head-on with trouble
But The Bookshop of Secrets, a tale of contemporary romantic suspense, has a place all its own on the bookshelf. This is Mollie’s debut novel.
Hope Sparrow has mastered the art of outrunning her tragic past, learning never to stay anywhere too long and never to allow anyone control over her life again. Coming to Wanishin Falls in search of her family’s history already feels too risky. But somewhere in the towering stacks of this dusty old bookshop are the books that hold Hope’s last ties to her late mother—and to a rumored family treasure that could help her start over.
Only, the bookshop is in shambles, and the elderly owner is in the beginning stages of dementia and can’t remember where the books lie. To find the last links to the loved ones she’s lost, Hope must stay and accept help from the townsfolk to locate the treasured volumes. Each secret she uncovers brings her closer to understanding where she came from. But the longer she stays in the quaint town, the more people find their way into the cracks in her heart. And letting them in may be the greatest risk of all…
Risk-taking isn’t just about outside danger and harm; it’s about letting people into your heart.
“We’re not meant to live in the shadows, unseen.
Everybody needs to know and be known by others.” — Dee, p 24
Hope Sparrow loves books and food and has a great idea for combining them: a food truck with a literary-themed menu.
Why a food truck rather than a cafe or restaurant? Because she doesn’t want to get too close to people. With a food truck, she can up and leave anytime she wants.
“Wounds and time. They were funny things.
When she read a book it spoke to her soul in a distinct way.
But she could pick up the same book a year later and the words could say something different
because of how she’d grown or changed over time or because of her present circumstances.
The memories of her past were a little like that.
She needed a new story. A new life.
And she determined to write it, one page at a time . . .” — Hope, p 27
But there’s much to do before Hope can acquire a food truck. She’s still reeling from several tragic years of abuse. And right now she’s on a mission to find her mother’s books in her mother’s hometown, Wanishin Falls, Minnesota, at the Dusty Jackets bookstore on the shore of Lake Superior. Miles away from where Hope had been living.
Ronan Barrick is a solid guy who’s trying to stand tall under a father who keeps squashing him. And under a community that assumes he’s the epitome of the Barrick curse. His injury serves as a daily reminder of that so-called curse. But, fortunately, he’s able to see beyond himself when other folks’ welfare is at stake.
Hope and Ronan each have a different idea of what they most need, and how to get it. Hope is living in self-protective mode, emotionally and physically. Though her mother’s roots go deep in this town, she wants to solve the book mystery, then move on.
Ronan’s town roots go as deep as hers, with physical and emotional scars. But how can he overcome his past when it’s all wrapped up in his family’s name and reputation?
“What others would say is no longer useful, broken and ugly,
I see as capable of producing something beautiful.” —Ethel, p 138
Along with adventure and suspense, there’s a clear faith element, especially regarding identity. I appreciated the gradual growth of Hope and Ronan’s relationship. It was realistic, with no magical, sudden healing. Romantic suspense is not my go-to genre, but what kept me going was the three-dimensional characters, the writing quality, authentic dialog, and the literary connections.
In fact, I loved the literary-themed menus Hope created while experimenting with the food truck plans. Honestly, those resembled elements in my own novel manuscript, with a heroine wanting a book cafe that serves food based on novels. (Read more about that below.)
Many twists and turns keep you on your toes in this story. At one point, it bothered me that Hope was so upset about Ronan’s protectiveness, but considering her PTSD and lack of trust in anyone, it made sense later as I reflected on it.
One more thing. If human trafficking or sexual abuse is a trigger for you, beware. Though these issues are handled delicately and are past not present, they might be problematic for some readers.
Join me for some Q & A with author Mollie Rushmeyer.
Questions about The Bookshop of Secrets
What was your inspiration for writing The Bookshop of Secrets? What’s your personal connection to the setting and situation?
The Bookshop of Secrets came to me in parts. I wanted to write a story that honored my grandpa’s love of literature and how he passed that love of stories on to me. So, Ulysses, the elderly bookshop owner, was very much inspired by my grandpa, and the main character, Hope, was inspired by my own passion for the written word.
I also love the shore along Lake Superior in my home state of Minnesota so I’ve always wanted to set a story there. That’s where my fictional town of Wanishin Falls came from.
How did you create your heroine and hero, Hope and Ronan? How did you decide on their difficult backstories? How well did you know them and other key characters when you started out?
The back story for Hope came from my time working at a pregnancy resource center as a program director for eight years. We were trained to recognize signs of human trafficking and made a safe place for anyone to come, share, and find resources.
I had the privilege of working with a director of a safe house for women and children escaping a life of trafficking in our area. One thing that I’ll never forget is her acknowledgment that everything about trafficking is just as awful and dark as one can imagine, but that there is still hope and light to be found in God’s healing. I wanted to tell the story of the girl who got away, who learned to trust again, to allow herself to love and be loved, and who found a new life on the other side.
As far as Ronan, I knew Hope needed someone sensitive, kind, patient, and who’d walked some dark roads himself.
I do try to plan out my characters in advance. I use a writing program called Scrivener which allows me to choose a picture to get a visual and then outline each character. But there are usually character traits and bits of backstory that come to me as I write the story.
Did Hope and Ronan hijack the story or did you have full rein? What would Hope have to say about you?
I would say that, because I’m a definite plotter out of necessity, I had 99% full rein. Although when it came to the emotional scenes, I knew a certain conversation or circumstance would happen, but I let the characters do the talking. If that makes sense! I sort of let my own emotions take over and let whatever pours out of my heart flow onto the page.
Ha, I don’t know what Hope would say about me! “Why did you give me such a tortured past?” And the answer to that was to show that God can create something beautiful even from the darkest, most painful places inside of us.
How did you develop a suspenseful plot that relies on so many complicating factors that need to fit like puzzle pieces and remain believable? How do you keep everything straight?
I’ve always loved mysteries, both in literature and movies. I love that suspense factor where you wonder, “Who did it?” or “How is this going to come together in the end?” But surprisingly, I didn’t set out to write a mystery/suspenseful plot at all, it sort of just grew organically out of this story I wanted to tell. I wanted to write a story that revealed itself one layer at a time in the external plot just as much as Hope’s internal journey of healing happens one layer at a time.
I keep things straight in every story I write through extensive plotting and planning ahead of time. I write notes about what is going to happen in each scene before I ever write anything. I definitely have to see that progression of the plot at the outset or I’d be so lost!
What did you have to research to make this story authentic? What’s the strangest thing you had to do or look up to create this story?
I researched the history of Duluth and surrounding area of Lake Superior, first editions of famous novels and their worth today, the trauma of human trafficking, Lake Superior barges/ships, recipes :), and pirates on the Great Lakes, to name a few. The pirates one was probably the strangest!
Questions about writing
What books have been most influential for you as a writer? Was there a book that sparked or confirmed your desire to be a novelist?
So many! Just like my character Hope, I’ve loved many classic/older books like anything by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, North & South, Anne of Green Gables, and Little Women. I’ve also been influenced by The Giver, the series of The Chronicles of Narnia, and everything by Madeleine L’Engle in my younger years.
I would say each of these stories (and too many more to name) has sparked my desire to become a novelist. There is a sort of otherworldly, ethereal beauty to reading, isn’t there? It’s living through these characters you love, seeing the world through their eyes, laughing and crying with them, imagining their lives go on long after the last page is turned.
It was these stories and characters whom I loved that first made me want to do that for someone else—what all of these favorite authors had done for me.
Where do your story ideas usually originate from—character, plot, setting, theme, or a combination?
It has been slightly different for each book, honestly. The Bookshop of Secrets started with the main character and the side character, Ulysses. The plot came later. Then my next book, The Lost Manuscript, came about because I really wanted to set a story in Alnwick, England, somewhere near and dear to my heart. So, I created the characters and plot after choosing the setting.
Since Alnwick is where I studied abroad while I was in college, I knew I wanted to have characters who are on a study abroad trip there and have an adventurous mystery story at its core. From there, I chose to have an estranged married couple who must work together to track down a lost medieval illuminated manuscript the wife’s grandmother was obsessed with finding before she went missing.
Please share something about a current project or the direction you want to go as an author.
My next book, The Lost Manuscript releases on August 29th, 2023 and I’m equal parts nervous and excited! But I’m so excited to share this next story with readers. It’s available for pre-order in all formats anywhere books are sold.
My current work-in-progress is still in the planning/plotting stages and is a step further into my love of all things historical. I’m working on a split-time book, which is slightly different for me. I normally write fully contemporary stories with historical threads throughout—meaning a historical object or old journals or letters, etc.
This new project with have a contemporary character and point of view as well as a historical character and point of view. I’m giddy thinking about writing from a historical perspective and immersing myself into that world.
Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?
Don’t give up and write for the joy of it. I think as budding novelists (and even as we progress in our journey to publication), it can be so easy to become fixated on that ultimate goal of publication or the next contract. I would encourage you, wherever you’re at, to remember why you wanted to write in the first place. I hope, because you love it.
That love will carry you through the frustrations, the ups and downs, the hard edits/feedback, the snail’s pace of this industry, and all of the reasons others might bow out.
Resist the urge to quit. Continue learning. Join a writing &/or critique group, and form that tribe of fellow die-hard writers who will lift you up, encourage you, and commiserate with you. Attend conferences. Read extensively and widely. (I know, the adverbs! ;))
And then, when you sit down to write, do it with abandon. With the windows down, for the joy of spilling worlds onto the page, leaving nothing unspent, not worrying over whether it’s good enough or publishable. Just because you love it.
Back to Laura . . . On a similar note . . .
If you like stories about books and literature, you might enjoy my novel, Fifteen Minutes with Mr. Baum. This dual timeline novel spotlights L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The protagonist Carrie wants to launch a “book cafe”—not unlike Hope’s literary-themed food truck concept! Set in a small town in the midwest—in Holland, Michigan rather than Minnesota—this pre-published novel alternates between 1980 and the early 1900s. Read more and watch the book trailer here.
If you like small town stories about family dynamics and secrets, you might enjoy my re-launched novel All That Is Hidden. Set near North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains in 1968, the story spotlights the bond of family and the connections of a tight-knit community. Northern exploitation threatens as a father’s hidden past catches up to him and tests family ties. Learn more and watch the trailer here.
All That Is Hidden awards:
- Winner of the Artisan Book Reviews Book Excellence Award
- Semifinalist in Serious Writer’s Book of the Decade contest
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Mollie Rushmeyer Bio
Mollie Rushmeyer writes “Contemporary Fiction with a Heart for History.” A modern girl herself, she wouldn’t want to go a day without modern plumbing and central air! But she’s always felt a special connection to the past. A born and bred Midwestern gal, Mollie makes her home in Minnesota with her husband and two spunky, beautiful daughters. She is not only a bibliophile (the dustier the better, in her opinion), she’s a true anglophile at heart. Tea and coffee fuel her travels, by Google maps at least, and her passion for the written word. Connect with Mollie through Facebook and Instagram. Sign up for her newsletter (visit molliejrushmeyer.com) for vintage recipe reboots, history mixed with modern living, tea and book pairings, exclusive giveaways, and a FREEBIE pdf download “10 Vintage Hacks for Modern Homes.”
Join me next time for a visit with author Valerie Fraser Luesse.
Meanwhile, have you read The Bookshop of Secrets or any other novels focused on books or bookstores? Answer in the comments below.
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