Review: ‘The Gift Counselor’ by Sheila Cronin

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I don’t make any commission from the links below.

Thank you so much to the author for sending me a hard copy of ‘The Gift Counselor’. I devoured it and it was a quick, light read- perfect for Christmas read. I can just imagine myself snuggled up by the fire in a Christmas jumper reading this novel…

‘The Gift Counselor’ was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book contest, as well as the winner of the Beverly Hills Book Awards, and so I’m so glad to have the opportunity of reviewing it on my blog! The book is also going to be followed by a sequel, ‘Best of all Gifts’, but I read it as a standalone, so the novel works as a standalone as well as part of a series!

‘The Gift Counselor’ is about a young woman, Jonquil Bloom, who loses her job working at a Children’s Home. Because of this, and because, after the death of her husband, she has been forced to bring up her son, Billy, alone, she decides to work at Clyde’s, a local department store. Although she starts off working with Rita at the perfume counter, it soon becomes clear that she has a gift for…well…gifts!

She is brilliant at advising customers on their gift-giving dilemmas, and she soon creates a name for herself at Clyde’s as a ‘gift counselor’- someone who literally counsels customers on gift-giving situations- such as what they should buy for their loved ones or how to best receive an unwanted gift. This is definitely something I need, as I am rubbish at giving gifts! Along the way, Jonquil develops a theory surrounding why people give gifts, and whether all gifts have strings attached.

As Jonquil is growing in her gift counselling abilities up to Christmas day, the book also follows the often broken relationship she has with her son, her issues surrounding her husband’s death, as well as her budding romance with Claude- a French Canadian who is becoming closer to Billy and his mother.

Jonquil also faces problems from Leigh Usher, the snobby, ambitious second-in-line at Clyde’s, who sees Jonquil as some kind of threat, and who also attempts to sabotage the new gift counsellor.

One of the things I really liked about this book was the whole idea of a gift counsellor. I’m not sure if there’s already something like this available in American department stores, but it just sounds like such a cool idea! I really loved reading about the different gift dilemmas Jonquil was faced with, and the way she handled them was great as well- some of her gift selections were really thoughtful and clearly Cronin had thought out the idea behind the book.

I also really liked the setting of the department store and- had I been reading this at Christmas- I would have felt very nostalgic and had that warm fuzzy feeling that you get reading Christmas books. Clyde’s also seemed like such a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and, apart from Leigh Usher, all the other staff were great characters. The characters in this book added to the welcoming sense emanating from the department store setting.

I also really liked the character of Rita! I thought her little quirks and character traits were great, and really added something to the book. As an example, Rita wears a different perfume each day depending on her feelings that day, and throughout the book she sniffs the air around people and bluntly tells them what perfume they need to wear, which I thought was great. Her character was also funny and down-to-earth, and she really encouraged the reader to smile.

I really liked her character for the way she supported Jonquil and I thought the friendship that emerged between the two women was a really good element of the book. In fact, I often liked the passages regarding their friendship more than the passages on the romance in the novel!

‘”But you’re wearing Gardenia. Now, that is a mistake for a woman of your-” Rita eyed her up and down, “qualities. Drop by the store someday and I’ll fix you up with one of our premier fragrances on the house.”

I thought the aspect relating to shopping and Christmas was also so true. I liked how Cronin included little bits in the book which suggested the ridiculous lengths that some people go to at Christmas, and the consumerist element of Christmas was exaggerated to some extent through the department store setting.

I think this made the end of the novel even better, as after the consumerist focus it brought the reader back to the ‘true’ meaning of Christmas in a way that was touching. The ending was just so adorable, and I liked how towards the end Jonquil realised certain things about gift-giving, Christmas and herself.

‘As one they replied, “It’s sixteen shopping days until Christmas.”‘

However, although I really liked this book- and I soared through it, always the sign of a good read- there were some things I wasn’t keen on. I wasn’t overly keen on the main character, Jonquil. I found her a bit annoying and, at times, self-centred. Maybe this made her more human, which I always like in characters, but the overall effect I felt was annoyance towards her.

I also thought that the characters could have done with a little more depth the whole way through, and I felt like elements such as her relationship with her son, as well as her relationship with Claude, required some development.

Overall I enjoyed reading this book. I loved the idea behind the book, and the passages on this idea of gift counselling were great. I also liked certain characters, such as Rita, and I felt like the setting and overall ‘feel’ of the book was incredibly nostalgic and warm, a brilliant Christmas read!

Although I thought that the characters and relationships of the book could have done with a little more development, I appreciate that this was supposed to be a light holiday read, and so I can see how too much development might have distracted from this!

You can find out more about this book via goodreads and the book website, where there will also be information about the sequel to the book, which comes out soon!

Visit the author’s Twitter @sheilamcronin for loads of updates and information on ‘the Gift Counselor’ and all Cronin’s latest projects.

What do you think of my review of ‘The Gift Counselor’? Does this sound like the perfect Christmas read to you? Do you enjoy reading books like this around the holidays?

Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below 🙂

Happy reading x

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