Cover Image: The Secret Book Club

The Secret Book Club

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Member Reviews

Read from January 7th, 2024 to January 13th, 2024. Written on January 18th, 2024.

This was such a cute book and I had a really great time reading it! The challenges, the romance, the regrets and accomplishments all made this story so full of life. I mean, I genuinely believed Edward Bell was a real author that I could look up online and learn more about. The whole world created in this book felt so real!

I have no idea what else to say about this book: the story was amazing, the little forbidden moments at the bookstore were so cosy, in general, the whole thing was easy to read and very entertaining.

Enjoy the book, it comes out today!

Signing off,

(Free ARC from NetGalley and HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter that I chose to review after reading)

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When a call for help comes from her best friend
Maggie Banks agrees to cover till her need for maternity cover ends.
She'll be running a bookstore but with no modern book -
And at the 'other'classics' Maggie has never taken much of a look!

Bell River is the town and everything there
Is from earlier centuries she's made very aware.
There are rules to be followed, they're strictly enforced,
But rules are made to be broken, Maggie thinks of course!

She'd rather read something much modern and so
Starts a secret book club and business starts to grow.
However, keeping things quiet and dodging detection, too,
Could prove a very difficult thing to do!

A great read that's fun with a mystery, too,
Along with discoveries that paint a different point of view.
Maybe Maggie can discover her dream job after all,
Especially when romance may also pay a call.

So if you're looking for a rule breaking fun book to read
This may prove to be the very book that you need!
For my complementary copy, I say thank you,
As I share with you this, my honest review.

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I love reading books about bookstores! They just make the book more cozy.
What I loved:
-the setting of a bookstore and the interesting characters surrounding it
-Small town setting
-Close friends and found family.
-Maggie and Rochelle’s friendship. I love how Maggie came down to help Rochelle while she was on maternity leave.
-I love how Maggie was not a reader but became a reader. I find this very relatable. It can take some time to find the right genre but once you do, you will get hooked!

What I did not love:
-Ralph Bell. I know he’s the villain but I did not like him.
-There was some miscommunication between characters and is always annoying to me.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would read more from this author. Maggie and Malcolm’s relationship is very cute and not forced. The supporting characters were great too.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my review.

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When I first heard of this book, my excitement knew no bounds. As a confirmed bookworm with a love of all things mysterious, I grabbed the chance to be part of the read-along with both hands. Unfortunately, I was left a little underwhelmed. 

The premise is a good one; Maggie is invited by her friend Rochelle to look after her bookstore whilst she is having her second child. Maggie, at a crossroads in her life, grabs the opportunity but finds herself in a town built around the legend of one man and run but when I could only describe her as a literary dictator. The shop must not sell anything beyond a certain period, making it difficult to make any money. This is where the idea of a clandestine book club, selling 'banned in the town' books comes to fruition.

Like I said, this premise grabbed my heart and I was so excited to delve in. I think the problem for me was that I didn't really warm to Maggie. She is a girl who accepted a job at a bookstore out of necessity rather than a love for words. Also the fact that Ralph, the town's owner in effect, hadn't been overthrown Captain Blythe style at the start of the story really got my goat. 

Maggie's romance with Ralph's employee Malcolm also felt a little rushed and forced to me, going from enemies to lovers within the space of a chapter. I feel this could have been fleshed out more and taken at a slower pace to really build the relationship between the pair.

The writing, however, is faultless with witty humour and a personable style which kept me reading to the end. Some of the characters I really loved, like not-so-grumpy Vernon, Maggie's upstairs neighbour and fellow conspirator. I also loved the message of the book, which is predominantly that no book should ever be banned and that reading is for all and should not be dictated by those in power.  This is what lifts the book to a solid 3.5 rating for me.

In conclusion, The Secret Book Club is a solid read and in part enjoyable. I just wished that some areas could have been fleshed out and time taken with them rather than rushed. That being said, this is a good debut from an exciting writer and I can't wait to see more of what Shauna Robinson has to offer.

Thank you to One More Chapter for an advance copy to take part in the read-along and in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5

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The Secret Book Club really drew me in to its world. It has all the best things: a plucky protagonist, a cute town with a cozy bookstore and a coffee shop with great scones, and a sweet romance. The writing is great - I started this as part of a "read-along" prior to the UK re-release, but it quickly drew me in and I finished well ahead of schedule. The perfect book for a snowy weekend!

Aside from its bookish charms, The Secret Book Club has a few points to make. The story's main theme is the protagonist, Maggie's, distracted (her word) approach to life, and her coming to respect her own interests and needs. This is a lovely idea, even if twenty-eight-year-old Maggie doesn't seem old enough to need reassurance that it's okay she isn't married yet. And the major plot centers around the town's literary society, which controls the bookshop and its other business and looks down on newer literature and especially genre fiction. Book-lovers could argue all day about the relative merits of Melville and Irving, Austen and Henry, but Maggie - despite running a book store in a book town - is no book lover, and she only really likes rom coms and the occasional thriller. If the protagonist's narrow taste in literature is a book's major flaw, that seems like an okay flaw to have.

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Thank you to NetGalley and One More Chapter for the ARC of The Secret Book Club!

After losing another job Maggie gladly accepts her best friend Rochelle's offer to cover the running of Rochelle's bookstore while Rochelle is on maternity leave. What Rochelle doesn't mention with the offer is that the bookstore is in a town that is completely dedicated to the great literary mind Edward Bell. Edward Bell's grandson Ralph runs the Bell Society which has its hooks in every profitable business in town. Rochelle's bookstore is only allowed to sell books that the great Edward Bell could have read so nothing is stocked that was published after 1968.As Ralph uses Rochelle's leave to try to worm in to the bookstore even more, Maggie begins scheming to make the bookstore more profitable despite being under the constant watch of one of Ralph's underlings, Malcom. Luckily, Malcom is much kinder than Ralph and Maggie and Malcom's quirky friendship blossoms into something more.

I LOVED this story! It is such a beautiful ode to books and the writing is so good. It is so cinematic; I'd love to see this made into a movie or TV show. It definitely has Gilmore Girl vibes. The crotchety neighbor, the parking lot pumpkin patch, the increasingly ridiculous attempts to make the entire town revolve around Edward Bell - I loved it all. I literally googled to see if TJ Hull was a real author because I was ready to buy the children's book she described (he isn't real). This will definitely not be my last Shauna Robinson book.

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I really enjoyed reading this lovely book and often found myself smiling while reading. The relationship between Malcolm and Maggie is wonderful as they bring the best out of each other. I fell in love with the inhabitants of Bell River in particular the grumpy Vernon. Maggie is like a breath of fresh air that challenges long held traditions in the town, refusing to accept the restrictive measures Bell's legacy imposes on all the local businesses. I loved all the book references and would definitely have attended one of the secret book club meetings if I could. A real feel good read.

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3.5 stars

This was an easy and fun read. I was struggling at the beginning to get into the story, but then it started being more interesting and by the ending, we had so many surprises.
I loved the small town setting and Meggie's secret book club. It was really fun reading about the secret meetings and events.
I could connect with Meggie from the beginning, she was lost and was trying to find her perfect job, which she finally did. I just found her relationship with Malcom a bit basic, for me there was no chemistry.
Still, it ended up being a cute heart warming story.

Thank you HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter for the free ARC!

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Maggie decides to start an underground book club, when she is not able to sell the books she wants to because of the literary society in town. This is a good read, a lot of good books have been banned. Books should not be banned.

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Thank you to Netgalley, publisher and the author for providing a free copy jn exchange for an honest review #thesecretbookclub

Maggie is at a dead end. Living with her parents and never holding down a job which doesn't make her find distractions to create fun. Her best friend Rochelle offers for Maggie to cover her maternity leave he her bookshop the only downside.... Maggie is not a reader. Can Maggie make this work? Can she inject the fun needed into her new venture ?

I was offered to be part of the readalong with OMC Publisher.

This book is a great read that really draws on multiple societial topics such as; Black women authors, marginalised members of society and how your job defines you as a person. Some may find these emotional subjects but I do think the author has subtly Included them to make you think but not detract from the plot of the book. This vook really provides food for thought and some life lessons along the way.

Furthermore the community spirit in this book is very special. It shows that your attitude to life can bring people together even against all odds. It is spectacular it just shows how everyone only wants the best for you and how it takes a village to pull any event off. Something you can only hope is replicated in your own community.

I did find that the romance included was a bit 2dimensional at times. It either needed elaborating on their thoughts, feelings and emotions or leaving out altogether. One minute they didn't really talk and the next they had sex!

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the secret book club by shauna robinson (which i learned has also been published as the banned bookshop of maggie banks)
pub date: 18 jan

4.5 ⭐

a light and fun read one can easily sit through in just a couple hours. a book about books with a protagonist who starts off as a non-reader then goes on to build a community that celebrates the love for all books! that's the dream right there.

as a mid-20s serial job hopper whose Dream Job is to Do Nothing, i vibed so hard with maggie. i totally believe she'd go from zero interest in books to a self-proclaimed bookworm within months by the way she "floats through life" as her best friend says. (what i couldn't believe was how she could fake her sales report for weeks?) anyway she was so fun to read about and likely more fun to be around. the supporting characters had their own charm to them as well.

my only issue would be the romance, i.e. the lack of its development. i do like that there's generally less romance in "women's fiction" than in actual romance books, but i thought maggie and the love interest could have been just very good platonic friends and it wouldn't have made a huge difference to the story.

though overall this book was thoroughly enjoyable and well-written. i would love to read more from the author!

thank you to netgalley, the publisher, and the author for the copy!

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Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy of The Secret Book Club! This was such a CUTE story. It gave me a story that I could relate to as well as feeling cozy in the midst of reading it. I hope that one day my dream of having a small bookshop will come true...just like's Maggie's!!

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I really enjoyed reading this book. It sounded like an intriguing plot, with Maggie running an underground book club, and it instantly intrigued me. It lived up to this intrigue and I was hooked!

I loved the community that Maggie developed through her secret book club. There were so many interesting characters that created a fun dynamic. The events also sounded great too!

The mystery of Edward Bell and the town also kept me interested. I did find that as the book went on it got a bit predictable, but I did enjoy how everything was revealed.

Malcolm was a nice character and I did find the relationship between him and Maggie sweet, but I also felt like there wasn't really any chemistry between them and they mostly just seemed like friends.

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I loved this book!! Maggie was instantly an interesting and sympathetic character - even if her decisions stressed me out constantly. I found I was quite on edge waiting for the inevitable blow up of her secrets to come, but thankfully it wasn’t too painful when it happened. The premise of this book was so fun - a restrictive bookshop and a secret club, reimagining classics. Seeing Maggie fall in love with the joy of reading in real time and also find what drives her was great, and I loved the messages woven through it - especially that you don’t have to be defined by your career. I loved the writing and every single character, except Ralph of course. Plus the romance!!! My favourite scenes were when Maggie & Malcolm were together. I will definitely be reading more of Shauna Robinsons works. Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins for the ARC.

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You know, I like books like this one. I like books where the main character is just not knowing what she wants to do with her life and someone found her home. Maybe I'm still hopeful I'll find mine.

I liked Maggie, sometimes I was like "girl what are you doing". Maggie is helping out her friends during her maternity leave by running the bookstore in this small town. The small town is a shrine to a white man that wrote a book once. I loved how she questioned things, and tried to make things her own.

I liked the romance, it was small but it was there. I liked seeing Malcom and her getting to know each other after bumping heads.

I just thought it was cute. It was fluffy. I liked it.

I got an e-arc of this book on NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Thanks to NetGalley for the arc!
This was a cute and quick read. Very lighthearted with a couple “mystery” type things thrown in. Very easy to follow and likeable characters. This wasn’t a home run for me, but it was not in any way bad. An easier read.

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I typically enjoy books where the storyline involves a bookish setting, such as a bookshop or library, which was why I chose this.

I thought it was very charming. I took an immediate liking to the protagonist. My love of books is something that those close to me see as a big part of my personality, so this book spoke to me, as I hoped it would. I think it would speak to many other book lovers too, and I enjoyed all the bookish references throughout.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a free copy to review.

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A compelling small town story about forbidden books, romance, and how literature feeds our souls. Recommended.

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There's a very important topic in this story: the forbidden books. Books are forbidden when someone wants to suppress different ideas and impose a unique one.
Even if there's a serious background this is a light and entertaining story. I liked Maggie and the well plotted story
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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I actually quite enjoyed this book. The feeling of small town village vibe where there's a strong sense of community always makes me happy and makes it feel quite homely which is always nice.
Maggie is a bit lost in life, she's not sure where to go, what to do or who she really is. She soon visits Bell River to support her friend in running the book store. Slight problem there though, she hasn't picked up a book in a long long time and she needs to know all about the history of the famous author related to the town.

With a love interest on the horizon, a nemesis out to get her and watching her every mistake and a whole town relying on her to make things better, there's a lot that Maggie has to answer for.

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