The Echo of Old Books

Bookbinder and rare-book dealer Ashlyn Greer’s affinity for books extends beyond the intoxicating scent of old paper, ink, and leather. She has a unique gift for sensing the emotions of a book’s previous owners. She is intrigued when a man named Ethan Hillard donates a pair of books to the store. Both are bound in a similar fashion, but there is no author information or publisher data. Her gift becomes an obsession.

As Ashlyn researches the mystery of these books, she uncovers a decades-old romance between two authors. Hemi and Belle’s conflicting accounts reveal a tragic love story shaped by political agendas and social dynamics. (I couldn’t help thinking how nice it would have been for Ashlyn to have had the Internet, but it was the 80s.) The more Ashlyn learns about Hemi and Belle, the nearer she comes to bringing closure to their love story—and to the unfinished chapters of her own life.

Author Barbara Davis alternates Ashlyn and Ethan’s contemporary storyline with chapters from the two mysterious books, set over 40 years in the past. Her ability to balance the historical elements with the present-day storyline is commendable, ensuring that the pacing remains engaging throughout. She weaves historical details into the story, providing just enough context to enrich the narrative without overwhelming it.

What sets The Echo of Old Books apart is its unique premise, which combines elements of mystery, romance, and historical fiction in a seamless blend. It’s been a while since I’ve felt so induced to stay up all night reading, a testament to the novel’s gripping storytelling and interesting characters. It’s no surprise it was nominated for the 2023 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction. Don’t miss this standout novel! 5 stars.

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