Writing The Last Bookshop in London

There’s one thing you should know about me: I love history! I love reading about it, visiting historical sites, letting my imagination reside there for longer than it probably should and, of course, losing myself in historical fiction.

I think the progression of a shift toward writing fiction after years of historical romance is an entirely natural one for me, especially in regard to the WWII era which has always been a favorite of mine to read. I have always found it fascinating how even in such dire times, the most incredible heroes rose from unlikely places, how some sacrificed to save strangers and through it all, how people were able to hold onto hope.

Britain, for example, was subjected to the Blitz where the Nazis rained down bombs for seven months with the heaviest damage having been sustained in London. At the start of the Blitz on September 7, 1940, London was bombed for 56 consecutive days. This happened not only at night, but also during the day. That was almost two months of their nights spent in crowded, uncomfortable shelters rather than their beds as well as their daily lives being interrupted by the air raids, all while under the constant fear that wherever they were might be a bomber’s next target.

During the seven month bombings on Britain, over 40,000 civilians were killed and over 100,000 injured while millions left homeless. Of those horrifying figures, nearly 30,000 of the casualties were in London as were 60% of the destroyed homes.

Many Londoners assumed volunteer positions at night after their day job in an effort to do their bit for Britain, taking on positions as nurses, fire fighters, Air Raid Precautions Wardens or even manning mobile cantinas to bring tea and comfort to those in need.

A backdrop such as this is an incredible inspiration for a WWII historical fiction, especially after I learned about a particularly brutal bombing of the publishing district on Paternoster Row at the end of 1940 when over 5 million books were destroyed. In such horrific events, it is often that we find ourselves coming together as a community to overcome our struggles and, in my opinion, there is no better community than one centered on books.

As a lifelong reader, I can attest to the number of difficulties books have helped me through. And so the idea of a small bookshop bringing together the people of London in such trying times came about.

In addition to sharing the experience Londoners endured during the Blitz, I also wanted The Last Bookshop in London to be a celebration of reading. It is entirely for this reason that I made the heroine, Grace Bennett, not much of a reader when the book first begins. Hers is a journey of discovery, not only of what she is capable of in such desolate times, but also into the magical of reading. It is through her eyes that I want readers to recall those delicious moments where that one perfect book throws open the doors of one’s imagination and pulls them into the incredible world of reading.

Writing The Last Bookshop in London was an incredible experience for me, one I hope readers enjoy as they share in Grace’s experience through the war and through books and finding hope through it all.




  1. joan mccloskey on July 3, 2021 at 12:10 pm

    i was in the WLA stationed far from London so didnt know much about the bombingd sadly.
    just read The last bookshop ,,,,,,,,,, and loved it.Thank.you.
    by the way…..I came to the US in 1946 as a GI bride,am al most 97 and a book a holic. ,(is there such a word?????)
    best regards,Joan

    • Madeline Martin on July 3, 2021 at 6:45 pm

      Thank you so much, Joan! I’m so glad you enjoyed my book! And there is absolutely such a thing as a bookaholic – I’m one too 🙂 That’s so incredible that you were in the WLA – thank you for sharing!

  2. Audrey McC on July 18, 2021 at 7:26 pm

    I loved The Last Bookshop in London .. I have read many WWII historical fiction books but this is the first one centered on The Blitz and how the ordinary folks in London handled it … please , please will there be a sequel ?!

    • Madeline Martin on July 19, 2021 at 6:18 am

      Thank you for reaching out, Audrey 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed The Last Bookshop in London. While I don’t have a prequel in mind, I am considering an idea for another WWII set in England again. Currently, I’m working on another WWII set in Portugal and France which will be releasing in 2022. 🙂

  3. Beth Mulhern on August 11, 2021 at 2:45 am

    My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this book / I am a literature buff, a former English 101 professor and have a great (but frustrated) desire to write. Thank you so much for this delightful work, and we so look forward to reading your upcoming novel in 2022.
    Beth Mulhern
    Homeland, California

    • Madeline Martin on August 12, 2021 at 4:42 am

      Hi, Beth – thank you so much for taking the time to comment and let me know how much you and your husband enjoyed my book. That’s so wonderful that you want to write. It can be frustrating, but if you do a little every day, I bet you’ll have a completed book before you know it! Definitely keep at it if it’s something your heart wants.
      Thank you for looking forward to my next book – I’m so happy with how it’s coming along! 🙂

  4. Debbie on August 17, 2021 at 10:40 am

    Hi Madeline! I just want to tell you how very refreshing your book The Last Bookshop in London was! I enjoyed it so much as I love historical fiction and romance! I am always drawn in by WW11 stories! Most appreciated, as your storytelling was so good, was that it was so clean and pure! I am proud of you! To be a best selling author without vulgarity and sex- you have proved how well it can be done and I thank you so much! Keep writing and keep shining!

    Best regards,

    Debbie from upstate NY

    • Madeline Martin on August 21, 2021 at 8:14 am

      Hi, Debbie! I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed my book so much! Thank you for reaching out and letting me know! 🙂

    • Stacy on February 21, 2022 at 10:25 am

      I agree with what Debbie said! A beautifully written story with a heroine we could look up to. Most excellent work!

      • Madeline Martin on March 28, 2022 at 10:39 am

        Thank you so much, Stacy!

  5. Christine Schreyer on August 20, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    Hi! I loved The Last Bookshop in London. I started reading this on my summer holidays & couldn’t put it down. In fact, I let my six year old watch an extra hour of TV so I could finish it peacefully. 😂 Books set during WWII have been something I am drawn to since I was 10 or 11 when I read the Guests of War Trilogy by Kit Pearson & this one definitely added a new perspective! Please write more historical fiction!

    • Madeline Martin on August 21, 2021 at 8:15 am

      Hi, Christine – thank you for reaching out! LOL I’ve been there before with letting the kids get a little more TV for more book time 😉 I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much! I definitely am writing more historical fiction and will be releasing my next one next year in 2022 🙂

      • Linda Proctor on October 1, 2021 at 10:39 pm

        Just found your book in the new section of our library. I was intrigued by the title and boy was I glad I brought it home with me.
        I could not put it down once I started it.
        So interested in the history you brought
        Out in the book. Will be looking for more of your books. I love to read thank you for your donation for our entertainment.

        • Madeline Martin on February 13, 2022 at 8:47 am

          Thank you so much, Linda! I’m so glad you took a chance on it and enjoyed it so much! I apologize for my delay in replying – things got away from me a bit these last few months! I truly appreciate you taking the time to reach out to me. 🙂

  6. Mary Wagner on October 4, 2021 at 5:56 pm

    My daughter (a true bookaholic) found The Last Bookshop in London and passed it on to me. We both really loved it (the bookaholic gene was passed from my mother to me and then on to my daughter). I suggested the book to my book club and we will be discussing it tonight. I’m sure they all will have loved it. We wondered it we wanted “another” WWII” book, but they continue to keep us entertained and interested.

    • Madeline Martin on February 13, 2022 at 8:50 am

      Hi Mary – thank you so much for taking the time to reach out to me. I apologize for my delay in replying, the last few months got a little out of my bandwidth. I inherited the bookaholic gene from my mother as well 🙂 Best gene to inherit yet! Thank you so much for recommending it to your book club. I’m so glad everyone enjoyed it! If you guys ever do another one of my books for your book club, please reach out when you know the date of your meeting to chat about it and I can see if I can pop in to chat with all of you via zoom 🙂 I love to meet with book clubs!

      Thank you again!

  7. Linda Gruson on October 11, 2021 at 4:59 am

    Thank you for this very compelling book. My mother grew up during the Blitz in Manchester and your book helped me to understand her experience. As a book lover, I was dismayed to read of the destruction of Paternoster Row. I have visited the area and did not even know it had been the centre for books in London. Despite the dark times of the war, it was inspiring to read of the heroism and sacrifices of ordinary people.
    Thank you for a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    • Madeline Martin on February 13, 2022 at 9:00 am

      Thank you so much for your response, Linda 🙂 I apologize for my delay in replying as the last few months got a little out of hand. I’m so, so glad you enjoyed my book and love that it helped you understand your mother’s experience through that time. That truly was so incredible about Paternoster Row – so absolutely heartbreaking! Thank you again for reaching out!

  8. Cindy Dougherty on October 19, 2021 at 10:28 am

    I loved The Last Bookshop in London. I love books that are historically correct and transport you to another time and place. This was the first book I have read by Ms. Martin and I look forward to reading more by her. Thank you!

    • Madeline Martin on February 13, 2022 at 9:01 am

      Thank you so much for commenting, Cindy! I apologize for my delay in responding – it’s been a frantic few months LOL I’m so glad you enjoyed The Last Bookshop in London and hope you enjoy my next historical fiction as well, The Librarian Spy 🙂

  9. Josie Field - A Texas fan on October 25, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    Such a great read and good historical details and information. I read it and then suggested it for my sisters (we have a new zoom book club spread between Ohio, Texas, and Arizona) and to my local book club. Loved your characters’ descriptions and the slow and steady development of friendships. Thank you for your gift to us and we look forward to 2022 when we can continue to enjoy your storytelling.

    • Madeline Martin on February 13, 2022 at 9:05 am

      Hi Josie – thank you so much for commenting! I apologize for my delay in replying – the last few months slipped right through my fingers! Thank you so much for recommending it for you book club!! I’m so glad you enjoyed it 🙂 Please let me know if you read The Librarian Spy with your book club this year and when your book club meeting is scheduled for and I would gladly join all of you to chat about it via zoom. 🙂 Thank you again!

  10. Pamela Iny on October 26, 2021 at 1:58 pm

    I agree with your other readers. I’ve read books on WWII, but none that details the bravery of everyday Londoners during the first year. I loved your little ‘Englishisms’ of the period. You jolted my memory of the language of my Mum and aunts. Many thanks for a good read.

    • Madeline Martin on February 13, 2022 at 9:06 am

      Thank you so much for responding, Pamela! I apologize for my delay as the last few months got a little out of control. I’m so incredibly glad you enjoyed the book so much and that it shared details you hadn’t read about before. It was such a fascinating thing to research and gave me such a profound respect for Londoners (and all of England!) with what they endured on a daily basis. Thank you again!

  11. Cheryl Dian Allen on December 28, 2021 at 5:43 pm

    I first “read” The Last Bookshop in London as an audiobook as I made a trip up thru Duluth, MN, (I live in WI.) and North to do some hiking. And I loved it! So I recommended the book and am leading a discussion for our January Circle of Friends Book Club meeting. There were so many WWII eye-opening happenings that I haven’t read in other WWII books – & they are popular the last 2 years. And, when I printed your Discussion Guide, I smiled. As I read thru the book, I too thought about what we have been, and continue to be, experiencing with our pandemic. As I jotted down notes for my discussion, I would put Covid (?) with discussion parallels beside items. The book club members tease me that I continue to have my teaching hat on with my discussion. But I figured if we are reading a book let’s get into it! Thank for taking this amazing step to write historical fiction.

    • Madeline Martin on February 13, 2022 at 9:10 am

      Thank you so much for your comment, Cheryl! And I apologize for my delay in replying – these last couple months got a little crazy! I’m so glad you enjoyed my book so much and truly appreciate you recommending it to your book club. I apologize for not seeing this sooner, but if you ever do another of my historical fiction books again, please let me know when you have a date in place and I would love to join you via zoom to chat about it with all of you 🙂 I actually wrote The Last Bookshop in London during the beginning of the pandemic and truly felt it gave me a greater insight into what Grace was going through. Granted, there is a significant difference between daily bombings and a pandemic, but the similarities were still there with hoarding, disruption to normal life, and the absolute craving for things to become what they were again sooner than later. Thank you so much again!

  12. John T Horton on January 3, 2022 at 6:38 pm

    I was age 7 when the Blitz started. Lived in west London. The descriptions of the Blitz in The Last Bookshop in London was very realistic, so much so that I thought it was written by someone who had lived through it. Even at age seven I still remember the raid on December 29th 1940, just after Christmas 1940.

    • Madeline Martin on February 13, 2022 at 9:13 am

      Oh wow – thank you so much for reaching out to me about your experience, John. That really is so incredible that you lived through all of this – what an absolutely harrowing experience! I did a significant amount of research before writing The Last Bookshop in London and came away with such an appreciation for everything you all went through and how the Blitz never broke the British spirit. Truly amazing!

  13. Barbara Anne Waite on January 20, 2022 at 1:07 am

    I consider myself to be a picky reader. I Love books, and I love history. This story had the focus so spot-on. I like character driven stories. The romance in this was just exactly what I like to see. It was an element , but not mushy, not over done. All that was missing is I like an author note section that describes what research led to the creation of the story. I had to go search for that. But it is a 5 star winner anyway. Thanks for a clean, gripping story. Well done!

    • Madeline Martin on February 13, 2022 at 9:15 am

      Thank you so much, Barbara 🙂 I apologize about the author’s note. I confess with it being my first historical fiction, I didn’t even think to ask for one! I’ve made sure The Librarian Spy (coming out this summer) definitely has one and will do so going forward with all of my other historical fiction books as well. I’m so glad you enjoyed The Last Bookshop in London and truly appreciate you reaching out to let me know. 🙂

  14. Kristin Samms on January 25, 2022 at 12:34 am

    This book made me love reading again. I was diagnosed with TN Breast Cancer January 2020, four months after my husband passed. I spent the entire year in treatment and due to the pandemic, couldn’t have anyone with me at treatment and could only spend time with those absolutely closest. I am an avid reader, I visualize what I read, books are everywhere in my home, and they have given me joy since I was a child. Even though I had an enormous amount of time to read, my brain just couldn’t correlate reading, chemo does some nasty stuff to the brain. This never stopped me from being a window shopper though, and I was drawn to the cover and title immediately (one of my daughters’ is named London), so I purchased because I just needed to and thought I would try again. Honestly, I was nervous starting it, but the characters, scene, and words leapt to my mind and while it took me a little more time than usual, I completed the wonderful journey and cannot wait until your next adventure. Thank you!

    • Madeline Martin on February 13, 2022 at 9:18 am

      Thank you so much for replying, Kristin. My heart hurts for everything you’ve gone through. I can’t imagine how difficult your diagnosis must have been to face just after having lost your husband. I hope you are in remission now. Thank you for picking up my book and giving it a chance – it warms my heart more than I can possibly say to know that my story made you fall in love with reading again, especially after everything you’ve been through. Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out and let me know. I’m sending you all my love!

  15. Sandy Kubala on March 26, 2022 at 12:19 am

    Just read this wonderful book. I couldn’t put it down. The impact was all the greater because of the current bombing in the Ukraine. Looking forward to THE LIBRARIAN SPY. ❤️

    • Madeline Martin on March 28, 2022 at 10:42 am

      Thank you, Sandy! It truly is so heartbreaking what is happening in Ukraine.

  16. Nancy LeMieux on April 1, 2022 at 12:01 pm

    I just finished re-reading The Last Bookshop, and loved it as much as the first. I was struck by Viv’s reaction to the end of the war. Like many women in WWII, she was doing exciting, important work, only to be sent home when it ended. How hard it must have been for some young people to return to what must have felt like were mundane lives. I was reminded of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), who flew dangerous ferrying missions, and then were disbanded with absolutely no recognition. I wondered if you had this in mind when writing Viv’s homecoming scene. I loved Grace, but have you considered continuing Viv’s story? Thank you for the lovely read.

    • Madeline Martin on April 4, 2022 at 5:46 am

      Thank you so much, Nancy – I’m so glad you have enjoyed my book so much! A lot of my research included first hand accounts from people before, during and after the war (Mass Observation was a critical piece of this) and tried to have my character reactions in line with how I saw people’s reactions being – in this case, that sense of loss and emptiness and ‘being cast off’ that many women felt after the war was over. I absolutely had that mindset in my head as I wrote Viv’s return from war. Unfortunately, I don’t have any plans at present to write Viv’s story, but I do have three more historical fiction novels coming soon: The Librarian Spy this year, The Keeper of Hidden Books most likely the year after and a book that has yet to find its way into my heart still. Thank you for your comment – I truly appreciate you taking the time to reach out 🙂

  17. Gillian Weatherhead on May 1, 2022 at 4:09 pm

    I’ve just re-read The Last Bookshop in London in preparation for leading a book group discussion on this wonderful novel. You have done an incredible job of weaving in so many details of daily life with a light touch. All of the characters are endearing (even Mrs Nesbitt eventually!) and feel true to the era. I have one question as I prepare, what made you choose the books you chose for Grace to read? Were there themes in them that you thought reflected her discovery of the joys of reading, or were they chosen to reflect what was happening in the story? Or are they some of your favorites?
    Thank you very much!

    • Madeline Martin on May 4, 2022 at 5:52 am

      Thank you so much, Gillian! I appreciate you selecting The Last Bookshop in London for your book group – thank you! It’s rather a long answer, so I’ll try to write a blog post about it today (as it’s a question I get asked often). However, just an FYI that I love to meet with book groups via Zoom. If you send me a message letting me know when you’re meeting, I can check my calendar to see if I’m free to tell you all in person 🙂 Otherwise, stay tuned for a new blog post either today or tomorrow.
      Thank you so much again!

  18. Shy Rees on January 1, 2024 at 3:56 pm

    There’s so much I would like to comment on; this could become a really long missive. I’ll try to limit it. I stumbled across your books when I was looking at a list of favorite reads for 2023 in a book service (BookBub maybe?) where your Keeper of Hidden Books was listed among them. Since I’m a bibliophile myself, the title intrigued me. I checked to see if my library had it. They had all three of your WWII books but none of the others. (That’s all right with me. I lost interest in storybook romances after going through a very painful divorce years ago.) Anyway, I always start with the earliest book by an author and read through an entire series, so I began with The Last Bookshop in London. I had never read anything about the Blitz before, so I was “blown away” by the details. I was not aware that the Blitz had been so relentless for such an extended period. Thank you for letting us have an inkling of what it must have been like for the Londoners of the time. I was devastated by what happened to Paternoster Row. Puts me in mind of what the Spanish conquistadors did to the Aztec libraries. Such a loss!

    Now I’m reading The Librarian Spy and equally enjoying it. I’m really looking forward to The Keeper of Hidden Books since it’s the one that got me to your books in the first place. I like the way you have chosen to cover three very different areas of WWII history. I will learn a great deal that I never knew from each of them. BTW, I am 78, born just a couple of weeks after the end of the war in Europe.

    Most of the books I have read regarding this era have been by Holocaust survivors–a subject that I find fascinating (and I don’t know why exactly). Are you considering writing a book on this as well? That included a couple of stories about the prisoners of war in the Pacific Theater. These people were true heroes of their time.

    Thank you for your books. The story-telling gene completely passed me by, so I’m doubly appreciative of people who seem to have stories pouring out of them.

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