Jenny Colgan
(Sphere, £14.99)

Barring an appearance from Santa Claus himself (which would be cheating), there can’t be many new releases with as much festive spirit as this sequel to Colgan’s 2021 bestseller, The Christmas Bookshop.

Picking up where its predecessor left off, it continues the story of Carmen, who works in a good old-fashioned bookshop on Edinburgh’s picturesque Victoria Street, trying to keep her unworldly boss Mr McCredie’s ailing business afloat while the city’s sky-high rents keep her stuck living with her sister’s family.

The shop’s future is under threat from philistine businessman Jackson McClockerty, who is determined to take it over and turn it into yet another purveyor of tartan tat.

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What’s more, Mr McCredie has dropped the bombshell that he intends to join an Antarctic expedition and is considering selling the business to the dastardly McClockerty to fund it. The battle is on, once again, to save this bibliophile’s paradise from extinction.

It wouldn’t be a Jenny Colgan novel without romance, which arrives in the shape of Brazilian postgrad Oke, but the lapsed Quaker makes no sexual moves on Carmen because he believes that sex is a spiritual connection not to be taken lightly.

His inability to communicate that to Carmen when she runs out of patience and flings herself at him in sexy lingerie leaves her feeling spurned. Amid the confusion, Oke accepts a place on an expedition to the Amazon, and when he is left incommunicado, Carmen assumes it’s all over between them.

They’re both rather functional plot-threads, but they come wrapped in what must be one of the most effusive love letters to Edinburgh ever written. Colgan clearly adores the crenellated gothic splendour of the Old Town: its dark closes, its stacked layers of history, its hidden subterranean mysteries.

And she loves it most of all at Christmas, when “cosy golden auras of light and joy and comfort” penetrate the icy darkness. Even Oke, back in balmy Brazil, waxes nostalgic for “the chill of the easterly winds swooping down the long rows of steps that made you shiver and pull your clothes around you and cram your hat further on your head, looking forward to getting in out of the wind to a cosy bar or a warm library or even just the Scotmid supermarket”.

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Above and beyond the romance of Edinburgh at Christmas, there’s a magical quality to the shop itself. The shadowy stacks give the impression of stretching deep into the volcanic rock, perhaps forever. And the interior dimensions of Mr McCredie’s adjoining house, which extends upwards into the Lawnmarket, confound even Carmen. Having written six Doctor Who novels, Colgan knows the imaginative power of a space that’s bigger than it appears on the outside.

Fittingly, both Christmas Bookshop novels have been launched at the existing John Kay’s Bookshop on Victoria Street, but there’s an aura of self-mythologising about the whole endeavour: perhaps the hope that one day the series might gather enough momentum to bring into being a permanent Christmas Bookshop, like 221b Baker Street or Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross.

Colgan shows a degree of self-awareness when a film crew uses the shop to shoot scenes for a terrible Netflix movie, sentimentalising it with fake snow and kids dressed as Dickensian urchins, but the rest of the time she plays it completely unironically, in a wide-eyed celebration of true love, her favourite city, Christmas and the joys of books.