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The Gift Counselor

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Do all gifts have strings attached?
Yes, believes Jonquil Bloom and she intends to prove it. She's a psychologist who uses her skills in a department store to help shoppers of all ages become good gift givers. Yet, her ten-year-old son wants a dog she won’t let him have.
Enter the handsome bachelor who is ready to settle down.
A timeless mix of romance, family drama, psychological and inspirational breakthroughs, all served with humor, this story will warm your heart year round. Winner of Beverly Hills Book Award, shortlisted for the UK Wishing Shelf Book Award.
The Gift Counselor is suitable for young adults. Book club recommended.

336 pages, Paperback

First published July 12, 2014

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Sheila M. Cronin

4 books92 followers

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5 stars
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16 (24%)
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14 (21%)
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Displaying 1 - 25 of 25 reviews
Profile Image for Elke.
1,346 reviews39 followers
January 2, 2020
When Christmas is near, I like to deviate from my usual reading matter and immerse myself in something cozy. This book came as the perfect choice for this year's holiday read and perfectly enhanced my Christmas mood. While it did contain an expected, even mandatory romance story, I was delighted to find that it was more than just that, adding a troubled mother-son relationship and some rather fascinating insights into the psychological dynamics of gift-giving (and receiving) and the strings attached. I appreciated that Jonquil was a working mom with all the ups and downs life brings, and it was good to see that she was not a perfect superwoman, but a normal person with flaws like everybody else. Of course, there was that pinch of luck you may say came too easily to her, but still I see this book as much more substantial and comparatively real than most holiday romance stories. At the end, I was delighted to find that a sequel is available already.
1 review
August 14, 2014
Want to do your holiday shopping early? This book is the perfect gift. Not only because its subject matter is gift-giving, but because its heroine needs to come to grips with her grief and give her son the gift he really wants. Along the way she creates a job she wants to wake up to every morning and discovers a man who awakens her. All this takes place in the month of December, the holiday month, the month for giving. It reminds us that, yes, it's a wonderful life!
Profile Image for K. Gracie.
Author 2 books1 follower
January 17, 2020
This is a wonderful story about a young widowed psychologist, Jonquil Bloom, who is in urgent need of a job when her position is abolished at the Children’s Home just before Christmas. Thankfully, she finds a seasonal job to tide her over until the new year at Clyde’s Department Store. It has nothing to do with her profession but she really needs to work and when she is assigned to assist, Rita Oglesby, a veteran salesperson in the fragrance department, she finds a way to turn the job into more than simply selling a product. Jonquil offers clients ‘counselling’ on what to purchase depending on the occasion and reason (feelings) the client would like to give with the gift. When clients start asking for her guidance, Clyde’s hones in on her gift and makes her the store’s very first gift counselor. While she is trying to find her way in her quickly changing workplace, her son, Billy, desperately is in need of affection. Then along comes Claude Chappel, owner of a construction company working on the refurbishment of a building next to Jonquil’s apartment block. After Billy befriends Claude, he spends more and more time with him. Romance sparks and well I’m not going to tell you how the story ends. You’ll have to read it yourself because it’s worth reading. It’s a clean novel appropriate for all readers. I received a copy of this novel free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Julie Davis.
Author 4 books264 followers
May 23, 2022
This is a tale with two purposes.

On one hand, this is a romance story. Simply written and straight forward, with the beats we expect, there are few surprises as to who will wind up with who, despite various misunderstandings along the way. It has a Catholic worldview although the Catholicism doesn't intrude overmuch. A local priest gives a homily or a bit of advice but he rarely shows up. The overall effect is sweet.

On the other hand, it is an unexpected meditation upon gift giving. That is what interested me most about the book. Gift giving and receiving is woven on many strands of the story which gave us a lot of chances to think about it in our own lives. I especially enjoyed seeing Jonquil gently nudge people into considering what they wanted their gifts to achieve. In looking at those interactions, we have a clear view from which to consider Jonquil's own flaws in that area. She has to remove the log from her own eye before trying to help with the splinter in her neighbor's (to loosely quote Jesus).

The author has a good touch with developing characters. The heroine, Jonquil, and her son, Billy, are relatively nuanced although the others are generally all good or bad with few gray areas. Usually that's the kiss of death for me, but in this case folks like Rita, Al, Mr. Merrill, and even Miss Hamilton were allowed just enough growth to make me like them.

Although this isn't the sort of book I usually like, I couldn't put it down.
Profile Image for Michelle.
256 reviews7 followers
September 19, 2019
THE GIFT COUNSELOR was a wonderful surprise!! It wasn’t at all what I expected. There is a lot going on in the story, but it is so well told you will never feel lost. What a delightful idea to introduce a gift counselor. I liked the premise of the book and loved Jonquil, a single mom and psychologist, with the drive to make her new part-time job into something permanent. This is one of those books you can’t put down.
The author did a delightful job weaving a novel story and creating beautifully fleshed out characters. Rita, who became Jonquil's dear friend, would do anything to help Jonquil and her son, Billy. Then there was Claude, owner of the construction company that was working on the construction site next door to Jonquil's apartment. These and the other characters were the honest, hard-working people you would want to include in your circle of friends.
I came across some errors in grammar and spelling, which though annoying, were minor. This is not uncommon in self-published books. However, the self-published often offer something fresh to our reading choices, as did THE GIFT COUNSELOR.
I am looking forward to reading book 2 in the series. Anyone who enjoys light Christian fiction and stories of Christmas would relish this story.
Profile Image for Bonni McKeown.
20 reviews
March 24, 2021
Jonquil Bloom loses her job as children's home counselor to spurious bureaucracy and must pay the bills for her and her son, whose main goal is to get a pet dog. Bravely she signs up for a Christmas retail job, which is new to her. She and Rita, her new buddy working the perfume counter, discover an original way to sell gifts using their complementary talents. Instead of counseling children, Jonquil ends up using words of wisdom to help stumped customers get over the awkwardness of giving.
Her newly named position of "gift counselor" brings recognition to their sleepy department store, and new zest back to their boss, the owner. But of course, jealous people get in their way, which makes for the challenge of the story. Not to mention her young son, who finally explodes and tries to leave home in dog-less frustration. A certain handsome construction executive comes to the rescue.
Normally I'm not a romance reader, but Jonquil's good-gal adventures in business interest me. Sheila Cronin spins a delightful Christmas yarn and deftly ties the lives of all the characters into a feel-good bow. But we don't have to leave Jonquil and her family and friends behind, as Gift Counseling sequels are on the way.
Profile Image for Carrie Westmoreland Kurtz.
319 reviews8 followers
January 2, 2018
I Love Christmas Books!!!! As soon as Thanksgiving is over I get my Christmas TBR all set. I love it when I get new Christmas books so when I received the review request for this book I was naturally excited.

The Gift Counselor started out really good. It wasn't a slow start at all. It jumped right in! I love books like that! This book stayed at a really good pace throughout, which is another really good thing.

So, Jonquil was the kind of character that you love and then don't really like, back and forth through the book. As a mom, I felt bad for her situation but I also felt so bad for her son! Maybe that's because I am a major dog lover! Haha!

I really enjoyed this book. I will say, the ending seemed a bit crunched. The pace was pretty steady throughout the story up until the end, where a ton of things seemed to happen all at once. It didn't really make the book less enjoyable, it just wasn't my favorite thing.

All in all, it was a good book to read during the Christmas season! Thanks for sending it my way!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Lynn Hallbrooks.
Author 7 books109 followers
December 19, 2018
This is a perfect read for the month of December if you celebrate Christmas.

Parental note: This is a Christian based book which is mostly clean save for a few adult words sprinkled throughout. If interested, perhaps you could read it first and decide the appropriateness for your young person.

Jonquil, a single mother and psychology major, is thrown for a loop when she learns she has been 'laid off' before the month of December. Bills have to be paid and mouths have to be fed so she takes a temporary job in retail. So begins her journey of discovery. Will it be for the best or worst?

I really love how Ms. Cronin put this story together. We, the readers, get to see glimpses of Jonquil's life through flashbacks that help us understand her current journey of discovery.

Disclaimer: I received this book through a group giveaway. I voluntarily read and the review above is my own honest thoughts of the story.
8 reviews1 follower
November 1, 2019
I loved "The Gift Counselor." I was meaning to take it on the road, but I checked on where I was in the book, it drew me in, and I didn't leave until I finished the book. The ending is that gripping.

Jonquil Bloom's adventures are not a detective story, but she does investigate a mystery -- the working of the human heart, especially around the idea of giving gifts. Don't think it's only a Christmas story, though -- it is a great story all year 'round.

I was delighted to get to know Jonquil in her home, work and academic environments, making her one of the more vivid characters I've read this year. The gradual unfolding of her past is beautifully handled.

I was very pleased to start on Ms. Cronin's next book, "Best of All Gifts," very quickly after I finished "The Gift Counselor." I wanted to spend more time with Jonquil, her family, friends and co-workers.
Profile Image for Marcia Whitney-Schenck.
Author 2 books13 followers
January 10, 2021
In a day when fiction has become a handmaiden to reality, in all of its cynicism, it’s a delight to read The Gift Counselor by Sheila M. Cronin. The story starts with Jonquil Bloom losing her job as a counselor for troubled youth and finding a temporary position as a gift counselor at a department store. If her name is any indication of the author’s intent, Jonquil Bloom literally scatters gifts of brightness and hope to those on her own journey of healing. It’s a story for all ages but particularly for readers in the Middle Grades who need to be told that kindness can change the world.
2 reviews
August 22, 2019
Great first novel

Sheila Cronin creates an imaginative, innovative idea for generating new interest at a retail establishment, while developing several personal relationships, some in conflict with the principal character. Very readable.
Profile Image for Megan.
95 reviews
September 3, 2017
This is a fun Christmas read. I would recommend if you like Christmas stories.
Profile Image for David Edmonds.
Author 4 books19 followers
February 17, 2021
This book was itself a gift. Tender and kind, but thought-provoking as well. I'm looking forward to the sequel.
Profile Image for Deb Lecos.
4 reviews1 follower
February 6, 2016
The Gift Counselor. Sheila M. Cronin. Chicago, IL: Sheila M. Cronin, July 12, 2014, Trade Paperback and Kindle, 324 pages.

I was given this book to be reviewed.

The Gift Counselor is a work of fiction, devoted to the idea that there are usually reasons and preferred outcomes connected to our gifts. Set in Southern California in the 1990's, Jonquil Bloom is a single mother to a son, Billy, as well as a graduate psychology student doing research on “The Psychodynamics of Gift Giving.” The young mother comes to learn, by the benevolent example of her 10-year-old son, that gifts—true gifts—have no strings attached.

Jonquil parents with two objectives: keeping her son happy and hiding the truth of his father’s tragic death. These objectives become jeopardized on the same day when Jonquil loses her job as a clinician at Children’s Home, a residential treatment facility for emotionally disturbed children. The unexpected loss of income thrusts Jonquil into selling perfume at the once-great Clyde’s Department Store, during the busy holiday season.

On her first day at Clyde’s, Jonquil is introduced to Rita Oglesby, a colorful fifty-something woman with a “sense” for scents. As Rita teaches her the sales game, Jonquil becomes aware that she can bring elements of her schooling to her new job, by assisting customers with the psychology behind their gift giving. In short order, Clyde’s discovers that Jonquil can breathe new life into the old concept of holiday shopping by creating a new department devoted to counseling customers on gift giving. This opportunity allows Jonquil to utilize the experience in order to finish her research project. What she doesn’t expect is how much there is to learn about her own motives when bestowing presents.

As Jonquil is transitioning into her new job, her son Billy realizes that it is necessary for his mom to work long hours, leaving him little to do after school. He comes up with a plan to stay busy and help his mom, by making money dog walking for a neighbor. Billy adores all animals, but canines are at the top of his list. What he doesn’t realize is that Jonquil will be unsettled by his close proximity to dogs and the friendship he creates with a building contractor, Claude Chappel, working nearby. The unexpected additions of a new career and the handsome, available man to Jonquil’s previously orderly life, will bring her heart-felt secrets to the surface.

The Gift Counselor is a lovely surprise, like a thoughtful gift from a dear friend. Cronin carries the plot with a few twists, leading a reader into the true reasons behind our offerings. Some are warmly predictable, while others are fresh notions for our consideration.

I recommend The Gift Counselor for all readers, especially those who appreciate books with a message. It is an enjoyable concept, with something to offer during any time of year, but it is especially relevant during the holidays.
Profile Image for Annette.
1,543 reviews7 followers
February 14, 2015
Jonquil has a gift for helping almost anyone select the perfect gift for. She is a student of psychology and she understands human nature very well. When someone speaks to her, she listens. The only time she does not truly hear is when her son speaks to her. Her heart does not want to hear what he truly wants.

Jonquil is a widow with a son, Billy. She has never been honest with Billy about the death of his father and the situation which has brought them to this place in life.

Jonquil loses her job at a children’s home and finds a position at a department store. At the department store she meets some people who will become a big part of her life. Rita becomes a wonderful friend who treasures Jonquil and Billy. And there are others who will influence the future. Because of her talent, she moves from the sales floor to becoming the store's gift counselor.

Along the way, she also meets Claude – a man who is very attracted to her and equally attracted to Billy. Because Jonquil automatically distances herself from emotional connections, she tries to push Claude far away. She does not want to give him any chance to become a part of her life of the life of her son.

This is a story about faith. Jonquil learns about faith in herself, faith in others and faith in God. She has to learn about forgiveness and that seems to be a most difficult hurdle for her to overcome. Her ability to understand the needs of relative strangers does not help her understand what her son truly needs. Nor does she seem to realize what she needs in her life.

This reader finds this to be a very well written story. Ms Cronin is a talented writer and I was surprised to find that this is her first story. She has started out at the top of her game.

This is a story that is perfect for the holiday season or any season. As I read this, I could see that we are led to look into our own hearts for the gift of understanding of others. Jonquil could be anyone who puts up barriers to keep the world from intruding too closely. Eventually she finds that every gift should be freely given as well as freely welcomed. And what appears to be a small gift may become the greatest gift in life.

I received this book from the author in the hopes I would give a fair and honest review. All thoughts are my own.

802 reviews19 followers
August 7, 2015
I received this book from Goodreads in exchange for a review.

Sometimes people need to learn how to receive a gift as well as give one.

When Jonquil loses her job at the Children’s Home, she scrambles to find another position to tide her over until January. What starts out as a simple placement at Clyde’s department store quickly turns into a job that lets her utilize her knowledge about people while helping them find the perfect gift.

Before losing her job, Jonquil was working on her master’s thesis. Her subject was Gift Giving. The loss of her job meant months of research down the drain. It wasn’t until she started helping some of her customers at the store that she realizes she could use what she learned about people to help them solve their gift-giving dilemmas. Soon people were lining up for her assistance. With the blessing of the department store, she started ‘The Gift Counseling Department’. With the help of Rita, she launches the new department which quickly becomes a resounding success. But not everyone is happy about this new development and the attention it is getting.

Closer to home, Jonquil’s own son has always wanted a dog. But that is the one thing she can’t give him. In her mind and in her heart, she blames a dog for the death of her husband many years earlier. She has never told her son the reason for her reluctance to get him a dog, instead blaming an ‘allergy’ as the reason. When the truth comes out, Jonquil must search her own heart for answers.

When Claude enters their lives, he is able to fill a void both Billy and Jonquil have. When his own story is revealed, it makes the Christmas gathering so much more poignant.

With down-to-earth Rita and oh-so-wonderful Claude, this delightful tale will capture the reader’s heart.
Profile Image for Billy Buttons.
Author 19 books98 followers
July 19, 2016
This book was entered and was a finalist in The Wishing Shelf Book Awards. This is what the readers thought:

Title: The Gift Counselor
Author: Sheila M. Cronin

Star Rating: 5 Stars

Number of Readers: 25

Editing: 9/10
Style: 9/10
Content: 9/10
Cover: 10/10

Of the 25 readers:
22 would read another book by this author.
25 thought the cover was good or excellent.
24 felt the blurb was enticing.
19 thought the well-developed characters were the best part of the book.
6 felt the author’s no. 1 skill was balancing romance with a strong plot.

Readers’ Comments
‘I thought this was a very sweet and enjoyable story. The book would make a very nice gift!’ Female reader, aged 45
‘Fab story! Very romantic and with lots of pace and fun, interesting characters. Enjoyed it very much. Cool cover and blurb too.’ Female reader, aged 56
‘A very warm-hearted tale. The author works particularly well with dialogue which helps to bring the characters to life. Perfect for the beach this summer.’ Female reader, aged 38
‘I have a feeling this is a bit of a women’s book. However, although the plot’s not for me I can appreciate the flowing style of writing and the full developed central characters.’ Male reader, aged 33
‘A book about gifts and forgiveness. There’s a lot going on in this story and it’s not just the romantic element. It is multi-layered and allows the reader to delve into the life of a woman with considerable baggage. The relationship with her son is particularly interesting. Highly recommended.’ Female reader, aged 67

‘Refreshingly fabulous! A romantic saga with plenty of heart. A finalist and highly recommended.’ The Wishing Shelf Book Awards
1,346 reviews5 followers
November 26, 2014
I loved and enjoyed reading the fabulous, heart-wrenching, inspirational, romantic story, The Gift Counselor, that I received free through Goodreads First Reads.
After finding out she lost her job at the Children's Home due to a painting job, Jonquill Bloom leaves and accidentally spills paint all over an unbelievably, attractive man. Jonquill, a widower, raising her son, Billy, finds a job at Clyde's Department Store and ends up being in charge of the Gift Counseling Department. Jonquill listens and helps people in choosing a special gift. Construction begins earlier than scheduled time, wakes Jonquill up, and she rushes out to confront the workers and meets Claude Chappel, a ruggedly, handsome man, who turns out to be the same person she spilled paint all over. Claude is interested in Jonquill and Billy and volunteers to watch Billy after school.
Read the highly recommended, wonderfully written, inspirational, love story of Claude and Jonquill by the talented author, Sheila M. Cronin.
Profile Image for Barb.
Author 4 books57 followers
November 7, 2015
This is a wonderful, feel-good story with a main character I found to be easy to relate to. The Gift Counselor is a Catholic romance novel.

Jonquil is a widowed mom with a 10-year-old son who, more than anything, wants a dog of his own–but she has her own reasons for denying Billy’s wish. Jonquil is a psychology student focusing on the topic of gift-giving for her doctoral dissertation, and when she finds herself out of a job at the Children’s Home, she takes a seasonal position at a local department store. Soon she’s blending salesmanship and psychotherapy, setting herself on a new professional trajectory as the Gift Counselor.

Jonquil’s gift-counseling service at the store leads her to examine the motivations behind gifts, the reasons people give gifts and the reasons behind particular gift choices. The Gift Counselor is a great Christmas read, but why wait? Read it now, and you may gain a new perspective on your own gift-giving–just in time for Christmas.
Profile Image for Sharon Heaverly Machuga French.
329 reviews21 followers
May 19, 2016
I received this book through Goodreads First Reads Giveaways.

The Gift Counselor is a totally fun read. The characters were totally believable and the main character, Jonquil is a totally delightful woman who finds a totally different career than she had ever anticipated as well as a relationship she never saw coming. Light, cheery, fun and you might find yourself laughing out loud at times.
77 reviews3 followers
November 10, 2015
This is a lovely read. Characters are well drawn, circumstances believable. The author visited our book group recently and we had an insightful exchange with her. Reading the book reminded me of a Hallmark Channel movie. I was surprised to learn from the author that the work was a screenplay first!
Profile Image for Tammy.
23 reviews3 followers
January 5, 2015
Really enjoyed this book. Loved the characters and loved the happy sweet ending. Would recommend this. Recieved this book free as a giveaway reader, thank you Sheila Cronin for a great book!

Profile Image for Jessica Foster.
1 review3 followers
June 2, 2016
Quick and fun read. Like a Hallmark movie in a book, I could almost see the scenes playing out. Fun holiday break read!
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