The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara

Synopsis

One summer, property seeker, Serendipity Parker finds herself on the beautiful west coast of Ireland, hunting for a home for a wealthy Irish client. But when she finds the perfect house in the small town of Ballykiltara, there’s a problem; nobody seems to know who owns it.
 
‘The Welcome House’ is a local legend. Its front door is always open for those in need of shelter, and there’s always a plentiful supply of food in the cupboards for the hungry or poor.
 
While Ren desperately tries to find the owner to see if she can negotiate a sale, she begins to delve deeper into the history and legends that surround the old house and the town. But for a woman who has always been focussed on her work, she’s remarkably distracted by Finn, the attractive manager of the local hotel.
 
But will she ever discover the real truth behind the mysterious ‘Welcome House’? Or will the house cast its magical spell over Ren and help her to find true happiness?

Review

I’ve read most of Ali McNamara’s books, and enjoyed them, and with this book set in close proximity to my favourite of Ali’s “Breakfast at Darcy’s”, I was very excited to start this novel. It is clear that Ali has fallen under the magic of Ireland, the was she writes about it is beautiful, not just the sights, but the enchanting spiritual feeling to it. I wasn’t expecting the book to have a magical side to it, but it definitely added to the overall atmosphere and I really lied that addition.
 
The hotel sounded wonderful, luxurious, but with a cosy, rustic charm. Full of Irish spirit and some local legends which all added to the magical atmosphere and it was a great mix.
 
Ren was a very focused character and for a lot of the time, far too serious for her own good, amplified by the sharp contrast to her assistant, Kiki’s personality. Also she was grilling Fin on his secret, yet when Kiki asks her questions she was equally as secretive, so she was quite hypocritical, and realised it herself at times. Though even when Ren is in full serious or secretive mode, you do get a glimpse of her fun-loving nature when she lets her hair down, and it’s these moments that she shone and I knew I was being maybe a bit harsh on Ren.
 
Kiki was wonderful. She brightened up the room, and yes, she could be naive and a little ditzy, but she was just simply always happy and eager to please. As I said above her personality was a complete contrast to Ren’s and this balanced the book perfectly. I loved Kiki so much I would easily read a whole book with her as the star.
 
Finn is the manager of the hotel and he is simply lovely, if as mysterious as Ren at times.It’s clear that he and Ren are well matched, the ore both conscientious, caring, serious but genuinely fun when relaxed.
 
All of the other characters were equally as charming and friendly, especially Father Duffy.
 
The whole welcome house idea is fascination and while I am quite a sceptic (like Ren) when it comes to ‘feelings’ in a supernatural sense, I did enjoy Ren discover the house and learn to understand it.
 
Overall this book entranced and mystified me. I was desperate to discover the secret of the welcome house, just as much as Ren was. The book pulled me in and its mixture of fun and folklore kept me turning pages till the end.
 
 
Published by: Sphere
Gratefully received from the Publisher for review 
 
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Blog Tour: Summer’s Lease by Carrie Elks

Synopsis

Cesca Shakespeare has hit rock bottom. After one prize-winning play that ended in disaster, writer’s block turned up, moved in and got a Netflix subscription. Six years later, she’s just lost her crappy job and is about to lose her flat. Worse still, her sisters have no idea how far she’s fallen. So when her fairy Godfather offers her a free summer holiday in a beautiful Italian villa, she grudgingly agrees to try writing a new play. That’s before she finds out the house belongs to her arch-nemesis, Sam Carlton.
 
Having just hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons – again – Hollywood heart-throb Sam Carlton needs a place to hide out. Where better than his family’s gorgeous empty villa on Lake Como? Except when he arrives, it isn’t as empty as he’d hoped.

Review

It seems like ages since Carrie’s last novel ‘Fix You’ was released so I was excited when I saw that this book was releasing this summer. It sounded exotic, excitingly romantic and the ultimate book to relax with in summer.
 
The opening scene is in London where Cesca gets fired from another job, mind you maybe a cat café isn’t the best place for waitressing when you’re not an animal person, but most of us have had a job we’ve had to take for money, while looking for something else I’m sure. Anyway she manages to get a job house sitting a villa for the Carltons, who are quite a famous family. The start of the book is quite humorous when Cesca is talking to her cat café boss but you soon start to feel for Cesca when you realise there is some deeper than just laziness or uselessness at keeping a job.
 
The book is mostly set in Italy though on the aforementioned house sitting job. Near Lake Como, it truly sounded one of the most relaxing places on earth. You could easily waste away a week in one of the café’s, piazza’s or anywhere by the lake, even better on a private beach at the end of your luxury villa. Add that with the friendly and kind locals, the rustic and delicious food and of course the local wine, and you have yourself the perfect summer destination, and it’s so easy to imagine yourself there with Cesca. One of the best things I liked about the books is the ability to transport you anywhere with just words, and this book does it incredibly well.
 
Cesca was certainly a feisty character, never scared to let you know how she felt. As it happens she was also quite insecure, and while she had every reason to be mad at Sam, her extreme reaction was a clearly a reaction that masked her annoyance at herself as much as Sam, if not more, but then you’re always your own worst critic aren’t you? When relaxed though, you could see Cesca was lots of fun, and her exchanges with Sam while they were sparring were great to read, as was the scene where she had too much to drink and Sam found her.
 
Sam was obviously handsome and fairly self assured, not in the arrogant way Cesca accused him of. He was also sensitive though, especially with family so it was easy to like him. However I felt at times he was far too possessive at times, I don’t always like people telling people ‘You’re Mine’, it can be romantic, but the tone in which it sounded was like Cesca was a possession, not a human, meant to be loved in return as well. Generally though, Sam was incredibly likeable if you over-look this.
 
Christiano was charming as well, but at times he came across as too enthusiastic, though maybe it was just me. He was very passionate, and the attention he lavished on Cesca would embarrass me, as I don’t like to be the centre of attention to that extent, but that’s a personal thing, and maybe if I met someone like him, I would like to be told how amazing I am.
 
This book was definitely a summer scorcher. It’s got lots of fun moments, with just enough drama that makes you want to keep turning pages long after this book is finished. The epilogue is the picture of perfection, just like ‘Fix You’, which also had one of my favourite epilogues, this one’s ending satisfied my appetite to know what happens to our hero and heroine.
 
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Published by: Piatkus
Gratefully received from the Publisher for review
Released on July 15th 2017
 

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Blog Tour Q & A and Review of The Once In A Blue Moon Guesthouse by Cressida McLaughlin

Synopsis

Robin Brennan has come home to Campion Bay. Now her parents have retired, she’s set to become the new landlady of The Campion Bay Guesthouse.
 
Bookings have been as thin as the hand towels, and it doesn’t take long for Robin to realise that the place needs a serious makeover. Perhaps throwing herself into the task will help to heal her sadness at the tragic end to her dreams in London.
 
As she gives the guesthouse a new lease of life, Robin encounters old friends and new, including old flame Tim, who’d clearly like to reboot their romance. But what about Will, the new arrival at No. 4, who’s rocked up with the cutest dog ever?
 
Caught up in a flurry of full-English breakfasts and cream teas, Robin’s never sure what, or who, the next check-in will bring…

Q & A with Cressida

1. Could you give us your top 3 tips for aspiring writers?
 
• Believe in yourself, love your writing and don’t let anyone put you off. Constructive criticism is one thing, and is very useful, but don’t listen to other people’s negativity. If you want to do it, then go for it.
• Write first, edit later. Get the words written first and worry about improving them later – you can’t edit a blank page.
• Write a story that you’re passionate about. Don’t think too much about trends in the publishing world, because by the time your book is ready to be published everything will have moved on anyway. You have to love your story first, and then other people will be more likely to fall in love with it.
 
2. Have you ever been stuck while writing one of your books? How did you get over it?
 
I definitely get stuck days, and I find the best thing to do is step away from the words and engage my brain in something else – cooking or hoovering or going for a long walk. Usually, whatever writing knots I’m trying to untangle will work themselves out while I’m not thinking about them, and by the time I sit back down at my desk I’m able to get going again.
 
3. Are you currently reading anything you would like to recommend?
 
As well as romantic fiction, I’m a huge sucker for a good crime novel, and especially a series where the recurring characters – police, forensic experts etc. – are as compelling as the crimes they’re investigating. I’ve recently finished Perfect Remains by Helen Fields, which is a crime thriller set in Edinburgh. It’s gruesome but very gripping, and has two wonderful detectives at its core that I already care deeply about. I’m waiting eagerly for the second book, which is out at the end of July, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes their crime stories dark, sexy and unputdownable.
 
4. What’s next for you?
 
At the moment I’m writing a two-part Christmas novella – which is proving a bit of a challenge when it’s this hot and sunny outside. It’s going to be called The Canal Boat Café Christmas, and is the next part of Summer and Mason’s story. I hope readers are looking forward to finding out what happens next!
 
Then I’m on to my fourth novel, which is all planned out and which I’m really, really excited about writing. It’s going to have lots of romance and drama in it, a very picturesque setting and also quite a bit of wildlife . . . watch this space!
 
Thank you Cressida! 

Review

I’ve not read any of Cressida’s novel’s before now, but know I have needed to read them for a while now. When I saw this one, I just knew it was the one I was going have to start with, since it’s set by the sea, a favourite place of mine. Even better is that it’s set about 30 miles away from me, which made it all the more special, as me and my parents used to visit that area a lot when I was a child.
 
It was easy to know I was going to enjoy the book, when not even all the way through the first chapter I realised I loved the setting, loved Robin and trusted that the story was going to be as amazing as the first few pages promised. The writing is the perfect blend of descriptive scenery, inner monologue and conversations between the characters who are all wonderful. The guesthouse is cosy at first, but maybe a bit dated. However when Robin gets her hands on it it remains cosy, but has a chic stylish feel to the room as well, making her stand out from the Bed and Breakfasts that are close by. Rarely have I wanted to jump into a book more than when Robin was planning ideas for the rooms, I was almost writing down notes as to what she could do myself, the world was that absorbing, proven again when I was jealous of some walnut bedside tables Robin bought for a room, when I’ve been looking for a pair I like for 10 years. YES, I envied a fictional character’s furniture, I’m beyond help now.
 
Robin is hurting, that much is clear, but her resolve to stay strong and put everything she has into all that she does. Her creativity was fantastic and the care she put into everything was a move and beyond.. She clearly deserves to succeed.
 
I almost loved Will from the moment he appeared. His tale of how he adopted his dog, Darcy was enough to melt my heart (despite being a cat person). There were some reservations initially, he was quite stand offish when it was suggested that he may have made up facts on his stately home tours, even though it was clearly said in jest as gentle teasing, which was at odds to how he was every other time he spent time with Robin. Well, we can forgive minor flaws in this case, he was clearly perfect in every other department.
 
All the neighbours seemed really friendly adding a great community feel to the whole book, they were clearly great friends to help, and it did fit into the cosy nostalgia I feel whenever I think about staying by the seaside and all the people I have met while there. They are clearly happy to go out of their way to help people. I loved Paige, for her age she was really mature (well., most of the time). She was great working for Robin, and it was good to have a side story that focused on a different age range to the lead character.
 
This book is just perfect of the summer, it completely makes me nostalgic. It is funny, especially when Molly and Robin get together, or when Maggie is involved. Also it has plenty of moments filled with emotion. A great blend of all the things that is essential for a summer read.
 
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Published by: HarperCollins
Gratefully received from the Publisher for review
 

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The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Synopsis

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.
 
Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.
 
Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.
 
You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

Review

I’ve been in quite the thriller mood recently and thought I would check this one out, as someone I met recently was in the middle of reading this and was enjoying it, so I though why not? I don’t regret it for a second.
 
The book wasn’t slow paced, intact I was surprised to learn it was only 352 pages once I had finished and looked. The writing style was different. Not in a bad way, how could it be bad if I had finished it in less than 24 hours, but there was something distinctive about it that I couldn’t put my finger on. It was a bit cooler, while the emotion was there and felt (particularly Anne’s) the writing seemed more matter of fact. As I said this wasn’t a bad thing, and it certainly left an impression on me.
 
In thrillers like this you often find yourself doubting the characters, often the lead character. With this book though, I pretty much trusted everyone, apart from maybe the neighbours. The detective obviously had their suspicions but I wasn’t such a sceptic. I especially trusted Anne, even though there was potential of her being responsible, there was something about her that made me trust that she didn’t do it.
 
I also liked Marco, he clearly adored Anne and seemed really supportive while she was suffering from post natal depression. I can also imagine how he felt with his in-laws. The rich-poor divide can be tough, especially when the rich male likes to shove their wealth and success in someone’s face as much as Anne’s stepfather did.
 
Obviously both parents are distraught and I wondered how I would sympathise with them if I were the general public, as in hindsight leaving a baby alone, however close they are was not a great idea (understatement of the century). However my heart did break for them.
 
Detective Rasbach was also a great character, while his questions were quite direct, it was clear he genuinely wanted to get to the bottom of what happened, and sometimes hard questions are needed.
 
Overall this book was as good as I’d heard, it lived up to the tenseness you expect from a thriller and constantly kept me guessing.
 
 
Published by: Transworld
Gratefully received from the Publisher for review
 
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