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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The Little Café of Second Chances by J. D. Barrett

littlecafesecondchancesSynopsis

Lucy Muir is leaving her husband. It’s complicated.
 
As joint owners and chefs at one of the best restaurants in town making a clean break is tough. But, let’s face it, a woman can only take so much cheating, recipe stealing and lack of good grace.
 
Then Lucy happens upon an old, empty terrace that was once the city’s hottest restaurant: Fortune. One minute she’s peering through grimy windows into an abandoned space, the next she’s planning a pop-up bistro.
 
When Lucy fires up Fortune’s old kitchen she discovers a little red recipe book that belonged to the former chef, the infamous Frankie Summers. As Lucy cooks her way through Frankie’s recipes, customers come flocking and slowly Lucy begins to regain her confidence. It turns out that courage, passion and just a tiny bit of magic might be the secret recipe for a better life…

Review

Simply put this book is cute. A good sounding synopsis, a beautiful story with an unexpected element to it all interwoven with delicious recipes that I’m dying to try, especially those cheese soufflés.
 
The unexpected element I mentioned above is magical and supernatural, and while a surprise it was entirely welcome. It added more to the story, more depth, more history to the restaurant and Frankie’s life. The book had funny scenes, emotional scenes and scenes where you wanted to shout at the more despicable characters in the book. It was a great read from the start and the way it was written kept my attention throughout.
 
Paula is clearly a passionate and talented chef, and quite concientious too. Which is why her signing the contract and using the last of her money to get a lease on an old, delapidated restaurant ‘Fortune’ is  out of character but she’s both excited and nervous all at the same time. However, she has some great support from her best friend and it spurs her to strive even harder to make Fortune a success. She’s a great character, and her shy nature made it easy for me to connect to.
 
Frankie is the previous owner of Fortune, and we get two stories from him. One in the present day, where, while he can have a temper, you get to know a softer side to him. The other is the past when he owned Fortune, and for a lot of it you’re not sure if you like him or not, cheating on his wife and not being there for his only son isn’t a great character reference, but towards the end of the history parts, again he seems to show a more human side that’s easier to empathise with.
 
I loved Leith. Not quite the reaction I think the author was after, but he was so awful, I enjoyed his scenes immensely as I love a good villain. Someone I can roll my eyes at, or frown in anger while screaming at them (in my head).
 
As I said in the opening of this review, the book is a cute read. It has magical charm and the a wonderful sense of romance. The cooking sounded delicious and I will make sure to try some of the recipes for sure.
 
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Published by: Piatkus
Gratefully received from the Publisher for review
 
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The Regulars by Georgia Clark

regularsSynopsis

Best friends Evie, Krista, and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. They’re regular girls, with average looks and typical quarter-life crises: making it up the corporate ladder, making sense of online dating, and making rent.
 
Until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well…gorgeous. Like, supermodel gorgeous. And it’s certainly not their fault if the sudden gift of beauty causes unexpected doors to open for them.
 
But there’s a dark side to Pretty, too, and as the gloss fades for these modern-day Cinderellas, there’s just one question left:
 
What would you sacrifice to be Pretty?

Review

I was really intrigued by this book, especially after reading the chapter sampler that ‘Books and the City’ kindly gave me at the spring blogger event. It didn’t sound like anything I’d read before so it was very excited to try something new.
 
The book is as fascinating as it sounds. The writing style is great, it’s sharp and packs a punch, it’s a lot darker than most of the books I read and liked that about it. I’m used to very cosy and warm writing (which i equally enjoy), so it was a great contrast.
Set in New York this book is part women’s fiction and part something else. I can’t quite put my finger on what though…realistic fantasy? Obviously the Pretty potion couldn’t happen in real life, but the setting was set in the world we know. The potion was almost fairy tale or maybe fable is a better way of putting it, as there was lessons to be learned.
 
Obviously body image and beauty standards is one that comes into question, but also covers feminism quite heavily. It’s very topical as while in today’s society we are more socially aware, we still have publications that have numbers articles a week or month about who looks like they’ve gained a few pounds, or dared to go outside without make up.
 
The three characters are all flawed (as are we all), both as regular and pretty, but while I found myself wondering what the hell some of the characters were doing at times (Krista especially), I was enthralled in the story that I could barely put this down.
 
Evie started out as the most likeable character but possibly changed the most throughout the book, and until very close to the end it was for the worse. However I think that Evie wouldn’t recognise the person she changed into, both physically AND on the inside. Yes she was still a fierce feminist, but she failed to see her reliance on the potion to land her idol as a girlfriend as slightly ironic compared to her disdain at things such as makeup. We can do desperate things for love sometimes, but the potion seemed to make her forget all sense, though it’s easy to see that from an outside perspective.
It was great that in her professional life she was trying her best to make a difference, but I think she should have realised that no matter what she says, they aren’t going to change. That is a defeatist attitude I realise and if it is just one person standing up maybe things won’t change, but there are strength in numbers and the book makes you stop and think.
 
Krista is one crazy character and probably my most disliked initially. She was inconsiderate and  her antics means she didn’t help herself in any shape or form. Krista was always doing crazy things, whether it’s missing auditions for shopping or having some fun with an award statue, she was impulsive and that’s who she was throughout most of the book. However I think she possibly ended up the character I had the most fun with and she definitely seemed to grow the most as a person.
 
Willow I would love to get to know more, she was very withdrawn and incredibly sensitive and insecure. Her story was heart breaking at times and I kind of want a Novella on each character as follow ups!
 
This book was a surprise when I first heard about it, and I’m glad I had the chance to read it. Smart, fresh and an incredibly engaging read from the beginning till end.
 
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Published by: Simon & Schuster
Gratefully received from the Publisher for review
 
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Baby It’s Cold Outside by Kerry Barrett

babyitscoldoutside

Synopsis

Esme and Jamie have finally got their perfect wedding day planned. Beautiful snowy landscape – check. Amazing venue – check. Stunning dress – check.
But when an avalanche seals off their gorgeous mountain hometown from the outside world, their dream day starts to look more like a nightmare. Especially when Jamie’s ex turns up on their doorstep with a surprise neither of them expected!
Esme’s magical powers can solve a lot of problems, but it looks like their big day is doomed! Is Esme and Jamie’s wedding simply not meant to be, or can they still make it down the aisle, against all the odds?