Friday 21 July 2017

Review | The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara

Published by Sphere on July 13, 2017

The Summer of Serendipity is the first book I have read by Ali McNamara but it won’t be the last. This was a really magical, summery treat of a read, combining romance and mystery in an enthralling fashion, and I really settled into Ali’s storytelling like I’d been reading her books for years.

Serendipity, or Ren as she prefers to be known as, is introduced to us at the beginning of the book alongside her friend Kiki. Ren is a property seeker and is looking for the perfect home for her latest client. In the small Irish town of Ballykiltara, it doesn’t take long before she has found the perfect home. Except nothing is ever that simple. Known as “The Welcome House”, the place Ren has found is a big part of local legend and it is a welcoming place for all. The owner is unknown and therefore the house is not for sale, but Ren isn’t a quitter and she begins to ask question after question until she can get to the bottom of the Welcome House.

I really loved seeing Ireland revealed right in front of my eyes through Ali’s words and through the way she described Ireland and brought Ballykiltara to life, it was evident that Ireland has meaning to the author and this shone through in her writing. I loved getting to know the place and found the Welcome House gave it another, absolutely fascinating edge that had me hooked trying to learn more about it. Ali’s descriptions and scene setters are charming and full of character. From the woodland walks to the welcoming feel to the place, there was so much to love about Ballykiltara. The scenery sounded absolutely exquisite and contributed to the appealing feel to the book.

Though it took me a few chapters to really settle into this book, this was made easy because the characters of Ren and Kiki drew me in straight away. I loved the dialogue and interactions between them from the start. At first we know little about them. The most evident thing is that Kiki mixes up her words a lot and that complicates matters at times. But only a few chapters in, when one seemingly harmless comment from Kiki sees Ren snap, we begin to see signs that Ren is guarding herself and has a few demons in her past to deal with.

Kiki and Ren were fun characters, kind and entertaining and they made this book a joy to read. Kiki had me laughing many times throughout this book, not just when she gets her words muddled but in general she’s a funny character. Ren is likeable in a different sort of way but I really enjoyed getting to know her character. She is offered one big hunk of a distraction in the form of hotel manager Finn. Of course I also loved getting to know him too. The characters in this book were warm and engaging and overall had The Summer of Serendipity sparkling with feel-good factor.

I’m not sure which I preferred more – the mystery behind the Welcome House or the blossoming romance. I was dying to know more about the Welcome House just like Ren except there seemed to be a whole lot more questions than answers. I loved learning a bit about the history and the folklore. This is not really something I expect to see a lot of in this genre but the author beautifully entwines every aspect of the book to make it fit seamlessly, something which felt special and a bit magical.

If, like me, you have never read a book by Ali McNamara before, then this is definitely a great book to start with as I am now eager to discover Ali’s other books, some I know are already sat on my bookcase. If you have already read Ali’s books than I’m sure you are sold on this one already as her storytelling is a delight to read. I fell in love with Ireland through this book alone and the way the author builds up the sights and places she has created, inspired by real sights in Ireland. The Summer of Serendipity is a wonderfully romantic and atmospheric read – and it is a must-read this summer.

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