The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara

33393989._SY475_Turns out, when you’re the driver, you don’t get a lot of time to read on vacation. However, I had plenty of time to finish up the second half of this novel on my flight home this morning. It really was the perfect holiday read, even if it’s set in the summer.

Ren (short for Serendipity) is a property seeker, visiting Ireland with her assistant Kiki (seriously!) to find the perfect retirement location for a client. She and Kiki stay at an inn across from Tara (from Breakfast at Darcy’s) and meet men during their first ten minutes there. It’s all very Hallmark Christmas movie (minus the Christmas – can you tell what I’ve been watching for the last two months?!).

There’s also a bit of Irish folklore and a mystery house in the mix, but I was much more interested in the romance. There are, of course, tragic backstories on both sides, but neither of them quite as tragic as the characters make them out to be. The ending was a little too Hallmark for me, but my flight was landing, so I was happy all the same. Score another win for Ms. McNamara!

Letters from Lighthouse Cottage by Ali McNamara

I recently found a gift card to Barnes and Noble as I was cleaning up around here. Given my new infatuation with ebooks, I discovered that they have a Nook app for iPhone (but not for Mac, which is a little annoying), so I quickly set about buying a few books I’ve had my eye on, but the library doesn’t own.

29429793._SY475_This was such a great palate cleanser from the last few books I’ve read. I’ve forgotten how much I LOVE Ali McNamara books! I still hope there’s another in the From Notting Hill… series, I’m loving her standalone novels as well. I started reading this while getting a pedicure this afternoon and basically couldn’t put it down until I’d finished!

Set in a seaside British town, Grace takes us through a few flashbacks to show us how she got to where she is in 2016. She’s about 10 years old than I am, so I’m familiar with her cultural reference points, even if they aren’t my own. In 1986, when she’s 15 years old, she happens upon a typewriter that can vaguely predict the future. Much like your horoscope, it’s right more than it’s wrong in hindsight, but it helps propel Grace to do things she wouldn’t do otherwise, which ultimately guides her life the way it’s “meant” to be.

She’s got dueling love interests, but like the Hallmark Christmas movies playing on repeat, it’s pretty obvious from the get-go who she should be with. I don’t always agree the choices she makes or the conclusions she reaches from her typewriter interactions, but she’s not usually deliberately dumb. And as a person who is staring 40 in the face, it’s nice to see someone my own age get her “happy ever after” without too much whinging about getting old or if it’s too late.

The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara

23652519When I found out about Thrift Books, I immediately ran through my “can’t find at the library” list of books for things to buy. I was able to get 4 books (including this one) for $12.88! They were all like new or better, which was great.

I’ve been hearing about this book for a year from Ali’s Twitter feed, so I was crazy excited to be able to read it without taking a trip to England or expensive transatlantic shipping. However, it took me much longer to finish than her previous books.

A black sheep daughter inherits her grandmother’s flower shop in a seaside English town. Even though she’s not sure she’s going to keep it, she ends up sucked into the town and running the business. She used to visit her grandmother with her brother when she was a kid, but then there was an incident and her life turned upside down. Which is fine, cause every heroine needs a backstory, but ugh, this one is dragged out until almost the very end and the pay off is nothing special. I mean, yeah, it’s sad, but after all that build up, I wasn’t as moved as I knew I should have been.

I enjoyed the romance, but again, it was only so-so. I think I must have built this one up too much in my head.

Breakfast at Darcy’s by Ali McNamara

10231797I LOVED THIS BOOK!

Okay, sorry, it got away from me there! Much like Step Back in Time, Breakfast at Darcy’s just swept me off my feet to the point where I actually muted the Giants game, so I could finish it. Though I really love Ms. McNamara’s Love Actually series, her standalone efforts just grip me in a totally different way. The premise is rather simple: London girl is bequeathed an Irish island by her departed aunt if she lives there for a year and creates a community of at least 12 people. The premise actually reminded me a bit of my last Binchy book, A Week in Winter, in the best possible way. And of course, it made me want to hop a plane to Ireland, like RIGHT NOW.

Our heroine, Darcy, starts as a typical chick lit heroine, who loves fashion (every outfit is described in detail by brand) and works at a women’s magazine in London. But then her life is changed when her aunt dies and the above-proposition is made. When her apartment is made unlivable due to water damage, she knows it’s a sign. She’s plucky and everything’s always coming up Darcy, no matter the issue (like no furniture in the cottages or internet for advertising). You know that there’s something hinky with her immediate love interest and he won’t be the guy, but it’s not what you think and it’s quite surprising. The “real” romance is a slow burn that had me screaming, “just kiss her already!” more than once before he actually does.

Though I’m sure there’s nothing in the offing, I do hope Ms. McNamara will consider revisiting Tara (that’s the island) one of these days. I’m in love with it, just like Darcy.

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From Notting Hill with Four Weddings… Actually by Ali McNamara

22143098This is the first of many books I picked up while I was in London last month. I made two quick trips to Waterstones to load my suitcase with the Brit Chick Lit I can’t get in the States (even from the library!).

I really like Ali McNamara’s protagonist in this series, Scarlett O’Brien. Though she runs the risk of being a little too unbelievable (jetsetting from London to NYC, running three companies and still finding time to be a life coach to random celebrities), she’s still a fun person to read about. The conflict she faces feels very real for the first half of the book. There are several good cliffhangers that keep you feeling the tension and turning the page.

Then the threats materialize off screen, are dealt with and everything’s magical by the time we check back in with our heroine, no harm done. It felt like quite a let down. Scarlett’s follow up to this, her big takedown, falls flat IMO, but villain says, “touche” and disappears. Okay.

McNamara leaves herself open for a follow-up, even name-checking its possible title. Not sure I’m into these two as parents, but I like McNamara, so I’ll probably read it. But first, I’ve gotta catch up on everything else I bought!