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!

Step Back in Time by Ali McNamara

tumblr_inline_nbcin2IzTB1qhlpw5It’s been a long while since I’ve loved a book this much and I can’t believe I was hesitant to pick it up because I couldn’t put it down once I did. I mean, the premise is our heroine is a busy workaholic who gets hit by a car in a crosswalk, which sends her on a time traveling journey through the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. But it totally works! Not only that, it’s so vividly written, I’m actually shocked it hasn’t been made into a movie.

I can’t identify with Jo-Jo’s love of math, but I absolutely adore how she wholeheartedly throws herself into whatever circumstance she’s in when she time travels. She rightly questions what on Earth is going on, but then just gets going with the life she’s been dropped into, meeting her constant companions, Ellie (PA from her firm), Henry (love interest), George (record store owner/time traveling guru). The way she falls in love with Henry is so subtle and lovely that it just gets me right in the heart. I didn’t see how it ended coming at all, which is actually brilliant and a little shocking.

There’s Beatles songs/trivia/lore/names throughout, but I was actually reminded of the Ben Folds song, “The Luckiest,” as I was reading: What if I’d been born fifty years before you / In a house on a street where you lived? / Maybe I’d be outside as you passed on your bike / Would I know? / And in a white sea of eyes / I see one pair that I recognize / And I know

So lovely and fun!

From Notting Hill to New York…Actually by Ali McNamara

tumblr_inline_mqoykiNJOb1qhlpw5One of the first things I did on my recent trip to London was pop into Waterstones to see if I could get books by some of my favorite British authors that I can’t find in the US. And of course, they were having a buy one, get one half off sale, so I bought more than I probably should have (and yet, there are still tons to buy!).

This is the follow up to the one I read in April, about a girl called Scarlett who is obsessed with rom-coms. She’s now living with Sean, her neighbor-turned-boyfriend, after having redone his kitchen and garden, in his flat in Notting Hill. Must be nice. Anyway, she’s off to New York to visit her dad with her BFF Oscar and she immediately ends up in some Scarlett-like shenanigans. This book requires WAY more suspension of disbelief as Bradley Cooper features prominently among other things. I saw the plot twist coming about halfway through the book and it still works. The ending was crazy and even though it’s completely unrealistic, I couldn’t wait to read what was next!

Of course, there’s a third book that comes out next week in the UK and in February in the US. We’ll see if I have the willpower to make it until then!

From Notting Hill with Love…Actually by Ali McNamara

tumblr_inline_mqoybk1zFJ1qhlpw5I wasn’t immediately sold on this book, but a hundred pages in, I didn’t want to put it down. Scarlett is obsessed with romantic comedies, much to the chagrin of her father and her fiance. She takes a month off to housesit a house in Notting Hill for friends of her friend, hoping to find some clarity about her relationship with movies (and her fiance).

This is one of those chick lit books that you just know she’s going to drop her drip of a fiance for the dashing if aloof man she runs into in the first 20 pages, but you just can’t figure out how it’s going to happen. Add in some mother abandonment issues and you’ve got a very compelling 400 pages. The author is clearly a fan of the romcoms as well, going as far as to include a movie lover’s guide to Notting Hill in the back. I’m not embarrassed to say that I got most of the references without her exposition, which is likely why I picked up this book in the first place. I also really loved that they went to Disneyland Paris because as much as I love London, I also love Disneyland, so it was excellent to combine those in one book.

The library doesn’t have the sequel to this book, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout this summer.