17 November 2011

Book Review: Breakfast at Darcy's by Ali McNamara

When Darcy McCall loses her beloved Aunt Molly, she doesn't expect any sort of inheritance - let alone a small island. Located off the west coast of Ireland, Tara hasn't been lived on for years, but according to Molly's will Darcy must stay there for twelve months in order to fully inherit, and she needs to persuade a village full of people to settle there, too. Darcy has to leave behind her independent city life and swap stylish heels for muddy wellies. Between sorting everything from the plumbing to the pub, Darcy meets confident Conor and ever-grumpy Dermot - but who will make her feel really at home?

After reading and absolutely loving Ali McNamara's debut novel From Notting Hill With Love... Actually which was released in 2010, her new book has been really high on my to-read list all year, and it's one I have really been looking forward to. When the cover was released earlier this year, I thought it was beautiful and although I still do, I struggle to think about how it relates to the story which is a bit of a shame, but I will overlook that minor detail considering it's so beautiful! I was expecting something that was going to be along the lines of McNamara's debut novel, but what I got was something completely different, and it was very readable and enjoyable, but very much not what I had expected, although believe me that isn't a bad thing!

The lead character, as you may expect, is called Darcy. She loves her life in London, working on a big fashion magazine, with access to all the mod-cons she would ever want, and a wardrobe that any London girl would be envious of as well. However, when her Aunt Molly dies suddenly in Ireland, Darcy finds herself swept off to a remote Irish island called Tara, bequeathed to her by Molly before she died, and Darcy has to do the seemingly impossible in order to fully inherit - set up a community of people there for one whole year. I was curious about the concept, thinking it isn't something that would be easy, but as it is in all books, things go rather well for Darcy and plenty of people come forward to live on Tara. However, she was a lovely character, someone I really warmed to and I felt she was a good lead character for the book because she wasn't perfect, and you can see her fighting her conflicting emotions about everything all the way through.

Darcy goes through quite a change on Tara, one I had expected if I am honest. She suddenly went from being looks obsessed to realising that really designer labels aren't all that important, and happy to rough it with the other new residents of Tara. She also adapts surprisingly well to a life without her much-needed mod-cons as well, but I suppose she didn't have much of a choice! Her friendship with builder Dermot was interesting to read about, and I really liked his character even though he did come across as a bit stroppy and dislikeable for the most part! He had an interesting story from around halfway through the book and I liked that McNamara introduced a very new plotline like this, it kept my interest peaked! My other favourite character was Darcy's solictor Niall, a sweet and unassuming man who doesn't quite know what to make of the London girl Darcy when he first meets her! His and Darcy's friendship was brilliant, and I loved how his character evolved throughout the book.

One thing I loved about this book was the descriptions used throughout of the island Tara that Darcy and her friends are living on. McNamara manages to describe the landscape, the sea, the newly erected buildings and everything about the island so well that you can really imagine it in your mind. Many of the legends are spoken about by the island's only permanent resident Eamon, an old friend of Molly's and someone who knows about every legend of Tara. These were interesting to read about, and I felt they added a little bit of a magical element to the book, and I was left wondering how much of these legends were true and what effect they would ultimately have on the story. The plot isn't something I have ever come across in chick lit and while I was initially a bit unsure when I first read the premise, I have to admit it really had me hooked as I loved how the story slowly unfolded, revealing things about the characters slowly but surely, and turning Darcy into a whole new person. McNamara's writing is a joy to read, very descriptive yet fun to read at the same time, and you can feel she really gets into the heart of her characters. It's nothing at all like her debut novel, but it's a wonderful second offering, and McNamara is cementing herself as one of a new generation of chick lit writers to watch out for! Recommended!

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Breakfast at Darcy's in paperback or on eBook/Kindle (links go to Amazon.co.uk)

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