“The sun is shining in the quiet little seaside town of Sandybridge
Sandybridge is the perfect English seaside town: home to gift shops, tea rooms and a fabulous fish and chip shop. And it’s home to Grace – although right now, she’s not too happy about it.
Grace grew up in Sandybridge, helping her parents sort junk from vintage treasures, but she always longed to escape to a bigger world. And she made it, travelling the world for her job, falling in love and starting a family. So why is she back in the tiny seaside town she’d long left behind, hanging out with Charlie, the boy who became her best friend when they were teenagers?
It turns out that travelling the world may not have been exactly what Grace needed to do. Perhaps everything she wanted has always been at home – after all, they do say that’s where the heart is…”
Can I first say – how beautiful is this cover? It’s so cute, I just want to jump right into the scene for my next holiday – so I guess, job done by the artist! 10/10 for making me want to pick this book off the shelf and find out what stories are taking place behind this beautiful scene.
This is the first book I have read by Ali McNamara and, luckily, this book more than lives up to its lovely cover. It is a warm, charming, easily readable tale filled with likeable characters and everyday human dilemmas to which we can all relate to some degree.
The central character, Grace, faces the kind of challenges and decisions that we have all faced in some form at some point in our lives. The difference with this story is how she makes her decisions on which forks in the road she will take. I’m not going to spoil the plot for you by revealing what is special about her emotional guide, but the concept of how we all come to make the choices we make in our lives, whether to listen to our heads or our hearts, whether we should trust our gut instinct or let this be over-ruled by logic, I find really fascinating and I think it is handled in a really interesting and unique way by the author.
Grace’s main dilemma in the book involves her two childhood friends, both of whom happen to be male, and how her feelings for those two men develop through the years, how she recognises and reconciles those changing feelings, and how she can act on them without jeopardising those friendships.
There are very clear consequences in the book as a result of the decisions that Grace makes and a recurring theme in the book is whether, if the result of a decision seems at first to be negative, would you go back and change it, if you could? Would you, to avoid a short term pain, even if down the line the decision had positive consequences that could not have been foreseen at the time? How do you decide if the unforeseen positives outweigh the negatives? How do you know if making the other decision would have turned out better in the long term? What happens when decisions you take in good faith, turn out to have unfortunate outcomes? This is a really fascinating subject to me, and one that I have contemplated a good deal in my own life, so I really enjoyed seeing it explored in this novel. Grace, in the end, seems to be a ‘glass half full’ kind of person, which prevents this book straying into some dark and maudlin territory, which I think is the right approach, but is is definitely food for thought in a genre that is sometimes be accused of lacking depth and substance. That accusation won’t stick here.
On a lighter note, as the story alternates between Grace’s present day relationships and her teenage years where these relationships were formed, we get a fun and nostalgic flashback to my teenage heyday of the 1980’s which I really enjoyed.
If I were to make any (very) minor criticism of this book, I would say that some plot points I would like to have seen described or developed in more depth – a more detailed description of the town so I could see it more clearly in my mind’s eye; more details about some periods of her life; the travelling was made a big thing of in the beginning, which piqued my interest but then it was kind of glossed over very quickly; – but I am splitting superficial hairs here.
This is a great example of the contemporary romance genre with a fun hook and some fascinating themes that elevate it above the herd – I found myself considering some very esoteric ideas which I wouldn’t necessarily expect to be addressed by this genre. Ali McNamara walks the line between a light summer read and giving the reader something to think about perfectly. I really, really enjoyed it – it was one of those books that you don’t want to put down – and look forward to reading more by the author.
About the Author
Ali McNamara attributes her over-active and very vivid imagination to one thing – being an only child. Time spent dreaming up adventures when she was young has left her with a head bursting with stories waiting to be told.
When stories she wrote for fun on Ronan Keating’s website became so popular they were sold as a fundraising project for his cancer awareness charity, Ali realised that not only was writing something she enjoyed doing, but something others enjoyed reading too.
Ali lives in Cambridgeshire with her family and two Labradors. When she isn’t writing, she likes to travel, read, and people-watch, more often than not accompanied by a good cup of coffee. Her dogs and a love of exercise keep her sane!