Book review: Breakfast at Darcy’s by Ali McNamara

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Twenty-something Darcy McCall has always liked knowing what’s going to happen next... hope and optimism, the staples of many people’s lives, fill her with doubt whilst certainty gives her a reassuring glow.

So why is she giving up her job on top beauty magazine Goddess, leaving behind London’s swinging shops, salons and bars and heading off into the unknown?

Ali McNamara burst onto the chick lit scene a year ago with her sparkling film-inspired debut novel From Notting Hill with Love..Actually, and now she’s back with another clever and fun-filled Christmas gift for ‘rom com’ fans.

With her fast-developing trademark blend of humour and humanity, McNamara brings us a beguiling and original storyline with an assorted cast of characters, a luscious backdrop and a gently unfolding mystery.

When Darcy loses her beloved Aunt Molly, her first reaction is guilt; guilt that she had let the kindly old woman drift out of her life after spending childhood holidays at her sprawling mansion by the sea in Ireland.

The last thing she expects is any sort of inheritance, let alone an estate valued at over £1m and the small island of Tara, located off the coast of Co Kerry, which has been virtually abandoned for years.

Just as Darcy is secretly congratulating herself on no longer having to worry about her overdraft, her aunt’s solicitor drops the bombshell that there are ‘terms’ to the will.

Darcy must stay on Tara for twelve months in order to fully inherit, and she needs to persuade at least 15 people to settle there with her in order to build a community and bring much-needed new life to the island.

This means saying goodbye to her independent city life and swapping stylish heels for muddy wellies. Easier said than done for a young woman obsessed with her appearance and who enjoys nothing more than TV and shopping.

When circumstances conspire to change both her home and work life, Darcy heads of for the challenge in Ireland and is soon having to sort out everything on Tara from the plumbing to the pub.

Helping her to settle in are project manager Dermot O’Connell, a practical but grumpy builder who is not convinced Darcy will last five minutes on the island, and smooth-talking Conor who might just persuade her to stay...

McNamara creates a clever, feelgood romance with the added bonus of a magical island setting where myths, legends and dreams abound and where lives are transformed and love blossoms.

And in age-old tradition, the denouement packs plenty of surprises and moments of touching tenderness.

Destiny can work in the strangest ways and it almost seems that McNamara is fated to write novels that leave readers with a big smile and a warm glow!

(Sphere, paperback, £6.99)