THE SUMMER OF SERENDIPITY, best-selling novelist Ali McNamara’s latest offering, is set in the West Coast of Ireland, in the beautiful fictional town of Ballykiltara, drawn from real-life Killarney. It’s to here that heroine Ren (Serendipity) Parker and her fun-loving sidekick, Kiki, travel to find the perfect property for their latest client. It’s an adventure for the girls, not least because it’s their first time in Ireland – and the country and the characters they encounter certainly don’t disappoint.

When Ren meets Finn, the handsome but rather arcane manager of the hotel she’s staying at, she is immediately drawn to him – as is the case when she first sets eyes on The Welcome House, a local property which she quickly discerns will meet all of her client’s needs. The only problem is the more questions that she and Kiki ask about the house, the more are raised: The Welcome House is a local legend, close to everyone’s hearts, and yet no one, no one at all, seems to know who owns it, not even Finn.

‘The Welcome House has everything I’m looking for; it’s perfect.’

‘Except for one thing.’

I look questioningly at Finn.

‘An owner,’ he replies. ‘How can you buy a house for your client if you can’t find a vendor to purchase it from? […] As far as I’m aware, no one knows who looks after the place. It’s the biggest secret here in Ballykiltara.’

Add to this a strange but friendly boat-keeper, who may or may not be a ghost (according to Finn’s friend, Mac), a legendary white stag, which only reveals itself to specific people, and throw in a few myths and legends, and Ren and Kiki are hooked. Of course, the existence of Finn and attractive Jack-of-all trades Eddie also sweeten the pot.

Characters (and stag) apart, there’s a great sense of place in The Summer of Serendipity and McNamara’s love of Ireland shines through in her evocative treatment of location. We see and experience the countryside very much as Ren does and this is partly through the author’s use of the first person and present tense which make everything that much more immediate, and our reactions to the environment and local characters similarly that much more intimate.

The Summer of Serendipity is a lovely summer read. It’s not action-packed by any means and there aren’t any violent deaths, explosions or great outbreaks of passion. Instead, it’s a gentle, rather charming book – and that rather echoes the beauty and pace of its setting.

This is our first foray into Ali McNamara’s world and it’s been a delight. We now look forward to catching up on her previous books.



The Summer of Serendipity | Ali McNamara | Published by Sphere 13 July 2017 | Paperback | £7.99

Also of interest:Carrie Elks’ Summer Lease’ – the perfect holiday read‘; ‘Nora Roberts’ Come Sundown – a tale of strong women‘; ‘Meet crime writer John Fairfax‘; ‘Jane Harper’s stylish debut The Dry – murder and mayhem in small-town Australia‘; ‘An Alaskan epic – Rosamund Lupton’s The Quality of Silence‘; ‘The beauty of Sara Taylor’s The Shore’; ‘Homeward Bound – Nora Roberts’ The Liar‘.


Acknowledgements: Quoted text from The Summer of Serendipity p. 96, copyright © Ali McNamara 2017. Many thanks to Clara Diaz, Publicity Manager at Little, Brown for the review copy. This piece has been published as part of the Sphere blog tour in July 2017.


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