“’In matters of the heart, you’re quite … practical.’ ‘Practical?’ I repeat. ‘How does that work?’ ‘You should let your heart rule your head sometimes, instead of the other way around. Stop worrying about the consequences all the time and live in the moment.’
It really pains me to give this book anything less than 5 stars, especially because I loved my first book by Ali McNamara, Letters from Lighthouse Cottage, so much, and I had my hopes up for this one, too. I mean, look at the pretty cover! And that title, too..! Unfortunately, and I’ve been debating with myself for the past hour since I’ve finished reading it, I can only give it 3 stars. Let me explain why, after a little summary:
Serendipity – Ren – Parker is a property seeker. On a business trip to the west coast of Ireland, to a small and magical little town called Ballykiltara, Ren and her assistant Kiki find the perfect house for their client, but there is one problem – nobody seems to own the house, nor does anybody know anything about who looks after the place so mystically called ‘The Welcome House’. There only seem to be many myths and legends surrounding this particular house, namely that it is always open to whoever needs its shelter, and that in the past, people even seemed to have disappeared in it, if they tried to come behind its secret. Despite this, Ren is determined to find out who owns the place in order to buy it and sell it to her client. However, how can she, when there are only little clues about the house in the first place? Will she lose her client for the first time ever, and might she lose her heart on this trip, as well…?
So, let me start with the positive. I loved the story of this book. The setting in a remote and beautiful small town together with all its myths, legends and the occasional ghost story made me enjoy it much more than I had otherwise. I was almost giddy when I found out about the Welcome House and its own mysteries. I also liked most of the characters, especially the locals and Kiki, Ren’s employee.
However, and here comes the big downside, I didn’t like Ren. At all. She is very determined to do the best job she can, but in a very unpleasant sort of way. When she doesn’t get the answers she expected, and people are getting uneasy with her blunt way, she is even more determined instead of leaving them at peace, which I didn’t find a pleasant character trait. Don’t get me wrong, I also like doing a job to my best abilities, but instead of leaving the people of Ballykiltara alone after she sees how uncomfortable some get with her constant questions, Ren doesn’t back off at all, until she finds out about the Welcome House’s secrets…
I also didn’t really like the way she treated Kiki. Sure, she is a bit younger than Ren and much more carefree and lighthearted in her ways, but she is still also an adult on a business trip. I felt like Ren treats her more like a child; even though she doesn’t always show it, but you could see it from what she was thinking – it usually felt a bit downgrading, as if she is looking down on Kiki, feeling superior to her in some way, or more knowledgeable somehow. This also became apparent when the locals tell her their legends, which I found quite impolite. Whenever they spoke about the Welcome House as if it’s a person – how it is taking care of people who need its shelter, she repeatedly states how this is impossible, and that there must be someone behind it, dismissing their local legends immediately. No matter how right she is, I think there must have been some other way to voice her opinion, other than making them feel frowned upon.
Ren could also be described as not having a single romantic bone in her body – at least the vast majority of the book. Even though there seems to be a reason behind this which she reveals in the end, I didn’t really see why she didn’t change this character trait earlier, especially since she was surrounded by so much magical air the place of Ballykiltara seems to hold, and the nice way people are responding to her (also her love interest).
Another thing that bothered me quite a bit while reading was how everything seemed to unravel – whenever Ren needed to see a specific person, she immediately ran into them, apparently serendipitously (pun intended), or there happened to be a white stag or raven on her way to show her that she needed to go this way or the other, or a dog ran away so that she needed to follow it, or something along those lines. It all seemed to happen too quickly, the puzzle pieces fitting too perfectly together, so that it didn’t seem natural anymore.
All in all, I can say that I could have loved this book – if it had another main character, or the main character had started earlier to be a little more open-minded to her surroundings – maybe a bit more like Kiki, whom she criticized so often. Unfortunately, only 3 stars from me – and that is due to the absolutely magical setting and the nice support characters.