I was beyond thrilled when Little, Brown reached out to me to review McNamara’s latest release, but I was even more excited when I learnt of the special milestone surrounding Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay. It feels like it was just yesterday when I was first introduced to Ali McNamara’s books, but apparently it’s been nearly four years since I was utterly enchanted by From Notting Hill with Love, Actually. Where does the time go?
With Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay hitting shelves this week, I am so very grateful Little, Brown invited me to help commemorate this novel’s release because not only does it mean getting another chance to share how incredible Ali is as a writer, but because I also get to help celebrate 10 years of Ali McNamara’s writing!
In that time, McNamara has sold over 675,000 copies and gone onto become a firm fixture on many of our bookshelves. Ten years and ten books later, Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay proves that McNamara’s still got that magical sparkle.
The sun is shining on the golden castle on Rainbow Bay – and change is in the air!
Amelia is a single mother, doing her very best to look after her young son, Charlie – but money is tight and times are tough. When she first hears that she is the last descendent of the Chesterford family and that she has inherited a Real-Life Castle by the sea, Amelia can’t quite believe her ears. But it’s true!
She soon finds that owning a castle isn’t quite the ticket to sorting out her money problems that she’d first hoped: she can’t sell, because the terms of the ancient bequest state that any Chesterford who inherits the castle, must live there and work towards the upkeep and maintenance of the family home. So ever-practical Amelia decides to uproot her little family and move to this magnificent castle by the sea.
Living in a castle on the beautiful Northumberland coast is fun at first, but organising the day-to-day running is a lot more complicated than Amelia first imagined. Luckily she has help from the small band of eccentric and unconventional staff that are already employed there – and a mysterious unseen hand that often gives her a push in the right direction just when she needs it most. It’s only when she meets Tom, a furniture restorer who comes to the castle to help repair some antique furniture, that Amelia realises she might get the fairy-tale ending that she and Charlie truly deserve…
‘SO, AMELIA’, BENJI ASKS, ‘WHAT’S IT TO BE? ARE YOU GOING TO EMBRACE THIS WONDERFUL OFFER OF A BRAND-NEW LIFE FOR YOU AND CHARLIE? OR ARE YOU GOING TO REJECT THIS AMAZING OPPORTUNITY, AND CONTINUE LIVING THE DULL MONOTONOUS LIFE YOU ARE NOW?’
I haven’t been this excited to write a review in such a long time! If it isn’t already obvious by the fact she’s been gracing our bookshelves for ten years, it is virtually impossible to not love any novel by Ali McNamara. Heartwarming and hilarious, Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay might just be my new favourite!
It’s a true rags-to-riches story when single mother Amelia gets a phone call that crowns her young son Charlie the heir to Chesterford Castle. Swapping her dingy flat for castle walls, the pair settle in with the help of the castle’s live-in staff who are a lively bunch. There’s Arthur, a grumpy caretaker with a true heart of gold, his housekeeper wife Dorothy, jack-of-all-trades Joey and ditzy office worker Tiffany. Each one plays an integral part of the novel’s ensemble providing plenty of capers and laughs as Amelia adjusts to her role as lady of the castle. There’s also Tom, a furniture restorer, who strikes up a bit of romance with our heroine.
I also adored the character of Benji, the genealogist who first contacts Amelia to let her know about her inheritance. I didn’t expect him to play such an important role in the story, however, I am thrilled McNamara kept him around as not only was he instrumental in uncovering the secrets of the castle, but he was such a kind soul – as are many of the characters in this book! McNamara brings so much heart to Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay, not just in Amelia finding a second family in the castle’s staff, but there’s also a rather poignant focus on sexuality and prejudice which I thought was incredibly well-written and even made me shed a tear!
That being said, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Chesterford Castle is hiding some truly ghostly secrets. Yes, that’s right, there are ghosts! It’s typical McNamara to give her stories a little supernatural edge and in this particular one, they take the form of the ghosts of an Elizabethan family. The ghosts of Chesterford past communicate initially through Amelia’s son, Charlie, but later take a more active approach in letting Amelia know whether they approve of the changes she’s making to their former abode. Chills and thrills galore!
Magical and mystical, Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay is a modern day Cinderella… with added ghosts! And while us modern gals don’t always need a Prince Charming to sweep us off our feet, I couldn’t help but squeal with delight at the blossoming romance between Amelia and Tom.
After ten years writing, I wholly believe this is McNamara’s best book yet. A comedic cast of characters, a castle, a budding romance, a ghost and a family mystery – a girl really couldn’t ask for more! My friends literally had to pry Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay out of my hands because I was far too engrossed. Can someone make this into a movie so I can fall in love with these characters all over again? Also, if the long lost Kilford-Pianar dynasty has a hidden castle or two that somehow slipped my rightful hands, my phone’s on stand-by!
While I am dubious that Ali McNamara can ever top the stunning Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay, I look forward to seeing what she writes next as it will undoubtedly be fantastic. Her books truly are stories that you can lose yourself in, complete with characters that you simply can’t help but love. Every time I finish a book by Ali McNamara, it motivates and inspires me to get writing on my own novel draft that I can often be a bit lazy with. Congratulations on ten years of writing, Ali, and here’s to many more!