Friday, 14 August 2015

Book review: The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop by Abby Clements

"Anna and her husband Matteo are ready to embark a delicious Italian adventure. After a year and a half running their ice cream shop on Brighton beach and raising their baby Isabella, Matteo is starting to miss Italy. A shared passion for ices means it's easy to settle on a new business idea - they'll open a shop in the town's cobbled square, a short walk from the sparkling blue sea. For a while, life is sweet; but then Matteo's overbearing family get involved...

Anna's younger sister Imogen feels like things are finally coming together - she's living with boyfriend Finn in a beach house in Brighton, and her photography is taking off. Then her career stalls, and the lure of Capri - and a man from her past - prove difficult to resist. 

Join Anna and Imogen and share a summer on the Amalfi Coast that you'll never forget."

Okay so I start this review with a word of caution.... this book will, without a doubt, give you a craving for ice-cream. Whether it be orange sorbet, creamy chocolate gelatto or a delicious sounding hot chocolate ice cream (which I seriously need the recipe for) this book will leave you drooling... I know that I'm certainly hankering a craving for an ice cold sweet treat that I didn't have before! 

So, on to the actual book. The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop is a sequel to Vivian's Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop but you don't need to have read that story to understand what's going on in this book, the characters are introduced and their situations explained well enough for it to be a stand-alone novel itself. 

The story follows Anna and her partner Matteo who are living in Brighton, running a successful ice cream shop and raising their little girl, Bella. Although they are close to Anna's parents and sister Imogen, they are far away from Matteo's Italian family, who he misses. The story begins with it being clear that Matteo would like to move back to Italy for some time, and although Anna struggles with the idea of leaving her childhood home and tight-knit family behind, as well as being closer to Mateeo's overbearing and rather rude mother, she agrees to move to Italy for the summer, where they take over an already well-known ice cream shop and successfully make it their own. 

Anna's sister Imogen is suffering from major wander-lust. She is happy in her relationship with Finn, but she craves travel and adventure. When she is promised a photography job in Africa, she is really excited to get away for a while and follow her passion. The trip is soon cancelled and Imogen is really disappointed and looks for something to fill the gap... 
It's pretty obvious from the offset that Finn is a great guy and loving boyfriend, and Imogen isn't nasty or mean in wanting some distance, she just isn't sure how to handle such a commitment. I wanted to give her a good shake and tell her all would be okay, but I still really enjoyed following her journey and see how it would pan out with Finn. 

I think there are two major pulling points to this story - the food and the location. Let's start with the food. I mean, any book that has the word 'ice cream' in the title is obviously going to be a winner. The different flavours and types of ice cream had me drooling. It isn't ice cream overkill though, its not a repetitive or boring element to the story, there's just the right balance and it definitely created a rumble in my stomach! 

Then there's the location. Half set in Brighton and also in Italy, both the locations are brilliant. I loved the community feel of the pier in Brighton, how Anna has family roots there and all the shop owners all work together and get on with each other. It was the epitome of an idyllic seaside holiday and I really enjoyed the characters based there. Italy was also a great setting, it had an exotic, relaxed atmosphere that you could see rubbed off on the characters. It also just heightened the brilliant ice cream business they run, and I enjoyed it when Imogen and other characters went to visit in Italy. 

My only niggle is that some of the scenarios seemed a little rushed and weren't given the time I wanted, but that's probably a reflection of how much I loved this story - I just wanted to read as much as I could about all of the brilliant characters. The book spans a period of about six months, so I know there's an awful lot to cram in and there's a need to prioritise, but on some occasions a situation was only given a paragraph when I would have loved to have read a whole chapter. An example is when Evie goes over to Italy. I won't go into why (as I don't want to spoil anything) but really I'd have loved to have read about her trip there, but we don't - there's just a quick paragraph where she catches up with Imogen following the trip.

However, don't let that fairly minor detail put you off. Abby is a really talented writer and I absolutely loved this story. There's everything you need for the perfect summer read - fab characters, exotic sunny location, awesome food and plenty of great friendships and romance! If you need a poolside read for your holiday (or an escape from the horrible rainy English weather) then this is the book you need!

Buy the book 

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