My edition: Paperback, published on 2 July 2015 by Simon & Schuster, 400 pages.
Description: Anna and her husband Matteo are preparing to embark on 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 sorbet shop on 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 has settled in Brighton running Vivien's Ice Cream Shop with boyfriend Finn, and for the first time in her life, she's enjoying putting down some roots. But then, late in the summer, things start to change and her willpower is put to the test…
I've read a lot of women's fiction in the last few years. A LOT. And when you read so many novels that can be defined within the same genre it's easy for them to become predictable and kind of all muddle together into one nondescript memory of summer romances and sandy beaches. So it's a real treat when an author comes along who writes such memorable characters that even years later you remember them vividly; and that's what Abby Clements has done.
I've followed her books from the start, from Meet Me Under the Mistletoe to Amelia Grey's Fireside Dream, all the way to Vivien's Heavenly Ice Cream Shop. Each one was a delight and so I was thrilled to discover that her latest novel, The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop, announced a tasty return to Brighton (and beyond) and some very familiar characters that I had already fallen in love with in the previous novel and it was lovely to become reacquainted with them and see what happened after the happily ever after.
Because I'm a very curious person and always wonder what truly happens after I turn the final page of a delicious read and The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop provides that opportunity with sisters Anna and Imogen, and their respective loved ones, as it takes off a little while after the story's conclusion in Vivien's Heavenly Ice Cream Shop. If you haven't read the previous novel, that is not a problem either as Abby provides enough background information for new readers to instantly feel like they're already good friends with Anna and Imogen.
At the start of the novel the sisters are living in Brighton. Anna is still running their grandmother's ice cream shop, now with her partner Matteo, and Imogen is happy enough spending part of the year with her boyfriend Finn in the coastal town and part of it travelling to make her dream of being a professional photographer a reality. So far so good, but of course it wouldn't be an engrossing read if everything went according to plan. Both sisters have some tough choices to make, for themselves and their loves ones, and let's just say they don't always make the right ones...
I recognise a lot of myself in the free-spirited Imogen and rational Anna's, but in their cases it's more exaggerated and these traits really define who they are. It gives them character but it is also the cause of many of the problems that occur throughout the novel (though in Anna's case, a lot of them are courtesy of her standoffish mother-in-law) and so it's very much a journey of discovering themselves and whether they want to be defined by being that one thing and get stuck on it, or learn from past mistakes and grow as a person.
Despite the struggles that drive the story this is ultimately a heartwarming novel about family and especially the strong sisterly bond between Anna and Imogen. No matter what is happening in their lives, or what problems they're facing, they know that they will always have the support and help of the other one and that is a beautiful connection to have. The fact that there are some very handsome men around and ice cream flavours to sample, are of course definite added bonuses to the story!
Filled with sublime characters, picturesque descriptions of sunny Sorrento, and scrumptious sorbets, The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop is one read you need to pack this summer.
You can purchase the novel from Waterstones, Amazon.co.uk or your own preferred retailer.
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This review first appeared on Novelicious.