Thursday, 25 June 2015

Book Review: Summer at Castle Stone by Lynn Marie Hulsman


Title: Summer at Castle Stone
Author: Lynn Marie Hulsman
Publication Date: 24 July 2014
Publisher: Harper Impulse

Twitter: @LynnMarieSays
Blog/website: http://www.lynnmariehulsman.com/

Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis

This summer, lose your heart in Ireland…
 
Shayla Sheridan’s a New York native born into big city luxury, but she’s never really fitted in with the “it” crowd. Desperate to make it as a writer and to finally step out from her famous father’s shadow, Shayla decides to take on a tricky assignment across the pond…


Swapping skyscrapers and heels for wellies and the heart of the Irish countryside, Shayla must go about ghost-writing a book of recipes by the notoriously reclusive and attractive head chef of Castle Stone, Tom O’Grady.
 
The only problem? He has no idea that she’s writing it.
 
Review
 
This book was recommended to me by a lovely book blogger and, having read the synopsis, I immediately purchased and downloaded a copy.
 
The first thing that attracted me about the Summer at Castle Stone was the setting. Whilst I have never spent any time in Ireland, it is a country that I would love to visit, particularly the countryside. I imagine sprawling green countryside, stone houses and a lot of rainy days! The setting at Castle Stone was as magical as I had hoped, a friendly community set in the lush, green Irish countryside, giving the reader a peek at rural Irish life. It made me want to run to the airport and hop on a flight!
 
I found the main character, Shayla Sheridan and Tom O'Grady, to be quite frustrating with their back and forth behaviour. Neither appeared to trust each other and seemed very quick to accept/expect the worst in each other. However, they are both loyal, determined, big-hearted and, ultimately, likeable characters. Shayla starts off being slightly down-trodden and, to be honest, a little bit wimpy, however she seems to find her confidence as the story progresses. Tom is rugged, good looking and a proper manly hero. In addition, there are some great supporting characters, I particularly liked Maeve O'Grady (Tom's mother) and Lord Anthony Stone ("Tony"), Earl of Wexford and lord of the manor. The author does a great job of bringing the characters to life.
 
The author really does use a lot of the Irish 'top of the morning' stereotypes which, for the most part, work well in the story as they help to set the scene for the reader. However, I must admit that I found some of the descriptions, and some of the character's reactions/beliefs, to be a bit too clich├ęd. For example, Tom's huge over-reaction to the thought of his widowed mother being alone in a room with Tony. Whilst I understand that Ireland is, historically, a good catholic country, I doubt that this would cause such reactions in the 20th century. In any event, this was only a small niggle.
 
One of the real plus points for me about this book was the element of humour within the story. There were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, however the humour never felt forced or staged
 
Overall I felt that Summer at Castle Stone was well-written and entertaining. The plot is a bit far-fetched, however the mix of story, characters, setting and humour make this a great read. Summer at Castle Stone proved to be a perfect lazy Sunday read for me.

Buy Links

Amazon UK: Kindle - http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00L7C6K9A
                       Paperback - http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/000810638X

Amazon US: Kindle - http://amzn.com/B00L7C6K9A
                      Paperback - http://amzn.com/000810638X

About the Author

Lynn Marie Hulsman is a freelance food writer, journalist, and editor. She is the author of Christmas at Thornton Hall and coauthor of Make Your Own Soda and Irish Pantry: Traditional Breads, Preserves, and Goodies to Feed the Ones You Love.
 
Or, in her own words (from Amazon.co.uk)
 
Well, hello there! I'm Lynn Marie, and I'm a writer.How did you come to be one, you ask?

My mother died. Yes, yes, very sad, thank you for your condolences.

With that came an epiphany. "Life is short," said my inner voice. "Thanks, I.V.," I replied. "I know what I have to do.

And in two and a half years, I've gotten an agent, co-written two books, ghost-written another, published an article, completed one novel, and started a second.

My resume includes actor/stand-up comic/direct marketing copywriter/theatrical ticket sales manager/cheese sample passer-outer/mom. On paper, it looks like I've never had a real job. In truth, all this experience adds up to make me an expert at storytelling: Malcolm Gladwell-style.

My very favorite thing to do on the planet is to read books. A close second is writing them. I love food, comedy, and romance. How lucky am I that I get to do a job involving all three?

Current mission? To bring back Chick Lit!

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