5 May 2013
Review: 'From Notting Hill With Love... Actually' by Ali McNamara (2010)
She was a girl, standing in front of a boy...
Movie fanatic Scarlett O'Brien dreams of a life as glamorous and romantic as all the big screen flicks she worships. When a chance house-sitting job in iconic Notting Hill comes along, she knows living in one of her favorite movie settings is an opportunity too good to pass up.
Leaving behind her skeptical friends, family, and fiance, Scarlett heads to London and finds herself thrust into the lead role of her very own romantic comedy. But can real life ever be just like the movies? Larger-than-life new friends, a handsome but irksome new neighbor, and a mystery from her past may prove to Scarlett that living her life like a RomCom is more complicated than she thought!
Anyone who knows me, knows I am a complete sucker for a romantic tale. Next to my obsession with chick lit novels, I adore any kind of romantic comedy, or ‘chick flick.’ I have DVDs of all the classics at home, and every time a new romantic comedy hits the cinemas you can count on me to buy a ticket in order to enjoy 2 hours of romance, laughter and tears. ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Love Actually’ have been two of my absolute favourites for years, so as soon as I saw the cover of Ali McNamara’s debut novel I had already fallen in love with it. It was one of those books I couldn’t wait to dive into, because I simply knew it would be amazing.
Scarlett O’Brien is a 23-year-old film fanatic who lives in Stratford-Upon-Avon, where she works for her father’s company specialised in popcorn machines. Scarlett, whose name and looks are often immediately linked to Vivien Leigh and ‘Gone with the Wind’, enjoys her life with her sensible fiancé David, but she somehow feels as if something is missing. As soon as she receives the opportunity to house-sit a mansion in Notting Hill, Scarlett leaves behind her family and friends in order to prove to them real life can be just like in the movies. However, soon Scarlett finds herself starring in her own personalised romantic comedy as she starts a journey to unravel some mysteries from her past and is joined by her hunky neighbour Sean on the way... Will Scarlett be able to accept that life can’t always be like a movie script, or will she be able to prove everyone around her there’s a touch of movie magic in everything we do after all?
I honestly don’t know where to start with this novel. Why? Because I simply adored every single detail. I loved the heroine of the novel, Scarlett, and all the other characters that were introduced, from the more important ones (Scarlett’s attractive neighbour Sean, the fabulously extravagant Oscar, and Scarlett’s lovely best friend Maddie) to the extra’s (the policemen that find Scarlett wandering around Notting Hill, the elderly Parisian lady who shares some important information with Scarlett). Even though the plots of romantic comedies are usually known for being quite predictable, I thought the story of this novel was quite clever with its several sub-plots and there were definitely several surprises I personally did not see coming! The storyline flowed easily and I wasn’t bored by it for even a second. I absolutely loved recognising all the scenes from films such as ‘Notting Hill’, ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘Love Actually’, and the occasional appearances from real-life celebrities only added that extra bit of movie magic to the story.
With every page I turned, this novel only made me smile brighter. I couldn’t help but be amazed by all the details and the inclusion of everything I love in one 400-page novel: Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, themed weddings, Disneyland, benches in Notting Hill, the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens.. You name it, it’s in there! To all the hopeless romantics out there just like myself, I don’t want to give anything away, but the ending of this novel... You’ll be blown away. I can’t believe this is Ali McNamara’s debut novel, and I absolutely can’t WAIT for her other novels (including a sequel to this one, oh yes!). I recommend this novel to any fan of romantic comedies and/or chick lit novels; this book belongs on your shelf, without a doubt!