Published by Hachette Australia on February 12, 2019
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Can a house heal heartache? From coastal Australia to the rugged beauty of Ireland, an enchanting novel of starting over, in the tradition of Maeve Binchy and Monica McInerney.
Their grandmother's stone cottage was always a welcome retreat in the childhood summers of Ellen and Aidan O'Shea. After a trip home from Australia, Ellen is keen to bring the neglected home back to its former glory and enlists the help of her dear friend and one of Ireland's top interior designers, Colette Barry.
Aidan is already begrudging the work on the house he has avoided for nearly twenty years. The last thing the builder needs is an interior designer who seems to do nothing but complicate his life. With their own personal heartaches to overcome, will Aidan and Colette find the courage to give the house and themselves a second chance?
The House of Second Chances was a heartwarming story filled with moving family and friendship themes, and characters looking for second chances. It is beautifully written with perfect pacing and extremely likable characters. Although this was my very first Esther Campion novel, it definitely will not be my last.
The novel is based around the restoration of Ellen and Aidan O’Shea’s childhood retreat – their grandmother’s cottage in Cork, Ireland. Because Ellen now lives in South Australia, Aidan, who owns a building company, is tasked with the job of restoring the house, in collaboration with an interior designer, Colette, who is one of Ellen’s childhood friends. Although Aidan and Colette initially do not get along with each other, they eventually build up a beautiful friendship and romance that I definitely got behind. The House of Second Chances, however, is not just about Aidan and Colette. There are a plethora of family members, friends and colleagues who feature in this book, all with their own personal stories and struggles, and all looking for a new beginning or second chance. And while the book begins by focusing on the renovation of the house, it definitely does not stay and end with the house.
I have to say that this was a peculiar reading experience for me, especially at the very beginning. I had very recently read 99 Percent Mine, which was also about two siblings inheriting a house from their late grandmother and a blossoming romance between one of the siblings and their hot builder friend. It was so coincidental that I was really weirded out. I also didn’t realise that The House of Second Chances was a sequel to one of Esther Campion’s previous books, Leaving Ocean Road, so it took me a bit of time to warm up to the story and the characters because they were described in a way that made me feel like I should know who they were and what their back stories were. Having said that, I got into the story after about 75 pages and the rest of it captivated me until the very end. The story was beautifully paced and the climax towards the end had me eager to finish the book. It’s definitely a very enjoyable story, even without having read Leaving Ocean Road.
I absolutely adored all of the characters in this book. They all had their flaws and felt extremely realistic. Despite most of these characters being a good two decades older than I am, I connected with their stories and loved the relationships between them. And while they all had their struggles and bad past experiences, the novel is very uplifting and focuses on the healing processes that these characters go through. I have to admit that I didn’t really like Colette for the first third of the book. I found her to be a bit abrasive, self-righteous and just someone who needed to get her own way all the time. She definitely grew on me the most out of all of the characters and I really loved reading about her story. Aidan was a bit of an elusive character for me and it took me a while to understand his story and what he’s been through, particularly because we don’t find out much about his past until quite late in the book. I still loved him a lot though and he definitely had a big heart. Some of my other favourite characters included Shane, a troubled teenage boy who is the nephew of Colette’s interior design mentor, and Grace, Colette’s younger sister, who has three kids and finds it hard to tell her husband that she doesn’t want any more.
As much as I loved the book, there were some minor things that stopped me from absolutely falling in love with it. I found it difficult to get into some of the dialogue because the book is predominantly set in Ireland and I wasn’t used to the vernacular. There were also some Scottish characters too, which made it difficult as well. I also struggled a little bit with the use of pronouns in this book. It was sometimes hard for me to figure out who the pronouns were referring to and often had to reread passages a few times to understand what was going on. Other than that, I really enjoyed the writing and thought it was beautiful.
The House of Second Chances was moving and heartwarming, with a large cast of well-developed characters that I would happily read about over and over again.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thank you to Hachette Australia for providing a copy of the book.
The House of Second Chances is available at Australian retailers for $29.99 RRP.
About the Author
Esther Campion is from Cork, Ireland and currently lives in north-west Tasmania. She attended North Presentation Secondary School in Cork and has degrees from University College Cork and the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Esther and her Orcadian husband have lived together in Ireland, Scotland, Norway and South Australia. They have two grown-up children in Adelaide and the youngest at home in Tassie. Esther loves sharing her life on a small property with an over-indulged chocolate Labrador, a smoochy cat and a couple of ageing mares, all of whom she firmly believes are living proof that dreams really can come true. The House of Second Chances is Esther’s second novel, following Leaving Ocean Road.
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