Book review: The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness by Laura Kemp

The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness by Laura Kemp
The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness by Laura Kemp

When Ceri Price arrives in the small Welsh seaside village where she is to scatter her late mother’s ashes, she is more than a little shocked…

The place where her mum grew up and recalled as being home to sand, colourful cottages, palm trees, ferns and Welsh wildflowers appears to be ‘a one-street muddy puddle’ and ‘the bleakest excuse for civilisation’ Ceri has ever seen.

But what she doesn’t yet know is that windswept Dwynwen and its people are going to change her life forever.

Rom-com queen Laura Kemp is back to seduce her readers with a fabulous, fun-filled story set in the wilds of West Wales and starring a cast of quirky characters guaranteed to capture hearts, and make us laugh and cry.

Ceri only intends to stay for a couple of nights in Dwynwen, just long enough to scatter her beloved mother’s ashes and then go back to her luxury Cheshire home and her life as a successful make-up entrepreneur.

But the truth is that she is grief-stricken by her mother’s death, feeling unsettled about her future, and discovering that her high-profile business is no longer the passion and the saviour that it used to be.

And when Gwen and Gwil, who run The Dragon pub, mistakenly believe Ceri has come to fill the vacancy for a barmaid, she falls for their smiles which are ‘as warm as buttered crumpets’ and finds herself accepting the job.

Soon she has stopped checking her mobile phone every five seconds and is making unexpected friendships in this rundown but friendly little community. And there is even the chance of finding love with handsome, local eco-warrior Rhodri Cadwalader.

But when plans for a new housing estate put the local woodland and its ancient trees, moss beds and wildlife under threat, Ceri fears that enchanting Dwynwen’s way of life could disappear forever under the concrete.

Then mysterious acts of kindness start springing up around the village… a string of bunting adorns the streets, a new village signpost appears out of nowhere, and someone provides paint to spruce up the charming houses on the seafront.

Who is the mystery benefactor, and can these good deeds really help in the race to save the village from the faceless developers?

Kemp dishes up a feast of feel-good reading in a tender, funny and romantic odyssey full of drama, secrets, revelations… and kindness.

Ceri’s journey from jaded businesswoman to enthusiastic green campaigner is a delight from start to finish, offering up a warm and affectionate tribute to the power of benevolence and community, and a celebration of the bonds of family, friendship and love.

With her observant eye, earthy humour and natural empathy, Kemp brings us the cares and concerns of contemporary life… but with a special sprinkling of mystery, romance and magic.

(Orion, paperback, £7.99)