Reviewed by Cressida McLaughlin
Anna is happy to finally be moving into a new flat with her partner Jon, and starting an exciting new promotion. Imogen, Anna’s sister, is blissfully happy in Thailand, putting together an underwater photo project and spending time with her American boyfriend Luca. She doesn’t have any desire to return to Brighton. But then Anna and Imogen’s granny, Vivien, dies, and Imogen returns to England. The sisters have to face up to their grief over losing a family member they were close to, and also the legacy Vivien has left them – her Brighton Arches ice cream shop.
They are thrust into an unfamiliar world of decorating, ordering supplies and making ice cream, and there are inevitably problems along the way: enticing new customers in to the shop during a wet and windy spring, building relationships with the other business owners in the Arches, and dealing with a disgruntled former employee who thought her job at the ice cream parlour would continue after Vivien’s death. They also have their own personal struggles. Jon is increasingly distant, and is reluctant to support Anna’s new passion and, while Imogen enjoys spending time with her family, she is desperate to return to Thailand and finish her underwater photography project.
Despite the setbacks, they throw themselves into revitalising the ice cream parlour, and while Imogen thinks of new ways to promote the shop, Anna heads to Italy to learn how to make genuine, Italian gelato. Their role reversals end up having a profound impact on the shop’s fortunes, and on their personal lives.
I haven’t read many books where sisters are the main protagonists, and I really liked the relationship between Anna and Imogen, how they knew each other’s traits and could get around them. The supporting characters are engaging, from their dad Tom, who struggles to cope with Vivien’s death, to Evie and Finn who also work at Brighton’s Arches, and the sisters’ friend Jess. With two heroines there is the opportunity for double romance, and I particularly liked Imogen’s love story. There are lots of scrummy ice cream descriptions throughout the book – which had me wishing the ice cream van would drive past despite the horrible weather – and some delicious recipes in the back.
Vivien’s Heavenly Ice Cream Shop is a great, summery book with lots of funny moments, fab characters and romance. It’s an ideal book to while away the hours down at the beach, but make sure you have lots of change handy to go and get yourself a nice (hopefully homemade) ice cream while you read.