My April reading challenge is to read books set in Paris, France. Following The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley, the second book I finished was Paris Is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay. I’d picked up the audiobook of it last year, so I was eager to listen to it. This charming, romantic, emotional novel was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.
Aside from its whimsical title and cute cover, the main reason I bought Paris Is Always a Good Idea is because I thought I would relate to it. Like the main character, Chelsea Martin, I lost a parent when I was in my early 20s. (In contrast to her mother’s battle with cancer, my dad died suddenly.) Like Chelsea, I also spent a life-changing year in Europe right before this loss. (However, I was still in Spain when it happened, and I’d only lived in the one country, with two brief trips to France and Italy.) Chelsea may have been affected more noticeably than I was, and her search for love with European exes is its own thing entirely, but regardless, I felt kinship with her based on the book summary alone.
The heavy subject matter notwithstanding, I gleaned that the novel’s tone would be fun and light. The first couple of chapters were more emotional than I’d anticipated, and at first I worried it would be too much for me. But I pushed through, and the tone quickly shifted to the (mostly) breezy styled I’d hope for. The novel quickly picked up, especially once Chelsea made it to Ireland, and it was a delight from there on out.
Perhaps what I love most about Paris Is Always a Good Idea is its ability to whisk readers away to its three different vacation destinations. I would love to go to Ireland, France, and Italy again! #TakeMeBack! The author does a wonderful job of situating readers in each country, offering up some of the stereotypes they’re known for, some more authentic cultural identity, and a bit of the magic that makes tourists went to travel there. I felt like I could see the rolling green hills of Ireland, the bustling City of Light in France, and the Tuscan vineyards of Italy. Chelsea interacts with regular people in each city, but she’s also on a mission to find her three exes – men she once loved and hopes she can love again.
On the one hand, I’m all about Europe, and I wanted Chelsea to succeed in finding love while she was there. I wasn’t sure it would work with any of her ex-boyfriends, but maybe she could meet a new European lover? On the other hand, I’m no dummy when it comes to romance. I know the tropes! Even though he was the underdog here, I saw Chelsea’s co-worker Jason Knightley for what he was: The perfect specimen for an enemies-to-lovers romance. Of course, that could be hard to do when they’re on two separate continents. How can Jason woo Chelsea (who’s his workplace enemy, in case you forgot) when she’s traipsing across amorous European vistas and he’s back home in Boston?
Chelsea’s reunions with her three exes each prove to be uniquely fun. I won’t spoil it for you, but between Colin, Jean Claude, and Marcelino, we get to see the way people can grown and change over time… or not. I loved the diversity in shenanigans between each of her second-chance-lover contestants.
Meanwhile, I also loved Chelsea’s interactions with Jason and the slow, tentative way she reevaluates her negative feelings towards him. He quickly became a highlight of this novel! But alas, my lips are sealed on any further, spoilery details.
Another standout feature in Paris Is Always a Good Idea is how it examines both grief and the way losing a loved one can change you. The major personal issue that Chelsea grapples with is how different she is now versus before her mother’s death. She was so carefree and fun, so eager for love and adventure. Now, several years after her mother’s passing, Chelsea is a workaholic who never laughs and doesn’t date, let alone fall in love. Throughout her journey, Chelsea must ask herself: Is it fair to expect yourself to be who you were before your loved one’s death? Is it fair to hate who you’ve become since then? How can you find the right balance between reclaiming what you’ve lost but also loving who you’ve become?
By the end, this novel does get quite emotional. Yes, I cried. But it was the beautiful, heart-wrenching, cleansing kind of emotional that makes a book so powerful. Paris Is Always a Good Idea offered a perfect balance of emotion with sweet and swoony. It’s tender and heartfelt and, ultimately, wonderfully transformational.
The audiobook, narrated by Brittany Pressley, was also perfectly done. She did an excellent job of capturing the tone of the novel, and was also quite good with accents, at least to my ears! In addition to the more neutral American voice, she also tried on Boston, Irish, French, and Italian accents. That’s a tall order, but she succeeded in capturing the different inflections and intonations of each. She amplified the novel and really brought the characters to life.
Paris Is Always a Good Idea is a beautiful book. If you’re looking for a sweet romance, raw emotion, and some incredible armchair traveling, this is the novel you need. It was my first from Jenn McKinlay, and I will absolutely read more from her in the near future. Last year she released Wait For It, which focuses on Chelsea Martin’s sister, Annabelle Martin. Basically a sequel to this – I need it! Expect a review of that soon.
Get the Book
You can buy Paris is Always a Good Idea here – it’s available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
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|Paris is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay|
|Audiobook Narrator||Brittany Pressley|
|Genre||Women’s Fiction; Romance|
|Setting||Massachusetts; Ireland; France; Italy|
|Book Length||11.5 hours|
|Format I Read||Audiobook|
|Original Publication Date||July 21, 2020|
It’s been seven years since Chelsea Martin embarked on her yearlong post-college European adventure. Since then, she’s lost her mother to cancer and watched her sister marry twice, while Chelsea’s thrown herself into work, becoming one of the most talented fundraisers for the American Cancer Coalition, and with the exception of one annoyingly competent coworker, Jason Knightley, her status as most talented fundraiser is unquestioned.
When her introverted mathematician father announces he’s getting remarried, Chelsea is forced to acknowledge that her life stopped after her mother died, and that the last time she can remember being happy, in love, or enjoying her life was on her gap year. Inspired to retrace her steps–to find Colin in Ireland, Jean Claude in France, and Marcelino in Italy–Chelsea hopes that one of these three men who stole her heart so many years ago, can help her find it again.
From the start of her journey nothing goes as planned, but as Chelsea reconnects with her old self, she also finds love in the very last place she expected.
About the Author
Jenn McKinlay is the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author of several mystery and romance series and will be debuting a standalone romantic comedy in July 2020 entitled PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with kids, pets, and her husband’s guitars.