Review: Ella’s Ice Cream Summer by Sue Watson

As the summer comes to a close, what better way than a book about a sea-side ice cream business, whether a cafe that Ella has fond memories of or the ice cream van she now finds herself in possession of due to an inheritance?

A lot. There is a LOT that could have been better than Ella’s Ice Cream Summer.

 

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Published:11 May 2017

Publisher:Bookouture

Category: Women’s Fiction (Chick Lit)/Romance/Contemporary

Ella’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons… make ice-cream!

Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her.

Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets.

There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time.

Ella’s Ice-Cream Summer is a heart-warming and hilarious romance that will scoop you off your feet and prove it’s never too late for a fresh start. The ideal holiday read for fans of Lucy Diamond, Abby Clements and Debbie Johnson.

Rating: 1 Star

CW: insulting/potentially offensive comments regarding LGBTQIA+ community

Billed as a “laugh out loud romantic comedy with extra sprinkles”, I felt fairly confident that this would be a lighthearted way to round out the summer. The setting felt right, the scenario had it’s complications of course, but that would be sorted…right?

Things started out awkwardly and did not get much better as the book progressed. Ella did not have much to recommend her as someone that I was supposed to sympathize with. As the person through whom I’m getting the story, the reader is supposed to at least like her, but I was more frustrated if not downright annoyed and/or angry with her for a good portion of the book.

There were lots of little things about her personality that grated and they didn’t quite seem intentional, such as the way she’d say things to her mum or internal comments she’d make about her children that she’d “correct” a moment later. Paragraphs would flip flop what had been stated only moments earlier and that made it hard to grasp what I was supposed to be thinking or feeling along with Ella.

The romance between Ben and Ella was fine. To be quite frank it was boring, but against the more offensive content of the book, I think fine it about as good a descriptor as I can come up with. There wasn’t a whole lot of depth to it, but that tracks because it was more of a summer fling than anything else, which works out to be just right in terms of Ella’s “development” from where she was at the beginning vs. the end.

As to “big secret” that tore her family apart, the one that isn’t even hinted at in the synopsis (surprising, really, as it’s mentioned every other paragraph, felt like)…that was something that grated on my nerves. It was a thread that was harped on quite a lot with no real change as the events of the book went on, just slight variations in Ella mentioning how she’d poke at her mum to get her to relent and finally reveal all, small glimpses of something that might be actual plot development, but ultimately, not much to really satisfy. I actually ended up guessing what it was at 17% and yelled “called it” when Ella discovers the truth in the end.

I can’t excuse the author, whatever other choices she might have made in the narrative, for the several instances of remarks made that were against the LGBTQIA+ community, specifically (1) confusing gender and sex, (2) mocking standing up against compulsory heteronormativity, and (3) a careless comment about transsexual radar that felt like the cherry on top of a truly awful cake of a book. None of these comments were necessary to the book, none were called out by other characters, and most felt insulting.

(1) About 19% of the way through the novel. Ella is recounting a dating app mishap of her mum’s in which she’d signed up for a service that caters to gay & lesbian clientele. Her mum goes on a few dates before Ella investigates and attempts to persuade her mother to remove the profile (Mum refuses), at which point the children say something about Ella’s heteronormative assumptions (which was a fair point) and that gender could be fluid.

While I agree that gender can be fluid, the mistake of exchanging gender for sexuality here isn’t forgivable as it was just the start of the book’s insensitivity. I am upset no one in the editing process editor thought about what this could mean to readers in the LGBTQIA+. I wish it had been corrected;  such an authorial error, not something in which Ella was going to be corrected on or learn something  about(which probably would’ve led to a whole other issue but that’s neither here nor there now).

(2) Ella’s renovation of her inherited ice cream van, previously christened Reginaldo, leads to a conversation between her and Ben, the love interest of the book. Ben makes a comment about Reginaldo being called that, especially in light of the new paint scheme (pink and white).

‘I think you might need to rethink the name,’ Ben said. ‘He’s pink and white… shouldn’t he have a girl’s name?’
‘You might be right… though my daughter would say we mustn’t gender stereotype with colour.’
Followed by Ella’s further response of:
‘OMG, stop being so hetero,’ I said in a mock lilting teenage voice.

There’s a sincere lack of respect for the community in the book already and with this mocking tone it only gets worse. The mocking voice only serves to prove that Ella does not take her daughter’s views on the matter seriously and relegates them to silly teenage nonsense.

 

(3) Almost as if the author couldn’t resist adding one last sucker punch of an insult to the narrative, there’s a careless comment about one of Lucie’s (Ella’s daughter) friends, Pang. After Ella’s mum making assumptions about Pang’s sexuality the whole way, with asides about his being gay based on, as far as I can tell, only Lucie’s Instagram photos, Lucie comes home early from her gap year with this:

‘Yes he’s growing breasts and working as a pole dancer now, he wants to come to the UK and work. I said we’d help him… can we, Mum?’ I was a little taken aback, so Mum’s gaydar was almost right, but perhaps her transsexual one needed updating?

I don’t understand what Sue Watson was doing with any of this content. Is it really so hard to be respectful?

Ella’s Ice Cream Summer was nothing like what I expected and was, in fact, a sore disappointment. I do not think it was worth the time spent reading it and I wouldn’t recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

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