4.5 star, YA

Review: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

“I wanted this to be real life, not a detour….”

Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once-inseparable siblings.

But when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s finally able to escape her anxious mind—and Ian’s criticism.

And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.

That is, if they don’t get completely lost along the way.

Ireland has been on the top of my bucket list for ages, and reading this book only made that craving so much harder (thank you, pandemic). But luckily enough, Love & Luck helped me live a wonderful road trip through the Emerald Isle vicariously through its pages. With wonderful tourist sites and a breakdown of so many things this country is known for, I can’t wait to see this all in real life.

But onto the book now! Addie, whom you may remember from Jenna’s previous novel Love & Gelato, was fighting heartbreak. A boy she trusted and liked did something she felt deeply ashamed about back home, and now she was trapped across the ocean in a foreign country for her aunt’s wedding. I mean, I don’t think it particularly sounds like anything bad to complain about, but I guess it’s a heartbreak thing.

With plans to escape to Italy and visit her best friend (eep! off to the set of Love & Gelato), things go quickly awry when her closest in age brother, Ian (she has 3 older brothers!) changes the plan. Instead of willingly going to Italy with her as the rest of the family thought they were to do, they end up on a road trip around Ireland in a clunker – I mean, a working car of sorts.

With the help of Ian’s friend, Rowan – the question was: where’d he find time to meet an Irish friend so quickly? – they explore the different areas of the country that were sentimental to Ian for one reason while giving Addie the chance to follow the guidance of an interesting travel guide she picked up when she first got to Ireland. The travel guide for the broken-hearted. What I wouldn’t do to have that book in hand when I needed it?

I loved the entries in this travel guide. They were full of empathy, snark and interesting advice that seemed weird but oddly just may work. Traveling around the country, Addie embarks on the instructions it lays out to go to famous sights and do different tasks in each to tackle the problem at hand. I oddly wish the travel guide was an actual book to buy, it was that entertaining and potentially helpful. I mean, a good breakup album to sing to is awesome but a breakup travel guide? Maybe it should become a new thing.

I read this one in a day. I looked up maps and images online and felt like I was traveling right along with them. I loved how incorporated these tourist activities were to the story. They intertwined well instead of just a mishmash of places people could go to in real life if they so wish to.

The character development was gradual but realistic. I liked how this was the focus of the book. Addie went from self-pitying and wanting to hide herself from the world to someone who could be bolder and ready to face the emotions and aftermath. I’m here for all of that.

And with every contemporary, there’s romance! But I loved how the author handled it. Addie is facing heartbreak and self doubt. She’s in no mind or spirit to nurture a meaningful relationship when she’s pursuing a travel guide’s tips to deal with heartbreak. Likewise, Rowan is facing his own version of heartbreak and that gives them something in common to bond over. I liked that this laid the groundwork for chemistry and friendship with hints of more in the future when things settled. But I’m glad it was hints without straight out forcing something I don’t think would’ve fit with the characters at this time, and for that I know Jenna is a great author.

Even if you love your contemporaries with a heavy dollop of romance, I do think you’ll enjoy Love & Luck. It’s worth the read, and takes book escapism to another level.

Overall Recommendation:

Love & Luck takes us on another whirlwind trip, this time in Ireland, that balances a fun road trip with a brother (not getting along so well at the moment) and his friend (stranger to the protagonist), and dealing with the aftermath of heartbreak. As is typical Jenna Evans Welch style, this story is a load of fun but has a lot of heart that will hit you in all the right places. Amidst the beautiful coasts and green hills, Ireland may just be the only place to help deal with heartbreak with the help of a trusty travel guide and company you didn’t think you needed. If you loved the first book in this series, I think you’ll definitely enjoy this follow-up companion novel.


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