Book Review: The Sister Surprise (ARC)

Published March 25th 2021, 384 pages

Author: Abigail Mann

Journalist Ava takes a DNA test hoping to discover her roots. Instead, she finds out she has a half-sister … whilst on a live stream watched by 100,000 people. Her boss thinks it’s the perfect click-bait story. Ava just wants to go to Moira’s tiny Scottish village and meet her.

But when Ava arrives undercover as a volunteer farmhand, she realises Moira – who’s her pig-wrestling, chatterbox polar opposite – might not be delighted by the news. And the longer Ava stays in Kilroch, with its inappropriately attractive reverend and ties to her hidden family past, the more complicated this surprise is going to get…

Sister Surprise takes a humorous look at a woman’s life suddenly changing as she discovers she has a half-sister that she never knew existed.  This is my first novel by Abigail Mann and it will not be my last as I am now curious to read her other works, including her previous novel, The Lonely Fajita. This novel brings a fun and light-hearted story mixed with many heart-felt moments to create a very enjoyable tale.  

Ava works for an online news blog, which reminded me as a Buzzfeed-type place, where she ends up doing a livestream video about the results from a DNA kit that she participated in as a test subject. During the livestream, Ava’s results were revealed on-air and she is beyond shocked that she has a sister and her current family has expanded from just being her and her mother. Due to the success of the livestream, Ava’s boss decides this is the perfect opportunity to gain more website traffic. He states that Ava must go to small-town Scotland and find this newfound sibling.

Reluctantly, Ava agrees to her new assignment and she is off to Scotland. Unfortunately, the town is smaller and there are no options for lodging. Therefore, she ends up signing up for a helper position on a farm where she helps out in exchange for room and board.  She stays with a younger farmer, Kian, who actually ends up remaining friends with her and is not a potential love interest. It was very refreshing to have two characters that meet and are friends with no underlying will they-won’t they moments and they end up together as a couple. Ava is a fish-out-water as she has zero farm experience and I loved her learning experience as she tries, and sometimes fails, to complete her tasks.

Small-town Scotland is a gorgeous setting and it even made me want to go be a helper on a random farm. Ava was a fun character as she was awkward and likeable. She was a natural character that was a joy to read about and I found her very engaging. As one of the genres of this story is romance, Ava does end up encountering a handsome minister.  I liked the bond that the two of them share and the banter was amusing.  As the main focus of the story, Ava’s half-sister, Moira, makes her appearance during Ava’s time in Scotland and their relationship was delightful. There are a lot of misunderstandings and bonding moments as it is a learning curve about how they will be together, as would be expected when you are newfound siblings.  There are a lot of secrets and some deception which makes an entertaining read as you want to find out when and if everything will be revealed.

The writing itself was very enjoyable and filled with many humorous moments. The pace is a little slow at first as Ava’s life before her big adventure to Scotland begins is set up and we get to know the backstory of her character. Once we are in Scotland, the story picks up and stays fairly steady until the end. There are moments where it does not feel like anything is happening, so I would not describe this novel as non-stop action. Instead, it is a sweet tale about family, friendship, and self.

Overall, this was a fun read and I read in a single sitting. There was a lot of heart and the characters were very enjoyable. Ava’s trouble that she gets up to on the farm was extremely relatable as I am fairly accident prone, as well. The small town vibes of the story were heart-warming as they look out for each other and have a bond that does not always exist for people who live in larger towns or cities. Ava goes through a lot of growth and it was gratifying to read about her emotional journey. This novel was an very amusing read and I cannot wait to read more from this author!

**I want to give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, One More Chapter, for a review copy of this enjoyable novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Sister Surprise (ARC)

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