Friday, December 19, 2008

The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne

I picked up The Little Lady Agency on a friend's referral. This friend read the entire Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella and enjoyed them for what they are – a romantic, entertaining, and completely fluff novel that lends itself to a quick read. Because of this friend's referral I also read the Shopaholic series. At first I didn't like the books, the main character and her problems stressed me out... but I pressed on because I wanted to know what would happen in the end and somehow I got suckered into reading the entire series... and actually ended up… liking them… somehow.

Yes, I did say "like" and that fact surprised me at the time. I've since filed the books away in my mind under the category of a "guilty pleasure" read. Occasionally I have those.

Well, The Little Lady Agency is another of those books. In this story, Melissa Romney-Jones (aka Mel) is a single gal who finds herself out of a job with bills to pay. A former classmate gives her the name and number of possible job lead.... which turns out to be a temp agency run by Mel's former Home Ec teacher. The job entails being escorting wealthy men around town under a false name. Mel naively believes the job is above board and simple, all she has to do is go to dinner with a gentleman seeking a lady companion, chat away the evening, and then return home, no complications and no funny business. Unfortunately Mel quickly discovers that isn't exactly what is expected of her and faced with a compromising situation she flees and quits the job. This is what leads her to start her own agency, The Little Lady Agency. Like her previous experience it is also a temp agency that offers services to men - married and single, but that’s where the similarities end. The purpose of The Little Lady Agency is to help clients organize their life (i.e. help "clueless bachelors shop, entertain, and navigate social minefields" or help a husband find that perfect gift for his wife), but without any "funny business or laundry."

Overall, The Little Lady Agency is an entertaining romantic comedy -- the type of book you could easily see made into a chick-flick film (Rated PG-13). There are no bedroom love scenes, but there is a mild amount of language (mostly British) and a few suggestive situations and conversations, but nothing vulgar or explicit. The only stressful aspect of the book may be found in Melissa's family. Her father is a complete and utter JERK. Her relationship with him and the rest of her family can be described in one word: dysfunctional. And yet, somehow, in spite of this Melissa is rather normal.

I did have a few hang ups with this book on a personal level as well as a general reader. Mostly my hang-ups had to do with the lifestyle of the characters in the book, but I realize not everyone will have the same objections that I do, so if you wish for more detail feel free to email me (smehrens [at] gmail [dot] com). I will leave it at this... This is not a book for everyone. Those who prefer not to read books where the characters have different morals and worldviews then their own may prefer to steer clear of this book. Or to put it more simply... if you didn't like Bridget Jones Diary or the Shopaholic Series -- typical British chick-lit, you are probably not going to like The Little Lady Agency.

As far as the hang-ups as a reader... I finished the book finding myself with several unanswered questions. Perhaps Ms. Browne meant to leave the reader this way, perhaps not. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact The Little Lady Agency was her debut novel and her writing and plot wasn't as honed as it could have been... (is that the editor's fault?) At any rate, I enjoyed Ms. Browne's writing style and thought the chemistry between the characters was as comical and pleasing as might be found in a good romantic comedy. The book at 376 pages was a relatively fast read simply because the writing wasn't difficult to follow and the story kept a good pace.

Unless you make a practice of filling your library with chick-lit I would definitely suggest borrowing The Little Lady Agency from your library, which is what I did. I would recommend this book to others, but with the above caveats and it would depend on the reader. On a scale of one to five, one being horrible and I hated it and five being excellent and I loved it; I would rate The Little Lady Agency a 3, I liked it.

Since its publication in 2006, Hester Browne has written two additional books in the series. When I have time and am in the mood for another "guilty pleasure" read I may pick them up.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Interesting! Really interesting. I tried the Shopohalic series and absolutely couldn't get past the first few chapters. However, I have several friends who really . . . liked . . . them (as you said.) So it's just me. Anyway, I'm glad to be aware of these books and find out what htey are about, even if I might not read them myself.