I bought this book about two years ago after reading most of the Shopaholic books by Sophie Kinsella, and somebody told me they were vaguely similar. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to read it, but I finally picked it up last week after being prompted by the The Time Will Come meme.
New mum Emily wants revenge on the stick-thin assistants who laugh at her post-baby tummy and post-baby budget. But frumpiness has its advantages when you’re wielding a secret camera – and sending the damning footage straight to head office. Store manager Sandie has a lifelong love of the world of retail – the glitz, the glamour, the stockroom. Then she’s fitted up by an ambitious assistant and secret shopping is the only way to keep her one passion alive. Glamorous widow Grazia can’t leave behind the high life, despite her chronically low bank balance. The more she’s buying – and spying – the less time she has to mourn her husband or her fair-weather friends who’ve dumped her. They’re Charlie’s Shopping Angels, controlled by a mysterious figure who sends them assignments. But when they’re sent to stitch up a doomed shop owned by Will, the angels begin to feel divided loyalties . . .
The story is told in the alternating POVs of Emily, Sandie and Grazia. Emily’s husband has just left her for another woman, but still expects to control her life from another country, and she lets him. Sandie was unfairly sacked from her job and is ridiculed by her Grandmother for working in a shop. Grazia’s husband has just died and has left her with an armload of debt and hurtful secrets. So, Ms Harrison balances out the silliness of shopping with more serious problems that a lot of women can relate to. Unfortunately, none of the women are exactly likeable – Emily is so weak and silly I wanted to beat her with the Grow-Up stick, Grazia is unbelievably shallow and Sandie would have been more pleasant if she wasn’t such a know-it-all.
Still, the point of these books is watching the characters solve their problems and become nicer people, and that happens in a nice, ‘aww’ kind of way. I liked how the characters slowly bonded and became closer to each other as their job pushed them together. Plus, mystery shopping is good fun to read about, and I can’t say I was sorry when a lot of the bitchy sales assistants got their come-uppance! The concept of ‘Charlie,’ their mysterious boss, bugged me though. It just seemed silly and completely unnecessary. They could easily have been the ‘Shopping Angels’ without the tacky gimmick.
It’s written in an oddly formal style that just didn’t quite match the tone of the story. I mean, it’s not meant to be funny or whimsical, but I do think it needed to lighten-up a bit.
This is one of those books that you can really only describe as ‘okay.’ I enjoyed reading it, but I don’t think I’d want to do so again. Just don’t make the same mistake I did – it’s not a Shopaholic book in story, characters or tone.