Saturday 7 November 2009

The Secret Shopper Unwrapped - Kate Harrison

Even the most cursory of glances at the cover will show you that this novel is one for the girls - the pink flowery background with ribbons all over the place, the numerous references to shopping, it kind of gives the game away. So I put my chicklit head on and settled down for a read.

Reading the blurb on the back, I smiled to myself. "Emily, Sandie and Grazia are in danger of unravelling faster than a badly wrapped parcel. But can secret shopping save the day ? Or will they be undone before New Year ?" I've done a bit of secret shopping myself in the past (minus the hidden camera or microphone hidden in the shirt button - it's not that glamorous, trust me !!) so I was expecting hilarious tales of going undercover and atrocious customer service. Emily's Christmas grotto mission, complete with a totally drunk Santa, had me chuckling to myself but as far as the mystery shopping went, that was about it. It just seemed like a ploy for bringing the girls together that wasn't at all developed in the rest of the book, which seemed surprising given the title.

Secret shopping (or lack of) aside, it's a classic piece of chicklit. The heroines are believable, likeable and imperfect enough for us to relate to them - it reminded me of a Brit-version of Desperate Housewives at times ! We have serious and sensible Sandie, glamorous but (slightly) ageing Grazia and enthusiastic but naive Emily, who loves her son Freddie and new shop venture in equal parts. As we follow the ups-and-downs of their lives, there are both humorous and sad moments. There are numerous references to dark moments from their past, especially for the character of Kelly, and I felt that these weren't developed enough. Similarly, the characters seemed a bit flat and needed fleshing out a bit more. The "good guys" in the girls' lives (their current boyfriends) are all perfectly nice guys but that's as far as it goes, and we know nothing really about their pasts or even their personalities. At one point near the end, the author even uses the wrong boyfriend's name - this is an uncorrected proof so it'll get sorted out before it hits the shelves but to me, that proved that they were interchangeable, one-dimensional characters !

This book is the sequel to The Secret Shopper's Revenge, so I wonder if the first instalment focuses more on the secret shopping aspect and provides some of the background elements that I found slightly lacking in this novel. It's still a nice light read though, guaranteed to put a smile on your face. I'd recommend starting with the first book first though as I'm sure it would help you enjoy this one more.

star rating : 3.5/5

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Orion (28 Oct 2010)
ISBN-10: 1409103536
ISBN-13: 978-1409103530

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