Book Review: The Secret Shoppers Revenge by Kate Harrison

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 …

I was attracted to the book by the ‘secret shopping’ aspect. Having worked in retail customer service and experienced the terror of mystery shop results, hoping I hadn’t been ‘shopped’ and failed. I was interested to read the secret shoppers take on things. I also really liked the cover, which is baby blue with pink glitter ribbons, it appealed to my girly side. Isn’t it just gorgeous?

The story is told in the first person, by 3 very different women. Each chapter is titled with the woman’s name so you know who you are reading from and don’t get confused. The story tells what brings them together as ‘Charlies Shopping Angels’ and covers a year of their lives. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a story just about shopping and bad service. It’s a story about friendship, self discovery and a little bit of girl power.

The 3 women are Emily, Sandie and Grazia.

Emily is a single mum, after being uprooted to London while pregnant by her husbands job, then dumped for Heidi in Sweden. She knows no one, is a bit over-weight, ditzy and unorganised. I really liked Emily, as I identified with her most, being not the most organized mum ever as well, and a bit low in self confidence. She provides the comedy in this book, and her experiences are wrote really well. A slightly irritating trait the author gave her is that she’s at times childlike, and comes across as stupid mostly in the middle area of the book. I’m dizzy and unorganized, but I’m not going to start jumping up and down clapping my hands in glee over a cream cake, I’m not sure why the Author felt she had to stupefy her like this, but it does pass in the second half of the book. I also found the story line involving her estranged husband a bit unbelievable, I can’t imagine any woman feeling threatened into submission over his silly demands. I do think if we are to feel sympathy for Emily here, he needed to be more menacing.

Sandie has worked and lived for a huge department store all her working life, until she is set up by her deputy and finds herself jobless. Now this woman really did confuse me. Why would anyone not seek legal advice, especially someone we are expected to believe is very intelligent, I don’t know. But she doesn’t, she accepts her unfair fate, and becomes a Shopping Angel. There’s not really that much to like or dislike about Sandie. She’s a bit wet and boring and has a touch of OCD.

Grazia is an Italian widow and haunted by her famous artist husband, and the debts he left her. The leader of the shopping angels trio, at first she comes across very cold, but then her feisty, passionate nature is revealed. She’s the strength in the group, although a bit of a culture snob. It was a bit difficult to feel any sympathy for her loss, as she seemed, in the first half of the book, to think her loss was greater as her husband was a ‘great young artist’ and she his muse. She often has conversations with him, and answers how he would have. This didn’t inspire images of passionate artistic love between two soul mates, it just made me think he must have been a spoilt brat with an over inflated ego, which she fed.

Overall, this is a good read. It’s original and funny enough, some of the characters are interesting, although there where parts I found very annoying. It’s interesting enough to keep you turning the pages, and delivers pretty much everything you want from a chick-lit book. I’d recommend this for poolside reading on holiday, or when you just want an easy fun read.

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