The Secret Shopper Unwrapped by Kate Harrison

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The Secret Shopper Unwrapped by Kate Harrison

Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: It's the most wonderful time of the year, but also the busiest for our secret shoppers in this decent read about all those little, and not so little, problems life unexpectedly throws at you.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Orion
ISBN: 978-1409107309

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Glamourous Grazia, sassy Sandie and enthusiastic Emily first got together in Harrison's earlier title, The Secret Shopper's Revenge. Now they're back but this time there are many more hassles to deal with than just a bit of simple, secret shopping. Think toy boys and sugar daddies and the odd A-lister, a choice between aging gracefully or disgracefully, reformed criminals and criminal exes, long lost mothers and potential new mothers in law (in the same room! At the same time!) and the delight or dread that comes from finding yourself unexpectedly in the family way. Combine all these factors with the run up to Christmas and you have three good friends run off their feet in every direction but, because friendship is really all that matters, resolutely there for each other in a pinch.

And if there's one thing this book is about, it's friendship. The women have quite different lives and quite different responsibilities, but it's those friendship ties that keep them well and truly in each others' lives. All the other stuff is just padding, really. Distractions that might take you off course, but never steer you too far away from what's really important.

The book follows the three women, plus new gal Kelly, as they prepare for the busiest time of the year. The format of telling it in the first person but constantly from different people's points of view took a few chapters to get used to, but after a while I found it easy to make the switch from one to another. The story is slick, and the different threads weave together well, so by the end you really just have one main story, albeit with a few different sub plots.

I found that for the first few pages there was an assumption that I had read the previous book about these characters. Feeling very much flung in the deep end, I struggled to keep track of who was who, especially since the characters are quite distinct and really aren't interchangeable. This soon settled down, and I got to grips with the women and their associated partners, ex-partners and offspring, but initially I was worried I wouldn't end up enjoying the book as much as I should.

The book covers a period of about two months from November to the new year, and while the titbits of information on how to run a business that popped up between some of the chapters focussed on the run up to the holidays, the book wasn't overly in-your-face festive, and is certainly one you could enjoy regardless of the date on the calendar or the weather outside. Speaking of those titbits, to be honest I didn't see the point of them, since the two women who were business owners skilfully ignored the advice, but they are helpfully short and easy to skip should you so wish.

The thing I appreciated most about the book was the authenticity of the characters. I had to wonder whether they were closely based on friends of the author, so real did they seem. Some of the anecdotes, especially involving Freddie, Emily's young son, were spot-on and could take the book from hilarious to heart-wrenching in just a few short pages. What's more, the storyline was original and contemporary (the current state of the economy comes up quite a bit) so it was easy to lose yourself in it... though it did make me question the decision to release this in hardback this year and paperback for Christmas 2010 when, if we keep our fingers crossed, said credit crunch might not be quite as topical as it is now.

This is a solid, entertaining piece of writing. It may not win any awards from the critics, but I'm sure it will win some fans who will appreciate the wry humour, the unpredictable twists, the subtle observations of human nature and the true friendship of the women involved.

Thanks go to the publishers for sending in this book for review.

If you like a juicy and engaging story about healthy, female friendships you might also enjoy When Good Friends Go Bad.

Buy The Secret Shopper Unwrapped by Kate Harrison at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Secret Shopper Unwrapped by Kate Harrison at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Secret Shopper Unwrapped by Kate Harrison at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Secret Shopper Unwrapped by Kate Harrison at Amazon.com.


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