I loved the Little Lady Agency books and was delighted when I saw this on the picked over shelves at Borders in its final days. The premise is that Evie Nicholson works for an antiques buyer and heads off to her sister Louise’s boyfriend’s Scottish estate to appraise the contents of the neighbor’s house (they need to sell some stuff to pay for upkeep, don’t you know.) Handsome men ensue. There were two interesting things about this book that I loved and gave it a lot interest and appeal.
The first is that Scottish dancing is a central part of the story. Evie and her sister are terrible dancers, but Evie is pressed into subbing for her sister at a big fancy annual gala where she will need to correctly dance some crazy Highland dances. After reading all about them I went straight to YouTube to view videos of these dances. And I dearly wished that I was part of something so steeped in tradition. <sigh>
The other is that Evie’s quirky character trait is that she is kind of a crappy antiques buyer because she looooooooves the past. Is simply in love with daydreams and stories of what role an inanimate object might have played in someone’s life. Getting to stay in the old castle practically makes her swoon. I loved every one of her little daydreams because I am the same way and it all seemed totally reasonable to me. How could you not descend the staircase in a castle without imagining yourself in the splendor candlelight with handsome Duke waiting for you? How could you not look at an old writing desk without imagining what letters might have been written on it?
The romance angle of this actually kept me guessing a bit. I felt like I knew who she was meant to end up with, but kept doubting it. So good for you, Hester Browne!
I really enjoyed the Little Lady Agency books, so when I read on Vintage Cookbooks that she had a new book out, I couldn’t wait to read it. This is not part of that series, so it was refreshing to read something in the same style, but different than her other books.
As an infant Betsy was left on the doorstep to the Phillimore Academy and taken in by Lord and Lady Phillimore. The Academy was a finishing school for young women, which had been in the family for generations. At the time of Betsy’s arrival, the early 1980s, the girls were a bit wild, but were still polished up and married off to titled men. Betsy loved growing up at the Academy and learning about being a lady from Lady Frannie, her adoptive mother. She was heartbroken that Lord P decided she should not attend as an actual student. Now, at the start of the novel, Betsy returns to the Academy after a long absence. Lady Phillimore has died and Betsy discovers the Academy is not what it once was. It only has a handful of spoiled rude students, the headmistress is completely out of touch, and there is nothing glamorous at all about the place. Betsy is devastated and agrees to take on overhauling the place and making it modern and appealing.
I found this completely delightful. I especially liked the spoiled students and their appalling behavior. Betsy was really just so all around competent that I found myself admiring her completely. Clearly Honey, of the Little Lady Agency, could have been a former student of the Academy (in its heyday.) There’s also a bit of a romance, as well as the mystery of Betsy tracking down her birth mother.
After reading this I vowed to up my manners, teach my kids that good manners are all about making other people feel comfortable, never be at a loss for small talk, put my shoulders back, and be better at wearing high heels. I’m happy to say that many of the tips Lady Frannie passed along were ones I do try to follow (nude shoes make your legs longer-a tip I also saw repeated in Glamour magazine this month).
This is the third “Little Lady” book and it was most satisfying. In fact, I liked it much better than the second one, and while it does stand alone, it did work really well with the other two to make a complete story. If Hester Browne knows what’s good for her she’ll resist the temptation to keep turning out more of these and stop while she’s on a high note. (but if she does write another I’ll read it!)
In this installment Melissa’s family continues to be outrageous, her flatmate Nelson beyond compare in terms of a sweet selfless foot rubber, and her business fascinating in its scope. The prince of the title is the sort of obnoxiously wealthy sleazy guy who is always in tabloid magazines. As his grandfather is friends with her Granny, Melissa ends up taking him on as a favor. Her goal is to get make him, well, princely. In the meantime she’s got to cope with her new fiance, Jonathan (the debonair American) living in Paris and expecting her to give up her business.
There are the usual hijinks and one can’t help but be envious of Melissa’s figure and Honey wardrobe (Honey being her alter ego who is always in pencil skirts and corsets and heels). A good quick read. And while in the previous ones you could definitely see that Melissa was accustomed to the finer things in life, dealing with a prince really ups the luxury quotient in this one (yachting with royalty!).
I couldn’t bear to have the only book I finished yesterday be The Road, so I stayed up late finishing this lovely sequel to The Little Lady Agency. In it our heroine follows her love interest overseas to New York. While there she tries to refrain from doing her business (which, out of deference to Jonathan no longer includes either her blond wig or pretending to be men’s girlfriends), but gets caught up in doing so, as well as caught up in insecurities about Jonathan and his hideous ex-wife.
Browne is a good writer–I was laughing out loud over Melissa’s not understanding the “Mile High Club” and getting a colleague of her father’s in trouble–but I was a little disappointed. The things I disliked about the first book were a much more significant part of this story. Melissa’s horrible father and sisters continue to blackmail her, guilt trip her, belittle her, and, in a dreadful part, run her business into the ground. Continue reading
Somehow I missed hearing about this book when it came out, so thanks to Amy for the recommendation. Add this to the list of charming British books I like. I finished this yesterday and am already looking forward to the sequel, Little Lady Big Apple.
Melissa Romney-Jones has lost her job yet again, but finds the perfect career for herself in starting an agency that provides the entirely non-sexual services of a girlfriend/wife/nanny for men. As her alter ego, Honey, Melissa whips bachelor’s wardrobes into shape, is the perfect date for office parties, and more. I really loved Honey, especially everything she wears (garters, smart wool suits, stiletto heels, corsets, etc.), which is lavishly described here. Continue reading