The FInishing Touches by Hester Browne

finishingI 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).

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