Sandie is now running her own Secret Shopping business and living with boyfriend Tom but there's something nagging Sandie in the back of her mind and soon that something is about to become crystal clear.
Finally, widow Grazia has decided its time to move on with her life and to get herself a man but is convinced her age is holding her back. With the season of goodwill and joy upon them, will the 3 women get their happy endings?
I first read Kate Harrison's first book with these character, The Secret Shopper's Revenge, last year when it was first released and I loved it. The characters were great, it showed a good side of an industry we are all involved in one way or another but it was just a really good read as well. When I found out that Kate was writing another Secret Shopping book I was delighted, and luckily for me the publishers Orion sent me a copy to review for this site, and I started it almost the moment it dropped through my letterbox! The official cover is gorgeously festive with its red and silver ribbons and stars, and it certainly is the perfect book to read in the run up to Christmas (which has apparently already started in Tesco and Sainsburys!).
The book picks up a while after the original book, but with the same 3 women leading our story. Emily is again the most prominent of the three, but this was great for me as she is my favourite character of the books! Emily has found love with the lovely Will, who is just the nicest man in the world! Their storyline is so lovely, it makes you feel all warm but things do come back to earth with a bump for Emily in this book. Still, Harrison manages to keep the essence of Emily while slowly changing her and I enjoyed her development. Sandie is much more likeable in this book as she struggles with her own dilemmas, and I found her much nicer! She appears quite a bit in this book and is the opposite of Emily, but it works and the friendship between the women is genuine and a joy to read.
One story I really enjoyed in this book was Grazia. She has decided to start dating again, and I think the way Harrison has approached this in the book is touching and very realistic. I found the story very uplifting and sweet to read, and I really warmed to Grazia because of it. There is a new character in this book as well which I felt added a new dimension to the book, and her name is Kelly. She's a young girl who ends up working for Sandie and I think her story was very good and tied in well with the more mature women in the book. I felt very sorry for Kelly, but I think Harrison has done a good thing by including her story in the book, and it also shows us the development of Sandie from the first book and how things change. I liked the addition of a new character, and felt she worked perfectly in the book.
There's plenty of mentions of Christmas throughout the book, and I very much enjoyed these. There is little paragraphs counting down to Christmas at the start of each chapter and these were often funny as they were written as guidelines for stores at Christmastime! There were some laugh out loud moments in the book, such as Emily visiting Santa's Grotto with Freddie in tow on a SS mission, and other things with Emily, but I felt the Christmas spirit was very alive in this book and Kate Harrison has captured the essence of what Christmas is really about to people, as well as the more commercialised side of it as well, and they both blend well to create a well balanced and enjoyable book!
I can imagine this would be a wonderful book to sit and read in the cold December months when your Christmas tree is up, your fire is on and you're all cosy in your house as it is one of those books you will want to sit and devour in the cold evenings. The characters are fantastically written, they're realistic and they are character you can grow to love and care about. Their journeys in this book are all very different, but they all come together to help each other through the good and bad, and thats what you want to read about - something to make you smile. I enjoyed every page of this with its subtle twists and turns along the way to keep you wanting more, and I found it so easy to slip back in with Emily, Sandie and Grazia again, probably because of the easy to read writing style and excellent plot. If you enjoyed The Secret Shopper's Revenge, you'll love this second outing with the secret shoppers, but if you haven't, pick this up anyway as a brilliant read! Oh, and luckily for us... Kate Harrison has hinted to me that she is writing a 3rd Secret Shopper book, hurrah! Highly recommended, a brilliant read.
Thank you to the publishers Orion for sending me a copy to review!