11 June 2008

Book Review: Late Night Shopping by Carmen Reid

Uber-busy Annie Valentine - mum to two demanding children and personal shopper in a swanky London fashion store - is now intent on setting up a shoe and handbag empire of her own, and she'll do anything to get there.

But what about her adorable new man? As someone who wants nothing more than a quiet life, Ed is shocked to discover Annie staking their home on her success, and now their relationship is on the line.

Is Annie's surprise remedy - an extravagant friends and family holiday to Italy - really what they all need? Especially when a dashing Italian businessman promises to fulfil Annie's every dream . . .

This book is a sequel to Carmen Reid's bestseller, The Personal Shopper. We return to the character of Annie Valentine who is where we left her at the end of the pevious book. She's loved up with Ed, a handsome teacher, and her 2 children Lana and Owen. Annie's job as personal shopper is still going well, but Annie is determined to branch out on her own, even though Ed isn't too keen. But even so, Annie sets about creating her own business, involving a small family holiday to Italy, a rather suave Italian business-men and family fights galore. Can Annie make it work, and will she and Ed survive the turbulent times?

You might be thinking why am I reading this book if I didn't like the prequel, but I must say, I'm not one to write someone off after just one book, so I did want to give Carmen Reid another try...and of course, this being a bargain helped! Anyway, I will straight away that I really did enjoy this one a lot more than the first one, I just felt it read a lot more pleasantly, the characters were nicer and it was just a much better read in my opinion. I feel that the main reason for this was because the main character of Annie was a lot funnier and much more likeable in this book than the last. I liked how her relationship with Ed had mellowed her out a bit, and therefore the story between these two was believable and a really nice love story to read.

It is almost as if Reid has taken the characters from the previous novel, taken a good look at them, given them a shake and created this book about them. Annie's children feature quite heavily in this book, and she has given a great view of a 16 year old stroppy teenage girl and a shy musically gifted 10 year old lad. Again though, I found Annie's attitude to parenting a tad annoying and a bit lacklustre, although the way she has developed Ed, Lana and Owen's relationship is well done, and a credit to step-parenting in novels. As well as this family, Annie's sister Dinah and daughter Billie are in this book much more and are again nice enough characters.

My favourite bit of the book was definitely the section set in Italy, which I would say is the middle third of the book. What is supposed to be a nice family getaway quickly turns mad courtesy of Annie, but it keeps you wanting to turn the pages because of the twists and turns and you as the reader can see exactly what Annie is getting herself into, yet she seems blissfully unaware. Despite being able to see what is going to happen, it was still enjoyable because Annie was hilarious and so naive that you couldn't help but like her and want to find out how she was going to deal with everything. Descriptions of Italy and its countryside were well done, leaving you wanting to be there basking in the sun drinking Italian coffee!

For me, this book was a great improvement on its predecessor and left me feeling sad as I turned the last few pages. If you enjoyed The Personal Shopper, you will definitely like this one so I'd definitely get hold of a copy! Annie is as mad as ever, but it works within the story as everything else seems so relatively calm, it just reads well and almost seems right. The relationship between Ed and Annie is much more detailed and realistic, and I really did love the character of Ed. The mother and children bond is also explored more and Carmen Reid has really approached this in a good way. Shopping as ever is very prevalent in the book, with lots of designer names being dropped, descriptions of gorgeous clothes, accessories and Annie's love of this really comes across. It was a great book to read and I thoroughly enjoyed it, I'm glad I did give Carmen another Reid!

Rating: 4/5