11 August 2011

Book Review: The Lingerie Designer by Siobhan McKenna

Helen Devine is one of the UK's most successful lingerie designers. Her luscious creations have spiced up the love life of many a grateful woman and sealed the deal on many a budding romance. So why is her own love life such a disaster? She's a sexy, confident woman: surely the right man for her must be out there somewhere? Helen's best friend Poppy, a great believer in Synchronicity, urges Helen to trust in fate. As a level-headed businesswoman, Helen prefers to trust in herself. Besides, she feels Poppy needs to practise what she preaches ... Then a series of strange coincidences during a business trip to Hong Kong and a once-in-a-lifetime holiday in Vietnam causes Helen to think twice. From the city lights of Hong Kong to the majestic rock-formations of Halong Bay and the smoky jazz clubs of Hanoi, it looks like fate might at last be lending her a helping hand in finding The One. Perhaps Poppy might be onto something after all? On the other hand, maybe the road to happiness leads back to where they started from ...

I love discovering new authors, and through Poolbeg Press, the Irish publishers I have discovered quite a few. When I was sent a copy of The Lingerie Designer to review, I was intrigued as this author was discovered through an Irish television show and won the 'Write a Bestseller' competition, so I have to say I had pretty high hopes for this one. The cover wasn't one I immediately loved, it didn't look anything special and I think they could have come up with something a bit more relevant to the title than half of a woman's face in a pretty top to be honest, but either way, I got stuck in ready to read and hopefully discover another brilliant new author.

I'll start straight away with my main gripe about the book. When I read the title, I expected a great look into the job of a lingerie designer, what they do, how they do their work, and a pretty glamourous leading lady. Sadly, I don't think this book delivered on any of that and I actually think the title of this book is very mis-leading. Yes, Helen's job happens to be a Lingerie Designer but that seems to be as far as it goes, aside from a lavish overseas trips to find manufacturers.  I wonder if this title was chosen to grab readers' attention rather than to reflect the story itself which is a real shame as it made me expect things this book just didn't deliver. Also, the tag line describes it as a cross between 'The Devil Wears Prada' meets 'Eat, Pray, Love'. I've read the former and can safely say it doesn't at all reflect that, and not having read the latter I can't pass comment.

The main character is Helen Devine, a woman I really struggled to warm to until at least halfway through the book.  When we first meet her, it's clear that she loves her job but I found the excessive side of her a bit much, i.e. she goes out drinking and tries to drink everyone else under the table, not a side of her I liked very much. I also found her relationship with her on/off boyfriend Rob a little too unsavoury, she seems far too naive for my liking. When things about Helen's father become clearer, I did sympathise with her more and enjoyed her character's journey here, but for the most part, I didn't like her at all. The other main character is Poppy, Helen's best friend, and while I found her more likeable, she was a little too preachy with her personal beliefs re. meditation and other 'Synchronicity' related things, and I found it a little heavy at times.

I have to be honest and say that I found myself skipping parts of this book, especially related to things with Poppy and her beliefs as I found them a bit unnecessary for the rest of the book, and went on a bit too long for my personal tastes. I struggled to take some of it in as well which was a shame. I enjoyed the travel section of the book, Helen and Jack making their way around Asia was fascinating reading, and I loved the friendship these two quickly struck up. I found the coincedences part of the book was rammed down our throats a little bit, especially relating to a gentleman Helen kept seeing, but again I just chose to ignore these parts. However, I found the enjoyable bits overrode the more negative elements of the book for me and overall I enjoyed the read, I was just careful to try and skim past those I knew I wasn't enjoying so much. The writing style was easy to read, and I felt McKenna had a good grasp of her story throughout the book. It was a good read, one which is perhaps slightly mis-led by its title and let down by some more ramblings paragraphs, but overall, it was a book I found enjoyable for the most part.

Rating:  3.5/5


  1. Hey guys,having watched the programme and seeing the winner being chosen earlier this year i really really wanted to like this book,it was a great chance and something i would love to enter....but i gave it a miss,simply because im no author!

    Chloe,you totally right,i found myself skimming pages too.really wanting to get to the end,not because i was exciting to see what happened unfortunately!
    Gonna be mean.didnt like story/cover/ending..but maby her next will be better!
    Plus thats only my reaction.
    Sorry for being so negative :-(

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