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Charley is a have-it-all alpha-female. She takes cooking lessons, learns Mandarin, volunteers her time to worthy causes. But she's not a lady who lunches, trying to fill her days, she's a high-flying communications manager at a Pharma company who dreams big and works relentlessly to achieve her goals. So, when she's side-lined by a nasty accident that leaves her leg broken in 3 places, she panics. Not for her are months off sick, lounging on the sofa watching Jeremy Kyle and eating Thorntons straight from the box. She can't return to work, so she needs a new plan, something to occupy her time and stop her brain going to mush.
Having just seen her unrequited love gallop off into the LA sunset with someone else, a romantic endeavour may not seem the most obvious choice, especially one helping others find true love, but Charley is not about the obvious. Employing her own comms skills and her flatmate Sam's abilities in PR and sales, she sets herself up as a ghost writer for those who are time-poor and lacking in love, helping them with their online dating profiles, and going so far as to impersonate them online, keeping the conversations going and getting potential soul mates to the point where they want to meet her clients. A PA for singles, if you will.
Of course this is chick lit, so things have to go wrong. In a comedy of errors, Charley discovers it's not that easy to keep friendships as friendships, and work relationships as work relationships. But can she get back on track before she does too much damage to both her public and private lives?
This is at times gritty, realistic story. Some of the language is blunt, and maybe not the kind you would expect to see written, but at the same time it's nothing you won't have heard on the street. It's funny too, both slapstick and witty, and it's thoughtful and intelligent. It's got a lot going for it.
Charley is supposed to be a motivational heroine, I'm sure. She doesn't simper. She's not a door mat. She's not ambitious but secretly ditzy like the Shopaholics or Bridget Jones of this world. There was something about her I didn't quite warm to, though. She was too sharp at times, too real, almost. And she shouts a lot. I almost felt there was too much of her, which seems silly seeing as she was the lead, and it was her story. Ultimately, I think it comes down to the fact that people who think they know everything can sometimes be über-annoying to those of us who actually do. I've seen other reviews which imply Charley is some kind of wonder woman, a mythical creature that we should as aspire to be, but my reaction was different. I thought Charley was quite similar to my friends and I in many ways and so I tended to think yes, fine rather than Oh wow! when it came to some of her personality traits.
If you're into internet dating, this book may scare you with the thoughts that you really don't know who is on the other side of the screen, but otherwise it's an engaging and entertaining, if perhaps a smidge too long, read.
This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
Out now in paperback and on Kindle
Charley is a workaholic, and she isn't afraid to admit it. She's absolutely great at her job, and loves working all the hours she possibly can, always responding to her emails, blackberry messages and telephone calls from work, whatever the hour of day. Therefore when Charley breaks her leg in two places and is left bedridden for weeks, she starts to go stir-crazy in her flat and decides to start up her own online dating business... First Date Aid. But when Charley starts getting clients, and begins her email flirtations with them (strictly business you know!), she finds herself getting closer to one of her male contacts, William. Charley is determined to find out more about the man she's fallen for, but is he going to end up teaching her more about herself than she thought possible?
I have to say right from the beginning, I was drawn into this book and Charley's story, she is just so likeable as a main character that you can't help but love her and want to find out more about her story! The book is written in the first person from Charley's perspective as well, so we get her take on all the events in the book, and find the things out in the book as she does, which makes it more interesting because you don't know what's coming up next! Although Charley is obsessed with her work, which does get a tad annoying at times, it's good to see someone passionate about their work, and Robinson manages to weave in her friends' frustrations realistically too, I know if I were Charley's friend she'd annoy me at times too!
What worked so well in the book for me though was the other characters in the book which were just as good as Charley to be honest, and they made it even more brilliant. My favourite was definitely Charley's friend and flatmate Sam. He's just got engaged but decides to help Charley with her business while his own wannabe acting career is floundering a bit. He's brilliantly written, sounding totally hopeless but you know he's got a good heart beneath it all. Margot, Charley's colleague is a really evil character, and is certainly one you'll love to hate, Robinson wrote her so brilliantly! John, Charley's boss and 'man of her dreams' too, was one character I really disliked, I couldn't warm to him at all. All of the characters though were great, and helped create a brilliant story, even those who just appeared in email form in the book, Charlotte in particular!
The story itself was fantastic, and I really enjoyed seeing Charley change as a person as the book progressed. The parts involving her new company First Date Aid were really funny, and it was fun reading the emails that Charley was sending back and forth to William. The inclusion of Sam into the mix made it more interesting, and I was hoping that the two would make a real success of it, but things weren't all that clear through the book as Charley is still so determined to get back to her full time job once she's healed up. There's a lot of humour in the book, but there are some emotional parts too that really stop you in your reading tracks, and make you think, and I thought the balance for the book was just right. My favourite part of the whole book though was the twist that came around halfway through, I didn't see it coming at all and I felt it refreshed the book completely, and made me even more engrossed, wanting to see what was going to happen next!
This was a fantastic book and I really did enjoy every single page of it, not wanting to put it down because I wanted to see what Charley was going to do next! I loved Robinson's writing style, it's really easy to read and enjoy, yet it gets into the heart of these characters and makes you care about them. She paces the book just right, with enough going on to keep your interest and moving it along where it needs to so that the storylines can develop. Charley was a brilliant heroine for the book, and I loved her, I was just so badly hoping for a happy ending for her. The book made me laugh, it made me think, it made me tear up in parts - it's that brilliantly written that you can get that full range of emotion from it. I can't recommend it enough, and really look forward to what Lucy Robinson is bringing us next!
ISBN: 978-0718157661. Published by Penguin on 31st January 2013. Pages: 464. RRP: £6.99. Also available as an eBook.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review, and to you for reading.