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Miracle on Regent Street by Ali Harris is the story of Evie, who feels she is invisible. She lives with her married sister, has no love life and her colleagues think she is the girl she replaced two years earlier. The department store she works in and loves is struggling, so Evie decides to turn things round, but no one realizes the changes are thanks to her...
Having heard good things about Miracle on Regent Street, when I fancied a bit of lightweight reading around Christmas this seemed like a good choice. Sadly, it soon became apparent that I should have gone for something else.
The main problem with the novel is the character of Evie. She drove me mad. She is utterly pathetic, but I couldn't even find any sympathy for her. Who would put up with their colleagues calling them the wrong name for two years? I get mispronunciations of my name quite frequently, but I correct them - mine isn't an easy name, and anyway mispronunciations are understandable. It's hardly the same as being called Sarah when your name is Evie.
Then there's the romance. When a handsome American comes into the store, he thinks Evie is her super-fashionable and cool colleague Carly - at the time Evie is wearing a designer blouse like Carly. Evie doesn't correct him. The whole thing descends into farce, with Evie even pretending she lives at Carly's address. She is so happy to have met this perfect man, yet it doesn't bother her that he calls her Carly, nor does it occur to her that there can't be a future for them as long as he doesn't know who she is. Of course this is a chick-lit romance novel, which allows for some unrealistic situations and a bit of fairytale romance, but there has to be some reality in it, something believable. Evie's antics just make no sense.
The only saving grace for Miracle on Regent Street is the setting, the store Hardys. Evie loves it, despite the fact that it is so out of touch and on the verge of being taken over. It reminds me of a store I knew like it, out of date but still a bit special - and loved by its customers. Evie's makeovers of the various departments are brilliant, classy and elegant, taking the store back to its glamorous heyday of the 1940s. The descriptions of these are the best bits of the novel, and I found myself looking forward to them.
All in all, I was really disappointed with Miracle on Regent Street. It wasn't badly written, but the main character was a joke, and in a character-driven genre like chick-lot, that's just a no-no. In future, when looking for a lightweight read, I think I'll stick to the few authors of chick-lit that I know are good.
I must admit that Miracle on Regent Street isn't the kind of story I usually pick up, as I'm not really a "chick-lit" type of girl. The book came into my possession entirely by chance, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it. This is a case where one can very much judge a book by its cover, meaning that if you're looking for a charming, if predictable winter read, you could do much worse than this one.
I happened to receive, and read, this book in the days before Christmas, which, given the festive content, certainly enhanced my enjoyment of the story, but it's still worth picking up now that the holidays are over. The author is aiming to deliver an uplifting yuletide read, and to an extent she succeeds. The novel is largely a love triangle, or should I say, love-square, between our narrator Evie, charming American businessman Joel, delivery guy Sam, and Hardys, the London department store they are all striving to save. At times our heroine Christmas Evie errs too far on the side of naivety to be as likable as she should be, but she essentially has a good heart, which carries the story.
Despite the customary twists in the tale, suffice to say, Miracle on Regent Street inevitably has a predictably sweet ending. However, the predictability of the story can easily be forgiven, as this book is much more about heart, family and community than narrative curve-balls. The central message of "be yourself" comes through loud and all-too-clear, but all-in-all, Miracle on Regent was a heart-warming read.
Dreams can come true - it could happen to you...For the past two years, Evie Taylor has lived an invisible existence in London, a city she hoped would bring sparkle to her life. But all that is about to change. For winter has brought a flurry of snow and unexpected possibilities. Hidden away in the basement of Hardy's - once London's most elegant department store - Evie manages the stockroom of a shop whose glory days have long since passed. When Evie overhears that Hardy's is at risk of being sold, she secretly hatches a plan. If she can reverse the store's fortunes by December 26th - three weeks away - and transform it into a magical destination once again, she might just be able to save it. But she's going to need every ounce of talent and determination she has. In fact, she's going to need a miracle.
I love debut novels. There is something about heading into the unknown with a brand new author that is both exciting and intriguing. I love it even more when their debut novel happens to be a festive one, and when I received a copy of Ali Harris' debut novel Miracle on Regent Street, I was rather excited! I'll admit that I wasn't keen on the cover when I initially saw it, thinking it wasn't at all Christmassy looking but now I've read the book and seen the cover in real life (which does look far more beautiful I have to say), I think it's a lovely cover and suits the book perfectly. It is a gorgeous book to curl up with under your duvet in the cold evenings, and days if you can find a bit of spare time!
The book's lead character is Evie Taylor, a character I really loved and who I am sure will stay with me for a while now I've finished the book because I loved her so much! She works in the stockroom at her beloved London department store 'Hardy's', is called Sarah by pretty much all of the shop floor staff because they don't know who she is and is fed up of living with her sister Delilah and being an unpaid babysitter in return for her room. I felt really sorry for Evie, she has amazing ideas on how to save Hardy's which is in big financial trouble , yet she's ignored by the staff... I'd have long since started screaming my name at people who get it wrong, it's one of my bug bears!
The other characters at Hardy's are just perfect for the old fashioned store, each of them special to Evie in their own way. I loved Lily from the tea room, a charming and wonderful lady who loves remembering Hardy's good old days, security guard Frank who together with Lily loves to reminisce, Sam the delivery driver who seems to want more than being just a white van man and Evie's friend, and the Polish cleaning crew, hard grafters yet unrecognised by anyone but Evie. It's a great ensemble cast who you quickly grow to care about and love, and I felt each of them easily captured the spirit and essence of Hardy's, and I can remember each and every one of them, a rarity in a book with so many characters!
Hardy's the store is written in a fantastic way and I could visualise each and every part of it as Harris writes about it. It sounds like a wonderful place to be, and I have to wonder where Harris drew on inspiration for the store as it doesn't sound like anywhere I have been in London before! Harris writes easily about the store layout, the clothes, the items, the staff, everything about it is written perfectly. I especially loved the old fashioned touches Harris has put on the place, such as sweeping staircases rather than escalators, and the old fashioned clothes and nothing remotely in fashion! The best thing was imagining in my head the great things Evie does with the place, and the transformation that occurs at the store thanks to her.
The book is written as a countdown to Christmas, from the beginning of December and I loved the impending feeling of Christmas, and wondering whether or not Hardy's was going to be saved, with no small help from Evie of course! Everything about this book was fantastic, above all the writing. It really brings to life everything going on on the page, and it was a joy to read from start to finish. I know Evie and the wonderful Hardy's will stay with me for a long time, and I know this one is going straight to my keeper's shelf, it's definitely one I will want to read again and again, at Christmas or not. This is an outstanding debut novel, with just the right balance of story and a little romance thrown in there too, and it's one I cannot recommend highly enough, I loved every single page!
ISBN: 978-0857202901. Published by Simon&Schuster on October 13th 2011. Pages: 496. RRP: £6.99.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://www.chicklitchloe.blogspot.com
Thank you for reading!