I have to confess I bought Naked in Knightsbridge by Nicky Schmidt because I felt like a bit of light reading, some uncomplicated chick-lit to read over a few days - I'm not a fan of chick-lit in general, I only like certain authors who write at a higher standard than most of the rubbish in the genre, but when it's done well, chick-lit can make for an enjoyable read - which is what I was hoping for with Naked in Knightsbridge.
The main character is Jools, a girl who is down on her luck when her cleaning company goes bust and she is heavily in debt. We follow her through her attempts to earn some money and make a living, and the plot slowly gets more farcical as she decides the only way forward is to sell herself as a bride online.
The opening of the novel is promising - things are looking pretty dire for Jools, but surely there will be a sensible solution to her troubles, after all business have problems all the time. But no, she doesn't do the sensible thing. She gets herself into more debt, she is incapable of getting a normal job, she is incapable of doing laundry and wearing decent clothes, and then very quickly decides that selling herself is the only option left to her.
I very quickly grew to dislike Jools. Yes, there is the argument that she is different from the average chick-lit heroine, but this isn't a good thing in this case. She is lazy, stupid and just not someone I can care about. She continually bemoans her situation but does nothing to help herself. Almost every page seems to have a reference to her ballooning weight, which she loathes - yet continues to eat six cupcakes or donuts in one sitting. I have weight issues, and I know what a temptation cakes and donuts are, but she has absolutely no self control, and not only when it comes to food. When she does have some money she blows it all very quickly - spending £1000 on Crème de la Mer face cream is ridiculous having just been homeless.
On top of that, she is quite disgusting - she happily goes out wearing the most awful sounding clothes, unwashed, and during a period she is homeless she enjoys rooting through skips. This is not a character I want to have a happy ending - I don't care about her, she is not a nice person and she has no will to improve her situation.
In terms of the story, it is reasonably predictable, but not so much that you know exactly what is round every corner. Not that it matters when you dislike the main character. The main problem is that once a hint has been made at something, it's blindingly obvious where that story arc is going to go. The big ending was predictable from the moment the possibility was introduced, as was another side story.
The one promising storyline, which wasn't particularly pleasant but was at least a bit exciting and a bit different, petered out before it reached its conclusion. While the character involved in this, Niles, was even more repellent than Jools, it would have made for a bit of excitement and something different. I was almost disappointed when the big excitement failed to materialise.
Naked in Knightsbridge was, quite frankly, a waste of time and money (I do begrudge spending £1.70 on downloading it for Kindle). All I can say to sum it up is don't bother.
Jools Grand is having a bit of a hard time. Her business has burned to the ground (literally!), she's got no money whatsoever and is about to become homeless. To try and save herself from living on the streets Jools comes up with a foolproof plan: she'll sell herself on Ebay in a marriage of convenience. Trouble is the only bids that Jools gets are from a deranged loner and a gay politician trying to appease his family. Is this marriage of convenience going to turn out to be more than it's worth?
I'd never heard of Nicky Schmidt or her debut novel Naked In Knightsbridge until Prospera Publishing got in touch and asked us if we'd like to review it for the site. I took one look at the synopsis and said yes straight away. Due to the postal strikes it took a while to arrive but Prospera sent us the first two chapters to tide us over and I found them so absorbing I couldn't wait to read more. As soon as the book arrived I started it immediately. I'm pleased to report that the first two chapters weren't a one-off and I found Naked In Knightsbridge a thoroughly enjoyable read.
The opening to the book cuts right to the point with a letter from Jools' bank telling her she's way past her overdraft and she needs to get below it immediately. Each chapter has a letter of some sort at the beginning, kind of like the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella, which I found highly amusing and I thought they were very readable and didn't detract at all from the book. The book starts just before Jools decides to put herself on Ebay and we learn what happened to her cleaning business, I found that particular story quite amusing I have to say. As the pages go by I could see Jools was getting more and more desperate about her state of affairs until eventually she came up with her masterplan: auctioning herself on Ebay. That, folks, is one of the most unique plots I've ever read.
The auction itself was quite fun to read of, what with people being quite disparaging but the best part was the bidding war between Rodney and Niles. As the book was told in third-person, and thus switched points of view quite regularly, we could see why both men wanted Jools to marry them. Both reasons were at totally different ends of the spectrum on account of just how different the two men were considering one was a gay politician and the other a bit of a deranged loner. I knew who I wanted to win the bid, let me tell you. However there's a clever twist just before the auction ends and it all seemingly goes to pot.
The auction itself isn't really the main plot, though, it's what happens after the auction on account of the plot twist I mentioned above. I don't want to spoil what happens to the auction or what happens after the auction so I'll just say that I thought it was incredibly interesting and it added a different spin on things. The blurb makes the auction sound as if it's the focal point of the story but for me it wasn't - for me it was what happens after the auction ends that really makes the book.
I thought all of the characters were incredibly well written. Jools is so far removed from your typical chick lit heroine it's unbelievable: she's the anti-heroine; she's a chancer, a thief, she's addicted to her food and she's totally unashamed about anything and yet I loved her. She's probably not someone you'd want to be friends with but she seemed to have her heart in the right place. Mel, Jool's best friend, was likeable enough but I thought she was completely in denial about her boyfriend Michel. I really wasn't a fan of Rodney or Niles, the guys bidding for Jools, as they were both liars and only really seemed to care about themselves. Jools' dad makes a few appearances but he's a bit of a perv and is wholly unlikeable. My favourite male character was undoubtedly Skuttle (Jools calls him Hunk of No Fixed Abode), a homeless man who Jools befriends. I knew he wasn't all he seemed and I liked him immensely. Schmidt has really created quite a cast of characters: they're all quirky and, you might think, really unlikeable and nothing like anybody you know in real life and yet they were so compelling and incredibly well rounded.
Naked In Knighstbride is uncategorically NOT chick lit. I have absolutely no idea where it should be placed but it's so much more than chick lit. It deals with quite a few serious issues and just seems... I don't know, I can't explain it; it's not light or fluffy and the characters aren't all thin, rich and gorgeous. Schmidt has given us an incredibly great read but not one I can categorize in any which way. The book really shows how easy it is to lose your way and end up with no money and no home, I didn't know becoming homeless was so easy. Jools doesn't really help herself when she's faced with homelessness but how can I judge when I have no idea how I'd act if it were me in that situation! The book really is a compelling read with quite a few twists and turns along the way. The last twist near the end of the book was fantastic and all was seemingly revealed!
I really enjoyed reading Naked In Knightsbridge. Nicky Schmidt is a talented writer and I hope she's writing another book. She's given us a quirky plot, even quirkier characters and has written a very compelling read. It really was a joy to read.