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Holly Colshannon is a young journalist who thinks her career is about to take a terminal nosedive when she is moved from covering 'pet deaths' for her local Bristol paper and made Crime Correspondent - a poisoned chalice if ever there was one.
However, a brilliant idea from the new police PR officer sees Holly shadowing a detective and writing a diary column about his working life. Detective James Sabine is bit of a sour puss - although he does have very nice green eyes - and he's furious that he has been landed with magnificently accident-prone Holly especially since her arrival comes six weeks before his wedding to faultless Fleur.
Holly, however, has a career to think about and this infuriating man is not going to stand in her way. Meanwhile, her bosses at the newspaper realise that the column is proving extremely popular with the readers who are waiting for something romantic to happen between the handsome detective and the nice young reporter. With only days to go to the wedding Holly realises she's been waiting for the same thing...
Sarah Mason's debut novel Playing James is one of my favourite debut novels I've read. It's chick-lit but also has something different - a reporter following a detective and writing a diary about it. It was new, it was original and it was brilliant.
Holly Colshannon was hilarious and incredibly clumsy. Who else could trip over a fruit pastille and get hit on the head so many times? The way James and Holly first saw each other proved their wasn't going to be an easy relationship and it proved correct as Holly kept getting herself into hair situations and making mishaps.
I read it in one sitting and even though I knew what was going to happen and knew the mishaps Holly would get herself into (this was my second time reading it - it's that good) I still found myself laughing.
All of the characters are hilarious: Sorrel, Holly's mum and actress is great what with her fake fainting near the end of the book and general drama-queen-ness about her. There's Lizzie, Holly's best friend with her madcap schemes to get her boyfriend to propose. Vince, the flamboyant - and funny - photographer. Plus everyone else; Joe, Holly's editor, Callum and the other cops, Holly's dad, Fleur, Ben and even Teresa-the-Holy-cow (or as it turned out Unholy-cow!).
James and Holly were the stars and Sarah Mason's wit made me want to keep on reading. James Sabine was a brilliant character and while he hated the press, Holly helped change his mind about that. They might have had a rocky relationship to start but as the book progressed so did their relationship. I'm sure the knocks Holly received from James helped greatly, I loved the tree-trunk incident.
One of my favourite parts of the novel, apart from Sorrels's "fainting" incident was when Holly went on TV and threw a glass of water over the host accidentally. That was just hilarious.
I liked the way Fleur was written: started off as a saint but showed her true colours towards the end of the novel. I so hoped she would get her come-uppance. I liked the Robin/James/Callum sub-plot as well but thought Robin wasn't used enough, after Holly's encounter she was barely in the book. I also thought it was a shame none of Holly's siblings were mentioned. I've read High Society - the sort-of sequel, Clemmie is the main character but Holly and James re-appear - and they're all mentioned in there but not in Playing James which was a shame.
All in all I loved the novel - and something I forgot to mention, I LOVED Tristan the car. A great name for a car, and I liked how he was a huge part of the book even though a car is an inanimate object.
I've enjoyed the other 2 Sarah Mason novels I've read but from the reviews of her newest novel, Sea Fever, I really don't know if I'll read it. Playing James was a great debut and a great read.
Also posted at http://chicklitreviews.wordpress.com