Priceless is the second book by Olivia Darling, I had previously read her debut novel 'Vintage' and really enjoyed it,so when I saw this book at my local library I snapped it up straight away.
Priceless and Vintage are two seperate books, they are not part of series. The only real overlap between the two books is the character Mathieu Randon who appears in both books, however the Mathieu Randon in Priceless is completely different man to the one we got to know in Vintage and in some ways the change between the two is almost comical. I should say that the change between the character in the two books is due to him being hit on the head and spending some months in a coma rather than the author's writing!
The key characters of the book are three women; Carrie, Lizzie and Serena.
Carrie works for the small but well known Art auction house Ehrenpreis and has fought to make her career succeed no matter what the cost is to her personally. When she is asked to move to London from New York to manage the new branch of Ehrenpreis she jumps at the chance, leaving her boyfriend behind without so much as a thought.
Lizzie Duffy is the assistant manager for rival auction house Ludbrooks, she is also having an affair with her boss, she thinks he loves her, he sees it as a great opportunity to have sex at work and somebody to do all the donkey work for him.
Having gone through a bitter divorce, Serena has returned to Cornwall to try and sort out her life and bring up her daughter away from the bustle of London. When her new neighbour asks her to paint a picture of her dogs, Serena is greatful for the opportunity to start painting again. Until her neighbours dies and the picture is sold for thousands of pounds, believed to by the work of a famous artist. When her neighbours son Julian realises Serena painted the picture, he suggests they set up a lucrative business which will benefit them both.
I don't know much about art at all, I'm not at all interested in it, but I found that you didn't need to have any knowledge of the art world at all to understand the story and it was certainly a very interesting insight into the world of art and aution houses.
The three main characters were very well characterized and it was easy to indentify in some way with all three of them. At times you found yourself wanting to shout at a particular character or make them realize what they were doing, the writer certainly knows how to capture her audience and engage with them.
The plotline itself was very clever and enjoyable, it kept you guessing and it wasn't until the final few pages that all the questions were finally answered and all the loose ends tied up. I get the impression that there is more to come from this author, I felt that there were hints that the story of Mathieu Randon was not yet finished and there was much more to happen in his story so I will be keeping an eye out to see if she does release a new book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and have only good things to say about it. I would definitely recommend it to anyone, although I think it's probably one for the ladies really!
Lizzy, Carrie and Serena all adore their art, but that's where the comparison between these three feisty women ends. Lizzy Duffy works for Ludbrook's, a small London auctioneers and is a talented young woman working her way up through the ranks. She has a thing for her boss Nat Wilde, but is he giving Lizzy the chance to show off her real potential? Carrie Klein works for New York Auction house Ehrenpreis, and jumps at the chance to open their first London office, putting her in direct competition with Ludbrooks. But Carrie is determined to make it a success, whatever the personal cost to herself. And finally Serena is an artist, a very good one in fact, living in Cornwall with her daughter after a messy divorce. But someone is about to get wise to Serena's talent for copying very old and famous paintings, and not necessarily for good...
I am not a fan of art myself and I did wonder if this would impair my enjoyment of the book at all, but I am glad to say that it didn't! You don't need to know anything about art to enjoy this, because Darling has really done her research and explains everything you need to know about painting and the world of auction houses as she goes along. This allows you to just sit back and soak up the fantastic stories, and possibly learning a little something along the way as well...even better!
Olivia Darling has continued the format of her previous and debut novel Vintage, choosing to build a story around three different women all in the same world but without necessarily knowing each other. I found this worked well for her in that book, and it proved successful for her once again in this book, even more so perhaps. The books starts off very confidently, none of the slow start here that I found in Vintage. Darling has clearly found her flair for writing, and the story is incredibly readable, and I did struggle to put it down of an evening. One thing I really enjoyed was the references back to Vintage, such as the champagne used in this book, and a returning character as well, cleverly done by the author!
The characters were all well written, and I liked all of them for different reasons. Lizzy did annoy me at times as you can see she is more talented that she shows, but as of halfway through I enjoyed the different direction Darling took her in. Carrie was my favourite character, a ruthless businesswomen prepared to prove everyone wrong about how talented she is. Serena was completely different from the other two - she was far more vulnerable and perhaps the one most women reading this will be able to relate to, with a much more normal life and consequently I warmed to her quite quickly and easily. The men in the book were not nice people at all. Nat Wilde is Lizzy's boss and a complete sleaze, Julian Trebarwen is Serena's neighbour; an ex-con out to make as much money as he can, and Mathieu Randon, a character from Vintage makes a reappearance in this but is completely different to the Randon we knew from there.
I loved this book. I found myself getting into the novel extremely quickly and found the subject matter completely fascinating as well. Finding out about auction houses kept my interest, but the author has been careful not to bog you down with too much detail, just giving you enough information to understand the story and follow easily. I actually enjoyed the chapters about Serena the most, as it went into detail about painting and how things are achieved, and she has written this so well! The book is narrated in the third person, which I feel works well because of the three-part storyline, and allows the book to flit back and forth in time as well, as several characters make use of flashbacks in the novel.
If you're looking for a fun and exciting read, then I would definitely recommend you pick up a copy of Priceless. Darling has really honed her skill since writing her debut novel, and this shows in the easy flow and readability of the book. The characters are well crafted, all believable. I actually cared about what happened to them, and for me that's the sign of a very well written book. Darling has clearly gone to a lot of trouble to research the subject matter and that just serves to make an enjoyable book full of fun, sex (not too gratuitous!), travel around the world and a bit of fact too. Highly recommended.
ISBN: 978-0340977538. Published by Hodder in March 2009. The paperback contains 464 pages.
Thank you for reading.
This review previously appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk