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Shopping with the Enemy - Carmen Reid

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Paperback: 416 pages / Publisher: Corgi / Published: 11 Oct 2012

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      19.02.2013 19:01
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      Fashionista Annie is out of touch, so sets off to Italy to get her mojo back

      Annie is a well known fashionista, but she's more friendly fashion guru than scary fashion diva. She has various things going on, like her makeover show on the telly, and between that and the kids she's just about ticking along.

      But something doesn't seem quite right. She's feeling a bit off her game and just doesn't 'get' this season's fashions. When it all comes to a head with a bit of an 'incident' at work, she knows something has to change so takes up the offer of some time off. Rich but lovely friend Svetlana suggests a trip to a posh Italian spa, to soak up the culture in the home of fashion, and get inspired while refreshing the body as well as the soul. But the spa is not quite what Annie had in mind. Instead of cappuccino, they're bringing her coffee enemas, and there are no rich luxuries in sight, of the calorific or fabric nature. Throw in interfering ex husbands in London, and meddling daughters in Manhattan, and their Milan jaunt moves from relaxing retreat to a crash course in chaos in the blink of an eye.

      This is definitely supposed to be a book with a fashion focus. Each chapter starts with the lowdown on what the featured character is wearing (and the estimated value of the outfit as a whole) but the descriptions seemed to be lacking something, and at times it was hard to imagine the combination, or how special it might or might not look. There seemed to be a bit of a mismatch between the almost mumsy character of Annie and the designer focus, and although we meet her as she's falling out of her zone and off her well worn career path, it's hard to imagine how she was ever the finger-on-the-pulse fashion star she allegedly once was.

      I enjoyed the characters of Elena and Lana, and because of their youth and personalities, I somehow felt their position in the fashion world to be more likely. I wasn't sure how the two aspects of the story would work, with the mums at the spa and the daughters scheming on the other side of the Atlantic, because initially they seemed like two different stories, but in the end I felt it did work.

      This is book 6 about Annie, which I really hadn't realised. Coming to this one without having read the others, I certainly didn't feel like I'd missed a back story, and at the same time I'm a teensy bit surprised it's a series still going strong after 5 previous books because I'm not sure I'd want that much of Annie. She wasn't an unpleasant or obnoxious character, she was just a bit ordinary and, at times, predictable. The book as a whole had a feeling of Primark or supermarket fashion to it - plain and sensible but somewhat disposable and not all that special. It was chick lit and it wasn't bad chick lit, but for what I was looking for, it didn't stand out much either.

      I found the book harmless enough, and it is an easy, light hearted read, but I was quite happy to put it down whenever I needed to, and didn't have that "Ooh, just one more chapter..." battle with myself that you can get with a really great book.

      If you're a fan of Annie I'm sure you'll enjoy this one. As for me, I won't be actively seeking out the other books in the series, but I'd be happy to see one in a hostel book swap.

      This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk

      Out now in paperback and on Kindle

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