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The Finishing Touches - Hester Browne

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Hester Browne / Paperback / 352 Pages / Book is published 2010-05-13 by Hodder Paperbacks

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    4 Reviews
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      27.11.2012 23:57
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      Highly recommended

      I came across The Finishing Touches whilst browsing the Tesco bookshelves, looking for nothing in particular. This immediately jumped out at me, mostly because it's all pretty and pink! The front cover is decorated with various girly items and swirly text.

      The story revolves around Betsy Tallimore and the Tallimore academy. Betsy was abandoned on the step of the Tallimore Academy as a young baby, with the note "Please look after her. I want her to grow up a proper lady". This of course, earned her the name Orphan Annie amongst the girls of the Academy. Betsy was adopted by Lord and Lady Tallimore. After Lady Frances Tallimore's death, the school began to fall into disrepair. It's courses were outdated and didn't fit in with modern society and the aspirations of the girls. At Frannie's funeral, Lord Tallimore asks Betsy to provide a consultation in order to try and keep the Academy going. The problem is, she needs to get through a headteacher who still feels that girls need to be well versed in flower arranging, making swans out of napkins and all sorts; and a bursar who keeps a tight control of the purse strings... mainly because there's not much in there! Can she succeed?

      This book was absolutely brilliant. I wasn't expected to be transfixed throughout, I think I put it down once, pretty much under force! I really like the idea of the plot. Although I'm not against private schools, I'm definitely a feminist and rather think the idea of females growing up to have the idea that they are destined for a future not of their own choosing to be rather a shame.

      The development of Betsy as a character is brilliant, she really comes to know what she wants through the story, she is determined to make a success of the academy and that determination really intrigued me. She's a hard working young woman, determined and intelligent to boot (bringing her maths degree to the table). The whole story is told with an outside view of finishing schools as being out of place in society and this is illustrated by the descriptions of the girls who attend.

      Throughout the whole story, I just wanted Betsy to succeed and make the Academy relevant to modern society. I rather enjoyed the words of wisdom from Frannie which punctuated the book. I found them rather interesting even though I have absolutely no chance of ever being a polished, finished lady!

      I would highly recommend this book to anyone who fancies a bit of chick lit! I picked this up in Tesco for £3.77 and it was completely worth it!

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      08.09.2010 09:38
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      An easy read with some important messages

      As the daughter of its owner, and a highly experience management consultant to boot, Betsy is the obvious choice to call for help in turning around a finishing school failing to make the grade in 21st century London. Except... Betsy never attended the school as a student, and she's not so much 'management consultant' as she is 'shop assistant' - a distinction many a proud parent could be forgiven for missing. With the Tallimore Academy facing financial ruin, however, Betsy isn't so much their best hope as she is their only hope.

      This is a lovely little book that is part fabulous fiction and part top tips - every chapter starts with a handy hint on how to behave as a lady, or survive any unfortunate situation, and many of the pages are peppered with further advice along these lines, making this a much cheaper but just as useful investment as a term or two in a finishing school. The tips are a clear cut above those you'd find in the likes of Love It - they're simple yet obvious solutions to common problems (how to avoid leaving lipstick on your champagne flute, why fishnets go better with high heels than ordinary stockings, and so on)

      This is a book of contrasts, and these complement the story beautifully, from Liv with her Shopaholic-esque approach to life to Bursar Mark's firm hold on reality, and from the lovely and laid pack Lord Tallimore to professional glamour puss Adele. Even the lessons the girls receive span the whole spectrum from the art of conversation to how to give your man a makeover without him ever realising.

      Some attempts at chick lit are repetitive and samey, some are ok but written in a style that really grates, and some surpass all this and deliver a fresh take on a juicy topic, written in such an engaging way you can't consider putting it down for even a second. The Finishing Touches definitely falls into the latter category: it is sexy and sweet, funny and flirty, witty and wonderful. It is a stylish book as slick and polished and as able to hold its own against the competition as any Tallimore graduate.

      Whether rescuing a business in the throes of bankruptcy or getting out of a car without flashing your pants, The Finishing Touches are all you need to survive elegantly. Highly recommended.

      This review first appeared on The Bookbag.

      Buy it from Amazon used for under £3 delivered, new for a little more.

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        09.06.2010 16:28
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        What to buy if you want a NICE book, like ordinary people.

        There's nothing like a bit of escapism from your sad sad life. You could drink a glass of tesco value orange juice from concentrate, watch a romantic comedy or, if you want to stretch it out a bit, read a romantic comedy. If you were me. The humble pink trash novel is the cheapest product on offer for this kind of escapism, and is easily available from tesco, helpfully. I recommend The Finishing Touches by Hester Brown as chick literature at its best. Despite its being a bit too well-written to qualify as escapist pink "trash", it is pink, and it is escapist, therefore it's well worth buying.

        Finishing Touches tells the story of Betsy, whose rather romantic adoption as a baby by the owner of a Finishing School in London leads her to all kinds of adventure. In 1980, she was discovered on the school's steps in a marmalade box with the note: 'Please look after my baby. I want her to grow up to be a proper lady. Thank you.' Lady Frances Tallimore, the school's headmistress, was absolutely smitten, and in the present day, Betsy has grown up to love 'Franny' as her mother, and the Tallimore Academy as her home. The story really begins with Franny's death: who will look after the nearly bankrupt school and its four impossible pupils now that the perfect Lady Tallimore has passed away? Will Betsy ever be able to persuade the staff that the curriculum needs updating in order to get twenty-first century girls to stand on their own two feet? And will Betsy ever discover who her real mother was?

        The story is an original one for the pink trash genre, and it's a difficult one to tell, because those of us who are inclined to hate anything approaching private education even, are unlikely to sympathise with those trying to save the last finishing school in London. However, because the main character wasn't 'finished' herself, and is therefore simply an ordinary young woman with surprisingly good manners and a maths degree, the reader does immediately love her, especially because of her many endearing characteristics and the challenges with which she is presented. The poshness is satirised and the old-fashioned lessons like 'table arrangements' are ridiculed, so that the reader finds the whole thing rather quaint, in a good way.

        The rest of the characters are also interesting ones, especially due to the air of mystery surrounding many of them. What is the tarty pupil Venetia getting up to in her private lessons with manipulative Adele Buchanan? Is Betsy's childhood crush Jamie a changed man, or is he still a player with something to hide? Is Mark, the academy's bursar, a nice man deep down? Is Betsy's adopted father, Lord Tallimore, already over his wife? Which pupil in the class of 1980 could Betsy's mother possibly be? It's unusual to find such a collection of mysterious characters in pink trash, and even more unusual to have a plot line that isn't entirely predictable. The reader really doesn't know whether Betsy is going to end up with: her best friend's flirty brother, Jamie, or with awkward yet increasingly handsome Mark. Until the end, we're still unsure, because both men seem really rather nice, and that's got to be a good point.

        This is how Browne keeps the plot interesting, and you won't feel yourself skimming over the boring bits, because there really aren't many! You want her to succeed, and every scene brings a new challenge, from inventing new lessons to help modern women cope with every situation, to stopping Adele from winding Lord Tallimore around her finger. You feel for her, and you really want her to end up with the right man, find her family, and save the school from ruin.

        An aspect of the book which I must congratulate is the way it is interspersed with Finishing School secrets. It sort of encapsulates the whole novel. Every chapter begins with a tip that Betsy has learnt over her life in the Academy and from her mother, mainly.
        'Find your stopcock and your fusebox and tape the number of your nearest plumber and electrician to them before you have an emergency.'
        'Never ask a man his starsign, salary or his age.'
        'Everyone should have one fabulous karaoke song; practise it so you can belt it out on demand, then retire modestly.'
        'Never trust a man with a ready-made bow tie.'
        And the book itself is stuffed full of Betsy's ladylike lists: the BLT check - buttons, lipstick, teeth; the handshake test - three firm shakes and good eye contact; and the posture check - head up, shoulders back, chest out. You feel well advised by the end, and determined to improve the manners of all around you! I think that's quite funny, but I can see that some people might find it trivial and slightly annoying, so be prepared!

        I think that this book is perfect in terms of romantic escapism, but there are problems with it. The 'filling in the gaps' that the school intends to provide for its pupils is very much something that parents ought to do for their children, and occasionally, you don't really sympathise with the school's aims therefore, since spending extortionate amounts of money per term to learn how to walk in high heels and how to introduce yourself, etc. seems a little excessive. The other problem is that the men of the book are really a sub-plot, and because the author keeps us in suspense about which man Betsy will end up with, the reader is bound to be disappointed at the end, since they'll like both tremendously!

        These are two minor problems, but it is refreshing to find a book which will include those aspects, and I think Hester Browne very brave because of it. In fact, this book is well written, and it flows remarkably well, with an intriguing plot and sympathetic characterisation. We love everybody, and we want them to end happily, and overcome every obstacle in their path. It makes for a stunningly cheerful book, therefore, and very enjoyable to read. You can't really go wrong with it, unless you're one of these people who don't particularly like happy books and would prefer the book to be about how dreadful Betsy's childhood was, and the ensuing identity crisis of her adulthood. You know the books I mean, they're on sale at the front of Smith's. Buy this book instead - it's better; don't be fooled by the happy ending and don't be a literature snob! It will help you get to sleep at night, in the best possible way.

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          11.05.2010 10:57
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          A great book

          Every girl should know what the finishing touches are.That dash of gloss on the cheekbones to lift your complexion. High heels for poise, and a luscious lipstick for the perfect pout. It's the spritz of perfume on the pulse points and the ability to stand on your own two feet? When 21st century girl Betsy is called in to rescue an exclusive finishing school from financial ruin, she knows she must change the school drastically, if it's ever to survive. So it's out with debutante decorum and in with modern manners and man-management. But before she can teach the girls how to walk in high heels, Betsy may just have to remember how to wear them herself. With the added bonus that her gorgeous friend Jamie and the surprisingly hunky bursar Mark both seem to rather approve of her new stilettos...

          I've not read any of Hester Browne's books before so when I was sent this to review by Hodder, I was quite excited because I enjoy finding new authors that I can enjoy the work of. This book looks very cute - it has a sweet pink cover, and looks like a real girly read which is just what you need sometimes! I didn't know all that much about Finishing Schools and the like before I read this, so I went into it with a pretty open mind and I am pleased that I did because it was a very enjoyable read, and I think it's a great little book to lose yourself in for a few hours.

          The book follows Betsy, a woman who was adopted by the owners of a Finishing School when she was a baby. Her parentage has always been a mystery to her, but it hasn't bothered Betsy until recently. I really loved Betsy as a character - she was very likeable, you could sympathise with her situation and I loved the gusto she put into reforming her parents Finishing School. I wondered how relevant a story like this would be today because I think Finishing Schools are nowadays more popular amongst the rich, but Hester Browne makes the whole scenario very easy to get into and read about, and it was fun to see how the school was modernised throughout the book.

          We meet a few of the students of the school throughout the book, and they were a great addition to the book. They were funny, honest and were a nice opposite to Betsy's normality throughout the whole book. While I loved Betsy as a lead character, my favourite of the bunch has to be her scatty best friend Liz. Liz doesn't live in the real world, she has an allowance from daddy that she spends on anything and everything she wants, so when she's cut off, it leads to some rather hilarious consequences. These scenes are touching as they allow for the fab relationship between the two best friends to build slowly, and I'd have loved to have seen more of them in the book.

          I loved the mystery element throughout the book of who Betsy's mother way. I was sure that I had figured it out but I was wrong which was great as it shows Browne is capable to leading her readers down one path only to flummox them at the next turn. I do love a book that isn't overly predictable, and The Finishing Touches definitely falls into that category. It's a fun story about the importance of love and trust in a family, as well as a fun and often hilarious look at life inside a modern day Finishing School that still has its standards set back in the olden days!

          If you have enjoyed Hester's other books, then I think you'll like this one too. It's very easy to read, the writing style is fantastic and I thought the characterisation and dialogue throughout the book was spot on. It's a sweet little book - it's candy pink cover promises 100% chick lit, and it certainly delivers on this. After reading this book, I am looking forward to hunting out more of Hester's work as I expect it will be just as good as this. This is a perfect book to snuggle up with on the sofa or in bed and lose yourself in - great characters, a fun story... a fab book!

          ISBN: 978-0340937808. Published by Hodder in May 2010. Pages: 384 pages. RRP: £6.99.

          Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitreviews.com

          Thank you for reading.

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