Bella has given up on men. Happily divorced, her latest boyfriend just omitted to tell her about his current wife, so she's back on her own again. Then her ex-husband turns up, wanting to sell the family home in which she and their two teenage children are well settled. But all their lives are changed when a television company rents the house for a reality TV fashion makeover programme. Against her better judgment Bella finds herself taking part in the programme, and while she learns a little bit too much about what really goes on behind the scenes, she also discovers that love can appear in the most unexpected places...
Now I have to admit that the previous Judy Astley book that I read, Other People's Husbands, wasn't one I especially enjoyed, feeling that it was aimed at an older audience than me and therefore that hampered my enjoyment of it somewhat. However, I was willing to give her new book a go since I really liked the sound of it and the cover seemed enticing too. I tried to put to the back of my mind her previous book and go into it with an open mind, it's only fair to approach a book without any bias and so I began reading. By the end, I was really enjoying the book and was disappointed that it was finished, so it was most definitely an improvement in my eyes!
The characters were all very realistic and it made the book very easy to get into, not least because they were very likeable too. Bella is the leading lady, a divorced mum of 2 teenage children, Alex and Molly. Bella seems like a cool mum, on the dating scene despite several bad experiences with some awful men, open with her daughter and works as a freelance journalist. I have to say I really enjoyed the way the relationship between Bella and Molly was written, and thought Astley did a good job in making this relationship realistic and nice to read about, which makes a change from warring mothers and daughters! I liked Bella, she was very normal, and seemed like a woman we all know. Bella's mother Shirley is also in the book, a bit of a glamour-gran and it's nice to see older women dating and having fun in 'women's fiction' too! It was lovely to read some positive female relationships, coming through tough times together, and Bella, Molly and Shirley are fantastic in this book for that.
I liked the idea of the 'Fashion Victims' show, it seemed much like those TV make over you see such as Gok Wan and 'Ten Years Younger', complete with the kooky stylists Daisy and Dominic who are a bit odd but make for a bit of humour in the book. Much of the fashion in the book for the women was fairly normal and something you can all imagine wearing, and I liked that Astley didn't feel the need to go over the top with designer labels throughout the television show scenes too which was great. It was enjoyable to read about how Bella's home is transformed for telly, the relationships going on behind the scenes of the show and lots of secrets being revealed too as things progress. You can't see a few of the twists and turns along the way coming, which was nice as it kept the book fresh and kept me guessing, especially regarding Daisy and her past!
I found Astley's writing style was really easy to read, and the use of the third person narrative throughout allowed her to chop and change between Shirley, Bella and Molly's stories, giving the reader lots to be interested in and it really did keep my attention. I actually thought the storyline involving Molly and her boyfriend Giles was very well done and paced nicely throughout the entire book so things didn't happen too quickly. The arrival of Bella's ex-husband also gives you a few laughs... how can anyone find a man THAT clean and anal about cleanliness attractive?! Overall, this was a really enjoyable book and I found it very easy to pick up every time I had a spare 5 minutes, I really wanted to see what was going to happen next on the TV show and in Bella's love life! It's a book that can definitely be enjoyed by all ages, and one I would definitely recommend.
ISBN: 978-0593060971. Published by Bantam Press on 7th July 2011. RRP: £12.99. Pages: 384.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitreviews.com.
Thank you for reading.