“ Author: Kate Harrison / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 13 October 2011 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Orion Publishing Co / Title: The Secret Shopper Affair / ISBN 13: 9781409118602 / ISBN 10: 1409118602 „
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I came across this in the library. I thought the title sounded familiar, and from reading the blurb I realised it was a sequel to another book I had read, The Secret Shopper's Revenge. Since reading this book, I now realise there is also a third book that comes before this one called The Secret Shopper Unwrapped.
I read the Revenge one a couple of years ago now. I couldn't remember much of it honestly, though I remember I enjoyed it at the time. I was interested to carry on the story of the ladies in this book even though I couldn't remember what the original story was. I think this could be read as a stand alone book and still be enjoyed as there are enough references back to the original story to get the gist of the friendship shared by the three main characters and how they became friends in the first place.
Sandie is someone who should be very happy. She is in a loving relationship with her ex boss, and she is expecting his baby. She is shocked when she looks over the books with her partner Toby for his family store Garnett's. The department store is in trouble, and it is far from its former glory. Can Sandie repair the damage and relaunch the store, or is it too late?
Emily's business on the other hand is thriving. Together with her partner Will, she is rejuvenating the village of Heartsease with her little shop and craft empire. She should be over the moon, but something is lacking and it causing her to be very jealous of her friends.
The final friend is Grazia, an older woman who is widowed. She takes up craft to fill a void, but then finds herself in a new relationship and the craft becoming more than she ever imagined.
The story is told from each view point - the chapters alternate between these three women as we cover there progress over a period of about a year. As I said earlier, you don't need to have read the earlier books to get the gist that these women were good friends, and perhaps they are drifting apart a bit now as there lives have diverged. What interested me with it was seeing what happened to each lady over the story, and seeing how life events change their personality and how they interact with each other.
It is a well written novel, and for me, I enjoyed seeing the story of friendship unfolding. The characters were all ladies I liked, and I was rooting for them while I was reading this book.
Kate Harrison has created a very believable and engaging plot, and I really enjoyed this one.
After reading and thoroughly enjoying the previous books within this series, I jumped at the chance to read this newest offering, and gladly wasn't disappointed!
The book in question is "The secret shopper affair" by Kate Harrison.
Sandie is now officially pregnant (instead of knowing and not really wanting to be!), and is being gradually ground down to actually accepting the marriage proposals that keep coming (every five minutes!) from her live in lover Toby.
She knows she should really be starting to take it easy, but when Toby's family store, and Sandie's previous workplace is faced with bankruptcy, she finds that she is the only one that could potentially save it!
Emily is living the dream, with her crafters empire in her home village of Heartsease really starting to take off, and her son becoming a very well grounded child (even though his Dad is an arse!), she should be overjoyed with her lot.
She is however starting to find hat Sandie's dream life is starting to draw out the green eyed monster, what with Sandie having the career, a man who adores her and the one thing that Emily really wants....a baby.
Will her dream life suddenly turn into a nightmare?
Grazia has always been used to doing her own thing, but when she meets a new man, she finds herself drawn into his world and facing the unthinkable.........will she cope with all that this new lover brings?
I loved this book completely, from the first page to the last.
As with the previous books there is the strong friendship between the three central characters, with each of them bringing their own personalities to the book, Grazia with her "cold fish" tendencies, Sandie with her strong female determination and Emily with her love for her family and friends, the book is immediately familiar.
This book however turns these characters on their heads and changes them (hopefully for the best!), by taking these trademarks of their personalities, and making them do the polar opposites of what you have come to expect of them, this not only adds a new depth to them, but also means the book isn't predictable in anyway!
The book is written with real humour and warmth, making you feel a real solidarity with the characters, even when you know they are being spiteful (this pertains mostly to Emily's character, as she does seem to take on the biggest transformation of the three!), with there being a really good supply of support characters, this was a really easy read and incredibly enjoyable to boot.
As with the previous books there is always a definite ending, but not so definite that another follow on book couldn't be achievable, but not leaving it completely up in he air, I have a distinct dislike of those sort of books!
This book comes highly recommended (by me!) and is the ideal chick lit book, full of humour and love!
Price wise this has a RRP of £6.99, but can be purchased for less via www.amazon.co.uk
Thanks for reading x
Emily, Grazia and Sandie all met when they were secret shoppers, and all in the same boat. Now things have changed dramatically for each of the women, and it's pushing their friendships to the limit. Sandie is happily engaged to Toby Garnett, heir to the Garnett store throne and is pregnant with their first child. She's struggling to balance her career, her family and the renovations on her home. Meanwhile, Emily is very jealous of Sandie's pregnancy, as her partner Will has put a ban on them having any more children. Emily loves her son Freddie dearly but would love a new baby, and is beginning to resent their homemade shop in Heartsease for taking all of Will's attention. Finally, Grazia has had to say goodbye to the love of her life, and finds solace in a new skill she hasn't practiced for a long time. Can the ladies mend the rifts that are opening between them, and realise that their friendship is more important than anything else?
The Secret Shopper Affair is the third book in Kate Harrison's The Secret Shopper series, and it's one I have been eagerly awaiting for a while now! I really enjoyed the previous 2 outings with the three ladies who are now very familiar tome, so when a hardback copy of this arrived on my doorstep, I couldn't wait to get stuck in. I do like the new cover design, but I find it odd that Orion have changed the design for the series on the third book... what was wrong with the old design?! Either way, I hoped that wouldn't affect the story inside, which of course it shouldn't, and sat down to read.
The book picks up a little while after the second book, The Secret Shopper Unwrapped, with Emily and Will living in their homemade shop in Heartsease with her son Freddie, but things aren't all rosy. Emily is beginning to resent her friends for their lifestyle while it's all falling apart for her. She's sure her relationship to Will is on the rocks, and when she's given the opportunity to win a grant for Heartsease, she suddenly thinks it might be the motivation she needs. Sandie is pregnant and not necessarily enjoying her pregnancy, she's worrying about her career, that she won't be a good mother and that her fiancé's shop Garnett's is going under. Finally, Grazia is mourning after losing her love, but soon finds herself in a position she never thought she would be.. complete with a ready made family.
I found it very easy to get into, especially after being a fan of the first two novels, and quickly got absorbed into the story. Harrison's writing style is very easy to read, and I always find it a pleasure to pick up one of her books. She chooses to tell the story in the first person tense, and each of the chapters alternate between the narrators of Grazia, Sandie and Emily, and it's indicated at the start of each chapter who is narrating. It is easy to tell the difference though and I never struggle with the change, simply because Harrison writes them all very differently. I was surprised at my reaction to Emily in this book though, having loved her in the previous 2 novels, I found her to be quite dislikeable in this one, I just couldn't warm to her at all and found her very down and whiny all the time, which sounds awful when you think about her circumstances and desperation for another child, but sorry, I just couldn't bring myself to like her much!
As with the previous books, there is a separate plot lines for each of the characters, but they meet up regularly throughout the book to keep the three of them intertwined with each other's lives, although this happens perhaps less in this book than the previous one. I really enjoyed Sandie's journey in this book, I really warmed to her and wanted to read more about her and less about Emily if I am honest! Her story certainly seemed to link more to the previous books for me, perhaps because it brought her previous place of work back but I just found it very enjoyable. Grazia's story is at the opposite end of the scale to Sandie's, but again I found it very interesting to read, and I felt Harrison broached the subject of step-parenting and the difficulties that come with all of that very well, it seemed sympathetic yet not too emotional - she seems to have struck the right balance. I also liked Grazia's jet-setting, it was nice for the book to leave London and Heartsease briefly and added a dash of glamour into the proceedings too!
If you're a fan of the previous books, then you are most definitely going to want to read this. I found it very enjoyable overall, very easy to read and pick-up but Emily's story for me let it down a bit. I know that there was a point to it but I found her too negative for my liking and there wasn't enough positives from her to pick it back up again. There was a bit of a lack of Secret Shopping but after the developments of the story over the 3 books, that was expected, and a few occasions did pop up so I can't moan too much! Harrison has easily slipped back into these characters, writing them with ease and when I was reading, it didn't feel like it had a been a year since I'd last read a Secret Shoppers book. You can of course read this as a stand-alone novel, enough of the background is explained for you to get the jist of the previous books but obviously it does work best read as the third in the series. I really enjoyed the book, and do hope that Harrison will be bringing back the Secret Shopping ladies once more!
ISBN: 978-1409107330. Published by Orion on 17th March 2011. Pages: 336. RRP: £9.99
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitreviews.com
Thank you for reading.