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The Secret Shopper's Revenge - Kate Harrison

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Kate Harrison / Paperback / 400 Pages / Book is published 2008-11-27 by Orion

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    14 Reviews
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      15.01.2014 20:28
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      Fun read

      I got this from The Works ages ago as part of their 3 for £5 deal. It looked like my kind of book and after reading the blurb I thought it sounded like it was worth a read so I grabbed a copy. I tend to end up with loads and loads on my 'to read' pile so I've only just got round to reading this.

      ==Plot==
      Emily is in a bit of a pickle. She is living in London with her baby son Freddie and she is also living a lie. Her husband, Duncan left her months ago but she is yet to tell her parents. Instead she is struggling with motherhood on her own and she is just about at the end of her tether. She decides to have a look round a department store one day and is just enviously looking at some silk pajamas when her attention is caught by a member of staff who is quite frankly rude, abrupt and disrespectful to Emily. Poor Emily is humiliated. She is upset and embarrassed that someone who she doesn't even know is looking down their nose at her.

      Meanwhile, Sandy is a retail assistant at said department store. She loves her job but doesn't like a new member of staff who has recently began work at the store. Sandy just wants to work and deal with the jobs in hand but Marsha seems keen to hold her back.

      An opportunity means the girls are brought together under classy, Italian beauty Grazia. The three work together on a secret shopping team and make it their business to separate the good from the bad...

      ==Opinion==
      This book turned out to be exactly what I was hoping for. I expected a good quality, laid back chick lit and that is what I got. Initially I did think the book would all be told from Emily's point of view but each chapter was from one of the three main characters perspectives. This ensured that each chapter remained fresh and new and I liked the way that we learned more and more about each one of the girls and their lives throughout the whole book, not just at the beginning.

      The book is written in a laid back, informal style and it quite often felt like we were inside the girls heads. I felt like I knew Emily the most throughout the book and I do think her opinion is shown more than the other two girls. I immediately felt very protective over Emily. She is very naive and although she is now a mother herself she is still very young at heart and I did see her as a lost little girl afraid of what her parents may think.

      The plot flows well and there was a main storyline which took prominence in the second half of the book. I found that towards the very end of the book it did begin to drag just a little bit and as it was quite predictable in places I did begin to feel a bit bored. However, the actual ending of the book did have a few small surprises and they did mean that the ending tied everything up nicely.

      ==Additional Information==
      The book is written by Kate Harrison.
      The book was published by Orion in 2009.
      It is 400 pages long.
      The author has written other books in the series.
      The paperback is currently £6.69 on Amazon.

      ==Summary==
      I enjoyed this book and it was a nice, laid back read. There is lots of humor throughout and I would read another in the series.

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        14.12.2011 13:59
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        I read the back of this book when looking at the book aisle in Asda. I tend to buy most of my books from Asda as the price is alright, or I tend to buy them online. Considering that I can get a paperback for under £4 from most places then I am not keen to spend nearer £7 from main book stores. Anyway onto this story.

        This book is the first book out in the Secret Shopper series. As soon as I read about this story then I thought it would be exactly the kind of book that I go for. I have since read the other Secret Shopper books, but this one is my favourite.

        This book centres around 3 women. They work as Secret Shoppers - As the title may give this fact away. The women are called Sandie, Emily and Grazia. They are assigned their jobs by a man called Charlie (Charlie's angels perhaps??, they actually call themselves Charlie's Shopping Angels so perhaps something the author has considered) and their job is to go in and assess Shops for how their staff are, stock, layout etc. I don't know anyone who has worked as a Secret Shopper but I would image that they are doing the job of a normal Secret Shopper. The women seem to like their jobs but before this they didn't have jobs and were a bit down on their luck and life wasn't all that great for them. Now reading the book you get the impression that the woman feel a slight sense of power. After all a bad report from themselves would end up looking bad for the shop in question.

        I like the description of the women in the book. Emily is a single mother who had moved to London with her husband but he promptly left her for his girlfriend. Emily is still finding her feet in London and doesn't seem to have any friends. sandie had a great job working in a fancy department store, but she was sacked due to a misunderstanding so she is grateful for her new job. Grazia is the woman who found the other 2 women to work with her. She is Italian and seems to be glamorous and you wonder what she is doing working as a Secret Shopper, but we find out a bit more about her through the book.

        I really enjoyed this book and I kept wanting to read a bit more to find out where the story was going. It kept me interested and although not the most challenging of books, It is a story that I could relate to a bit more as I guess you could find this kind of work in everyday life. I felt that the author portrayed the women well too, and I found them to be likable.

        The first and best in the Secret Shopper series and a great chick lit book. Recommended if you like the Shopaholic books by Sophie Kinsella as the style is quite similar.

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          27.07.2010 21:20
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          A fantastic novel of shopping, revenge and moving on.

          - - Plot - -

          Who hasn't been into a shop once or twice where instead of being their charming helpful selves, the shop assistants look at you as if to ask 'and exactly what are you doing here?'

          Well it seems other people have to and that is what Charlie's shopping angels are here to sort out. Bitchy shop assistants, bad customer service and poorly set out store displays are all on their hit list.

          But just who are these shopping angels?

          Emily is mother to young son Freddie, who she is now bringing up alone after her wayward husband Duncan left her for Heidi, a colleague he met whilst working in Switzerland.

          Sandie is the shop floor manager of a fabulous department store, that is until she somehow angers her evil deputy who sets out to make it her mission to single handedly ruin not only Sandie's career but possibly her entire life.

          Finally the icing on the Charlie's shopping angels cake comes in the form of Glamorous Grazia, the widow of a famous artist. No matter what happens in her private life, she is determined not to let the dream die, she will not give up the high life she led with her late husband, the stunning clothes, the nice cars and more importantly the beautiful home they shared together.

          But putting aside the fact that they are Charlie's Shopping Angels, what else could three such different women possibly have in common?

          - - Opinion - -

          As a slightly recovered shopaholic I have to admit I saw this book and had to have it. I have always thought it would be a great laugh to be a secret shopper, especially at moments when I have had awful service somewhere. Haven't we all?

          From the first few chapters I found myself being pulled into the lives of the three main characters, especially Sandie who's story I found very entertaining, especially as I could vividly imagine arch nemesis Marsha in my mind.

          I loved the way that Freddie was a real part of the story, and although only a child seemed to have a big part of all the characters lives, and as I went through the book I really felt him develop something of a personality.

          I also found that other characters that appear throughout the book although they have smaller parts to play, really do make the book what it is. Adding their own little pieces to the story of the three women's lives.

          Kate Harrison really thought about the details in this book, and when I was reading it I could see a lot of the people and places in my minds eye, as her descriptions are very well written. Just descriptive enough to give you the idea, but without cluttering up too much of the storyline with description which does seem to be a problem with other authors I have read.

          If you enjoy feel good chick lit fiction then The secret shoppers revenge is definitely one for you to check out. It made me laugh and smile, but this time no tears.

          PAGES - 389
          PRICE - £6.99 - amazon are selling this title for £5.49
          WEBSITE - www.kate-harrison.com

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          12.05.2010 11:23
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          Great book for a bargain

          After seeing this book for £1 in Asda I just couldn't walk past it.
          I hadn't heard of Kate Harrison and didn't hold much hope of actually enjoying this bargain book. But I was certainly proven wrong.

          The book is about 3 characters, Emily, Grazia and Sandy and each of the characters are written in the first person which I found really hard to understand at first but soon got into it. It helps with understanding each of the characters and what they are feeling in each situation.

          I really liked this book and the fast paced way it was written. In places it was really funny and easy to relate to especially Emily. I would recommended it and will be looking out for additional books by this author.

          Although i bought it for £1 i am unsure that i would've purchased it at full price.

          **************************************************************
          Review 'A bittersweet comedy and one to be read by anyone who loves shopping and love!' New mum Emily wants revenge on the stick-thin assistants who laugh at her post-baby tummy and post-baby budget. But frumpiness has its advantages when you're wielding a secret camera - and sending the damning footage straight to head office. Store manager Sandie has a lifelong love of the world of retail - the glitz, the glamour, the stockroom. Then she's fitted up by an ambitious assistant and secret shopping is the only way to keep her one passion alive. Glamorous widow Grazia can't leave behind the high life, despite her chronically low bank balance. The more she's buying - and spying - the less time she has to mourn her husband or her fair-weather friends who've dumped her. They're Charlie's Shopping Angels, controlled by a mysterious figure that sends them assignments. But when they're sent to stitch up a doomed shop owned by Will, the angels begin to feel divided loyalties.

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            03.04.2010 14:34
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            A great chick lit read or holiday read

            I always love a bargain and when you see a book as enticing as this for £1 in Asda it just had to go into the basket!

            This is the first Kate Harrison book that I have read but I have to say I really enjoyed this read it was light entertainment that provided a few giggles along the way.

            The book is about 3 characters, Emily, Grazia and Sandy and each of the characters are written in the first person which I really enjoy when reading a book featuring different characters.

            Emily is a young mother of a baby boy who was abandoned by her husband when their baby was just a few months old leaving her in a grotty old flat that was in serious need of renovation and to cope on a minimal income with no friends and family in London.
            Emily is a lonely lady with only her son for company who feels frumpy as she has struggled to lose the baby weight and the most she has to look forward to is a hot bath and even that is a challenge for her until one day she is followed by a lady that promises she can offer her the chance of a lifetime.

            Sandie is a manager of a high end department store and has worked there for many years but soon becomes the victim of cruelty when her assistance sets her up for theft and Sandie is immediately sacked and left with no future, she is so embarrased she simply cannot admit that she no longer works at Garnetts that she continues to get ready for work each morning putting on her old uniform whilst desperately searching for a new job to cover the bills. Sandie then stumbles across a job opportunity that she really would like to get her revenge back on the very job she used to love so much.

            Grazia is a recent widow whose husband left her severly in debt but Grazia doesn't want to leave behind her fantastic lifestyle and continues with lifes luxuries in her current role of head shopper for Charlie's Angels and with 2 new recruits she hopes she has chosen well and that they will be valuable employees to her boss.

            The book shows the stories of each of the ladies and helps us to understand their characters more, Emily is easy to relate to even for me who does not have a child as the shop assistants look down their nose at her as if she is second class and they are all so much more superior and I love how Emily seems to give it all back to the assistants. Emily has really had enough of being pushed about and in her new role as mystery shopper she really enjoys getting her own back on those snooty assistants and rating their service as she sees fit.

            Sandie is a little harder to relate to we never really get a history of Sandie and unlike Emily her character is harder to read. Sandie comes across as a sensitive character at the beginning of the story but towards the end she is a bit of a lifeless, dull character who could do with a bit more background to help the readers relate to her more.

            I really enjoyed this book and thought the fact that the shopping agency was called Charlie's Angels was quite comical! This would be an ideal holiday read or one for just chilling out with, easy to read and I took it everywhere with me until I had read it cover to cover.

            Not sure if I would have bought this book had it not been on such a good offer but now I have I think I will look out for other books by this author and get them read too!!

            I will be offering this up on readitswapit.com if anyone fancies reading it soon under the same username.

            If you don't know about readitswapit take a look at my previous review.

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              06.02.2010 17:06
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              I bought this book purely because it was reduced to a pound in Asda and needed something new to read, I'd never heard of the author before but thought that I might as well get it! The front cover and the title did appeal to my girly chick lit taste in books, as I love shopping so a book about it seemed like a good idea, just like confessions of a shopaholic and the colours on the front are bright pink and pale blue, it says "when the going get tough, the tough go shopping."

              Its based around the concept of mystery shopping and has allusions to Charlie's Angels; Three women with basically nothing in common are drawn together when they all need money and spy in the poshest shops to get all the dirt on them. They report back to a mysterious figure called Charlie who gives them their assignments, and there are three of them... see the allusion now?

              The book is written from the perspective of three different women and the chapters view points will keep changing but thats a good thing for this book as it keeps it quite fast paced as all the characters have their own issues that are explored in each chapter, but at the same time they will of course interact with each other quite a lot. They are all quite strong characters but with different personalities and from different backgrounds, there is single mother Emily who is finding it hard to cope when her fiancé has just left her by herself in London, Sandie who loved her job until her rival colleague got her fired and Grazia who's husband recently died and left her with nothing.

              I really enjoyed the book and liked the way that it was written as it was very easy to keep up with it and you didn't really have to think about it, ideal book for a holiday.

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                17.12.2009 21:49
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                An excellent example of feel-good chick lit

                There's nothing better than curling up under a duvet on a cold Winter's evening and relaxing with a good novel. Chick lit is the ideal for me; something that's easy to read but has engaging characters and a storyline that really keeps your interest right up until the end. Having read a few novels that have disappointed somewhat recently, I was delighted to pick up 'The Secret Shopper's Revenge' from the library and spend a few nights lost in the world of three women who become mystery shopppers for a living.

                Rather than having one principal female character and a supporting cast of minor characters, this book features three strong female characters who each have an equal role to play in the story as well as their individual storylines and personalities.

                Each chapter is written in the first person, in the voice of one of the three women each time. At first, I found this a little distracting as I did have to go back to the top of a chapter a couple of times to check who was 'talking.' As I got engrossed in the story, I really didn't need to even read the header of each chapter which shows who is speaking, as each character's personality and story was so distinctive and engaging. I think the story would have been equally as successful had it been written in the third person though, as it is pretty clear how each character is feeling based on their interactions with each other and other minor character's.

                Emily - Emily was the character that I most closely identified with and she was probably the reason why I enjoyed the book right from the start. Emily is new to London, having moved there because of her husband's promotion - only to have him walk out on her for another woman, just a few weeks after she has given birth to their son, Freddy. The story starts after the couple have already split up and Emily, whose confidence and self-esteem is at a all-time low, is struggling to adapt to life as a single mum with a young baby. I was actually in tears by the end of Emily's first chapter as I could genuinely feel her embarrassment and humilation.

                Sandie - Sandie is a high-powered store manager at the start of the novel, until she is wrongfully dismissed after being set up by a jealous colleague. Sandie was the least favourite of the characters although she does seem like a genuine person and I could easily imagine knowing her in real life and not warming to her initially. I think this shows how well her character has been portrayed by the author, as Sandie comes across as quite stand-offish throughout the book but she does admit that she finds it hard to make friends and open up to other people.

                Grazia - Grazia is the widow of a renowned and successful artist who has died leaving her with lots of debts and overheads. Grazia is a complex character who appears quite superior and isolated at the beginning of the story but, as the relationship between the three women develops into a genuine friendship, Grazia also starts to mellow and I felt genuine interest and compassion towards this woman and her uncertain future.

                Grazia, in an attempt to raise some well-needed cash, has begun to work as a mystery shopper and recruits Emily and Sandie to work alongside her, as they meet the profile needed to go and check up on shops, restaurants and suchlike to check the quality of the customer service etc. The women work for a mysterious 'Charlie' (who doesn't feature directly in the book, other than as a shadowy figure who arranges the appointments for the mystery shoppers.) I must admit, I had my own theory about Charlie's identity from the start and thought that this would be a major twist at the end of the novel, when his identity would be revealed. As it happens, nothing more is ever revealed about Charlie, leaving this as a novel that is completely about the female characters and their attempts to overcome adversity.

                So, we have three completely different women with, seemingly, nothing to connect them together. That is the beauty of the novel and why it works just so well. The book takes three completely different women who are all isolated, lonely and down on their luck, for very different reasons. Gradually, as the story and the plot develops the three of them start to develop a genuine friendship and it is because the friendship develops so slowly and naturally that I almost felt a part of their relationship and was totally drawn into their stories.

                The mystery shopping aspect of the story is an interesting and unusual topic for chick lit. Having taken part in a few mystery shopping assignments myself, in the past, I can't say that it is a completely accurate portrayal of mystery shopping. I certainly couldn't see it as paying enough to be anybody's sole source of income although the novel is set in London so there is more scope for work than in my sleepy market town, I suppose! The mystery shopping side is exaggerated though and there is much more subterfuge involved than I've ever encountered. The women, for instance, use hidden cameras to obtain footage of the stores and the treatment they receive as customers. Very exciting and there are a few incidents where I got really wound up by the attitudes of some of the shop assistants!

                Ultimately though, the mystery shopping assignments just set the context of the story with the real focus being on how the women deal with their personal difficulties and, using each other for support, start to move on and make a fresh start.

                This really is a girly, feel good sort of book that moved me to tears of both sadness, compassion and happiness. I haven't read any other novels written by Kate Harrison but will certainly look out for some now - especially the sequel to this book which has recently been published.

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                  21.04.2009 14:07
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                  Good bit fo Chick Lit

                  This book jumped out at me whilst at the supermarket, its definitely designed to appeal to chick lit lovers as it is embellished with glitter! As someone who is partial to a bit of glitter and chick lit I decided to give this one a go.

                  It is about 3 women who all work for Charlie's Shopping Angels. They all come from completely different backgrounds and this book examines the friendships they forge while completing their various shopping missions. They tell their stories in the first person, which can be slightly frustrating at times as you as the reader begins to understand things about their various stories, and then have to wait as the other characters catch up.

                  Grazia is the supervisor - She is a widow who has been left in debt following the death of her artist husband, Leon. Grazia is probably the most complex of the characters as she looks back on her relationship with Leon, and starts to lose the rose tinted view she had of their marriage, and starts to find her own identity. I found her character quite hard going to begin with, but warmed to her towards the end.

                  Sandie is a department store manager, who is fired after her over ambitious deputy frames her for stealing. As someone who has recently been made redundant from retail I thought I would relate to Sandie but I didn't. She comes across as a wishy washy character with no real backbone, which doesn't seem to ring true for someone who was the manager of a huge department store. She seemed to need a little more depth of character....

                  Emily is the star of the book. She fulfilled her dream of moving to London, and then her husband dumps her with a young baby and a practically derelict house, and swans off to Switzerland with his bit on the side!! She is a Slummy Mummy who finds she has a flair for mystery shopping. She has found since she has had the baby she is practically ignored by the world, and treated shoddily by shop staff, that motherhood has made her a bit of a second class citizen. The mystery shopping job allows her to gain confidence, and we follow her as she comes to terms with her new identity as a mum.

                  Emily is a character I could really relate to - being a mum to a young baby myself I found myself smiling in recognition as Emily gets ignored in shops, and struggles with her baby weight, although luckily my hubbie is not planning to leave me for a sexy co-worker (that I know of!!!) Yes she comes across as a bit of a scatty airhead at times, but she has a heart of gold and you really find yourself rooting for everything to come good in the end , which being chick lit you know it will in the end.

                  Okay, so the story is a bit fluffy, and nowhere near true to life. I have done a few mystery shopping jobs in my time, as well as being on the receiving end of a few but they were nothing like this. However, it is a good easy to read plot, which leaves you satisfied at the end!!

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                    17.04.2009 13:11
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                    Chick lit

                    I have quite a range of reading tastes and that includes chick lit books as well as the classics or crime thrillers, because I travel by train a lot I find I have plenty of time to read plus there is a lot of hanging around at work smetimes.

                    This book by Kate Harrison is firmly in the chick lit camp, in fact one look at the cover tells you this instantly without having to read the back cover blurb. The book itself tells the story of three women and is told in chapter form from their individual perspective, collectively they are known as Charlies Shopping Angels as they all work as mystery shoppers. Emily lives in London and is a single mum after her husband left her for another woman, Grazia is an Italian woman who is also single after her husband died leaving her in debt. She rather lives in the past after losing her husband. Finally there is Sandie, recently sacked from her department store job, she is mildly OCD nad the least interesting of the three characters.

                    This book certainly has its funny moments, many of these are provided by Emily who is rather unorganised something that does not fit well with mystery shopping. It certainly held by attention as I wanted to know what happened to the three woman but this was more mild curiosity rather than a pressing desire to consume the book.

                    At times the storyline does rather plod along a bit and this book certainly has little original to offer, overall it is a pretty average book, something good to read on the beach when you do not want to have to use any grey cells.

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                    12.04.2009 23:12
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                    If you like chick-lit, you probably won't be dissapointed with this.

                    I'm not going to begin my review of this book by making excuses for choosing it. I like Chick-Lit, for me it definitely has it's place. I don't always want to learn something from reading, or want emotional depth, thrilling and breath stopping twists and turns or be intellectually stimulated. Some times I just want to be entertained with minimum effort on my part. Of course, as with all genre's theres the good and the bad. I thought The Secret Shoppers Revenge by Kate Harrison falls into the 'good' catergory.

                    I was initially attracted to the book by the 'secret shopping' aspect. Having worked in retail customer service in a semi- managerial role and experienced the terror of mystery shop results, hoping I hadn't been 'shopped' and failed. I was interested to read the secret shoppers take on things. I also really liked the cover, which is baby blue with pink glitter ribbons, it appealed to my girly side.

                    The story is told in the first person, by 3 very different women. Each chapter is titled with the womans name so you know who you are reading from and don't get confused. The story tells what brings them together as 'Charlies Shopping Angels' and covers a year of their lives. However, don't be fooled into thinking this is a story just about shopping and bad service. It's a story about friendship, self discovery and a little bit of girl power.

                    The 3 women are Emily, Sandie and Grazia.

                    Emily is a single mum, after being uprooted to London while pregnant by her husbands job, then dumped for Hiedi in Sweden. She knows noone, is a bit over-weight, ditzy and unorganised. I really liked Emily, as I identified with her most, being not the most organized mum ever aswell, and a bit low in self confidence. She provides the comedy in this book, and her experiences are wrote really well. A slightly irritating trait the author gave her is that she's at times childlike, and comes across as stupid mostly in the middle area of the book. I'm dizzy and unorganized, but I'm not going to start jumping up and down clapping my hands in glee over a cream cake, I'm not sure why the Author felt she had to stupify her like this, but it does pass in the second half of the book. I also found the story line involving her estranged husband a bit unbelievable, I can't imagine any woman feeling threatened into submission over his silly demands. I do think if we are to feel sympathy for Emily here, he needed to be more menacing.

                    Sandie has worked and lived for a huge department store all her working life, until she is set up by her deputy and finds herself jobless. Now this woman really did confuse me. Why would anyone not seek legal advice, especially someone we are expected to believe is very intelligent, I don't know. But she doesn't, she accepts her unfair fate, and becomes a Shopping Angel. There's not really that much to like or dislike about Sandie. She's a bit wet and boring and has a touch of OCD.

                    Grazia is an Itallian widow and haunted by her famous artist husband, and the debts he left her. The leader of the shopping angels trio, at first she comes across very cold, but then her fiesty, passionate nature is revealed. She's the strength in the group, although a bit of a culture snob. It was a bit difficult to feel any sympathy for her loss, as she seemed, in the first half of the book, to think her loss was greater as her husband was a 'great young artist' and she his muse. She often has conversations with him, and answers how he would have. This didn't inspire images of passionate artistic love between two soul mates, it just made me think he must have been a spoilt brat with an over inflated ego, which she fed.

                    Of course being chick-lit, theres a happy ending for all, although i won't tell you how for each one, incase you'd like to read the book. It's predictable, theres no twists or turns here.

                    Overall, this isn't a bad read. It's original and funny enough, some of the characters are interesting, although there where parts I found very annoying. It's interesting enough to keep you turning the pages, and delivers pretty much everything you want from a chick-lit book. I'd reccomend this for poolside reading on holiday, or when you just want an easy fun read. I'd rate this in the better half of chick-lit titles, although not quite up there with Marian keyes and Sophie Kinsella.

                    Published by Orion books in 2008

                    389 pages.

                    ISBN 978-0-7528-9388-4

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                      03.04.2009 15:04
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                      A good beach read but only if you're a chick lit fan

                      I picked up the 'The Secret Shopper's Revenge' by Kate Harrison at the library last week, whilst browsing for something fluffy and unchallenging to help pass the time I spend on the Piccadilly Line commuting to and from work. As a self-confessed shopaholic, the word 'Shopping' in the title jumped out at me straight away and, on reading the synopsis, I thought it sounded just the kind of book I was looking for.

                      Overview
                      'The Secret Shopper's Revenge' is the story of three women called Emily, Sandie and Grazia who work as secret shoppers. They are given their assignments by the mysterious Charlie, who is just a voice coming from the computer screen, and call themselves 'Charlie's Shopping Angels' in a play on the film and 70s TV series. Their work involves spying on stores and shop staff with cameras concealed in their special handbags, and reporting back on these investigative missions to determine the fate of these stores and employees. At the beginning of the story, Emily and Sandie are at rock bottom in their lives with no employment and little hope... They are recruited to the secret shopper jobs by the glamorous Italian widow Grazia who, although seemingly far better off and in control, has her own problems. They then begin their work with a variety of assignments. As the story develops, you find out a lot more about the motivation behind each character and they gain strength from the bonds they form while doing their job. As is fairly typical of this particular genre, the novel is predominantly about female friendships, triumph over adversity and a little bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

                      Characters
                      There are three main female characters in the book.
                      Emily is a single mother from rural Somerset. She moved to London with her husband in search of a 'perfect' life as a West London yummy Mummy, but the reality is that she has been left with her baby son Freddie while her husband is living in Switzerland with his new girlfriend. At the start of the novel she has no friends, no London support network and no money - and everything she does seems to go wrong. I felt very warm towards her as a character, she made me remember how hard it is when you've got a newborn baby and no self-confidence, and I enjoyed the parts of the story which focused on her most.
                      Sandie is a high-flying retail manager working in a big London department store at the start of her book, but is sacked from her job in unfortunate circumstances, meaning that she can't get a reference or another 'real' job. She is a very different type of character to Emily, much more reserved and less easy to read. I did find myself warming to her as her character developed, but initially I thought she seemed a bit cold.
                      Grazia is an Italian widow who was married to a famous artist. She is much more glamorous than the others and seemed much harder for me to relate to. Initially she seems to have so much - a beautiful cottage in the country, a succession of cool cars and a completely different lifestyle. However, as you read more of the book, you get more of an insight into her personal circumstances and I did feel more sympathetic towards her by the end, especially as she underwent a bit of a personality transformation.

                      My Thoughts
                      Overall, I enjoyed this book but it wasn't much of a challenge to read. It did what I was looking for in that it passed the time on my commute, but I felt that it was very predictable in parts and, if you read as much chick-lit as I do, you would probably be able predict what would happen next. I was interested in the whole Secret Shopper concept as I hadn't read much about this before, and I think I enjoyed those parts most of all. I did feel that I gained some insight into how the whole thing works and some parts were very funny. The characters were mostly likeable, especially Emily, but I didn't find myself caring that much about what happened to them, possibly because I knew that these types of novel are usually tidied up conveniently at the end and you always get some kind of a happy ending. I was a bit disappointed in some aspects, as I thought the subject matter offered an opportunity to do something a bit different, but in the end it was just the same as so many other books - maybe the lure of the chick-lit is beginning to fade for me.

                      If you like chick-lit then I'd probably recommend it - it's an easy, light, enjoyable read which doesn't require much concentration, good for long journeys or lying on a sun-lounger.

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                        09.03.2009 18:41
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                        Anyone for secret shopping?

                        This is another of the books that I got for my birthday this year. I finished it a while ago but have only just got around to writing a review on it.

                        The Plot
                        The story follows three women: Emily, Sandy and Grazia. Emily is a self-described country bumpkin now living in London as a single mother after splitting from her husband, who has a new girlfriend. Sandy has her dream job in a department store until her scheming colleague sets her up so that she can steal her job. Grazia is a grieving widow who is still mourning the death of her artist husband.

                        Desperate for some extra cash to make ends meet, Emily and Sandy sign up for mystery shopping employment, which is where they first encounter Grazia.

                        The Characters
                        All three women are likeable enough characters who I enjoyed following as the story progressed. I felt quite sorry for all of them at various points as they struggled with their lives. In their own ways, they are all fairly strong characters as they are picking up the pieces of their respective lives after suffering personal or employment setbacks.

                        Grazia has a tendency to retreat into her own thoughts and have conversations in her mind with the deceased Leon (her husband). While this does give a good insight into their relationship and her life in general, it did annoy me at times.

                        My Overall Verdict
                        I really enjoyed reading this book. I was intrigued to see how the story would unfold and what would ultimately happen to the three women. I liked the ending, even if it was a little predictable. I would definitely recommend this book to others.

                        As the women are mystery shoppers, it was a good insight into what is expected of mystery shoppers in general. I'm not sure that I could go to the lengths that Emily and Sandy do on their assignments, especially given that the pay per assignment wasn't great but they are in quite dire need of the money.

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                        28.02.2009 12:57
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                        a good chick lit book.

                        My latest book offering has been one I have had my eye on for a month or so now. It was only released in paperback late last year and I was lucky enough to acquire it through read it swap it a couple of weeks ago.

                        The Secret Shopper's Revenge tells the story of three women who work as mystery shoppers. They each have very different lifestyles and reasons for doing the mystery shopping.
                        I was interested in the storyline when I first read the blurb on a website as it is a topic I have never read in fiction as yet, so I was looking forward to seeing how Kate Harrison would tell the story of three women getting paid to shop.

                        Emily is a single parent with a baby. She has always wanted to live in London, and when she finally gets the chance to live her dream, she realises it's not what she has expected. Being left with a baby recently after giving birth, her ex husband has done nothing to restore Emily's confidence in herself or her life after a big change in her life. Due to this Emily's confidence is at rock bottom, and she struggles to gain control against the patronising, super slim shop assistants in the London stores she longs to shop in.

                        Grazia is a new widow from a famous artist. Grazia's husband didn't leave Grazia any financial support for after his untimely death and therefore Grazia is struggling to maintain an image and a bank balance.

                        Sandra is a department manager in a large London store. Recently sacked for being set up for theft, she finds herself alone and struggling to find another job without a reference in the retail industry that she loves so much.


                        The three women tell their story in a first person point of view. I thought this would be difficult to keep up with but Harrison has cleverly sectioned them all off into separate chapters with their names at the heading so you know who you are reading. She also manages to keep the story flowing through the different characters, but as they spend the majority of their time together during the book it's not as difficult to achieve as it sounds.

                        Grazia was the first to start mystery shopping and has since recruited Sandra and Emily through different means. This happens at the start of the book, and the following pages will tell a story of how each woman conquers her own fears and struggles, to become a better person and achieve things they want to achieve.

                        The book mainly follows the story of what mystery shopping involves and what the girls go through to get the results they are after. It also delves off the beaten track slightly when the girls try to save a shop from being closed, as well as seeking revenge on all their personal problems.

                        I found the book quite hard work to stay with for some reason. I thought the characters flowed nicely and the story panned out well, but I think perhaps there was too much information for some areas of the book, and this made it longer than perhaps it needed to be. The book spanned 400 pages and I think fifty pages could probably have been cut from this.
                        Towards the end I was willing myself just to get the book finished which was a shame as it started off so well and the concept of the storyline is a good one.
                        However I did think that Harrison described the characters brilliantly, and I really felt I could live their lives as they were being told, especially Emily the single mother. I think she was told amazingly.

                        I think if you like chick lit then borrow this from the library, I'm not sure if it's worth buying brand new, but it is a book that you can pick up and put down again, so could be read over a period of time.

                        Price: £5.99
                        ISBN: 978-0752893884
                        Published: 2008

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                          03.02.2009 11:03
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                          A funny,clever ,witty story

                          This is a faboulous book so Funny I loved the characters and the whole idea as I am sure all of us have been greeted by the very snotty assistants or been overcharged or just has really poor service.

                          The book revolves around three very differant women Emily the single Mum from Somerset who is a doormat trying to shift those baby pounds. Grazia the Glamorous Widow and Sandie a Highly intelligant store manager who gets stiched up. All very differant character with the only thing in common being secret shoppers.

                          The book follows these women in their assignments but also shows the charmradie of them and how they help each other with very funny results.

                          Its a light easy read very funny witty I found myself identifing with one of the characters and was laughing out loud. I would recomend this book to all Women and in fact my copy is already on its third loan- you have to read it its fab especially funny the Cherry Brandy episode.

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