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Low paid but with big dreams, talented fashionista Grace is in the process of being dumped by a boy whom she was too good for anyway. If that's not bad enough, he's doing it on her birthday, and if even that's not bad enough, he's doing it in Liberty's. Right by the new season Marc Jacobs bags. It's just wrong. And yet, as one door closes, another opens right next to it. And this one is bigger, older and a lot more expensive. The mysterious Vaughn rescues Grace as the tears begin to fall, whisking her off to dry her eyes over four types of chocolate cake. There are worse things I can think of, that's for sure.
And yet, things are never so simple. While Grace may see it as the slightly odd kindness of a slightly odd stranger, Vaughn, it would seem, has an ulterior motive, that he will only reveal when the time is right. What develops is a rather unorthodox relationship, with more than a hint of the Pretty Woman lifestyle to it. Grace is hired to be Vaughn's companion, a young bit of eye-candy to reel in the elusive young artists he's keen to get his art dealing mitts on. She will, for a rather generous monthly retainer and clothing allowance, arrange dinners, attend galas, and generally be her charming self. Handily, for the story at least, it's a part-time gig, so she can also keep her day job as a fashion assistant at a hip London fashion magazine. This is important, because part of the worry about this 'relationship' is the big deal other people think it is, and no-one passes judgement better on a daily basis than the fashion vultures. While they might not know the ins and outs of the arrangement, Grace's makeover and new designer wardrobe are hard to miss, and the cattiness soon ensues.
There are so many veins to this story it's hard to sum it up neatly. It is not a book about prostitution, nor is it in any ways gory or graphic, though at the same time you could not call if your standard boy meets girl love story. More boy meets girl, boy buys girl, perhaps. A lot of what I liked about the book is the lifestyle it showed and as someone always envious of those hot young things living it up in London, it did nothing to quell my desire to live in the capital. It also, rather surprisingly perhaps, painted a very enticing picture of the older sugar daddy, to the extent that at various points I began to wonder whether I too could wangle a nice little part-time earner like this.
It is a gripping read that had me hooked throughout despite its relatively long length, because the various aspects of Grace's life, from her complex family background to her equally turbulent relationships with her friends, new and old, keep every page interesting. Grace is an exceptionally likeable character, without being a goody-two-shoes, though some of her friends and acquaintances needed a good slap at times. I didn't want to put it down, but when real life got in the way (like what now seems an oh, so boring job, compared to either of Grace's) I was able to jump straight back into the story a little later, as it was one that really stuck in my mind as I was reading. It was unique among the things I've read recently in that I had no idea where it was going, not through too many twists and turns, but just through a general lack of predictability.
My only real criticism of the book was the ending. I just did not like how it ended up, and if I had my way I'd re-write it, lop off the last 30 pages, and finish it in Paris. You'll have to read it yourself to discover whether that makes for a happy ever after, or a more subdued ending that the real thing, but I just felt it would have been a more organic end.
Buy in on Amazon used from a penny, which is a whole lot less than Grace (or I, in her shoes) would charge for even a brief moment's company.
This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk