Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: A Passionate Love Affair With a Total Stranger by Lucy Robinson

What happens when a certified work-a-holic, micro-managing perfectionist breaks her leg and pelvis and is forced to take a break from her high-stress, high-powered job as the director of communications for a big pharma company in the lead up to one of their most impressive drug releases, an HIV vaccine, ever?  In the case of Charley Lambert, the heroine in Lucy Robinson's latest novel, she starts up her own internet dating ghost writing business to help unlucky in love, seriously unwitty, incapable of engaging chat clients find their match online through appealing emails.

Charley's life appears just about perfect to her, what with her carefully scheduled interests, her demanding but fulfilling work life, and the fact that her boss, whom she has had a raging thing for since she met him seven years ago, has asked her to dinner.  But at the picture perfect engagement party she's organized for one of her longtime best friends and flatmate, Sam, she falls and breaks her leg and pelvis badly enough to need surgery.  When she regains consciousness after her surgery, that perfect life crumbles.  She is forbidden to work forcing her to hand over her precious job to her conniving and nasty assistant Margot.  She has to cancel all of her usual appointments, which keep her busy every hour of every day.  And her boss John, who has come to visit her at the hospital, turns out to be newly engaged to the woman he's been having an affair with for the past three years now that her divorce has come through.  Her life is literally crashing down around her and there's nothing she can do about it.

But a type A personality can't change that quickly and during her convalescence, Charley starts a business called First Date Aid to ghost write e-mails for internet daters having a hard time expressing themselves well through e-mail.  She starts writing for a woman named Shelley who is a hard driven business woman in whom Charley sees much of herself.  And as she writes to William, she not only recognizes herself in Shelley but she also starts to open up about her own life and perceptions, rationalizing that she is doing this soul searching solely on behalf Shelley.  But when William responds to her personal insights with his own revelations, Charley finds herself falling for her client's online interest to the point that she's willing to sabotage their in person date to claim William for herself.  Luckily things don't work out with this since everything is not as it seems.  And rather than taking her new found knowledge of herself and changing her life in the ways in which she'd like to, Charley, now healed, retreats back into her prior regimented and work-focused life.  But has her time off and the insightful emailing changed her permanently?

This is delightful and funny, giggle-inspiring chick lit.  Charley is an appealing character and if she's sometimes uncertain and makes the wrong choice, her usual brashness and good heart make her completely sympathetic.  The secondary characters, especially flatmate Sam, who is gorgeous and loyal if a bit undirected and other best friend Hailey, foul-mouthed and real in her attempts to support and ground Charley, are great, just the sort of people you'd want in your corner too.  The plot has a ton of twists and turns so that although the end is not such a surprise, the journey to it is good and surprising fun.  A novel with real heart about the trade-offs we all make, consciously or unconsciously, and how hard it can be to make changes even when you want to make them, this will satisfy readers looking for a sweet and humorous read.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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