Obsessed meets obsessed

‘Secret Smile’ – Nicci French


Secret smile

You have an affair. You finish it. You think it’s over. You’re dead wrong . . . 

Miranda Cotton thinks she’s put boyfriend Brendan out of her life for good. But two weeks later, he’s intimately involved with her sister.

Soon what began as an embarrassment becomes threatening – then even more terrifying than a girl’s worst nightmare.

Because this time Brendan will stop at nothing to be part of Miranda’s life – even if it means taking it from her . . .

First off, let me get this out in the open. David Tennant is Brendan Block. I’m not totally mad. Back in 2005 (thanks IMDB), there was a television adaptation (pretty good, if my memory was right) and Tennant was soooo good at the role of Brendan Block that, since picking up the book again, he was all I could imagine when reading of this antagonist.

Moving on, this is not the best Nicci French book out there. Whilst it starts with a pretty good “bang”, I think it loses pace and I found the plot drifting, chapter to chapter, until French found they could justify getting to the final ending. Secondly, the protagonist, Miranda, is just a little too obsessed for my liking. Whilst she is accusing Block of obsessions, it’s her stalking and repeated “I’m going out of my way to make a point and prove something that no one else can see” that made me feel like she is the obsessed, she is the harasser.

Some of the characters are pretty dumb too. It’s difficult to believe that only Miranda has the inkling about Brendan, whilst everyone gets sucked into such a creepy, brain-washing persona. Even her sister puts a stranger before her own sister, not to mention Miranda’s own parents take Brendan’s side over their daughter’s. Unbelievable and, let’s face it, a bit grim that a stranger can turn literally everyone against you.

That being said, the ending was, well, pretty acceptable. To be honest, it technically doesn’t end but thankfully I’ve got no whiff of a sequel. Because that just wouldn’t work and it would be even more repetitive. I was glad when there was finally closure and all this stalking and harassment could come to an end. Four stars because I think it’s worthy of it for a first time read but, if like me it’s your second or third, it has less of an impact and leaves you feeling more cynical than satisfied.


Needing a bit of comedy to lighten the mood

‘Hard hats and Doormats’ – Laura Chapman


Hard hats and Door mats - Laura Chapman

Hard hats and Door mats – Laura Chapman

Lexi Burke has always been a stickler for following rules and procedures. As a human resources manager for a leading Gulf Coast chemical company, it’s her job to make sure everyone else falls in line, too.

But after losing out on a big promotion–-because her boss sees her as too much of a yes-woman––Lexi adopts a new policy of following her heart instead of the fine print. And her heart knows what it wants: Jason Beaumont, a workplace crush who is off limits based on her previous protocol.

While navigating a new romance and interoffice politics, Lexi must find the confidence to stand on her own or face a lifetime of following someone else’s orders.

Who says nice girls have to finish last?

When you have a character like Lexi who calls her phone “Harriet”, for me, I knew I was on to a winner. There are so many things that I could relate to in this book about Lexi’s character and, whilst the plot was a bit predictable, this didn’t put me off from enjoying a read that felt a bit Sophie Kinsella-esque, just without the humour.

 So, poor Lexi is unlucky in love and life. She is passed over for promotion in a testosterone-heavy work environment and instead is expected to pick up the additional work without fuss or complaint. Her role in HR means she not only leads training for employees but also has to resolve disputes in the workplace. It was this I found most interesting, particularly the case with Tom, the nasty worker who is taking Gulf America (the company Lexi works for,) for a ride. The way the case is handled does not feature as prominently in the novel as I was expecting and this surprised me. The lack of humour in this story made me feel like Chapman was trying for a more serious romantic fiction and I would have really enjoyed seeing Lexi work her magic at fighting for justice in this tricky case.

 Lexi’s acceptance towards her increased workload and resignation towards a life on the road made me want to scream at Lexi and force her to realise what she was doing to herself. But then, saying “no” is always more difficult and I admit that I have found myself in similar situations. Her “doormat” approach and willingness to take on more and more work responsibilities reminded me of Sophie Kinsella’s Samantha Sweeting’ from ‘The Undomestic Goddess‘  which I guess is not so surprising, considering I read this only recently. But, as I have already mentioned, I was anticipating there to be some humour in the plot just to show the Lexi can relax and have more of a positive outlook to her life. She comes across as so serious that I found this just a little one-dimensional for a character; it made me wonder if there were people out there who are so blind-sided by work?

 The relationship Lexi has with Jason, a colleague at Gulf America, has its ups and downs. I was desperate for them to get together and find happiness and Chapman doesn’t indulge readers with this happy resolution until what felt like half way through the novel. It was a relief when the physical side of their relationship did not take centre stage in the story: readers of my blog will know that I can only take this in moderation before it ruins the read for me! It was cute to see Lexi and Jason finally admit their feelings towards one another and his desire to help Lexi stand up against her boss shows his commitment in a very early relationship. The twist that the author throws in about Jason’s own employment had me guessing what would happen and I enjoyed the resolution, even if it was a little cheesy.

Each chapter starts with Lexi’s Twitter posts. I wasn’t too sure how they fitted in to the story and did not find them memorable at all. Lexi’s love for her phone is quite endearing and one that I can definitely relate to, particularly when “Harriet” gets broken. In fact, at the earlier stages in the story I found myself getting a bit confused and thought Harriet was a person with how Lexi refers to it.

This was a pretty good romance read but one that I found lacking in well-needed humour. I would liked to have seen Lexi lighten up and humour herself a bit more and think this would have complemented the more serious nature of her work. ‘Hard hats and Door mats’ was easy to get into and I enjoyed this offering from Laura Chapman.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.