28 June 2010

Review: THE FINISHING TOUCHES by Hester Browne *****

Every girl should know what the finishing touches are.
That dash of gloss on the cheekbones to lift your complexion.
High heels for poise, and a luscious lipstick for the perfect pout.
It’s the spritz of perfume on the pulse points and the...
....ability to stand on your own two feet?

When 21st century girl Betsy is called in to rescue an exclusive finishing school from financial ruin, she knows she must change the school drastically, if it’s ever to survive.
So it’s out with debutante decorum and in with modern manners and man-management.
But before she can teach the girls how to walk in high heels, Betsy may just have to remember how to wear them herself.
With the added bonus that her gorgeous friend Jamie and the surprisingly hunky bursar Mark both seem to rather approve of her new stilettos...
When I started reading this book, I had absolutely no idea what 'finishing schools' are about (in my defence, I'm not from the UK and this concept doesn't exist in my country) and when I learned about them in the book, the feminist in me was so enraged that I honestly nearly gave up on the book after like 50 pages - I just couldn't handle reading about a finishing school in the modern times ... But then I figured I might as well try reading some more and see what happens - about 50 pages later, I started loving this book so much that I just didn't want to put it down and ended up totally loving it!

The story opens on 21 July 1981, when a baby is found in a marmelade box in front of the Tallimore Academy, an exclusive finishing school in London. The baby is brought to Lady Frances Tallimore, whose husband owns the school, and she names her Betsy and she's determined to give her the best upbringing possible.
The next chapters opens 27 years later at the funeral of Lady Frances. We learn that Betsy grew up at Tallimore Academy, but wasn't 'allowed' to take classes with the other girls, which hurt her so much that she moved to Scotland and completely turned her life around.
After the funeral, Lord Tallimore tells Betsy that the academy has gone through some rough times and he asks her to have a look around and maybe propose some changes - he thinks Betsy is a management consultant when in fact she manages a shoe shop.
Nonetheless, Betsy takes up the challenge. She moves in with her best friend Liv and comes up with some great ideas on how to bring the Academy more up to date and start some new classes that might appeal more to the modern girls - she thinks it's time to ditch Table Etiquette and Literary Appreciation, and instead she decides to bring in classes on how to deal with money, look good in photos, park properly, wear the right things, walk in heels and a whole lot of other practicall skills that a modern woman needs to know.
There are a few twists and turns and I'm sure you can smell a love story from a mile away, but that's roughly it without giving too much away.
Oh and there's also the sub-plot of Betsy searching for her birth mother, which was quite touching and it didn't end quite like what I expected - which is a good thing, because I had a far more corny ending in mind, heh.

I'll admit I wasn't blown away by the plot as such, but what really made this book were the characters and the writing. Betsy wasn't really the most exciting character, but others certainly made up for it! This book had me hooked as soon as I 'met' the current pupils of the Academy - this quote sums them up quite well (p. 151):
[Jamie] pretended to rub his hands like a Victorian maiden-abductor. 'Tell me more. What delicious young debutantes are currently being finished?'
'Well, at the moment, there's Clementine the Goth, Divinity the footballer's daughter, Anastasia the Russian squillionaireness and Venetia, the ...'
I wasn't sure how to describe Venetia. I suddenly realised I didn't know much about her at all, other than that she had her hair extensions done at Richard Ward and that she didn't carry cash.
'The trainee Bond girl,' I finished.

As soon as I was acquited with this lovely bunch, I knew I was in for a fun ride, haha.
Honestly, most of the characters were absolutely adorable - I loved Liv, Jamie, Mark, Lord Tallimore and others, what a fantastic set!

As I mentioned before, the writing was also brilliant - beautiful and oh so witty, especially the dialogue had me cracking up all over the place! This was the first book I've read by Ms Browne, but it certainly won't be the last!

All in all, in my humble opinion, this is chicklit at its best and I had SO much fun reading the book! The story and the characters and the writing just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and you'll just want to hug this book as it's just too damn adorable for words. If you don't believe me, you can certainly trust Sophie Kinsella, the queen of romcoms, who blurbed it saying, 'What a delicious, entertaining book. I loved it!' - I couldn't have said it better myself!

overall rating:
plot: 4/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 4/5


Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Wonderful review! It really got me interested in the book. I love those books you almost want to stop reading and then, they suck you in and it's love.;) Finishing schools, yuck, agreed.;) But the story sounds really cool, so finishing schools are forgiven. Thanks for sharing!

Sabrina @ about happy books said...

Great review.

This book has been on my wishlist for a few weeks now, I really have to get it soon.

Nina said...

Great one! Sounds like a lot of fun and saying its chicklit at it's best must mean it's awesome. :)

Shan said...

I loved this book! I admit the subject matter did seem a little corny and not to date at first, but it was so much fun. My husband teaches high school and his students are a lot like the students in this book. I think many young girls could benefit from a finishing school today!!!

Kat said...

Ooh I love the sound of this!

Emidy said...

This sounds too cute! I'm glad you decided to keep reading. Those characters sound great, and I love it when a book makes me laugh. I'll be looking out for this!

Ria- The Beaucoup Review book blog. said...

For some reason, finishing school's make me laugh :)
How to fold a napkin, how to walk straight, how to drink tea- it just makes me smile :)
Great review, the book *must* be good if you've given it 4 and 5 stars!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Great review! Delightful cover :)

. Ruz . said...

Thanks for the review.

I just bought this book yesterday...now I can't wait to get to it!

Lizzy said...

Great review! I've read the Little Lady series by Browne, and thought that they were a lot of fun. Her writing is always engaging, so I'll have to give this one a try.

Anonymous said...

i just purchased this book - and missed my stop :O i love it!!!

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