Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Book review: A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger by Lucy Robinson

My edition: Paperback, to be published on 31 January 2013 by Penguin, 434 pages.

Description: Charley Lambert has put considerable effort into achieving a perfect life. She has The Job. The Wardrobe. And The Flat. Her womanising, junk food-loving housemate Sam lowers the tone a bit but that aside, things are peachy.

Then she breaks her leg in three places, watches her unrequited love propose to someone else and - worst of all - is forced to hand over her job to her nasty deputy while she recovers. Workaholic Charley fears that she will soon go mad.

Desperate for something to do, she discovers her talent for helping the lovelorn online. And then William arrives in her inbox. Within hours of his first email, her world starts to change. Helpless, she watches herself fall in love with this man and begins to realise that she's not who she thought she was. But will she be brave enough to turn her back on her old life - all for a total stranger?

Rating:

 

"Relaxing" is not a word that appears in workaholic Charley Lambert's vocabulary. If she isn't all consumed by her demanding job, she's organising an engagement picnic for one of her best friends or out running at an ungodly hour in the morning to stay fit.

So it's no surprise that when she has a tumble and breaks her leg in three places, forcing her to take time off work (literally, she tries to work from the hospital bed but her employer gives her a few weeks off despite all her protests) she's unsure what to with the unexpected free time handed to her. She can't run, she can't work, and since she has no other half, she can't pester them either. So she decides to do what anyone with some spare time on his or her hands would come up with in her position... start up her own business.

Through flirting with her boss, John, over the messaging service at work and ghost writing her best friend's emails to help her friend get a boyfriend Charley had already discovered she was excellent at online banter. And as she reads a news article about a US company that ghost writes emails for people with online dating profiles that lack the ability to write a sensible email to those they want to approach, she decides to set up something similar in the UK.

Soon her inbox is flooded with emails from people who want her help. But as Charley embarks on the mission to get suitable dates for all her clients she comes across the profile of "William" and within hours of striking up an online conversation with him, she's fallen head over heels for her client Shelley's potential date...

Admittedly it took me a little while to warm up to the main character of Charley. She's very focused on her job and because of that her friends and family seem to get neglected in the process. This wouldn't be an issue in itself but from the descriptions of her work, and the boss she's been flirting with for the past seven years, I couldn't understand the importance of her job nor did I grasp what she expected in the long-term from her skewed relationship with John.

Thankfully about one third into the novel there's a nice twist to her email exchange with William, which really got me interested in where the story would go from there. Add some fantastic minor characters, such as Charley's always supportive twin sister Ness and straightforward business women Shelley, and A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger quickly turned into a somewhat predictable yet still very satisfying read.

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