Wednesday, December 2

The Chalet Girl - Kate Lace

Millie Braythorpe has enjoyed her months as a hostess in a chalet resort - the pay's not bad, she gets to ski for free, and she now knows the French village as well as the one she grew up in. Best of all, and a secret from all but the locals, she's had an opportunity to sing and to try out her new compositions. She's dreading the end of the season, when she'll once again be homeless and dependent on the generosity of her wealthy best friend, Freya, but since her forbidding father not only threw her out of his Westhampton bishopric but also had her expelled from her cathedral school she's had no choice.
Luke Hastings and his mate Archie decided before they went on holiday to hide the fact that they're journalists - painful experience has taught them that way lies women attracted tot he possibility of glamorous parties and celebrity shoulder-rubbing. Though there are a couple of dolly birds in their group, Luke's attention is caught by their unassuming hostess; when he follows her to an out-of-the-way bistro and hears her sing he's even more intrigued. But there's something sad about Millie, something he's determined to find out and - hopefully - fix.
I've had mixed success with the Little Black Dress imprint, though I prefer this to the Red Dress Ink brand (which has a higher strike rate), and was pleasantly surprised. The back blurb is wholly misleading, but the novel itself is relatively refreshing and quite well crafted. The characters are vibrant, there are a number of interesting secondary plots, and the resolution is satisfying if a little too happy ever after for realism.
That said, I did have some issues, not least of which is the use of that most irritating of plot devices, the Easily Resolved Misunderstanding. It drives me mad, and Millie's determination to turn her back wholly on Luke is not her only impetuous move. Granted she's only eighteen, which I have a bit of an issue with anyway, particularly as Luke cannot possibly be any younger than mid-twenties, but she makes a habit of ill-considered flouncing out in response to getting the wrong end of the stick, not just once but multiple times. Her tender feelings are very close to the surface, and she almost seems to be looking out for insults and slights.
I could also have done without Luke's frequent comparisons of Millie to his ex-girlfriend, but could live with it; I was less easily able to gloss over Archie using a desperate and unattractive investigative reporter (known around the office as Batty Brenda) to move their relationship along. I've edited out the paragraph I wrote about this in my first draft, and will leave it at: that sub-plot left an unpleasant taste in my mouth, coloured my perception of the book, and was wholly unnecessary. - Alex

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