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Chick lit done right: The Little Lady Agency

May 29, 2008

I almost didn’t pick this book up for the same reason I picked up Unpredictable : there was a quote on the cover, this one by Sophie “Tossed Book” Kinsella.  I’m very very glad I went against my first instinct, however.

In the hands of another author, The Little Lady Agency would be yet another chick lit book to throw against a wall.  It would be a series of “zany” incidents, where the heroine, Melissa Romney-Jones, would be a hair’s breadth away from being found out at any second, constantly hiding under this table and in that closet.    Hester Browne avoids these tacky and insulting cliches, and instead focuses on letting the reader fall in love with Melissa, with her talents–of which she has many–and her flaws–primarily naivete and being the biggest, but most likable, pushover in all of chick lit.

I stayed up far too late reading this book but didn’t feel bad about it the next day; in fact, I couldn’t stop talking about it to my lunch companion.  I wish I’d brought a tape recorder, as it’s been a very busy week since I read the book, but some things stick with you.  One is that this is no flighty beach read: there is a lot going on in this book.  In terms of a meal, this is the best cheeseburger you’ve ever had (or, for those of us who don’t eat meat…oh, I dunno, the General’s tofu at Whole Foods), not those rice cakes of books that usually fall under the chick lit umbrella.  (Food?  Umbrellas?  Am I mixing metaphors too much here?)

Point is: meaty book.  I should’ve put it down, because I had expected it to be light and fluffy–I made that mistake with the first Crusie/Mayer as well–but I couldn’t.  It was too good.

Another thing I want to point out is that Melissa’s naivete is endearing, not irritating.  Her friends laugh at sexual innendos that fly right over her head, and Browne keeps her consistent through the novel.  Other books might have a shy naivete in one place and a racy comment in another that drive me mad, but Melissa is always sweetly clueless, even when she thinks she’s flirting quite well.  This leads to misunderstandings with a love interest, of course, but Browne has put you so far into Melissa’s head that on one hand, you can be saying “Doofus, that’s not what he’s saying at all!” but on the other you want to pat her on the shoulder and say, “I see where you’re getting that from.”

I loved this book.  It might be my top chick lit pick for the year.

Note: While looking for a link to it for you, I found that it’s part of a trilogy.  Now I’m worried.  I was SO HAPPY about the way one part was dealt with, although I didn’t want to discuss it here because the reader should discover it his- or herself.  But I’m going to trust Browne, because she deserves it, and I’m going to request the next two books from the library.

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