A fading English finishing school gets a twenty-first-century makeover in this "modern-day fairy tale" (Romantic Times) from New York Times bestselling author Hester Browne, whose sparkling novels are "charming and feel-good" (Cosmopolitan).
Twenty-seven years ago, an infant turned up on the doorstep of London’s esteemed Phillimore Academy for Young Ladies. Now, Betsy Phillimore returns to the place where she was lovingly raised by Lord and Lady Phillimore, only to find the Academy in disrepair and Lord P. desperate to save his legacy. Enter Betsy with a savvy business plan to replace dusty protocol with the essentials girls need today: cell phone etiquette, eating sushi properly, handling credit cards, choosing the perfect little black dress, negotiating a pre-nup, and other lessons in independent living. But returning to London also means crossing paths with her sexy girlhood crush . . . and stirring up the mystery of who her parents are and why they abandoned her. Will the puzzle pieces of her past fall into place while Betsy races to save the only home she’s ever known?
Finishing a good book is like leaving a good friend. - William Feather
Published in 2010 by Gallery Books, I found this 432 page trade size paperback at my library's swap shelf. I had not read Hester Browne before but have enjoyed other "chick lit" books from British authors, including Sophia Kinsella. In fact, Sophia offers a cover quote, "A delicious, entertaining book." As soon I finished the last page, I realized Sophia was right - it was tasty treat!
THE FINISHING TOUCHES unfolds from Betsy's point of view after the memorial service for her adopted mother, Lady Frances Phillimore. On the taxi ride from the service to the reception, Betsy reveals her early relationship with Lord and Lady Phillimore, growing up at the finishing school, and the events leading to her estrangement from her adoptive parents. During the reception, Betsy realizes something's amiss at this London institution. When Lord Phillimore asks for her help to revitalize the finishing school, Betsy sees it as a way to mend the rift and pay tribute to her beloved mother.
Betsy's quest is two fold - while she reviews the school's financial books, she will also search for clues to her birth mother's identity. It only makes sense that a former student would leave Betsy with the Phillimores to "become a lady". Betsy calls upon a handful of friends to lend their expertise, only to find her friends need to be "sorted out" as well. Likewise, she leans on the retired cook and retired housekeeper for moral support (in turn, her efforts will ensure they continue to reside in the cottage on school's estate). While Betsy reaches out to the four spoiled students enrolled the school, she soon realizes they teach her something about her own community.
I read THE FINISHING TOUCHES in two sittings - an amazing feat for a slow reader like me who is often intimidated by any novel over 300 pages. Yet I found myself among fictional friends, laughing at their antics and sobbing along with their heartbreak.
Recommended read for fans of Brit chick lit, British pop culture, and modern Cinderella story.
I am giving away a book choice from my convention stash to one randomly selected commenter. To enter the giveaway,
1. Leave a comment about what a young lady should know before venturing out into the world. I believe a young lady should know something about the classics, including literature and music, to carry on a civilized conversation.
2. Comments are open through Saturday, August 22, 10 pm in Baltimore.
3. I'll post the winner on Sunday, August 23.
Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City
Learn more about Hester and her books at hesterbrowne.com.