I am not going to apologize for the fact that I read quite a bit of chick lit over vacation. I stated in my first post that I am not a book snob, and I enjoy a good work of fiction that doesn’t require deep thought. Hester Browne’s Little Lady Agency Series is technically Brit Chick Lit, but it was very entertaining, and I liked Melissa Romney-Jones, her main character. So far, there are three books in the series. The series is about Melissa Romney-Jones, a woman from a dysfunctional yet somewhat aristocratic family who has few marketable skills but who has a talent for managing and organizing. Melissa is curvy and sweet but has low self-esteem thanks to her family and after being laid off from yet another job, stumbles upon the idea to open a business that caters to helping organize and manage men’s lives. She’ll send flowers to mothers and girlfriends. She’ll help the men change their style of dress and counsel them on hygiene matters. And she does this dressed as Honey, a no-nonsense blonde who wears tight 50s retro clothes and exhibits retro, proper behavior. It sounds…sketchy…and that’s sort of a running joke and misconception throughout the series, but I promise you that this is not a series about an escort or high-priced hooker. The three books are as follows:
- The Little Lady Agency (in which we meet Melissa and she establishes her agency)
- Little Lady, Big Apple (in which Melissa visits her boyfriend in NYC and ponders whether his career is more legitimate than hers)
- The Little Lady Agency and the Prince (in which Melissa helps a friend of the family back in London, ponders a move to Paris (!) and makes some hard decisions)
As I said above, I really liked these books. I liked that the heroine was curvy. She wasn’t necessarily overweight…this isn’t a novel about a heavy girl makes good. She has a real body and her curves are presented as attractive and desirable. Sure, Melissa was concerned about her weight, but what woman isn’t? I like that it wasn’t a huge deal unlike the whole Renee Zellweger-Bridget Jones debacle (for the record, if anyone bothered to read the damn book, Bridget wasn’t fat either; she was just a normal, healthy woman who wished she were a bit thinner. Not the big fucking deal the movie made it out to be. Humph). I guess I really identified with Melissa: crazy family, less-than-stick thin, wondering whether you have any skills and where you fit in, worrying about keeping your identity when you are in a relationship and wondering if there is another “you” that you could put on like a suit of armor who handled every situation brilliantly and always had a snappy comeback. I’ve been there; haven’t we all?
Browne is a smart writer, and Melissa and her situations seem real. I think that this series has a lot more depth than your average chick lit book. Sometimes I am frustrated with chick lit because the women are too glamorous or have outrageous jobs with which I can’t identify (not that I exactly know what it’s like to run an agency but I can comprehend that more than I could working in Hollywood or working on a magazine) or even worse, the women are almost too flawed or screwed up for me to identify with them. Melissa and her friends seem like people I know without trying too hard to be “just like everyone you know.”
Sure, there were parts of the series that dragged. I wished Melissa had a bit more spine sometimes, and I don’t understand why both Browne’s series and Kinsella’s Shopaholic series had to take the heroines to NYC (where everything is on the line!!); is it some British rite of passage? The second book in the series was my least favorite. But overall, the series is an enjoyable, quick, meaty, guilt-free read. I hope that Browne plans to continue the series.