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Review: Smart Casual by Niamh Shaw

 Review: Smart Casual by Niamh Shaw

Ive now read several books in the Little Black Dress range, and I have to say that each one has been refreshingly different. Rather than offering romance or chicklit novels that stick to a publisher-designed formula, the LBD crew seem happy to have quite a diverse range of authors on their books. Ive read and reviewed LBD books relating to hockey, that have involved'talking dogs and angry goddesses, and hilariously naughty regency romances. With Smart Casual, I can add office romance with a mystery twist to the list.

Other than the striking cover, what really sold me on Niamh Shaws'Smart Casual was the mention of a mystery. Ive become somewhat of a sucker for a mystery of late, and particularly any sort of cosy mystery. Perhaps its simply the case that Im an old lady in a rather young ladys body, but watching amateur sleuths go about solving mischief and sometimes actual crimes seems to be right up my alley. Now, with that little admission aside, bear with me for a moment while I grab my crocheted shawl and my plate of iced vo-vos. . .

I should note up front for the more lady-like reader that'Smart Casual is an hilariously crass romance. Shaw lets loose with all sorts of crude mirth and ridiculous situations, many of which I recall with quiet cringing from my not so far away youth. (Im talking about my friends behaviour here, of course). If you have qualms about someone contemplating whether oral sex is like licking a gamey mackerel, or about a narrator matter of factly informing you about the spermy smell in the air whilst two teens pash, then this books is perhaps not for you.

If, however, you just read that line about the mackerel out loud to your boyfriend, as I certainly did, then youll probably get quite a bit of naughty and lurid enjoyment out of Smart Casual.

Smart Casuals heroine is fiesty career girl Liv Anderson, who has patiently bided her time at 'Puttock Leavitt (usually given a more colourful rhyming slang name throughout the book) waiting for the director to finally give her a much deserved promotion. Liv, dealing with the usual fun and games that comes with working in an office environment, and worse, with working in IT, is hanging by a thread, and its no small wonder. So when shes passed over for the promotion and the job is instead given to a newcomer to the company, shes rather miffed. After all, even if this newcomer is admittedly attractive, hes a jerk. And a jerk who took her job.

Where the book goes from here seems fairly straightforward. Weve seen it in books and movies for years, after all. But Shaw doesnt take this route, and Smart Casual is a fun and refreshing read as a result. We watch cringingly as Liv does embark on a temporary and somewhat ill-advised dalliance with the newcomer, but with slightly more piqued interest as she notes that shes, well, not that interested. And that this handsome man has not only stolen her job, but he has strange bedroom quirks such as licking faces. Even worse than the whole face-licking business is the fact that he seems to be up to no good: Liv suspects that hes got some outside business interests that hell happily bring down Puttock Leavitt in order to promote.

Smart Casual is a great read on many levels. Liv is a witty and hilarious narrator, and while every now and then the humour runs on a little, the narrative voice is generally fast and pacy. Liv, despite falling rather heavily on the ditsy and mischievous side of the character spectrum, is likeable rather than irritating, and her easy self-reflection and honest appraisal of herself helps the reader identify with her.

In addition to a likeable main character who doesnt suffer from the Mary Sue issues that can sometimes plague romance and chicklit novels, Smart Casual is full of great office staff caricatures. While these are admittedly over the top, theyre deliberately so, and these characters are hilarious portraits that will no doubt be instantly recognisable to any office worker. In addition to this, the mystery that Liv sets out to solve is one thats well situated within this working environment. Rather than having a maligned boss be found swinging from his tie in the stairwell to level 8, were given an insider trading plot that ties in well with Liv and her career, and that she is actually well placed to solve.

Readers of sharp and snappy chicklit and romance novels, as well as lovers of cosy mysteries, will find a lot to like about Smart Casual. Its sort of like a Jack Russell: small and with a lot of character, but once you get past the fact that it jumps all over you and tries to do the dirty with your leg, you cant help but love it.

 Review: Smart Casual by Niamh Shaw

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Other books by Niamh Shaw you might like: About Time

about time niamh shaw 150x150 Review: Smart Casual by Niamh Shaw

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