Perfect Girl – Michele Gorman

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9/10: Fab cover. Much better than the striped-shirt coffee-stained alternate version, which doesn’t make any sense to me…

“Carol can just about keep her nose above water, but her life is sinking fast. Her mum treats her like the family’s personal assistant, her sister has just saddled her with impossible wedding planning and her boyfriend is so busy with work that he’s got her single-handedly running their relationship. Not that her job is any easier. As the only woman on the bank’s trading floor she spends twelve-hour days trying not to get sworn at or felt up. From the outside everything might look all right but her life is unravelling at the seams. Then, just when she thinks her colleagues can’t sink any lower, they break their own record. What’s a nice girl like Carol doing in a life like this? Something’s got to give and, for once, it’s not going to be Carol…”

I downloaded Perfect Girl as a holiday read a few months ago now, but I’ve only just got around to properly reading it (as I tend to re-read books on holiday… Thus rendering my large amount of new ebook purchases virtually redundant. But there we go). Once I started it, I found it hard to put down and was finished within a day or so. A nice, simple read – though the main character put me off somewhat…

Carol, working in the male-oriented industry of stock trading, juggles many things every day: the demands of her sexist, bullying boss – and the emotional tussles that come with working with him; trying to see her also-busy boyfriend Ben; her best friend Harriet’s tragic lovelife; her demanding sister Marley, who is engaged and relying heavily on Carol to achieve the perfect wedding; her nightmare parents, who expect Carol to plan their holiday for them and get annoyed if she dares to not help – ‘It’s for your dad’s health, Carol, but if you’re too busy to help out your parents…’) and her sort-of sister Zoe. It’s fair to say that Carol has a full plate; she’s also a complete pushover. Sacrificing her own needs for everyone else’s, Carol is always on the move and often forced to do things she doesn’t  want to do.

Things seem to be looking up for her – her big invention at work could see her company redefine the way stock trading is done and she’s finally plucked up the courage to ask Ben to move in with her – but no sooner does she make progress at work that she falls foul of some of her colleagues, and Zoe turns up on her doorstep, putting a hitch in her romantic plans with Ben. And none of the 10+ holiday cottages that she picked out for her parents, even though they meet their exacting criteria, will do…

Once Carol finally snaps and turns down the demands of her high-maintenance family, it seems like things can only get better – 2/3 ain’t bad – but when work and her relationship with Ben come under threat too, it seems like her perfect life – and her persona as the perfect girl – that she’s worked so hard to create is all about to come crashing down around her ears. Can Carol get her life back together or is everything she’s worked so hard to keep lost forever?

I enjoyed Perfect Girl; I loved the book’s fluid and easy style, and found Michele Gorman’s dialogue witty  and her characters well-drawn. But I simply couldn’t get on board with Carol’s attitude and how much of a pushover she was – and as I often note in my reviews, sympathising with the protagonist is half the battle won for the author. I also thought she ended up with totally the wrong love interest – the decision Carol makes feels a little forced and rushed – but that’s purely my opinion (I can’t resist a nerdy coder). Those gripes aside, Perfect Girl is well worth a read; it’s as a good escapist novel with not only lots of humour but an interesting insight into the stock trading industry.

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