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The Debutante (2009)

When Cate arrives back in London, she's hoping to leave her New York life far behind by living with her aunt, Rachel, and doing some work in Rachel's antique appraisal business. New York was not good for Cate. She lost herself, her vision as an artist and everything she ever knew to be true. Rachel helps Cate by giving her an assignment which takes her to an old home in Devon called Endsleigh House, where the famous Blythe sisters lived. Lady Irene Avondale had recently passed away and her sister, Diana, disappeared in 1941. Cate and Rachel's sole employee, Jack, work tirelessly to catalogue all of the items in Endsleigh for sale. Cate stumbles on a beautiful locked room which contains a mystery. In the room, Cate finds a shoe box filled with mementos from a former life. There are a pair of delicate silver shoes, a stunning Tiffany bracelet and a photo of a handsome sailor. Did they belong to Lady Avondale, the sensible Blythe sister, or were they remnants of Diana "Baby" Blythe's short but wild life? Cate finds herself on a mission to find out the truth behind the items in the box and while doing so she also unravels some truths about herself as her life and the debutante's life in question seem to run parallel. Though there are some quite explicit sections, it's a book you don't want to put down. It's superbly written with letters from the Blythe sisters interspersed between each chapter. It takes you back to a time in the 1920s, 30s and 40s when life was so different yet so similar to life today. This is one novel that will surely leave a lasting impression. (AS)

The Flirt (2008)

Olivia Bourgalt du Coudray and Leticia Vane are both disillusioned with love. Olivia is the second wife of playboy Arnaud who fills her days with meaningless social events. Leticia has remade herself from a plain Emily Ann into an elegant lingerie shop owner who eats only once a day and smokes the rest of the time. And she's very determined to keep any men in her life at a distance. This includes her latest lover, Hughie Armstrong Venables-Smythe, a struggling actor of aristocratic stock. Hughie answers an ad in Stage that asks for 'an attractive, well-mannered, morally flexible young man'. He becomes a professional flirt hired to charm women who feel neglected, unloved or unattractive. But things get out of hand when he employs his carefully honed skills on both Olivia and Leticia. It's the sort of story where you have to suspend belief in the characters and plot, but it may appeal to those who love classic old-fashioned romantic comedies.

Elegance (2004)

After suffering the ultimate indignity of being thought pregnant when she's not, Louise Canova discovers an ageing hardback, Elegance, in a second- bookshop. She uses this A-Z of style written by French fashion expert Madame Antoine Dariaux to help her transform her appearance. As her old self disappears, her marriage to her actor husband ends. The book helps her deal with a range of events, from a weekend at a country home, to a trip to Ascot and going yachting with a new man. Louise soon discovers that looking the part is only the beginning of acquiring elegance. The novel was inspired by the author's discovery of the Elegance book - the 1960s version of What Not to Wear.

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