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REVIEW: Swept Off Her Feet by Hester Browne

Dear Ms. Browne,

I’ve heard of the “Little Lady” books but no, shame on me, I’ve never read them. But when a friend of mine told me about “Swept Off Her Feet” and that she’d really liked it, the blurb got me interested in it. After she assured me that there’s no faux brogue dialog I was in. I’ll go ahead and say that if I’d read this back in March when it was first released, it would have been a recommend read from me. As it is, it’s probably going to be on my best reads of 2011 list.

Swept Off Her Feet Hester BrowneEvie Nicholson loves her work as a buyer for an antiques dealer in London. But as she’s more interested in and, as the blurb says, “spins fanciful attachments to” the personal history of the little items, what she comes back from auctions with doesn’t always meet her boss’s approval. But her sister’s invitation to a ball held in a Scottish castle might be Evie’s road to redemption.

Kettlesheer Castle is the site of an annual ball held on Valentine’s Day and Alice’s boyfriend Fraser is the boyhood chum of the current McAndrews heir, Robert. Alice has finagled an invite for Evie to go and assess certain family pieces for possible sale as the upkeep on the drafty old place is enough to bankrupt small nations. Past McAndrews were the types who never threw *anything* away, so antiques dealers have long salivated at the thought of what might be tucked away in the Castle. Evie’s boss is hopeful of some spectacular finds and sends her up to Scotland with strict instructions on what to look for. Evie, being Evie, is more drawn to the personal stuff though she can’t seem to get tough businessman Robert interested in his family’s past or the romantic daydreams Evie spins about the place.

With the ball fast approaching, family and friends – including one calculating young woman who’s angling to become the next mistress of Kettlesheer – are in a frenzy of preparation even as Evie is down on her knees checking dovetailing. Will she find the spectacular pieces needed to save the family finances? Can she get Robert to view his heritage as more than a draining, lifelong anchor around his neck? And what will the two of them do about the feelings obviously simmering between them and waiting to boil over during the magical candlelit gala?

I see this book as a sort of evolution of the standard Chick Lit book. Evie has a tatty job but it’s one she really loves. It’s pretty obvious from early days who the hero will be and Robert is front and center through most of the book. Evie and Robert don’t initially hit it off as Evie has a semi-crush on Fraser – who is clueless about it and devoted to Alice the entire book – but these two don’t snipe at each other either. Robert is aware of the soundtracks Evie plays in her head as she swoons around Kettlesheer and imagines herself in Jane Austen settings there but though he shakes his head and doesn’t understand or share her romance with the place, he never mocks her – just gently teases her at times.

Robert may be a tough businessman but he’s also a bit of a romantic – at least for Evie. He’s practical to her daydreaming but they “fit.” The scene where he shows up before the ball with some of his great grandmother’s fancy gewgaws for Evie to wear, then sits back and enjoys watching her get excited over them shows me that he does know what she likes and that he wants to please her. Points to him for wanting to make his woman happy. Even if they hadn’t shared a kiss yet. When that “plane going down” kiss did happen, I sighed.

Most everyone in the book is good hearted, though not in a Sally Sunshine way, and even the calculating young woman is treated kindly and isn’t a total beeyotch just for the plot. The story is also brimming with humor and I literally laughed out loud more times than I remember. The teaching-Evie-to-reel scenes were fantastic though I winced when I read how true to life they were. Since I have two left feet as well, I can sympathize with her bewilderment during the Eightsome Reel and would probably end up on my ass after a twirling as well. Though after watching a full fledged 51st Division Reel on youtube, I think I’d be itching to get out and try it myself. The Hamilton House sounds like flirty fun too.

This is a happy book. A fun and funny book that put a smile on my face. I think Robert and Evie will be a good team together with each complimenting and bringing out the best in each other. The humor comes from the situations in the story and not from Evie being made to pratfall for laughs. The characters seem fairly realistic and not exaggerated merely for the plot. And it’s an excellent sign when I finish a book and immediately want to go back and reread my favorite bits. Think I could get an invite to the Kettlesheer Ball next year? A-

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

28 Comments

  1. jayhjay
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 13:29:57

    Beautiful cover!

  2. Jayne
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 13:32:06

    @jayhjay: Totally agree. I want those plaid shoes!

  3. Janine
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 13:43:32

    Wow, an A-! You hardly ever give them. I have to read this book now.

  4. Jayne
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 13:58:52

    @Janine: I’m trying to be more – hmm, stingy isn’t the right word, let’s try – selective in my A grade giving the past few years.

    And I didn’t think you cared for the chick lit genre. Or am I mistaken in that?

  5. Sarah
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 14:12:05

    I’m buying this book, NOW! (If only I was off of work to read it now.) Fabulous review.

  6. Janine
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 14:15:15

    @Jayne: I do like some chick lit, like Emily Giffin’s early books and Alisa Kwitney’s chick lit. I’m just picky about it — I don’t love the whiny immature heroine thing that seems to be going on in many of them.

  7. Jayne
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 14:26:14

    @Janine: Ditto about the whiny heroines. I moved past that type years ago.

  8. Jayne
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 14:30:02

    @Sarah: I hope you like it as much as I did – and manage to get home soon so you can start it.

  9. Sunita
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 14:45:24

    This sounds fabulous! Why have I never heard of it? And what are the “Little Lady” books?

  10. Jayne
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 14:59:48

    @Sunita: I believe there are three books in the series
    - The Little Lady Agency,
    - The Little Lady Agency and the Prince,
    - Little Lady, Big Apple.

    “Sensible Melissa Romney-Jones proclaims to her enamored American client, Jonathan Riley, “I like to think I’m a vintage girl. A proper 1950s woman’s woman,” to which Riley responds: “A proper 1950s man’s woman.” Crackling with Brit chick wit, Browne’s first novel stars a spunky whirlwind in search of love and money. Melissa, after losing her job as a London estate agent, starts the Little Lady Agency to attend to the social needs of single men. This requires Melissa to don a blonde wig and become Honey Blennerhesket, a posh “Mary Poppins in silk stockings.” Running the new agency leads to the successful channeling of her inner glamour goddess and romance with Jonathan, but then she wonders, does he love Honey or Melissa? “Little lady” is a term that sounds as retro as Melissa’s yearning for old-style romance, but her struggle to empower herself and deal with her feelings regarding the men in her life is as satisfying as free champagne. Browne’s dead-on take revitalizes a genre already littered with worn-out Jimmy Choos and tattered miniskirts.”

  11. Emily
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 15:19:28

    I am weary of chick lit and anything where the contemporary heroine isn’t good at her job. There is so much of that on television.
    Is Evie supposed to be bad at her job or just bad at making points with her boss? Its sounds like a bit of both which makes it a dubious read for me.
    Antiques can be boring but a lot of objects do have fun stories attached to them that are real or atleast have legends attached to them. One of my favorite tv shows is History Detectives,where people submit items and the experts try to figure out if the story is real. I recommend the show.
    Anyway retro-chic heroines seem to be trendy— now that more and more people don’t have the money for designer threads.

  12. Tina
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 15:26:40

    I read the “Little Lady” books and always felt there needed to be a fourth. These are true chick-lit, so not a romance in the tradition of romance novels. As a matter of fact the third book throws a bit of a romantic curve ball.

    But they were seriously fun and even though I am not really a chick lit fan, I find that I can enjoy Brit chick lit for some reason.

    I have this on my TBR and may need to find an earlier spot for it.

  13. Jayne
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 16:03:55

    @Emily: Evie isn’t crap at her job. It’s mainly that she and her boss have differing opinions on what she should buy. She sees the sentimental value of things while her boss is in for the big, major stuff that he can make lots of money on and that might catapult him into TV stardom.

    The opening scene has her post auction at which she bought a lot of stuff her boss freaks out over. All of it eventually sells and, as mentioned late in the book, brings in more money than the store had made in a while. But her boss still isn’t very happy with her about her choices.

  14. Sandia
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 17:47:43

    I read the Little Lady Agency books and liked them at them time (I was on a Chick Lit roll after Emily Giffin’s two books). I will be checking out this one – but at $9.99 on the Kindle, but less in paperback, I am less willing to pull the trigger.

  15. Patti (Caught in a FAB Romance)
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 18:07:07

    I had never heard of the Little Lady books when I read Swept Off Her Feet. I loved it – it’s on my keeper shelf. (I might have even looked up Reel Dancing online, lol)

  16. Jayne
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 18:20:38

    @Sandia: It’s a trade sized book but I’ll admit that price is steep.

  17. Jayne
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 18:28:14

    @Patti (Caught in a FAB Romance): I looked at some of the Scottish dancing websites she lists at the end of the book but I wanted to see videos of the dancing. Perhaps there are clips of dancing there but if so, I missed them. Finally I turned to youtube with very mixed results – lots of instructional clips and amateur dancers but very few full length reels with dancers who already know what they’re doing. But the ones I watched show how easy it is to find yourself in the wrong spot during the pattern.

  18. Lou
    Sep 07, 2011 @ 13:47:43

    I’ve read the Little Lady Agency books, and enjoyed them — though I was thrown a little regarding the romance, but since it’s Chick Lit, it doesn’t follow the usual romance rules :D.

    I’m toying on breaking my rule of ‘no paperbacks’ as Swept Off Her Feet is not available in the UK as an ebook.

  19. Kaetrin
    Sep 07, 2011 @ 21:47:09

    @ Jayne. It sounded from your review that it was a “sweet” rather than “sexy” romance – did I get that right?

  20. Jayne
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 03:51:11

    @Kaetrin: Yes, sweet and not sexy. I mean, the hero looks good in his white tie and tails (he refuses to wear a kilt to the ball), but kisses are as far as they go.

  21. mb
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 12:12:32

    It’s nice to see reviews of Hester Browne. I really enjoy her books.

    Jane, if you liked ‘Swept Off Her Feet’ so much, you might want to try ‘The Finishing Touches’ next, rather than jumping into the Little Lady series. TFT is a stand-alone, btw.

    I loved the first LL, enjoyed the 2nd, and then the 3rd threw me off so much from what I was expecting, that I just skimmed it.

    But I really enjoyed ‘The Finishing Touches’. It has that same innocent worldliness that ‘Swept Off Her Feet’ does.

  22. What Jayne is reading/watching at the end of August - Dear Author
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 12:16:32

    [...] REVIEW: Swept Off Her Feet by Hester Browne [...]

  23. Susan Reader
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 17:18:35

    I see the “Little Lady” books almost as one book in three volumes….

    “Swept Off Her Feet” is reminding me more of “Little Lady” than of “Finishing Touches,” which was sweet and a fun read, but that was about it.

  24. Susan Laura
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 17:20:47

    Thank you so much for reviewing and recommending this book. I am reading it now and loving it! It is laugh out loud funny.

  25. Jayne
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 17:32:37

    @Susan Laura: Thanks for your feedback on it and I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

  26. Jayne’s Best of 2011 List | Dear Author
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 22:10:34

    [...] Swept Off Her Feet by Hester Browne (review) [...]

  27. LJD
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 20:23:05

    I just finished this, and I loved it. I read it because of your rec (yeah, I know, this post was a while ago). I’d previously read the first Little Lady book, which was good, but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as this one.

    (Also loved Attachments!)

  28. Jayne
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 12:44:49

    @LJD: Great! I love it when my recs work for people. Browne has a new book coming out next month that I plan to try.

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