The Finishing Touches
Hester Browne

Simon & Schuster
Hardcover/416 pages
ISBN: 9781416540076
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". . .a touching tale with just a hint of mystery. . ."

The Finishing Touches: Fashion tips, well written chick lit and a subtle mystery like a string of perfect pearls.

The day before Prince Charles weds Lady Diana Spencer, Lady Frances Phillimore is handed a marmalade box that is left on the stoop. Inside it is a baby wrapped in a cashmere shawl with a bee pin studded with diamonds. The attached note, written on writing paper with a fountain pen states, “Please look after my baby. I want her to grow up to be a proper lady. Thank you.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Cooper Phillimore is going home for her mother’s funeral. She hasn’t set foot in the Phillimore Academy for Young Ladies, a finishing school for fashionable young ladies of social standing and fashion, for nearly ten years. She’s not been there since her father, Lord Pelham Phillimore said that finishing school wasn’t for the likes of her and shipped her off to university.

Everything reminds Betsy of her mother, Lady Frances, but it seems a little run down with cheap plastic flowers in the urns. A young man serving sandwiches wrestles Betsy over a tray, saying she may not have more than two sandwiches or there won’t be enough for everyone. Shocked at such behavior, Betsy pulls forty pounds from her purse and tells his assistant to go down to the shops and buy more supplies.

One shock follows another as Lord Phillimore, under the impression that Betsy is a business consultant, asks her to look around and decide whether Phillimore Academy can be saved. Betsy wants to find out if her mother was an academy girl, so the request couldn’t come at a better time. Her biggest fear is that her father will find out that Betsy isn’t a brilliant business consultant who can turn ailing businesses around, but instead the manager of a shoe store in Edinburgh. She’s still willing to risk being discovered as a fake to make sure the academy stays open to honor her mother’s memory and to prove to her father that she is Phillimore Academy material.

Hester Browne loses no time winning hearts with her baby on the doorstep at a fashionable and venerable London finishing school. Who can resist a beautiful baby wrapped in cashmere with her own diamond jewelry in the arms of three women utterly entranced by love at first sight? To add to the charm and gleaming facets of this jewel of a tale, each chapter begins with a handy style tip. The Finishing Touches is a true gem, that rarest of books, a touching tale with just a hint of mystery, a protagonist with just enough insecurity to make her charming, a well rounded cast of characters in a tale of romance, family and intrigue. Each chapter is another pearl of wisdom knotted into a modern romantic tale.

Each of the characters is memorable without being stereotypical or melodramatic. They possess just a hint of English reserve where needed. I thoroughly enjoyed The Finishing Touches and its fascinating and useful tips.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell