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So far, "Miracle on Regent Street" by Ali Harris is the best book I've read this year. Okay, I've only read two books this year, but I will go as far as to say I think it will remain in my top ten favourites of the year - I feel pretty confident about that! It was a magical book featuring a magical place - the world of Hardy's, a failing old department store.
Evie, the heroine of the novel, is in love with Hardy's . . . not only was it her favourite place to go to as a child, her parents fell madly in love at first sight there when her dad swept her mum off her feet. By some (extremely weird!) twist of fate, she has ended up working in the stockroom there. She's great at her job, and hoping for a big promotion . . . but then she's overlooked in favour of her sparkly friend Carly. She's convinced she'll never get her big break . . . but then she overhears that the shop is in serious trouble. She decides that she is Hardy's only hope - loving the store as much as she does, only she can help to restore it to its former glory. So she secretly formulates a plot to turn its fortune around.
In the meantime, she meets handsome american Joel, who is advising her boss as to how best to save his company. Unfortunately he thinks she is uber-successful Carly . . . but who is she to tell him otherwise. Oh what a tangled web we weave etc etc! Now Evie's quiet stockroom life as "Sarah" is turned upside down as she is lying all over the place, pretending to be someone she's not (even more than she already was!) . . . and perhaps drawing the attention of another suitor too? In the meantime, her family appear to be falling apart around her . . . but how can she concentrate on that too with everything else she already has going on???
I loved this book from the outset. I've been very busy recently so it did take me a couple of weeks to get through it (it's not the shortest of novels anyway) but I'm sure had I been dedicated and had more time for reading it would have been eaten up in a few short days. I was dying to find out more about Evie's plan, what her next step was and what magic she would weave next. Hardy's sounded like a fantastical place, so much more interesting than your usual department store - it was almost a character in its own right. And the fabulous people contained within the four walls of Hardy's were also immensely entertaining - particularly Carly as the accidental villain of the piece, and Evie's oddball bunch of friends - the few that actually knew her real name.
This was the part that irked me about the book. The fact that Evie had got the job in the stockroom initially due to a case of mistaken identity, and that everyone thought she was called Sarah, the girl she had replaced. I don't understand why she didn't just admit the truth, and also, surely her employment records would have to have all her correct details on them? I know I'm being a bit pedantic here, but considering she then ended up pretending to be CARLY as well, it was getting a bit out of hand. And apart from the odd moment of guilt, or momentary fear she might get caught, it seemed out of character for her to be as seemingly unbothered about it as she was most of the time.
I am splitting hairs here though. I had to suspend my belief slightly, but I do that on a regular basis anyway. :-) The book was compulsively readable, and the characters painted brilliantly - I really did feel like i got to know them very well. Ali Harris has a wonderful way with words and she really brought the characters and the world in which they live to life. I did feel like I knew them by the end of the novel . . . and I was sad that it had come to an end.
I would definitely recommend this book - it's funny, sweet and a little bit different from the usual chick-lit, and it will leave you with a big smile on your face. If you like a girly book with romance, humour, emotion and . . . well, shopping and clothes, then you'll love it!
***"Miracle on Regent Street" costs £3.82 from amazon.co.uk ***