The Secret Shopper Affair is the third book in Kate Harrison's The Secret Shopper series, and it's one I have been eagerly awaiting for a while now! I really enjoyed the previous 2 outings with the three ladies who are now very familiar tome, so when a hardback copy of this arrived on my doorstep, I couldn't wait to get stuck in. I do like the new cover design, but I find it odd that Orion have changed the design for the series on the third book... what was wrong with the old design?! Either way, I hoped that wouldn't affect the story inside, which of course it shouldn't, and sat down to read.
The book picks up a little while after the second book, The Secret Shopper Unwrapped, with Emily and Will living in their homemade shop in Heartsease with her son Freddie, but things aren't all rosy. Emily is beginning to resent her friends for their lifestyle while it's all falling apart for her. She's sure her relationship to Will is on the rocks, and when she's given the opportunity to win a grant for Heartsease, she suddenly thinks it might be the motivation she needs. Sandie is pregnant and not necessarily enjoying her pregnancy, she's worrying about her career, that she won't be a good mother and that her fiancé's shop Garnett's is going under. Finally, Grazia is mourning after losing her love, but soon finds herself in a position she never thought she would be.. complete with a ready made family.
As with the previous books, there is a separate plot lines for each of the characters, but they meet up regularly throughout the book to keep the three of them intertwined with each other's lives, although this happens perhaps less in this book than the previous one. I really enjoyed Sandie's journey in this book, I really warmed to her and wanted to read more about her and less about Emily if I am honest! Her story certainly seemed to link more to the previous books for me, perhaps because it brought her previous place of work back but I just found it very enjoyable. Grazia's story is at the opposite end of the scale to Sandie's, but again I found it very interesting to read, and I felt Harrison broached the subject of step-parenting and the difficulties that come with all of that very well, it seemed sympathetic yet not too emotional - she seems to have struck the right balance. I also liked Grazia's jet-setting, it was nice for the book to leave London and Heartsease briefly and added a dash of glamour into the proceedings too!
If you're a fan of the previous books, then you are most definitely going to want to read this. I found it very enjoyable overall, very easy to read and pick-up but Emily's story for me let it down a bit. I know that there was a point to it but I found her too negative for my liking and there wasn't enough positives from her to pick it back up again. There was a bit of a lack of Secret Shopping but after the developments of the story over the 3 books, that was expected, and a few occasions did pop up so I can't moan too much! Harrison has easily slipped back into these characters, writing them with ease and when I was reading, it didn't feel like it had a been a year since I'd last read a Secret Shoppers book. You can of course read this as a stand-alone novel, enough of the background is explained for you to get the jist of the previous books but obviously it does work best read as the third in the series. I really enjoyed the book, and do hope that Harrison will be bringing back the Secret Shopping ladies once more!
on 12 February 2012
This book is the third installment of the Secret Shopper series from Kate Harrison and picks up more or less where the last book finished with the lives of Emily, Sandie and Grazia so it is advisable to read the the other books in the series first before this one.
Emily and Will are still living together but they are definitely not living the picture-perfect live that Emily had imagined; Sandie is now pregnant and working as a consultant at her boyfriend Toby's department store, Garnett's, to try and bring it back to its former glory and Grazia has been swept off her feet by a new man, Joel, but is he all that he seems?
Unfortunately this book for me did nothing to make me like Emily as a character as it seemed to depict her as quite a whiney character, which didn't happen in previous books, so I found that I quite often wanted to skip through her chapters to get to the others. Although things did improve towards the end to bring me around.
Overall, if you've read the previous books, then this is a pleasant read to find out where Emily, Sandie and Grazia's lives have ended up. I'm not sure whether or not Kate Harrison is planning any more books in the series but this did seem to be a fitting conclusion if no more books to be brought out.
on 2 April 2016
Having read the previous two books, I was interested to see how the secret shoppers' lives continued and I wasn't disappointed. Kate Harrison has a talent for drawing you in from page one and making you care about her characters which is a rare gift in my experience for modern romantic novels which are sometimes too contrived or edgy for their own good. Yet this lovely book whilst being set in recent times has all the charm of an old fashioned novel. I could easily see all three books adapted into a film or TV mini series.
I loved it and couldn't put it down. It's poignant, realistic, funny and there is a lovely satisfying ending which leaves you wanting more. I hope Kate writes a follow up soon.
This is the first Kate Harrison I have read. I really liked the synopsis and thought it sounded very similar to what Sophie Kinsella writes.
The story follows the lives of three women - Grazia, Sandie and Emily - and the story is told from each of their viewpoints. I really connected with Sandie and could understand her frustrations, with her mother-in law, friends and the business. I found Emily to be very selfish and whiney, but then felt sorry for her, especially with the way Will treat her. I enjoyed the chapters by Grazia the least. While she was a perfectly acceptable character, I just found her very hard to relate to. She didn't seem to know what she wanted.
I did enjoy the story and it's a perfect example of it's genre, but I didn't particularly feel that the three lives went together. I haven't read the first two in the series, so maybe this is something that is more built up in the first two. I also think reading them in order might have helped me to understand the secret shopper aspect more.
I have now ordered the first two in this series (The Secret Shopper's Revenge and The Secret Shopper Unwrapped) and I look forward to reading them!
on 9 February 2012
The 3rd book in the series of the Secret Shopping Angels and I hope not the last. Kate Harrison has written yet another hard-to-put-down story about Emily, Sandie and Grazia. Their lives have moved on since the last book. Freddie, (Emily's son), is verging on going to school for the first time and I can totally sympathize with Emily's nerves about letting her baby grow up and her anxieties about the way she'll be seen at the school gates by other, more glamorous, mothers. I won't go into the story too much as i don't want to spoil it for those who are thinking of buying the books. All I will say is that I found all 3 Secret Shopper stories uplifting, funny and hard to leave alone. I'm really sad that I've now come to the end and feel it'll be a while before I find another author who can captivate me quite as much as Kate has.
on 10 July 2012
I just hope this does not prove to be the last in the secret shopper series, though there is only one writer , Kate Harrison , and she writes a lot of other books too. I actually have now read every book she has written, and so has my 85 year old mother(she read the lot in 3 weeks, dont think she watched TV at all), my best friend who is 40 and my 28 year old daughter . Surfice to say, her books appeal to all ages, try one, I am sure you will love it too. Dont forget to read the Secret shoppers series in order!!!!
on 19 December 2011
as this is the 3rd book in the series the expectations were high but it just didnt really get there. it is great to catch up with the 3 secret shopping ladies as they have drifted apart somewhat, life taking over! but somehow the story just didnt suck me in that i didnt want to leave like the previous ones. maybe we will meet these characters again in another book.
on 25 May 2011
If you're looking for a warm, friendly, funny read then get stuck into any of the 'Secret Shopper' books. This one is a fine addition to the series - just nice, easy reading, and characters you want to spend time with. Also very funny.
on 27 April 2011
There are three books in this little series and they are all a great read; shame I read the last one first, but I have since caught up and would recommend them to all the ladies who enjoy well written chic-lit. Kate Harrison is a new writer for me, but I have ordered all her books now and can't wait to read the rest! I'm a fan of Jill Mansell and Katie Fforde and these books are in similar vein: About the realities of life, romance plus hopes and dreams etc., hard to put down!!