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Book Review: The Finishing Touches by Hester Browne

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There comes a time in every girl's life when she's ready to make a change. Sometimes that changes comes in the form of a big decision or action on our part. Sometimes the decision is made for us – like when we lose of loved one. This is the change occurring in Hester Browne's newest novel, The Finishing Touches.

Betsy Phillimore has just lost her mother – well, the only mother she's ever known, that is. Left as an infant on the steps of the London finishing school run by her adoptive parents, Betsy has never truly considered who her birth mother might be. Now that she's back at The Phillimore Academy for Young Ladies she's begun wondering if now might be the time to start thinking about whether or not she wants to locate her birth mother – and what that might mean in regards to the other areas of her life.

When Betsy arrives back at the Academy she's shocked to find it in bad shape. When she learns that enrollment is down — way down — she realizes that she may truly have to say goodbye to the place where she spent so many happy years as a child. However, when she is asked by her adoptive father, Lord Phillimore, to stay in London for a few weeks as a consultant and see if she can help turn things around, she knows she must stay on and try to help out. Oh, and then there's that little business about having lied to the Phillimores about her actual career (assistant manager in a shoe store) and letting them believe she's a business consultant…

The Finishing Touches was fun from start to finish. Betsy is an engaging character who I found myself rooting for from page one. She is smart and witty with just enough goofy clumsiness to make her laugh-out-loud funny. The scenes between her and her "crush" are tense and yet hilarious. I loved that Browne added in some suspense: will Betsy find her birth mother? Can the Academy be saved? Will Betsy ever find a man? These questions and more kept me reading late into the night. Fans of Browne's Little Lady Agency novels won't be disappointed.

Browne's barbs at life in the days of finishing schools were entertaining and her strong female characters each sparkled in their own unique way. And the bit where Betsy teaches the girls how to walk in high heels – I could use those lessons! Even the little "finishing school tips" at the beginning of each chapter were great. Who knew that a good handshake should have "three shakes up and down?" Guess I may need a few 'finishing touches' myself!

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