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A Pretty Mess: an Astonvale Novel

Summary: Celeste Pretty, a self-confessed neat freak, starts her own organizing company, POPink, which is intended to help de-clutter people’s homes and workplaces. She is off to a great start when she lands her first client, health and fitness guru Natalia Samphire, in the well-heeled suburb of Astonvale. However, things go awry because she has a hard time keeping her growing attraction to the builder Lenny and her assistant (and cousin) Flip’s behaviour under control. A blackmail note and other mysterious items make the situation increasingly messy. Celeste and Lenny decide to team up to investigate the mystery.

My thoughts: This is my first Carla Caruso book. I liked the play of words in the title.

The book had a slow start. It is neither a great romance nor a full-blown mystery. Celeste and Lenny are instantly attracted to each other, but their romance is slightly bland. Lenny’s and Celeste’s reasoning for not becoming seriously involved seems immature at times.  The mystery is also light; so there is not much suspense.

However, I liked that the book is not a cliché romance that revolves around Celeste and Lenny. It has a nice mixture of intrigue, suspense, romance, comedy and wit.
The book has some interesting and quirky secondary characters: Natalia, who despite being a celebrity seems likeable; her assistant Minka who is an odd combination of weird and boring; her musclebound, tattooed fiancé Mike; Celeste’s father, a hoarder; Flip, her street-smart cousin; Betty Lou, her head-up-in-dreams friend; and the two hairdressers, Araminta and Kim-Ly, the former a friend of Celeste and the latter, of Natalia. And, the screechy, attitude-filled Siamese cat, Custard.
I also liked the double perspective between Lenny and Celeste and all the cultural references to Australia.
All in all, a light and entertaining read that helped fix my rather sombre mood.

Note: I was given this book in exchange for an honest review by HarperCollins Publishers Australia. I thank them for that.

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