A genuinely very funny and irreverent debut novel about life, love, sex, double lives, mystery shopping and hot tubs.
Brooke’s a gorgeous young mum who lives in Essex. Her favourite things in life are her baby, her husband, Chardonnay, hot tubs and OK! magazine.
All that’s missing from her life is the hot tub. Brooke’s bored at home and wants financial independence, but mostly a hot tub and Dean’s a man with traditional values and he doesn’t want Brooke to work. She secretly takes a job at a nearby country house, meeting the incorrigible Lady Townsend. This unlikely friendship, plus some jaw-dropping events, helps Brooke realise that she’s capable of so much more than she thought.
Dean is a devoted husband and father, and, knowing what Brooke wants most of all in life, he secretly takes up mystery shopping hoping to make some extra money to pay for it. And if he gets some peace and quiet whilst doing so, all the better.
The elaborate web of lies they both weave results in numerous madcap situations, but can their deceit undermine the love that they have?
This book is deceptively simple because there are so many layers to it. At first glance it’s about two rather shallow people who put image above everything else. But at heart, there’s goodness, good intentions, loyalty, love and wanting to surprise their partner. Due to lack of communication lines get crossed, and both parties of Brooke and Dean sneak off on secret missions in order to accomplish their well-intentioned but misguided goals.
All sort of social issues are swirled around in the story which stars what appears to be the stereotypical Essex couple. This alone brings bubbles of classism and snobbery, both society’s and the characters’, to the surface. The rights and wrongs of conspicuous consumption and consumerism slosh around there too. And that’s just a quick toe dip.
Brooke is exasperating and endearing, Dean likewise. They’re both incredibly selfish, yet also genuinely caring. It’s fascinating reading about them and the messes they proceed to get themselves into. They develop from caricatures into warm, human beings.
The humour is abundant, the atmosphere lively, the writing razor-sharp and the author’s eye unsparing. This book makes for a thoroughly entertaining and also thought-provoking read.
About the author
She was born and brought up in Waltham Abbey in Essex and currently lives in a small village in North West Essex, so it would be fair to say she has earned her “Essex girl” badge!
Helen has had a varied and interesting career in retail and hospitality in UK, Europe and USA, including setting up and running her own restaurant. She runs her own training consultancy to the hospitality industry. One element of her business has been designing and implementing mystery shopper programmes all over the UK for some of the most well-known organisations. With inside knowledge of the industry and armed with thousands of funny mystery shopping incidents, she was inspired to write her debut novel, The Mystery Shopper & The Hot Tub.
Helen has recently spent time combining work and writing with travelling with her husband, including four months in Europe in a 20 year old campervan, a completely wild four-month ride round India by train and a month in an isolated log cabin in Finland.
She rides a motorbike and has three talented and amazing grown up children.
P.s. She doesn’t have a hot tub… yet!