A Pretty Mess, An Astonvale Novel by Carla Caruso

A Pretty Mess, An Astonvale Novel by Carla Caruso
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (247 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

Sometimes, to come clean, you’ve got to get your hands dirty …

Celeste Pretty, a self-confessed neat freak, has found the job she was born to do: a professional organiser, de-cluttering people’s homes and workplaces. Her new business gets off to a cracking start when she lands her first client, health and fitness guru Natalia Samphire, in the well-heeled suburb of Astonvale. But things get messy at Natalia’s mansion when Celeste finds a blackmail note and other mysterious items. And then there’s Lenny Muscat, the sexy builder renovating the place, whose constant presence is muddling Celeste’s usually organised brain.

When things get decidedly suspicious at the mansion, she and Lenny have to team up to investigate. But will Celeste emerge with her heart and professional reputation unscathed?

Celeste, a neat freak, and Lenny, the man with a plan, learn that sometimes the best decisions are the spontaneous ones. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they don’t try staying in control at all cost, until they realize it’s simply not worth it.

In their case, letting life surprise them is a good thing. It does take the whole novel for them to realize it, though. But it’s a fun read and I loved following them as they struggled, trying to keep a balance between what they thought they wanted from life and what life was actually offering them. Their romance developed slowly, and I appreciated how Celeste was not willing to rush things even after she dumped her sort-of boyfriend Mitchell. She was content staying single, which showed her strong character and independence. I loved that.

I really liked the characters of Natalia and her fiancé Mike and I would love to read more about them. Same goes for Celeste’s assistant, Flip. Celeste herself was a good character as far as characterization goes, but a smidgen too tidy for my taste. Obviously, Lenny wasn’t hard to warm up to, despite his occasional arrogance. The sparks between him and Celeste — or fireworks, as Lenny described them — were fun to watch. Their relationship was far from boring.

The suspense of the blackmailing plot helped keep the fast pace of the novel and also helped describe Natalia’s character. It was, however, a bit too predictable; a twist or two would make the story more original. I also stumbled over a handful of syntactical mistakes that had me re-reading the sentences a few times before I got the meaning.

This novel is far from a mess – it’s an enjoyable read with wonderfully written protagonists and a bunch of quirky secondary characters that make for a compelling read.

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