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8 March 2011

A Proper Charlie by Louise Wise

Charlie Wallis is a young woman working in media, has daydreams and is looking for love. Sound familiar? If you think Louise Wise's latest novel, A Proper Charlie, is a Bridget Jones clone, you'd be wrong. It was often a struggle to like Bridget, with Charlie you can't help it.

In early chapters Charlie's naivety borders on annoying, but as the novel develops we soon realise she has dreams and it's those that have turned her into a survivor.

Deciding she has hit on the next big story, she has to step aside when she realises her more experienced colleagues are already researching and writing front page articles. But why let a good idea go to waste? The lives (and possibly deaths) of prostitutes would make a cracking novel, she decides - and continues her perilous research.

I think it was at this point I wondered if the author was pushing her character too far. How realistic would it be for a young woman to dress as a prostitute and climb into a stranger's car? We might not consider it, but as more of Charlie's past is revealed it actually seemed almost plausible.

She'd had a tough life; Charlie grew up with no real family. But a boy she met in a home became her big brother and offered her his shoulder when crying was all she could do. Separated by his eventual adoption, he never forgot her and eventually found her a job with a newspaper he edited.

And what of love? The joy of a good romance is not necessarily in discovering the love interest. It was obvious after only a few pages with whom Charlie was destined to find that love. But how could their lives be reconciled? That's where pace comes into play and the author managed it magnificently.

A Proper Charlie is a good read. A main character researching prostitutes doesn't suggest much humour - but Louise Wise has balanced it well. Charlie's chaotic life could be a mess, but it's not. I particularly enjoyed the office scenes - the back-chat with co-workers was sharp and witty. Although the sudden change in tempo during one exchange between Charlie and a colleague seemed as unnatural as the breasts they were feeling.

But the scene in Charlie’s flat with a would-be punter made me laugh out loud with the climax brilliantly scripted.

Available from Amazon:A Proper Charlie: For anyone as long as they aren't ginger.