A witty debut novel from a pseudonymous writing pair (one is a suspense author, the other a London-based media agent) about a saucy London literary agent eager to go into business for herself.
Tess Drake may have sex appeal, nerves of steel and a knack for making her writer clients rich, but she does not have her independence. Opportunity conveniently knocks when the owner of the Bardwright Agency, Lowell Bardwright, is found dead in what looks like an unfortunate, but kinky, accident. Lowell gave Tess her start, but his icy next-in-command, Cosima, has little love for Tess. The fact that Tess is secretly sleeping with Cosima’s much-younger husband naturally complicates things. (Tess’s code name for him is “Darcy,” but it is hard to imagine Jane Austen approving of their X-rated romps.) Ignoring the solid advice of her close friend Oliver Howard, a talented ex-junkie novelist who suggests she not tangle with Cosima, Tess sets about luring writers to her new agency. She begins with Dorothy Starkwell, an über-successful American children’s author. Loyal Dorothy looks like a sure thing, until a potentially devastating blackmail scheme rears it nasty head. Tess also has to look out for her former best friend Saleema, a professional rival who might be holding onto a teeny grudge against Tess for sleeping with her one-time fiancé. And then there is Nicolas Hadley, the Scotland Yard detective who informs her that Lowell may not have been alone when he died, with all evidence pointing toward Tess being an active participant in his last moments. Murder, even for Tess, is a bit much, so it is up to her to clear her name, as well as sort out her personal life and launch her firm. But with her once-promising career prospects looking bleak, Tess is forced to own up to some of the questionable decisions she has made, if she is really going to have a fresh start. With an insider’s take on the book biz, and an appealingly foul-mouthed heroine, this debut is fast, funny and a bit nasty—not unlike Tess.
A naughty, catty good time.