This is the sixth adventure I've shared with Becky Brandon (nae Bloomwood) but she felt like an old friend after the very first book so it hardly needs to be said that I always enjoy spending time with her. She is funny, warmhearted and prone to snafus; and now, she is married, happily employed at The Look as a personal shopper, and mother to two-year-old Minnie, who is becoming quite the mini-shopaholic herself. But, while Becky may be a shopaholic, hubby Luke is a workaholic and their relationship seems a bit strained in consequence. Becky wants to plan a fabulous surprise party for him but, being Becky, she runs into so many snags, not only in terms of the party planning but in keeping it a secret. By the end, we are all on pins and needles wondering if it's going to turn out! Oh, and did I mention the slight issue of the financial crisis hitting England—and putting more than a slight dent in Becky's pocketbook and party budget. Will she be able to keep her promise of not buying anything new for herself--not even a new dress for Luke's party!? Will the pom-poms she's making out of old plastic shopping bags really turn out to be the fun and economical party accessory she hopes they'll be? And will Luke find out the secrets--not only about the party but about the fact that Becky has agreed to meet with Elinor (Luke's estranged biological mother) to let her see her granddaughter Minnie at long last?
Much as I love Becky, and Kinsella's style, I must admit that by this time I would have liked Becky to wise up just a little bit more regarding her shopaholic tendencies and the fact that money doesn't grow on trees. It all seems just a tad bit redundant at this point, and the "lessons" that Becky "The Girl in the Green Scarf" Bloomwood learned in the original book need some repeating. It's all a bit like watching "I Love Lucy"--you know Lucy is going to mess things up, you know there will be some fiasco as a result, but somehow her winning personality and big-heartedness will put things to right, and Ricky may roll his eyes and say "ay-yay-yai!" but he will give her a big hug and a smooch at the end. And though if we were friends with Lucy in real life, we'd probably get more than a little frustrated with her, since we're just being entertained by her, we can laugh and shrug off the lack of character development.
I found myself a little unnerved by one of the plot developments, especially given the fuss that was made in the beginning of the book about Cutting Back on Expenses and the financial crisis, etc. Becky spends money like there's no tomorrow, and though her sister Jess is always on hand to remind her about the pitfalls of consumerism and the benefits of bartering, no one really listens to her. But, by the end of things, I was so caught up in wondering whether the surprise would come off, and what exactly it would be, that I didn't really mind how we got there. The end was pretty wonderful (as you know it would be; but with a little surprise even for us readers) and I ended up being happy with this installment in the Shopaholic series, setting my little qualms aside to enjoy myself. The end just begs for another episode in the adventures of Becky and I will probably sign up to go along when the time comes.