All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Wardrobe Girl – Jennifer Smart

on March 10, 2014

Wardrobe GirlThe Wardrobe Girl
Jennifer Smart
Random House AUS
2014, 316p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

After finding out in a humiliating fashion that her relationship was over and her boyfriend had left her for someone else, BBC costume designer and Australian ex-pat Tess Appleby felt that there was nothing left to do but return home. After eight years living and working in London, usually on period pieces, the job market is quite different back in Sydney.

Tess gets a job on the Australian soap Pretty Beach Rescue working in the wardrobe department. Almost immediately she is hit on by the handsome male star and earns the eagle eye and resentment of his girlfriend, also a star on the show. She’s late on her first day, which is not the impression that she wants to make. Tess is the daughter of a famous actress and director but she doesn’t like trading on this and has changed her name to avoid people recognising her successful family. However Tess less successful at distancing herself from them in real life as she is at the moment, living with her high-maintenance mother and sister Emma, who stops at nothing to put Tess down.

Just when Tess believes that the situation couldn’t get any more volatile, the show gets a new director for a block of episodes. That director is Jake Freeman, her former fiancé. Tess hasn’t seen him since she threw her engagement ring at him eight years ago when he was leaving London – and her.

Back in my high school and university days, I was quite the fan of Home & Away and Neighbours two of the famous Aussie soaps. In fact I only really stopped watching a couple of years ago when my second child was born and that timeslot became quite frankly, my greatest nightmare. Juggling dinner, bath and bed for my oldest child and calming the youngest as he worked through a period of being a little gremlin before bed meant that there was simply, no time for sitting down and watching TV. Obviously my children are older now but I haven’t bothered to go back to the shows. However I was interested enough to want to read this book, set behind the scenes of a soap opera. Jennifer Smart has worked in film and television for years so I’m assuming she’s privy to a lot of information about what goes on behind the scenes – both the professional stuff and the not-so-professional!

While I quite enjoyed the basic story line of this book (humiliated girl has to return home, finds more problems there before happiness, etc) I had some issues that I really couldn’t get past and they all revolved around the characters. It’s peppered with acting types and I’m sure there are people out there who are really like this but the characters of Sean Tyler and Bree Brenner were so stereotyped it was laughable. Sean was the gorgeous heartthrob who would basically attempt to bonk anything with breasts and he kind of vacillated between charming and quite likable to a total sleaze. Bree was a basic high school mean girl transported into the adult world from high school – blind to the behaviour of her boyfriend or unwilling to see and ready to scratch out the eyes of every woman he even looked at, of which there were many. Both of them were the darlings of the soap, also involved in an onscreen romance as well.

The character of Emma, Tess’s sister was very inconsistent and it bothered me a bit. For most of the book she’s ridiculously bitchy towards Tess with little to no background on why she’s so horrid. Is it because Tess went overseas and made something of herself and Emma is still living with their mother? Is it from childhood? I don’t know, I feel as though this should’ve been better explored than it was. It was the same with Tess’s relationship with her mother. Also Tess let both of them walk all over her all of the time which really bothered me. She basically buys an apartment to get out of her mother’s house and away from them, so useless is she at standing up for herself.

Tess and her behaviour was no better – this one takes ‘flawed’ to a whole new level and she makes some horrible, terrible decisions. Tess has no respect for other people’s relationships, even before this book starts. She began her relationship in England with a man who already had a partner and attempts to make excuses for it and justify it and is then surprised when he dumps her publicly for some starlet. She doesn’t respect Sean’s relationship with Bree, no matter what a trainwreck it might be – it’s still a relationship and she knows that. She might not like Bree and Sean might be a ginormous manwhore but they are still in a relationship and Tess knew that. She also has little respect for Jake’s relationship with his extraordinarily nice girlfriend although at least she doesn’t really do anything to jeopardise it. Jake and Tess both say terrible things to each other and then pretend that it didn’t happen all the while secretly resenting each other for the breakdown of their former relationship and wanting to be back in each other’s pants. It really should’ve been a lot more angsty and romantic than it was.

Whilst I enjoyed the parts of the story that dealt with filming the soap and all of the intricacies involved with that behind the scenes and the banter between the crew, plus I loved that it was set in Sydney. It’s my favourite place in the world and really had that Sydney feel, but I didn’t love the rest of the story. Tess bothered me in so many ways and towards the end I didn’t even want her and Jake to end up back together – and it’s not often you can say that, that you don’t want the designated love interest to actually get with the main character. Tess needed to own her behaviour a lot more than she did and maybe think about why she tended to do these things.


Book #55 of 2014


The Wardrobe Girl is book #21 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

2 responses to “Review: The Wardrobe Girl – Jennifer Smart

  1. Marg says:

    The whole soap setting put me off this one even without reading it.

  2. […] Bree of AllTheBooksiCanRead, “enjoyed the parts of the story that dealt with filming the soap and all of the intricacies involved with that behind the scenes and the banter between the crew, plus I loved that it was set in Sydney.” Sam of Sam Still Reading thought, “The characters were done well – Tess’s family in particular were cleverly drawn and ….The other actors and crew were funny and unique”. Monique of WriteNoteReviews warns, “I wouldn’t class this as a romance though – it’s more soap opera, what with Tess’s family, work and relationship dramas.” […]

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