All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Purely Decorative – Angelina Cabo

Zoe is an attractive and independent but permanently skint 23 year old barmaid in 1980s London. She works at a pub called Sizzlers that attracts a decent crowd. Her boss is easily manipulated and Zoe doesn’t seem to mind flirting and using her charms on him in order to get what she wants. She likes her job because it allows her to drink champagne at work, and she especially likes it when other people pay for it. There’s a regular there that’s in love with her and seems to keep her well supplied, as well as begging her to leave her job and come and be with him. Zoe laughs this off.

One of her friends Liz, who has just had a baby, pays Zoe a visit and asks a favour of her. Liz has an “arrangement” with a South American business man that when he comes to Europe, she accompanies him looking attractive and raising his street cred. She hasn’t see him in over a year and has had a baby (to someone else) in that time so when she hears that her businessman friend, “Raoul” is coming to Europe and needs an escort, she recommends Zoe. Zoe will get a fully expenses paid trip to Barcelona, beautiful clothes and jewelry to wear and it’s “no pressure”. She is there as “decoration” nothing more. Unless she wants it, of course.

Zoe dithers for about five minutes before deciding that all expenses paid is too much to pass up and she agrees to go and be Raoul’s escort. She borrows money left, right and centre to try and pay some bills before she leaves, she uses her best manipulation skills to get two weeks off from her boss (and an advance in pay!). And so she meets him in Frankfurt, where she finds him, attractive, pleasant, older than her and slightly quaint. As they journey to Barcelona, Zoe finds herself even more attracted to him despite some pretty glaringly disturbing moments, including him shouting at her in a restaurant full of people. Although he swears he would never hurt her, his behaviour is wildly inappropriate and actually quite frightening. Zoe decides to leave but somehow Raoul manages to talk her out of it and they resume their relationship.

By now Zoe has had some ‘suspicions’ about the nature of Raoul’s business in Europe and she questions him on it openly. He answers her even more openly and it’s no surprise to the reader what sort of “business” Raoul is in. When Zoe is threatening to leave early for some reason or other again, she discovers incriminating evidence in the suitcase Raoul has leant her and is livid that he would place her in such a position. He swears it was accidental but by now Zoe is in love with him. It seems that he will never regard her as the ‘only one’ in his life and so she leaves finally, back to England. Desperate to hear from him again….

I’m not even sure what to say about this book. What was it about? A pretty unlikeable protagonist in Zoe – maybe I’m showing my age here but 23yo barmaids who drink too much/on the job, can’t pay their bills and agree to go overseas to be an escort for a South American man they’ve never met, don’t make for a character I want to read about. I felt like a real picture of Zoe was never painted – we didn’t really come to know much about her other than she liked drinking, didn’t mind casual sex and was careless enough to put herself in what was a pretty stupid situation.

It’s obvious as hell that Raoul is a drug mule. Zoe has deduced this with her enormous intellect, asking him “drugs or porn?” as she smokes a cigarette coolly, because it is the 1980s and cigarettes are still cool and don’t give you boring things like 25 different types of cancer. Raoul smiles and tells her that why yes, he does deal drugs, thank you for asking. Hmm, says Zoe, I do hope it’s not heroin. I have rather a dislike against that one. Makes you addicted. No, answers Raoul with a distasteful shudder. I deal in Coke. Oh ok, says Zoe, relieved. Well that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with Coke. Actually I’m partial to the odd gram myself now and then, when someone else is paying for it, of course!

Um, what? That scene just had me rolling my eyes. Firstly, I’m pretty sure that you don’t just ask people if they’re international drug dealers and if you’re stupid enough to, they don’t just tell you. Ultimately Raoul doesn’t know Zoe from a bar of soap either, she could be anyone and do anything with the information he gives her. And Raoul isn’t dealing in chump change, netting 250k in one transaction which would be big money and he’s obviously been doing it for quite a while. He has money to burn and given that he hasn’t been caught, must have some savvy and intelligence. It seems utterly ridiculous that he would just tell Zoe all about it and then take her along on transactions. The scene where Zoe opens a suitcase they receive with the payment and showers the money all over her and they then have sex on the bed amidst all the money is cheap and such a cliche I feel like it’s been in every bad movie ever made.

This is apparently based on a true story – the author’s mother experienced something very similar to what Zoe does in this book. That to me just makes it even more bizarre, as I can’t imagine anyone who prides themselves on being a wild and independent woman being sucked in by a chauvinistic and vaguely threatening man like Raoul. There’s nothing about Raoul in this book to endear anyone to him, other than his piles of money. And that does absolutely nothing for me. Then again, there’s nothing to endear me to Zoe either.

Did not particularly enjoy this one at all.


Book #67 of 2011

**Note: A Kindle file of Purely Decorative was given to me by the publisher for review.

1 Comment »