In brief: Amy Blaine never has any luck with men, but when English comedian/writer Ben Martindale worms his way into her barbershop, he also finds a way to her heart. But little does Amy know that she’s the subject of Ben’s weekly newspaper columns…
The good: I love Amy (sweet, kind and with awesome baking/fashion sense) and this is my favourite book yet by Georgina Penney.
The not-so-good: I demolished this one and was left with a book hangover. (Also, Ben – you can be an utter tool).
Why I chose it: Wanted to know more about Amy after reading Fly In, Fly Out. Thanks Penguin for the copy!
Year: 2017 (first published as Irrepressible You, 2014)
Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin Random House)
Setting: Mainly Fremantle and Perth, Western Australia
My rating: 10 out of 10
I’ve enjoyed Georgina Penney’s other books, which are set in my home state, but I knew I was going to love The Barbershop Girl as soon as I saw it. Not only do I own several flower hairpieces, but I have serious dress envy for the one Amy, our heroine is reading on the cover. As I read through the book, I realised that I wanted to be good friends with not only Amy, but Ben, the hero. I didn’t want to stop reading their story – it’s funny, sweet and the characters are perfectly constructed.
The story features characters that will be familiar to those who have read Fly In, Fly Out (such as Jo, Stephen and Scott) but the book works perfectly well as a standalone. Amy is Jo’s sister and they are as different as chalk and cheese. While Jo is tomboyish with a penchant for swearing, Amy never swears and wears her 1950s inspired outfits as armour, day in, day out. What both sisters have in common is their horrible upbringing which has left them very close. Amy is grateful to Jo for pretty much raising her and she wants Jo to know that she’s doing fine. Except that she’s not. Amy’s business (barbershop and hair salon) are doing well, but some of her staff have attitudes better left at the door and Amy’s love life has never worked out. Worse, one of her exes insists on making her life a misery every time he’s off swing back in Perth. So when Amy completely fails to recognise a famous opera singer and his famous comedian mate in a bar, she feels pretty useless. She has to apologise – and that’s how Ben Martindale comes into her life.
Ben is funny and lives behind a veneer of utter bastardry – he’s that guy you love to hate but secretly kind of like. He’s rich, says what he thinks and is hiding out in Australia to write and stay out of the British tabloids. Amy isn’t his usual type, but she wins his heart with her dedication to whatever she does. He’s hiding a scarred childhood too, but you’d never know that. And he doesn’t want you to know, so describing Amy under a code name in his weekly columns in a sardonic tone equals affection in Ben’s head. But will Amy agree?
The novel is absolutely gorgeous – it is truly funny and incredibly sweet at times. My only qualm would be the damage caused to an Aston Martin DB9, but at least it’s a fictional one! I truly felt the characters became friends (they were that well fleshed out and lifelike) and I’m trying to fight the urge to go to Fremantle to look for Amy’s salon. (She gives her customers homemade cake and cookies, how sweet is that)? I even found Amy as a fashion inspiration a few days over the last week for dresses and heels! While Amy is an easy person to like, it says a lot that Georgina Penney made Ben, who by his own admission is a bastard, a character to like. Seeing him alone, vulnerable and at a loss helped me as the reader to see there was more to him than just clever words and a flash car. Amy also helps him to see that he doesn’t need to hide as he helps her to see that it’s okay to vulnerable. They are quite similar in some ways.
My time with The Barbershop Girl just flew by. I’m really, really looking forward to hopefully reading Scott’s story one day. He’s a mysterious photographer who jets around the world, surely he has some secrets to reveal?