I was drawn to the cover of The Debutante as soon as I saw it, pink, glitzy and pretty (with shoes!!) - I couldn't walk away without buying it. In my defence I am a big fan of all of Kathleen Tessaro's past books so I would inevitably have bought this latest one anyway - but the cover did help!
Tessaro's books would probably be classified as "chick lit" but I would hate for them to be seen as light or insubstantial because of that classification. All of her books have style and substance and a little bit of grit and The Debutante was no exception for me.
The story starts in London in the office of Deveraux and Diplock, Valuers and Auctioneers of Quality where the firms owner, Rachel Deveraux is sending her long standing employee, Jack Coates off to an English estate in the country on a valuing job with her niece Cate who has recently (and mysteriously) returned from New York. It all sounds a little bit set up and forced when described in that way but it certainly doesn't come across that way when reading it. Each of the characters has a well described back story that comes out in time which adds to their authenticity and the novel as a whole - it makes you connect with where the book is going.
The highlight of the trip to the estate, Endsleigh, for Cate is the discovery of a shoe box filled with random treasures from a past time which leads her on a mission to discover more about the estate's past residents, the infamous Blythe sisters Irene and Diana.
The book moves from the present back to the 1930's through the device of letters from Diana Blythe to her sister and others. At the same time Cate is discovering about the lost life of Diana Blythe her own life seems to share many parallels with Diana's and in the process of unravelling Diana's mystery she has to come to terms with some of her own past decisions and acts.
I really enjoyed this book - as I said earlier, it had substance but there was also a lightness in the way the adventure and mystery was structured. I thought the ending came together a little too neatly but it didn't change my love for the book. There was also a very interesting post script from the author at the end of the book in which she spoke about how she came to write the book the way she did. Another winner from Tessaro and one that has me wanting to go right back and read some of her earlier books.