A Pretty Mess An Astonvale Novel
by Carla Caruso
Release Date: October 1, 2014
Publisher: Harper Collins
Kindle Edition: 260 pages
Kindle Price: $2.99
Sometimes, to come clean, you’ve got to get your hands dirty…
Celeste Pretty, a self-confessed neat freak, has found the job she was born to do: a professional organiser, de-cluttering people’s homes and workplaces. Her new business gets off to a cracking start when she lands her first client, health and fitness guru Natalia Samphire, in the well-heeled suburb of Astonvale. But things get messy at Natalia’s mansion when Celeste finds a blackmail note and other mysterious items. And then there’s Lenny Muscat, the sexy builder renovating the place, whose constant presence is muddling Celeste’s usually organised brain.
When things get decidedly suspicious at the mansion, she and Lenny have to team up to investigate. But will Celeste emerge with her heart and professional reputation unscathed?
This is the first in the Astonvale series.
The novel takes place in Astonvale, an Australian suburb, home of the well-to-do and extremely socially aware crowd. Living in Southern California, I personally love reading novels that are based internationally and this is one of the first I’ve read based in AU.
Caruso’s characters are lively, entertaining and compelling. Celeste Pretty is a woman after my own heart; she’s organized, determined and is willing to work her way up in the world to achieve success. The true spark of irony is that she is a professional organizer and her father is an extreme hoarder. She craves organization and order so desperately, in part because of her father’s ridiculous habit of collecting junk to the point where his home is an unlivable safety hazard. Somehow, through all the chaos, he still manages a bit of order. His mess never made any sense to her, but somehow he always seemed to know exactly where things were.
Celeste has an interesting perspective on relationships, especially for someone whose parents truly loved one another. She’s in a relationship with a man that she barely has anything in common with and her best friend doesn’t even like him. It wasn’t possible to like every single thing about the person you dated, was it? Fate comes into play when Celeste books her first gig as a professional organizer for a celebrity client and suddenly she’s doing everything in her power to resist a gorgeous man that might actually be the perfect guy. At first glance he seems like the complete opposite of the type of guys she’s into, despite him having a successful career and being completely gorgeous, he doesn’t strike her as someone that does relationships and commitment. “I can’t be friends with women, not good-looking ones.” Lenny continues to get distracted by the sexy, sassy side of Celeste but keeps telling himself that it’s not the right time for a relationship. Can Fate work it’s magic and get these two together? Will Celeste ever acknowledge that Lenny is honest, dependable and most importantly, caring enough to take a chance on?
One consistent theme of the novel is the idea of Carpe Diem because you never know how short life is. For someone so organized, it’s amazing that Celeste is not much of a planner; she prefers to live in the moment and let things happen as they will. I might be a professional organiser, but even I don’t think we’re meant to live tidy, predictable lives with everything laid out neatly before us. Because often things don’t go according to plan. At the same token, sometimes things happen in your life and you need to grab hold of the opportunities and run with them. “I learned a valuable lesson, son. Life never goes as planned. You’ve got to grab life by the horns, take opportunities when you see them. They may never come your way again.”
Everyone has hidden secrets, though some people’s are worse than others. Another of the themes I took away from this novel is the unbelievable (yet sadly true) notion what some people will do for money! Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy expensive things. However, nothing in this world is worth losing your honesty, dignity and freedom over, especially if you have to take money that isn’t yours to buy those things. I’m a big believer in Karma and this book reconfirmed that notion; you get back what you put in and eventually your evil deeds will catch up with you.
Celeste is hired to transform and organize Natalia’s home and throughout her time working on that project, she ends up transforming her own life as a result. A Pretty Mess is a fun and entertaining read and I highly recommend it. I was happy to see that this is the first book in a series, that means there are more fabulous novels on the way from Caruso!
Side note: All quotes have been pulled from a pre-published review copy. I apologize if any excerpts did not make it into the final published novel, however, they will give you a sense of the overall feel of the book and I’m sure that you will absolutely love it!
Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review!
Carla Caruso was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser. She has since freelanced for titles including Woman’s Day and Shop Til You Drop. These days, she plays mum to twin lads Alessio and Sebastian with hubby James. A Pretty Mess is her fifth novel and the first in the Astonvale series.