Third chick-lit exercise maintains the standard

THE MISPLACED AFFECTIONS OF CHARLOTTE FFORBES<br><b>Catherine Robertson</b><br><i>Black Swan
THE MISPLACED AFFECTIONS OF CHARLOTTE FFORBES<br><b>Catherine Robertson</b><br><i>Black Swan
The Misplaced Affections of Charlotte Fforbes, by Catherine Robertson, is as wry and endearing as her two previous novels and continues to explore the lives of their characters from the perspective of new, and just as idiosyncratic, narrators.

When Charlotte, who prides herself on her emotional detachment and ability to control all aspects of her life, falls in love with her boss, Patrick King, she decides the only thing to do is to win his heart, even if it means breaking up his marriage.

She transforms herself from dedicated PA to live-in nanny for three families on an Italian holiday (Patrick and his wife are joined by Darrell Kincaid, Mo Lawrence and their respective households, whom readers will remember from the earlier books), a task she tackles with her usual self-confidence, despite her complete lack of experience.

As it turns out, the children are the least of her worries. The Kings' is not the only marriage in trouble, his family intervene at the most inconvenient times, and the ensuing challenges test her resolve and inventiveness to the limit. And maybe Patrick isn't the right man after all.

Although I am not, in general, a fan of chick lit, Robertson avoids the pathos and self-improving moralising that mark the two extremes of the genre, and I get the sense she is both unapologetic about writing popular fiction and determined to enjoy it.

The character types and themes conform to expectations but are presented with an ironic twist and humour that feels uniquely New Zealand, despite the overseas setting. She has a knack for odd imagery that is humorous and evocative and I found this novel as much fun as its predecessors.

Cushla McKinney is a Dunedin scientist.

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