I sat down to read The Out of Office Girl by Nicola Doherty on a classic British summer day. It was dull, grey and felt more like winter than summer. There was more colour on the cover of the novel than there was outside, and from the moment I started reading I escaped to stunning Sicily.
Alice works as an assistant editor for a publishing house in London. When her scary boss Olivia goes into hospital, Alice is sent to do her job in Sicily, working on the autobiography of Hollywood bad boy Luther Carson. Having just been dumped by text message, there is nothing stopping Alice from heading out to Sicily and to Luther’s private villa to get the job done. The book, however, is not going as swimmingly as Alice had hoped. Luther has the story ready, but the distractions of beautiful Sicily are preventing Alice from getting it down on paper. Add to the mixture Luther’s stubborn agent Sam who wants the book buried, and Alice is finding herself very much out of the office and into trouble.
From the opening pages of The Out of Office Girl I was hooked on the novel, eagerly waiting to see how Alice would work with Luther, get her career back on track and cope with Sam. Alice was very likeable: out of her depth, but trying to please everyone and do her best. Doherty creates a cast of characters that aren’t as clichéd as you might first think. Film star Luther is interesting, appearing at first a bit selfish, but actually just in need of someone to confide in. The passages where Alice gets Luther to tell his story were simultaneously entertaining and touching. Neither is Sam the controlling person Alice first thinks him to be, but caring and considerate to those closest to him.
As the dullness outside continued, I was in Sicily: walking on the beach, admiring the view from the villa, gazing at Mount Etna and strolling around Catania and Taormina. Sicily was never somewhere I had read much about before, but Doherty’s description stirred up a desire to jump on a plane and see the island.
The Out of Office Girl is a fantastic novel. The only problem I had with it (if you can call it that) is that I wish it had been longer – I wanted more of Alice’s Sicilian adventures. The Out of Office Girl is a perfect summer read, and a smart, funny and romantic debut novel.