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Hostile Makeover    by Wendy Wax order for
Hostile Makeover
by Wendy Wax
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

Thirty-three year old Shelley Schwartz loves her routine life. She spends her days at the spa or at the mall, meets with her psychiatrist every Friday for her weekly appointment, and earns a paycheck from her father's ad agency without even having to step foot in the building. It's the perfect life, until she chooses sex over yet another important meeting. She figures showing up late won't make or break her career, but that decision sets an entire train of events into motion. Shelly's father chooses Ross Morgan, the perfect ad executive, to take over the company, and Shelly finds herself having to prove her abilities to her new boss. Soon, she's coming in to work at 9 a.m., much to the shock and awe of her co-workers, skipping lunch dates with her friends, and spending her entire therapy session talking about ... work!

Wax's light, upbeat storytelling keeps Shelly from becoming an unlikable heroine as she whines, complains and cries about having to work for a living. Instead, because Shelly's background is fully explained, I had an easy time understanding where she's coming from. Her father's decision to hand the company over to someone other than his daughter deals her a swift and sudden reality check, and Shelly has to dig deep within herself to find out whether she really has any business skills at all. To make matters worse, she's absolutely aware of Ross Morgan at every turn, and definitely doesn't want to be fawning over her new boss when she's trying to prove herself to him as a responsible businesswoman. While Shelly's personality quirks are fully explained, Ross's background isn't delved into at all until the very end of the novel. At times, this lack of understanding on my part made Ross come across as cold, calculating and insensitive.

The secondary characters add touches of well-placed humor and family drama. In particular, Shelly's sister Judy struggles to find herself at the same time as Shelly does. Judy's been the perfect wife and mother for so long, she doesn't know if she's capable of more. Her self-development as the story progresses is charming and wonderful to read. The well-described Jewish customs also add depth to this fun story.

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