REVIEW: ROUGH DIAMOND BY KATHRYN LEDSON

ROUGH DIAMOND
Author: Kathryn Ledson
Penguin RRP $29.99 (eBook $9.99)
Review: Monique Mulligan

Rough DiamondKathryn Ledson’s Rough Diamond plays for laughs and delivers them, albeit in a “dramedy” (comedy-drama) fashion reminiscent of ’80s TV series Moonlighting. The novel introduces Erica Jewell, an accidental heroine caught up in an adventure far beyond her imaginings; she reminded me of Olivia Joules (Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination) and Bridget Jones put together.

No men. If nothing else in her life is clear, at least Erica’s clear on that policy. Still coming to terms with the fact that her husband, Danny, left her for a bimbo, Erica is trying to piece her life and her bank balance back together. Her plan is clear-cut, in keeping with her need for stability and predictability: no no surprises, no debt and definitely, no men. When she finds one (a man who also happens to be a surprise) bleeding to death in her Melbourne garden, that’s two of her no’s at once. So when he asks her to help but not to call the authorities because it’s a matter of national importance), what’s a girl to do? Help him, of course.

Erica’s good deed is rewarded with $10,000 – and there’s the promise of more where that came from. She just has to become part of a secret team of vigilantes. That’s all. No problem, right? The lure of money (which would solve the debt problem) is tempting, and it’s all for the greater good … and “what would I have to do?” is Erica’s question. Before long, Erica is posing as Jack’s girlfriend, going to the Melbourne Cup, helping stop terrorists and even taking Jack to meet her parents in between her day job as a media relations officer for Dega Oil. Life may have become far less predictable, but it’s also become a whole lot more interesting.

Rough Diamond is a fast, fun, light read with an improbable plot, a lovable heroine and a dashing leading man. It reads like a sitcom about a hapless heroine with a sarky best friend and not-quite-with-it parents who stumbles into a strange situation and finds herself caught up in one muddled incident after another. At times, I almost expected to hear canned laughter in the background. The chemistry between Erica and Jack is believable; their sparring and teasing leaves you with one conclusion as to where it’s going to lead. Come to think of it, the Moonlighting comparison is really appropriate here – they’re both moonlighting, just like Maddie and David from Blue Moon Detective Agency (and Erica, like Maddie, is riddled with debt) …

Rough Diamond is one of those books with mass-market appeal that will please people who want a light read that is quite simply fun. To me, the sitcom factor wore a bit thin at times and the plot was a bit too far-fetched, but it delivered pretty much what I expected – nothing deep, nothing taxing, just an easy read. The author has also left the ending open-ended, so you can be sure there is more Erica to come, which will please those who see bits of themselves in Erica.

Available from good bookstores and Penguin Books Australia. This copy was courtesy of Penguin Books Australia.

Bookish treat: A good cup of coffee … preferably made by someone like Jack.