Mergers and Acquisitions by A.E. Radley is a contemporary romance that hits the spot in several different tropes: thawing the ice queen, rich girl/poor girl, age gap, workplace romance, with a bit of toaster oven thrown in.
Sophie Young is right where she wants to be. She’s just earned a position at the marketing agency of Kate Kennedy, owner of the most prestigious agency in Europe, and her personal hero. Sophie has moved upstairs from her internship on the accounts floor, and is now in a paid position on the very floor that Kate rules with an iron fist. Things are definitely looking up. With her new position, her fiance might even decide that now is the time to go through with the ceremony. If only she can get past the pesky crush she has on her new boss, she might be able to impress the woman enough to secure an even more important position. When Kate assigns her to a new role at the agency, Sophie knows this is her chance to prove herself.
Kate Kennedy has worked hard for years to position herself and her firm at the top, and she won’t let anything knock her down. But when her main client comes to her with a new concept and a desire for Kate to collaborate with the top US agency, Kate sees it for exactly what it is – an attack. Georgina Masters wants to take Kate down a peg, and the best way to do it in her opinion is to take her best client, and all of the business he provides to Kate. The competition will be cutthroat, with each agency trying to show their best work while undermining the other’s attempts, and all while showing a friendly, united front to the client. Kate decides she needs a spy in the enemy encampment across her office, and who better than the naive new girl, Sophie, whose so innocent and clueless that Georgina would never suspect her duplicity. Let the games begin.
Kate Kennedy and Georgina Masters are like a double-headed coin – flip it and any way it lands you get an intelligent, classy, successful, beautiful apex predator, the kind that unsuspecting employees end up as collateral fodder for. They both know what they want, and they know how to get it, and too bad for anyone standing in their way that can’t get out of the danger zone fast enough. Both women embody the perfect examples of ice queens, with only one glaring difference; Georgina is the bold, outspoken American and Kate is the quintessential British stoic. Both have tongues sharp enough to strip paint off a wall at 50 paces. However, we also get to see the softer sides of these two powerful women. Kate’s longtime personal assistant is injured and in the hospital, and we get to see that there’s more to Kate than an impersonal, ruthless boss. Georgina is struggling after imploding her relationship with her girlfriend back in the States, and in her interactions with Sophie we see her grief, loneliness, and insecurity.
Sophie Young seems exactly what her name labels her as: young, naive, and unused to the politics and demands of big, cutthroat business. Despite a decade long crush on her new boss, she seems unaware that she could be anything but straight, and happy in her long term relationship with her fiance. She’s easily overwhelmed by the personalities of these two strong women, and yet, when push comes to shove, she finds the strength within herself to stand up for what she believes in, and what she wants. Sophie ends up with a bit of a crush on both women, drawn to their decisiveness, control, and sense of power. When Kate puts her in a compromising position as Georgina’s guide, in order to have her spy on the competition’s activities, Sophie struggles with the assignment and her sense of right and wrong. When Georgina befriends her instead of treating her in the manner of her usual style with underlings, Sophie’s struggle becomes more difficult. After discovering some unwelcome truths about her personal relationship, Sophie becomes mired in competing loyalties and desires. The conflict creates the perfect environment for personal and professional education. The question is whether Sophie can learn quickly enough to keep herself whole in this epic struggle between advertising greats.
The Writing Style
Radley writes with a deceptively simple style, meaning the narrative flows naturally and quickly, yet takes readers effortlessly over rocky terrain. The pacing is unrushed and unforced, yet always leaves readers wanting to rush ahead to see what happens next. Ebook readers will want to flip pages as quickly as possible, while audiobook listeners will want to find any excuse possible to keep the book going.
This was my first book with PJ Morgan, and I was startled at first by how fast she spoke/read. Not being used to listening to a British accent, I found I struggled in the beginning to keep up. After adjusting the speed of the playback, I settled in for a good story and soon forgot that the voice reading to me wasn’t the actually narrator in my head. I had no problems keeping characters separate, and her accent made the story seem exactly what it was; British. In the end, I felt Morgan did the story justice, and gave me the story that Radley envisioned.
This has many of the same tropes as a lot of DWP (The Devil Wears Prada) fanfic, meaning an office romance between a powerful, successful ice queen, and a younger, more naive new employee. The biggest pro here is that we get TWO ice queens. Anybody who loves stories that melt the ice queen will love both Kate and Georgina, as well as their cutting wit and considerable clashes. The other thing I loved about this story is that the resolution between Kate and Sophie was perfectly British. As our more restrained, stoic, and proper cousins across the pond, their story couldn’t follow the same path as brash, bold Georgina’s did with her girlfriend, a fact made clear by Georgina’s ill-advised attempt to open their eyes to how they felt about each other. Radley made the perfect choice in how to resolve Kate’s conflict between what she wanted and what she felt comfortable with.
There isn’t much I can put here, although I will point out for those who want sex with their romance that there isn’t any here. I did not feel the lack, simply because I felt the book was true to its characters and their sense of propriety – the story just doesn’t get far enough for a sex scene to feel right, or more than an obligatory nod to genre expectations. Radley makes the right choice for the story by not including it.
This book was a fun listen, and anyone who likes the tropes I’ve listed will enjoy it as well. If you don’t like or can’t listen to audiobooks, I strongly encourage you to pick up the ebook instead. But for those who love audiobooks, go ahead and pick this one up and let Radley and Morgan take you to a place of British romance in the workplace.
Excerpt from Mergers and Acquisitions by A.E. Radley
“You think that we should spy on her?” he asked.
Kate nodded once. “Exactly.”
“Who do you think should do it? It can’t be me, she’ll see right through that. And the other PAs are drowning in work for the audit.”
“I don’t know,” Kate admitted. “It needs to be someone loyal but unassuming.” She sipped at her tea. Finding someone was going to be tricky. She needed someone unimportant, someone Georgina wouldn’t be enticed to poach for her own staff. It had to be someone that she could trust, someone unobtrusive, someone Georgina would also trust.
“How about the new girl?”
Kate frowned. “What new girl?”
“The new girl. She was in your office just now.”
Kate lowered her cup to the saucer. She tried to recall but came up blank.
Jonathan leaned on the back of his chair. “Long blonde hair, ponytail? Glasses?”
Kate shook her head. Why Jonathan continued to think that she had the ability to remember people after all the years they worked together escaped her.
“Sophie Young,” he prompted. “She’s the one I told you about. The intern, she was in accounts, showed a lot of promise. She’s now on the top floor. We told HR to put her in Operations so you could move her to wherever there was a need.”
“It’s starting to sound familiar.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781999702939
- Publisher: Heartsome Publishing
- Audiobook Publisher: Heartsome Publishing
- Narrator: P.J. Morgan
- A.E. Radley Online
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