The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle crosses the new wave of ‘influencers’ with the not-so-new world of mommy bloggers with a blast from the past… the Single White Female-trope.
I was a smidge worried when we opened with the mummy blogger theme, thinking we’d been there and done that over a decade ago. What else was there to say? But Belle manages to blend that world with today’s influencers (albeit via Instagram rather than TikTok) and this decades toxic propensity for doxxing, serious trolling and bullying and and the dreaded curse of being cancelled. I mean… I was blogging over a decade ago when the mummy/parenting bloggers were a big thing and the side-chat was snide and bitchy but rarely encouraged violence or involved threats.The Personal Assistant
by Kimberly Belle
Published by HQ Fiction
Source: Harper Collins
Genres: Psychological Thriller
Alex likes to consider herself the down-to-earth Mummy Blogger. The messy family moments she shares online have made her beloved by her followers. But all that goodwill turns toxic when one controversial Instagram post goes viral in the worst way. When Alex reaches out to her personal assistant for damage control, the assistant has gone silent.
All traces of her have vanished, leaving Alex to question the identity of this young woman who had access to all of her personal information. Alex can craft who she appears to be online, but her personal assistant has a front-row seat to the pressure points of her marriage and family life and now poses the greatest threat. Written in alternating perspectives between Alex and her personal assistant, this juicy cat-and-mouse story will keep you guessing till the very end.
I think Belle tries to do too many things here. I enjoyed the converging stories of the young woman (AC) who’s bedazzled by an older richer man who (from the outside looking in) is very obviously just using her for sex and increasingly treats her that way; and Alex, Patrick and Alex’s 12yr old twins.
Funnily enough the damaging post (denigrating a young role model / influencer) is actually exactly how Alex feels about that person. She just wouldn’t say it publicly. But someone does, on her behalf. AC is the obvious suspect given she’s disappeared and seemingly not who Alex thinks she is. But the question the police are asking is… has AC come to some harm?
I feel like it’s kinda easy to guess the timelines here (and it’s a tool used by Belle before) and soon it’s also obvious who the faux AC is. But we’re unsure why she’s there.
I very much liked Patrick. Because the plot unfolds from his point of view (in addition to Alex, AC and eventually the faux AC) we know he’s keeping secrets but we also know he seems like a good guy. He’s devoted to Alex and his step-daughters and will do anything to protect them. Which is why I wasn’t overly satisfied with the way this ends… potentially with some questions still unanswered.
I felt like Belle gives us some very cliched characters here – in Alex and her heavy drinking, self-absorbed and inconsiderate persona; her fed-up daughters, pushing back against their mother’s life in the public eye; as well as the young AC and the man pursuing her. We assume (or at least I assumed) he’s one of the characters we meet here and I wish Belle had given us the more obvious villain (I suspected) rather than the slightly overdramatic version we’re offered.
This is the third book I’ve read by Belle and they all feature relationships tested by lies, secrets and – ultimately – mistrust.
Overall however, I enjoyed this book. I think – other than the ultimate villain (who we don’t really meet but causes everything that comes after) – I was invested in the lives of Patrick, Alex and the twins.
This will be a great beach time / holiday read. It’s absorbing and intriguing and not too dark.
The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle was published in Australia by HQ Fiction (Harper Collins) and will be available from mid December 2022.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.