Book review: Latest Accessory by Tyne O'Connell; Blonde Ambition by Samantha Phillips

Up-front descriptions of "clitoral hard-ons" aren't necessarily much of a turn on - though judging by two of the better new Girl-Power novels, every self respecting career girl has a right to at least one "ping-pong in a g-string" by the end of chapter two.

But ruled by such things these girls are not. Money and shopping are far more interesting. Resurfacing in Latest Accessory from Tyne O'Connell's first novel, Sex, Lies and Litigation, 27-year-old Aussie barrister Evelyn Hornton is still a respected member of one of the classiest set of chambers in town. She earns enough to pay a mortgage on some seriously hip loft space in Clerkenwell - though not enough to pay off her ever-mounting Harvey Nichols charge card. In fact the only fly in Evelyn's ointment is the presence of a stalker - a man in a Littlewoods mac who has taken to following her down St John Street and urinating in shop doorways.

As an excuse for a story line, the stalker is a bit of a damp squib. In fact it's just an excuse to introduce Rory, a private detective of Irish-American descent with impeccable pecs and "Chesterfield arms". His mission - to protect Evelyn from the Dirty Mac, and stop her falling in lust with her latest client, a pony-tailed dude called Matt Barton - up for fraud and seriously sleazy intentions.

Like fellow Antipodean Kathy Lette, O'Connell writes in a hail of exclamation points and "Per-leeze!"s. But considering that she manages to pull off a scenario featuring a blow-up doll with a black penis, a rad-fem Rodean head-girl and a cat fight in a sushi bar, she writes pretty well.

More likely to shop at Harrods than Harvey Nicks - but also the possessor of an Oxford First - Samantha Phillips's straight-talking heroine in Blonde Ambition, Charlie Christie, has rubbed up against some tough nuts in her brief career. An entry-level insurance broker working for the nobbish firm Fitzgerald Denton, she's intoxicated by the cut and thrust of life on the floor of Lloyd's, but not so impressed by her managing directors - men who periodically disappear to the gents for a quick wank, leaving her with the photocopying and buzzing mobiles.

Needless to say, our Charlie gets back at the boys where it hurts. Discovering a scam that nearly brings Lloyd's to its knees, she makes sure Henry, Hugo and Rupert and never get to see a decent Christmas bonus again. And given that the book is semi-autobiographical - in 1994 Phillips successfully sued her City employers for unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination - this is all pretty tasty stuff.

Told in a Home Counties tones of a budding Joanna Trollope, Charlie's life doesn't buzz with the same Prozacian energy levels emitted by Evelyn, though just like her, Charlie eventually lands a truly clitoral moment in the arms of a Irish dream-boat. Not a suit from the city, but a vet from Donegal... Per-leeze!

Headline Review, pounds 9.99. Arrow, pounds 5.99

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