Looks Perfect

by Kim Moritsugu,
220 pages,
ISBN: 0864921969

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First Novels - Fashion, Sharks, and Anger
by Eva Tihanyi

The narrator of Kim Moritsugu's Looks Perfect (Goose Lane, 220 pages, $16.95 paper) is the wonderfully irreverent Rosemary McKinnon, an editor at the fictional Panache fashion magazine in Toronto. Rosemary is smart, single, and sensitive about her mixed background: she was born to a French father and Vietnamese mother, but was adopted as an infant by a prosperous Canadian couple of Scottish ancestry. Consequently, she feels that everyone notices the contrast between her and her older step-sister, the blonde and blue-eyed Julie. Julie is married to a doctor, has two sons, and lives in Rosedale, but she is tired of the luncheons and fundraisers, which she views as vacuous. She yearns for aspects of her younger, more "bohemian", more creative self. Rosemary is equally dissatisfied with her life and believes that her own creativity is stifled at Panache. The fashion world holds little glamour for her-in fact, some of the best lines in the book are her caustic, often very funny, comments about this world and its pretentiousness-and she hasn't found a man worthy enough to settle with, though she keeps looking in earnest.

The plot is thread-bare and predictable but serves the purpose: Rosemary has plenty of attitude, and the events provide the grist for the mill of her sharp-edged wit. Rosemary has a high-voltage affair with the stereotypically handsome, wealthy, and powerful Australian publishing mogul Brian Turnbull. He represents adventure, status, and great sex; naturally, Rosemary is infatuated. However, when he ends their relationship, she finds comfort in the arms of Max, a local caterer. Max is the antithesis of Brian: kind, soft-spoken, nurturing-and he's a terrific cook.

In the meantime, there is something going on behind the scenes at Panache, but no-one is quite sure what. Rumours of a takeover abound, and Brian might be involved. The fact that what's coming is so obvious is the novel's major weakness.

Despite the plot transparency, however, the book is highly entertaining-a romantic comedy with an edge. Its one serious aspect-the issue of racism and what it feels like to be stereotyped based on appearances-doesn't come across as "tacked on", but as an integral part of Rosemary's experience.


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