Read of the Week

Dutch Courage,

Paige Nick

PenguinRandomHouse

Review: Brian Joss

Grace Hendricks is about to get a rude awakening, in more ways than one.

She’s a teacher, her parents have died and her pastor dad left her and her sister, Natalie, in debt. And she’s about to get married to Lucas.

When Natalie, a Rihanna impersonator, breaks her leg and is unable to perform at Legends, a club in the red light district of Amsterdam, Grace, who looks more like Rihanna, although she is a bit fat, agrees, and using Natalie’s passport, she gets through immigration with ease. But what she sees at the sleazy strip joint gives her a jolt: there’s a roomful of impersonators including Marilyn Monroe, Beyonce, Dolly Parton, Paris Hilton, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and Pink.

The club is run by a Swedish couple, Dania and David, who in their heyday were Sonny and Cher impersonators, and their son David jnr who has big ideas for Legends. The real shock comes when Grace learns that she has to strip down to her G-string. So she grits her teeth, as well as everything else, and fortifies herself with a tot or two of Jagermeister from Pink’s hip flask and a brownie, just to take the edge off.

Her first-night performance goes into the toilet. Grace, though, is a quick study, and with a little help from her new friend, Pink, she learns the ropes, how to master the pole, and a whole lot more, including lap dancing, although she’s not too happy about it.

But it will help to pay for Natalie’s studies. There are some surprises about the impersonators, who really are human beings behind their masks. And it turns out that Marilyn does have balls of steel, which you need to strip in front of an audience every night. The Twitter conversations between Natalie and Grace (who often wants to throw in the towel and come home), and Lucas, who seems to be a needy control freak and believes she is on a teaching programme (well, she is learning about life), add substance to the story.

Then Lucas, who saw the Legends when he occasionally skyped Grace, turns up unexpectedly in Amsterdam. Will Grace stay or go?

Dutch Courage is much, much more than chicklit. It’s an eye-opening insight into a world few of us know about. It’s an entertaining story with plenty of Paige Nick’s touches of black humour, which was evident in Death by Carbs (reviewed). It’s well written and the characters which could have been parodies are finely drawn. It is a great read which has been shortlisted for the 2016 Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice.