by Kim Moritsugu
Looks Perfect is about the fashion-editor extraordinaire for Panache magazine, Rosemary, and her romantic entanglements. While covering the ready-to-wear collections in Europe and New York, she keeps bumping into Brian Turnbull––the sexy and rich owner of multiple fashion magazines. The first half of the book involves his extramarital fling with Rosemary, along with a hint of intrigue––how could she possibly attract such a perfect man? (And why does he keep asking about the inner workings of Panache whenever their sizzling encounters cooled down a bit?) The second half concerns Rosemary’s attempts to create some sort of normalcy in her high-stress life after getting unceremoniously dumped by Brian, and perhaps getting involved with a different guy––a nice, stable guy who just happens to also be sexy and successful…
While Looks Perfect has issues––such as a lack of active, specific description in favour of vagueness in a constant attempt at humour or wit––it’s Moritsugu’s debut, and I realized early on that I would need to move beyond what I may feel are irksome specifics toward more of the general picture if I wanted to create something useful at the end of the exercise. And it’s interesting because, when you distill things down to the base story and characterization, it’s actually not bad. I found myself becoming invested even though I had little interest in the romance. I believe this is in part because this aspect walks in step with the overall narrative, that we can find ourselves in the midst of the wooing and the author hints back to Brian’s potentially underhanded motives––we’re reminded that this is actually going somewhere, and we can muse about that progression.
Unfortunately, this changes by the second half. The reason the story previously held my interest falls by the wayside for a simpler look at life and love and relationships in general, and we don’t come back to it until the very end of the book. I grew a bit bored in getting there, and the information I cared about is explained far too late to allow us to explore any ramifications that may come of it. As a result, the minor mystery loses any weight it may have carried if things were handled even a bit differently, and it left me unsatisfied.
And that put me in a bit of a difficult position by the end. I honestly didn’t expect to like Looks Perfect very much at all, so it was obviously exciting to find something good in there. It makes me suspect that, even on a subconscious level, Moritsugu had some understanding of quality in storytelling, even this early on in her writing career. Of course, her inexperience came through by the end as this excitement fell away, but just the matter of seeing something good makes me curious to see what direction her writing went after this. It’s possible that what I’m suggesting never became apparent to her, and that she didn’t experience any significant evolution in style or technique, but just imagine if she built on a strong foundation and worked on her description or expanded her vision and hit on improvements to expression. It could result in something great.