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The Personal Assistant


The Personal Assistant

USA Today and internationally bestselling author Kimberly Belle returns with THE PERSONAL ASSISTANT, a smart and savvy domestic thriller perfectly timed for our digital age.

When Alex first posted a picture of herself flaunting the stretch marks carved into her belly by a twin pregnancy, she never expected it to go viral. She captioned the post with something about being “unapologetically real,” and women everywhere lapped it up. This led to more than 10 million views, 325,000 likes, and a fan club of loud, vocal women sick of stuffing themselves into molds. Since then, @UnapologeticallyAlex has taken off and sprouted into brand partnerships, lucrative ad sales and even an auction for a book proposal.

Alex loves what she does, but with two teenage girls and a husband to prioritize, she hires a personal assistant to take over her day-to-day tasks and allow her to focus on translating her platform into cash. On the night we meet Alex, she and her assistant, AC, are downing tequila shots and dancing around her kitchen as her husband, Patrick, looks on and smiles. Alex has just hit one million followers, the difference between an influencer and a real celebrity, between “free exposure” promotions and real, big-time money. But by morning, her empire has come crashing down.

"A whip-smart, riveting thriller that will have you reconsidering your own social media footprint, THE PERSONAL ASSISTANT is yet another stunning offering from an author who continues to impress with every release."

While Alex has worked very hard on her own social media following, that doesn’t mean she condones everything she sees on Instagram --- and that includes Krissie Kelly, a former Disney star turned pop bad girl. Somewhere between kitchen dances, tequila shots and passing out in bed, Alex apparently went on a social media tirade against Krissie, calling her ugly, brainless, untalented and a whore. With the ice pick of a hangover clawing at her skull, nausea rolling through her stomach, and her husband watching on with an “I told you so” stare, Alex is now facing 175,000 livid fans. Since her platform has been built on uplifting and championing all women and being “unapologetically” real, her followers are quick to call her a fake, a phony and a hypocrite.

As the social media storm builds and trolls begin coming for Alex and her family, AC, the only other person with access to Alex’s feeds, is missing. Patrick tells Alex that he loaded her into an Uber the night before, but AC disappeared somewhere between the car and the front door of her seedy apartment building. As the outrage continues to grow, Alex and Patrick cannot ignore the sneaking suspicion that AC had something to do with this.

Belle unpacks the ensuing drama with all the verve and control of the best public relations agent. But as the threats grow more and more dangerous, expanding even to the safety of Alex’s daughters, the motive becomes blurry. AC made peanuts working for Alex, but she didn’t seem to have any reason to hate the woman she was helping to build. So who was her real target, and why did the family Ring camera catch her and Patrick in a heated argument only weeks before her disappearance? Alternating between the perspectives of Alex, Patrick and even AC, the book unfolds at a lightning-fast pace, exposing the darkest corners of the internet and social media while forcing readers to confront how much of their online footprint is true, visible or harmful.

Readers have likely seen their fair share of social media–related thrillers over the past few years, but Belle doesn’t quite vilify these virtual communities and networks, choosing instead to accept their presence in her characters’ (and, of course, her readers’) lives while looking deeply and unflinchingly at how these curated feeds impact us. It’s a welcome reprieve from the “all social media is bad” messaging we so often see in these novels…and, frankly, much more honest and therefore sobering. Belle also takes a hard look at influencers’ abilities to doctor and reframe media, reminding us of the perils of believing everything we see, especially on Instagram.

But this is not just a social media thriller. Belle has a real talent for digging into her characters’ insecurities and exploring both sides of the poverty line, the haves and the have-nots. She employs this skill in each of her novels, perhaps most memorably in STRANGER IN THE LAKE, but she raises the stakes here by highlighting AC’s path to mayhem and how it contrasts to the lives of Alex and her picture-perfect husband. The villain is still clear in the end, but what I love most about Belle’s books is how much you end up caring for and about every single character…or at least understanding how they arrived dead-center (pardon the pun) in the middle of one of her stories.

A whip-smart, riveting thriller that will have you reconsidering your own social media footprint, THE PERSONAL ASSISTANT is yet another stunning offering from an author who continues to impress with every release.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on December 2, 2022

The Personal Assistant
by Kimberly Belle