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The Agency

The Agency

4.0 9
by Ally O'Brien

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Meet Tess Drake. She's earned everything she has. Now it's time to get what she deserves…

Sexy super-agent Tess Drake has worked hard to make a name for herself in the glamorous yet cut-throat entertainment industry. Tess works at an international agency, where she skillfully manages some of the world's biggest egos—her company, Bardwell


Meet Tess Drake. She's earned everything she has. Now it's time to get what she deserves…

Sexy super-agent Tess Drake has worked hard to make a name for herself in the glamorous yet cut-throat entertainment industry. Tess works at an international agency, where she skillfully manages some of the world's biggest egos—her company, Bardwell International operates in the thrilling, fast-paced worlds of Rights, wrongs and revenge. Tess has been an agent there for longer than she cares to remember and now she's in trouble. Real trouble. After the mysterious death of the agency's senior partner, Lowell Bardwright, Tess's sworn enemy, Cosima Tate, has taken over and would do anything to send Tess's career down in flames. And Cosima is only one of the rogue's gallery of agents in London and New York who want Tess to take a fall.

Tess has another little complication, too. She's sleeping with men on both sides of the Atlantic who are in bed with the women who are trying to sink her.

Can Tess jump ship without losing her clients and breaking her heart? Or will she lose everything before finding out if she really has what it takes to do what she's always wanted?

There's risk and reward in this wickedly funny novel that turns the world of agenting inside out and lays bare all the ambition, sex, adrenaline, bad luck, and good luck at the center of one young woman's success.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this disconnected debut from O'Brien (collaborative pseudonym for a media agent and a suspense novelist), driven London literary agent Tess Drake is an antihero so aggressive and egocentric that she repels friends (and perhaps readers). Steely Tess has the lonely top agent's spot at the Bartwright mega-agency, but pines for her own agency. When the head of Bartwright dies in a compromising position, the Miranda Priestly/Anna Wintour/Cruella DeVille-type who steps in is Cosima Tate, whose husband happens to be one of the men Tess is sleeping with. This spurs Tess's solo plans into action, but it's not long before her gravy train-a bestselling talking-panda children's book author-is derailed by plagiarism accusations. Tess's long shot is an underselling debut novel by 29-year-old Oliver Howard that may net a film deal with Tom Cruise (whose agent Tess has, of course, already burned). The whirlwind drama delves with vigor into reliably stimulating big-city pursuits-sex, power, scene-making, celebrity-but the sadly familiar media-world trappings and distant main character make caring about any of it a difficult proposal. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
When the head of the Bartwright literary agency dies from autoerotic asphyxiation and villainous Cosima Tate takes the helm, top agent Tess Drake decides the time is right to break away from Bartwright's to start her own agency. Actress Kate Reading's (The Widows of Eastwick) narration is entertaining, yet, despite all the glamorous fashions, hot sex, and tabloid drama, the pseudonymous authors have created a brusque protagonist who generates little empathy. The result is a chick-lit book that older listeners might initially enjoy but won't care enough about to remember long. [The St. Martin's hc was recommended for "readers who enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada or Bridget Jones's Diary," Xpress Reviews, LJ 3/2/09.—Ed.]—Valerie Piechocki, Prince George's Cty. Memorial Lib., Largo, MD
Kirkus Reviews
A witty debut novel from a pseudonymous writing pair (one is a suspense author, the other a London-based media agent) about a saucy London literary agent eager to go into business for herself. Tess Drake may have sex appeal, nerves of steel and a knack for making her writer clients rich, but she does not have her independence. Opportunity conveniently knocks when the owner of the Bardwright Agency, Lowell Bardwright, is found dead in what looks like an unfortunate, but kinky, accident. Lowell gave Tess her start, but his icy next-in-command, Cosima, has little love for Tess. The fact that Tess is secretly sleeping with Cosima's much-younger husband naturally complicates things. (Tess's code name for him is "Darcy," but it is hard to imagine Jane Austen approving of their X-rated romps.) Ignoring the solid advice of her close friend Oliver Howard, a talented ex-junkie novelist who suggests she not tangle with Cosima, Tess sets about luring writers to her new agency. She begins with Dorothy Starkwell, an uber-successful American children's author. Loyal Dorothy looks like a sure thing, until a potentially devastating blackmail scheme rears it nasty head. Tess also has to look out for her former best friend Saleema, a professional rival who might be holding onto a teeny grudge against Tess for sleeping with her one-time fiance. And then there is Nicolas Hadley, the Scotland Yard detective who informs her that Lowell may not have been alone when he died, with all evidence pointing toward Tess being an active participant in his last moments. Murder, even for Tess, is a bit much, so it is up to her to clear her name, as well as sort out her personal life and launch her firm. But with heronce-promising career prospects looking bleak, Tess is forced to own up to some of the questionable decisions she has made, if she is really going to have a fresh start. With an insider's take on the book biz, and an appealingly foul-mouthed heroine, this debut is fast, funny and a bit nasty-not unlike Tess. A naughty, catty good time.
From the Publisher

“Entertaining...witty...a delight.” —People Magazine (3 ½ stars)

“Heroine Tess Drake [is] equal parts Ari Gold and Sherlock Holmes in a slit-to-there skirt.” —Entertainment Weekly

“A delicious read! Even more entertaining than Sex & the City and Lipstick Jungle combined... The Agency is one hot, exciting, and sexy book, with a seductive plot that makes those pages fly. Don't miss this exquisite jewel!” —Publishers Weekly

“With an insider's take on the book biz, and an appealingly foul-mouthed heroine, this debut is fast, funny and a bit nasty--not unlike Tess. A naughty, catty good time.” —Kirkus

“The duo writing as O'Brien proves there's nothing like teamwork. The book combines genres effectively, melding into one fantastic novel... Cleverness abounds, especially in the dialogue and plot twists.” —Romantic Times (4 stars)

“The gossipy and glitzy world of book publishing provides the perfectly irresistible setting for O'Brien's sexy and acerbic story of a tough-talking, determined heroine who, even though she hasn't always made the best choices in love and life, still keeps trying.” —The Chicago Tribune

The Agency is a delicious mash-up of chick-lit and thriller, kind of what The Devil Wears Prada might have been if written by John Le Carre… The authors offer X-Acto-sharp dialogue, steamy sex scenes, a lot of skullduggery and a heroine more appealing when she's naughty than when she's nice.” —The South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“[A] funny and salacious tale… it's easy to get caught up in Tess' glamorous, fast-paced world of lovers, parties and deals, wondering just what is going to happen next.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A surprisingly single-minded page-turner, packed with a colorful assortment of egomaniacs and more plot twists than Lindsay Lohan's love life… the literary equivalent of a dry martini: salty, intoxicating and curiously delicious.” —New York Daily News

“The Agency's got bite--it sucks you in and leaves teeth marks.” —Amanda Goldberg and Ruthanna Hopper, coauthors of the New York Times bestselling Celebutantes

The Agency is brash, cheeky, and cuttingly smart. Move over Bridget Jones, there's a new girl in town! Despite enemies who hate her, lovers who betray her, and clients who desert her, Tess Drake is a marvelously irrepressible heroine. You'll want to stick with The Agency from start to finish, through thick and thin, through hell and high water--what a fabulous ride!” —Joan Johnston, author of the New York Times bestselling novel A Stranger's Game

“Sex, drugs, and literature...” —Sarah Ivens, editor-in-chief of OK! Magazine

“One of the most fun books I have read in awhile. A mixture of racy chick lit, mystery, and adventure, you will find it hard to put this book down once you get started.” —BellaOnline.com

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Chapter 1


Eight thirty-seven in the morning, en route from Putney Heath to Piccadilly, first crisis of the day. People push the crisis button in my business like a lab rat pushes a lever to get pellets of food, but this is a big one. Lowell Bardwright was just found hanged by his Hermès tie, his fingers clenched in a death grip around his dick.

Lowell is my boss. Well, not anymore.

“Was it erotic asphyxia?” I asked my assistant.

“Erotic what?”

“Was this some kind of sex game?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Emma replied. “I assumed it was suicide.”

Not bloody likely.

“No, I’m sure it was an accident,” I said.

When you are the managing partner of a successful entertainment agency, you don’t kill yourself. Lowell made millions of pounds on the ability of people like me to attract scribblers, footballers, Soho chefs, and other celebs who can be hocked to the public on grocery store book stands or on the eight million channels of satellite TV. He had a flat by the Thames and a weekend home outside Cambridge. God was going to have to come down to wrestle Lowell personally into the afterlife.

“Was he alone?” I asked.

“I guess he was.”

“Don’t be so sure. If I know Lowell, he found himself a Julia Roberts look-alike who freaked when he stopped breathing.”

“What’s erotic asphyxia?” Emma asked with an unhealthy curiosity.

Emma is twenty-five, and what she lacks in her face she makes up for in the size of her breasts and the tightness of her drainpipe jeans. I remember what it was like at that age, when your sex drive revs like a Ferrari. Hell, I’m still like that, although I’ve downshifted a little in my midthirties. Emma is into girls, however, and I play for the traditional team.

“Some people say that the sensation of orgasm is heightened by lack of oxygen,” I told her. “So they try cutting off their air as they get close to coming. Unfortunately, a lot of them wind up like Lowell, so don’t try this at home, Emmy. I know you.”

“Hmm,” she said.

You want to watch every head snap around on the 14 bus? Say the word “orgasm” on the phone.

“What does this mean for the agency?” Emma asked.

Good question. Every entertainment agency boasts of having the most influence and the best connections, and they’re all quick as hyenas to pounce on any sign of weakness in a competitor. Right now, the phone lines of London are buzzing. Did you hear about Lowell? My God, what a shock. Of course, without him, they don’t have anyone who can reach the senior producers at the Beeb. Oh, it’s true, and he was their top man for Fleet Street, too. This may be the time to think about switching your representation, my dear.

Meanwhile, inside the Bardwright Agency, where I work, they’re busy soft-selling Lowell’s importance. He was beloved, darling, but he was a figurehead. Hadn’t closed a big deal in years. Never missed an industry party. A “mentor” to every twenty-four-year-old girl in the agency, that scoundrel, ha-ha. No, we’ll miss him, but don’t worry, nothing will really change without him around.

But that’s not exactly true.

There will be one big change, and it affects me more than anyone.

“Cosima will be in charge now,” I told Emma.

“Oh, Lord.”

In my head, I heard a blast of organ music. You know, like in silent films, when the mustachioed villain in a black cape abducts the blond virgin. Not that you’ll find many virgins in this business.

“I hope the police checked for coral Dior lipstick around Lowell’s mushroom,” I said. “Cosima has been looking to send Lowell to an early grave for years. Maybe she was there to help him along.”

“You are so bad.”

I did feel a little bad, only because I wasn’t crying over Lowell’s death. I’d worked down the hall from him for ten years, after he’d hired me out of the book biz. Me, I thought the agents made the money, which was what I needed back then. No one told me that the partners who own the agency make the money, and the rest of us divide up the crumbs that fall from their smacking lips onto the floor. Lowell and I had had our run-ins over the years, but he was a decent guy. Big, loud, with tobacco breath and roving hands. Fifty-five years old, a lifer in the biz, who remembered a time when bookstores sold more than the fucking Da Vinci Code and films didn’t rise or fall on the box office receipts from the opening weekend. He never pushed me to drop clients who had potential, even if their sales were underperforming. He indulged my fading ideals that it really meant something to find the next Ian McEwan or Salman Rushdie. On the other hand, I saw the numbers on the royalty statements from my clients, and then the numbers on my agency paycheck, and never the twain did meet.

However, Cosima Tate makes Lowell look like Sir Gawain gallantly taking on the Green Knight. I admit I have my own reasons for loathing Cosima, but I’m not alone in feeling that way at the agency. She is our wicked witch—the kind of witch who would have bitch-slapped Dorothy and served up Toto sausages to the flying monkeys.

“What does this mean for us?” Emma asked, which was the obvious question. I like that Emma says “us” when she talks about herself and me. She is as loyal an assistant as you can find. Organizing my life is not my skill set, and without Emma I would probably starve because I would never know when, where, or with whom I was having a single meal.

“We’ll be fine—don’t worry.”

“Yes, but Cosima hates you,” Emma whispered.

True enough, but I am bulletproof.

“We have Dorothy, darling, remember?”

“Oh, well, that’s true.”

Dorothy Starkwell, an American eccentric who lives in the Tribeca area of Manhattan, writes tomes about talking pandas that have become the biggest thing in children’s fiction since Pooh set foot in the Hundred Acre Wood. She is my client. She is my gravy train. As long as I write eight-figure deals for her—and the latest deal is in the offing—no one will touch me.

And at that moment, I had my big idea.

If I knew the pain that idea would cause me in the next few days, I wonder whether I would have handled things differently. Perhaps I should have been more paranoid and realized that people really were after me. Or I should have known how resourceful and vengeful Cosima could be. However, when you are thirty-six, you never think about being forced to start your life over; and the truth is, it is every bit as hard as anyone will tell you. Still, sometimes you have to wipe the slate clean and find out if you are truly the person you always imagined yourself to be.

“Do I still have lunch with Guy on Friday?” I asked Emma.


Guy Droste-Chambers is Dorothy’s editor, the man who makes the deals. He is a sleazy bastard, but Dorothy is infatuated with his wordsmithing. Or perhaps he reminds her of her panda hero, Butterball, with his porky belly and soup dripping down his chin. Regardless, Dorothy will not hear of switching editors or publishers, despite my advice that she could do better elsewhere.

“Take the lunch out of my calendar, will you?” I said.

“You mean cancel it?”

“God, no, keep the appointment but delete it from the agency calendar right away, okay? Don’t mention this to anyone. Just remember to remind me about lunch on Friday.”


Emma knew better than to ask me why. The truth is, I wasn’t entirely sure myself. All I knew was that I didn’t want Cosima to find out that Guy and I were close to inking a new contract for Dorothy that would gross around ten million pounds in advance money. In agency terms, that’s one and a half million to us. Not that I would see any of that myself.

Which brings me back to that big idea of mine.

I’m thinking of going out on my own. Launching my own agency.

Copyright © 2009 by Brian Freeman and Ali Gunn.  All rights reserved.  For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

Meet the Author

Ally O'Brien is the pseudonym for a writing duo that includes an international bestselling author of suspense novels and a successful, well-known international entertainment agent based in London.

Ally O'Brien is the pseudonym for a writing duo that includes an international bestselling author of suspense novels and a successful, well-known international entertainment agent based in London. O'Brien is the author of The Agency.

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The Agency 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Considering the main character Tess, is not likable, crude and has zero scruples, some how the author got me to care what happened to her, so I finished it. This book was predictable, but if you are not offended by crude chic lit you will enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed The Agency... it was definitely suspenseful! The one thing that I didn't enjoy was the foul language... but it's easy to get over :) This is a fun, easy summer read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Agency is a very entertaining read. It's about a liteary agency in London and the aftermath of a bosses death--what happens, the pecking order, etc. I thought it was a great story and so easy to read, I wanted to stay up all night doing so. Don't pass this one up!! It would make a great beach read.
robin_titan More than 1 year ago
This book is sooo good! It will keep you entertained for HOURS, unless you can read all 316 pg in less than one hour or something.I loved this book! Once I started reading it, I was hooked! I didn't want to stop reading it, until I was finished, it is that good.
Tess is a 36 year old literary agent working for Bardwright Agency. After her boss dies, the next person to take the "throne" is the evil Cosima, who hates Tess's guts. This is the perfect opportunity for Tess to dump that agency and start her own. But....she's got some problems.
-She's one of the major suspects/person of interest hehe
-Dorothy, the rich children's novelist, has come across a few problems of her own, which cause a lot of stress for Tess
-Oliver, Tess's suicidal writer buddy and client of Bardwright Agency, has an incredible book (according to Tess), Singularity, that no one seems to care about.
-One way of getting Singularity some publicity would be to make a film of it and Tom Cruise is the PERFECT guy for it. Problem is his agent despises Tess and will not let her get that book anywhere near him.
-Tess's ex-best friend, Saleema, is still not talking to her and may be plotting to steal even more of Tess's clients all because Tess may have slept with Saleema's fiance, well ex-fiance. She totally slept with him, in her defense the first time was not her fault.
-Tess is sleeping with a married guy, and you will not believe who his wife is.
Drama, drama, and more drama plus awesome writing makes this book awesome, so go read it! Do I need to say anything else to convince you to read it? I don't think so. :D
harstan More than 1 year ago
London-based literary agent Tess Drake takes no prisoners at work, in romances, or even with family and friends. She does not care what anyone thinks of her except her boss at Bartwright, an international multimedia giant.

When senior partner Lowell Bartwright dies mysteriously during a tryst, Cosima Tate is named to replace him. Cosima hates Tess for a various reasons especially since she suspects the agent who sleeps around is including her husband in her affairs. Knowing the she must leave, Tess considers opening up her own firm starting with her top client bestselling children¿s author Dorothy Starkwell whose panda star is accused of being plagiarized. She also knows someone is trying to frame her in Lionel¿s death. With her life at stake on two fronts, her only hope to survive apparently is underselling Oliver Howard whose first novel is being considered for a Cruise movie.

Although the tale of urban depravity has been used quite frequently, THE AGENCY is an entertaining story starring a ball busting (women too) man-eater who acknowledges her errors, but the audience never learns what motivates her behavior. In many ways Cosima is similar to Tess so their cat fight is a war of female alphas in which collateral damage to other people is acceptable by both of them. Neither receives the slightest empathy from readers who will dislike both. Still fans will enjoy Tess¿ misdeeds in London.

Harriet Klausner
GaryOH More than 1 year ago
The Agency was a great read. Escapism at its finest. The characters were fun, plot was fast-paced, suspense was thrilling. A great book for fans of Jackie Collins, Penny Vincenzi or Sidney Sheldon.