Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: Chick Lit, contemporary romance, romantic comedy
Series: Wedding Date #3
Published by Berkley on July 16, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
Maddie and Theo have two things in common:
1. Alexa is their best friend
2. They hate each other
After an “Oops, we made a mistake” kiss, neither one can stop thinking about the other. With Alexa’s wedding rapidly approaching, Maddie and Theo both share bridal party responsibilities that require more interaction with each other than they’re comfortable with. Underneath the sharp barbs they toss at each other is a simmering attraction that won’t fade. It builds until they find themselves sneaking off together to release some tension when Alexa isn’t looking.
But as with any engagement with a nemesis, there are unspoken rules that must be abided by. First and foremost, don’t fall in love.
The books in this series have interesting commonalities, as well as surprisingly different opening, but they are all a whole lot of fun.
So far, at least, all of our couples have begun their romances not thinking that they were romances at all. Rather, every single couple starts out as a fling with a time limit, only to discover at a much later date that they have drifted into a real relationship without intending to. Generally without being willing to reveal to their secret significant other that that’s what they have become. And misunderstandings, heartbreak and hilarity ensue in equal measure.
But this series also serves as a kind of lovely introduction to the various romantic tropes, not in a way that is ever cliche, but more as an exploration of the many different ways that people can meet, fall in love, and eventually find their happy.
The first book, The Wedding Date, worked with the “fake date” trope, along with a “trapped in a stuck elevator” start. The stories in the series since that introduction, at least so far, are wrapped around the preparations for the actually wedding of the couple who began as each other’s fake Wedding Date.
The Proposal featured his best friend as well as the woman he rescues from extreme public embarrassment by pretending to be her bestie. The opening of that one is a lesson in “how not to do it” – a lesson that the hero eventually manages to take to heart. The romance in this one is the “rebound turned real”.
And now we’re up to The Wedding Party, and the romance is between two of the people in that party, the bride’s two best friends – who hate each other. So this one is an enemies into lovers story, and a terrific example of the trope.
All three of these stories take place somewhat simultaneously. The Wedding Date kicks things off, but The Proposal and The Wedding Party take place during some of the “offscreen” moments in that first book. In other words, this probably isn’t the place to start. I think you could, but I’m not really sure why you’d want to – you’d miss a lot about the circle of friends that is wrapped up in this wedding.
Those two members of the wedding party are Maddie and Theo, who have both agreed to be the bride’s attendants at the wedding; Maddie as a bridesmaid and Theo as a bridesman. The bride, Alexa, had to make up a title for him, but she doesn’t care as long as he’s part of her party – and he’s happy to be there for her.
Except that he’ll have to spend an awful lot of time with Maddie – and vice versa.
Alexa may be their best friend, but they can’t stand each other. He’s all buttoned down and standoffish, and she’s all fashion and flair. They get along like oil and water. They don’t mix, they don’t want to mix, but they both mostly hold their peace for Alexa’s sake.
It’s going to be awful for both of them, until the wedding. When they can stop pretending to make nice and go back to sniping at each other every chance they get.
Unless all that animosity is a great big cover up for something a whole lot more explosive.
Escape Rating A-: The thing about the enemies to lovers trope that underpins The Wedding Party is that, of course, somewhere along the way the enemies have to turn into lovers. That does not mean they have to love each other, especially at first. But it does mean that at some point they have to fall into bed – or against the wall – or get drunk and horny – or all of the above.
Which leads Maddie and Theo to fall into another classic romance trope. They both figure that the chemistry between them will cool if they just explore it to death. Which never works. They both expect to get the other out of their systems in time for Alexa’s wedding – if not well before then.
Instead, the lack of expectations in their non-relationship relationship allows them to be their truest selves with each other – selves that are not much like the self-protective worst that they both fell into when they first met.
The tension in this story comes not from the “will they/won’t they” because they do. Frequently and often. Instead, it comes from Maddie’s desire to keep their whatever-it-is secret. She doesn’t want Alexa to know – not because their mutual best friend will hate it, but because she’ll love it a bit too much and then be unhappy when it fizzles out.
But it doesn’t fizzle. It keeps on sizzling. By the time they’re both all in, neither is willing to admit it to the other, and the secrecy becomes a monster of it’s very own. And it’s really then that the tension ratchets up to the boiling point – and explodes.
One of the terrific things about this author is that she makes her characters, and their romance, feel real and not contrived – whatever the situation turns out to be. We see Theo and Maddie get real with each other, and we understand why it happens. And then, they do what humans do. They get scared. They react. They overreact.
And it feels like stuff that would happen to real people who have fallen in love and are admittedly being real stupid about the whole thing. They’ve gotten to know the real person hiding behind the others mask, and they like that person and want to be with them.
And so do we.