Sydney is thrilled for her sister when Isabelle announces a sudden engagement, but also kinda bummed. You see, less than a year ago Sydney herself was about to get married, before she found out her fiance was a cheating bastard. Now she has a 32-point list of everything a man has to have before she'll date him: a steady job, friends with steady jobs and/or families, etc. Too bad her future brother-in-law doesn't pass the test, because he's super cute and has a sexy job (FBI agent). Maybe they can just be fuck buddies instead. Yeah. That'll work out.
As regular readers of this blog know, I have some issues with Julie James novels. I loved Just the Sexiest Man Alive, but many of her other novels have irritated me with their unbelievably perfect heroines, gender issues, and complete and utter lack of anything resembling a plot. Since I knew Anachronist from Portable Pieces of Thoughts has had similar issues with James' books—only with an added soupçon of hatred—I thought it would be fun if we discussed James' latest, It Happened One Wedding.
So what did Anachronist and I think? You might be surprised. Read on to find out:
Anachronist: When it comes to novels of Ms. James one saying comes to my mind: the more it changes the more it is the same thing (a famous epigram by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr). Would you agree with me?
Tasha: Yes, but maybe that’s a good thing. It Happened One Wedding is a romcom twist on Pride & Prejudice, but fortunately James does that kind of story really well.
Ana: Define ‘well’. The one thing that makes me rather angry and disappointed about her books is the fact that they feature plastic-perfect heroines and heroes, people who deal with artificial problems while they are unvaryingly beautiful, successful, rich, relatively young and desirable. Real life calling Ms. James: it never happens.
Tasha: Totally agree. I suppose that was the point of all those work scenes we had to sit through, just so we knew Sydney and Vaughn were both successful.
Ana: To tell you the truth I would love to have a chat with Sydney’s ex, that guy who left her almost by the altar and had had sex with his fitness instructor before that. I kept wondering why he cheated on his girlfriend if she was so perfect, pretty, rich and so good...
Tasha: In bed? Presumably because he’s a playa playa. Tigers can’t change their stripes (unless they’re romance heroes of course). Speaking of which, what did you think of Vaughn’s sudden realization that he wanted to get married and have a parcel of kids?
Ana: Option A - his hormones switched on during that wedding preparation period and he hit the early male menopause. Option B - Sydney was feeding him a fidelity drug all the time. Option C - he was UNREAL from the first page to the last and the poor author never had any idea how to make him change from a sexual predator into a family man so she went all deus-ex-machina and ta-dah! Here you go, all of a sudden Vaughn becomes a serious guy who loves kids and wants nothing better than a wife and a family of his own. Tigers can’t change their spots, hein?
Tasha: Why’d he even have to turn into a family man is what I wonder. Uhg that ending was so dumb. If only they’d had a double wedding, then AT LEAST someone would have saved some money. That’s a conclusion I can get behind.
Ana: By the way tell me whether wedding preparations in the USA are really so ridiculously arduous and long as described in this novel (and many other novels as well)? I admit I half-laughed half-snorted reading about those rehearsals, practices, choosing the dress, trying on the dress, tasting the dishes in a restaurant, stag parties, hen parties and so on. Honestly people, so much fuss and then you divorce after a year or two…
Tasha: lol Actually, yes, that’s pretty standard. Is it not in Europe?
Ana: Not really. Some people do like copying the rehearsals from our lovely American cousins but it is hardly common or widespread. It takes too much time and too much effort I suppose.
Tasha: I don’t know why people have rehearsals—all you have to do is walk down an aisle slowly! Is it really that difficult? But I guess it’s an excuse to go out to dinner afterward.
Ana: Oh, now I see. Dinner at somebody else’s expense. It sounds reasonable at least ;p. Let return to the book, though. What do you think of Sydney’s sister pretending that she wasn’t pregnant before her marriage? Preposterous? Normal? Both?
Tasha: Another deus-ex-machina to get the wedding to happen quickly instead of over the course of a year like normal. It seemed a little old-fashioned, honestly. Like anyone would care, even a Catholic mom? Probably not, but if Isabelle wants to make life miserable for herself…
Ana: I live in a very Catholic country but a bride with a bun in her oven going proudly to church in a white dress is quite normal here. Nobody cares as long as there is a wedding because sometimes there is not. That’s why such a plot device was shocking to me - it sounded so quaint and not in a positive way. I thought the author was hard-pressed for fresh ideas or rather joking...anyway it didn’t make me liking this one more.
Tasha: Yeah, I think she was using it for comic relief to a certain extent. Not to mention that the kid and the wedding is basically the plot. I thought for sure Sydney and Vaughn would connect over a case—I mean, he works undercover in white collar crimes, she’s an investment banker—but James totally missed the boat on that one. Kind of a let-down, even if it would have been a predictable way to bring them together.
Ana: You’re right - so far in the series there has been a crime, a case and there have been two protagonists forced to cooperate in order to solve it. No more of it in this one.
Tasha: Maybe she’s realizing suspense isn’t her strong suit. Kind of like writing about food isn’t her strong suit. Did you catch the tomato cutting scene? Pretty sure that wouldn’t have worked out the way she described it.
Ana: I am not a chef or a good cook but I did wonder how you can cut a tomato into even squares without using some super-extra-outer-space-technology kitchen tool instead of your ordinary knife...perhaps it can be done in James’s America where tomatoes are grown as cubes ;p. Overall did you enjoy It Happened One Wedding? So far we’ve been criticizing it pretty consistently...
Tasha: I did like it. It had a plot (yay!), Vaughn and Sydney had a lot of chemistry, and it was a fun read.
Ana: I suppose the book was better than the previous novels because I managed to finish it at all (yay seconded!) but still I can’t get over the plastic Barbieland all James characters come from. It gives me creeps, really, thinking about all these imperfect readers who all of a sudden are faced with the fact that in some novels only handsome/beautiful/successful people have any chances to find a partner, marry and be happy. Not fair.
Tasha: That’s basically 98.2% of romance novels, though.
Ana: Small wonder I hate them on a daily basis.
Tasha: At least Vaughn wasn’t inexplicably wealthy.
Ana: But he was an FBI agent, they don’t have to be wealthy.
Tasha: They don’t? Oh right, because they can provide security with their shooting and fighting super powers.
Ana: Exactly. And they are handsome, all of them. It is a prerequisite I suppose.
Tasha: And Sydney manages to be the only investment banker who isn’t a sleaze. haha
Ana: If you were to recommend this novel what would you say?
Tasha: That it’s James’ best novel since Just the Sexiest Man Alive and it’s a fun and romcom-y. I think that’s what James’ audience is mainly looking for, anyway.
Ana: Now I am asking myself a rhetorical question: should I read Just the Sexiest Man Alive? Maybe.
Tasha: Since the question’s rhetorical I won’t answer. *wink*
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