Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Wedding Party by Tracey Richardson

Book:  The Wedding Party
Author:  Tracey Richardson
Publisher: Bella Books

Any time two people make the lip-smacking, life-affirming decision to forge forward and formally unite into one all-encompassing matrimonial unit henceforth known as ‘us’, the Cosmic Comediennes begin to dance gaily, open their bedazzled bags of entropic chaos, and wantonly sprinkle handfuls of magic faerie mayhem upon each and every person, thing, and weather system involved. 

Seriously, make a quick checklist of every wedding you been to or taken part in: 

  • A pesky and persistent low-pressure system parks itself directly over the tent of your long-planned outdoor wedding.
  • The stoner that delivers the flowers gets the noon wedding confused with the 1 o’clock funeral across town, and the bride has to carry a hastily redesigned "So Long Uncle Morty” bouquet.
  • The adorable twin 4 year-old flower girls share an entire bag of Skittles for breakfast, and then barf a glorious double rainbow on the minister’s white patent leather loafers. 
  • The caterer is arrested by the ATF for using homemade Sterno in his chafing dishes just about the time the happy couple utters ‘I do’. 

And, yes, I have been witness to these very examples.

Weddings never go off as planned.  Ever.  It has nothing to do with love, commitment, planning, or the naughty officer that shows up at the bachelorette party with furry handcuffs.   No, it has everything to do with good, old-fashioned Fate.

The Wedding Party by Tracey Richardson proves, once again, that the Wedding Fates are cheeky little bitches.  Dani and Shannon have a special love, and they’ve decided to formalize their relationship.  The perfect wedding is planned, and the happy couple is taking their best friends Jordan and Claire, and Shannon’s niece Amanda to Las Vegas to bond, have some fun, and prepare for the wedding to end all weddings. 

Ah, but the Fates have been busy, and everything starts to list wildly out of control before any of their bags are even packed. 

Dani lost her high paying job weeks ago, and hasn’t told her bride-to-be; Shannon is scared to tell Dani that she’s infertile and can’t give her the baby she desperately wants; Jordan’s playgirl days suddenly catch up to her in humiliating fashion; Claire is unwilling to move past the painful loss of her longtime partner; and, little Amanda is all grown up, but working her way out of an impulsive, ill-advised decision.

It seems like everyone is hiding a little somethin’ somethin’ . . .

We’re all familiar with the old adage “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” and I’m sure there are plenty of tattoos out there to prove it.  However, The Wedding Party shows us that what happens in Chicago, bitch slaps everyone equally in Las Vegas.

Dani and Shannon both struggle mightily over going into the wedding with devastating secrets stuffed in every pocket.  But, why ruin the day for the other by telling the truth?  Claire, whose libido has been pretty much moth balled since her partner’s death, suddenly finds that young Amanda has the power to turn on a cascading waterfall of tingles deep inside her not-so-withered places.  Sweet little Amanda has an older soul than her physical age suggests, and she falls hopelessly in love with her Aunt’s butchy best friend at first sight.  And Jordan, who has left a lifelong trail of broken but sexually satisfied hearts is gobsmacked when she realizes she’s fallen head over heals for a Jazz singing angel with a painfully similar past. 

On the upside, everyone drinks way too much and one way or the other has lots of mind-blowing sex.

And, since Tracey Richardson is a romance writer’s romance writer, the femmes buy shoes, have massages, and confess almost everything to each other over their pedicures.  But, the studly butches smoke cigars, gamble, and find innovative ways to not have heart-to-heart talks while having heart-to-heart talks.

In my last two reviews, I’ve been on a soapbox about how authors and publishers need to push themselves into new directions.  Of course, I also said that sometimes a reader just needs what feels familiar.  Over the last few years, I’ve read a handful of Tracey Richardson’s books, and it’s crystal clear that she has a homing device for the familiar.  And, by ‘familiar’, I mean she writes beautiful, well-formed characters and strong, clever plots that are sprinkled with liberal does of angst and redemption.  We read them because they take us to a place we want to be.

And like those other books, there are so many delightful elements to The Wedding Party.

From the first time we’re introduced to them, the women of The Wedding Party come to life, and we are invested – hook, line, and sinker.  Each of characters makes a painful personal sacrifice in the name of love, but the love goes beyond the expected romance and touches on platonic and familial love.   There are myriad relationships in the story – some old, some new, and some redefined.  Each is different, but equal - sometimes romantic, sometimes confusing, and sometimes, even, borderline pejorative.   It all combines into a well-conceived, well-balanced, and well-written tale of love, trust, and risking everything.

I truly appreciate the way Ms. Richardson constructs the flash flood of angst and libidos by showing each character’s perspective through chapters dedicated to their experiences.  For instance, the first chapter is Dani, the second is Claire, the third is Shannon, the fourth is Jordan, the fifth is Amanda, and the sixth is back to Dani.  This continues on, so that our time with each of the main characters and their journey is balanced and complete. A brilliant approach to managing five women and three romances.

As a reader, one of the most consistent complaints I have is that an author plops too many characters into a story.  In The Wedding Party, we have five main female characters, two important secondary characters, and a smattering of unimportant one-scene wonders.  The probability of things getting confusing quickly was certainly high, but I must commend Ms. Richardson for wrangling the potential mayhem with supreme skill and panache.  Each of her characters has a unique voice and personality, and I never once had to flip back a few pages or chapters to remind myself who was speaking.

If I have one complaint with the storyline, it’s that I don’t feel we really had enough time with Jordan and Dez to fully appreciate what they saw and felt with each other, and how powerful it was for both of them when they were together.  I’ll admit that my natural cynicism towards love at first sight is probably more at fault than anything the author did or didn’t do, but in the end, I needed a bit more emotional connection from these two women.

Tracey Richardson is a stellar, engaging writer and The Wedding Party is another solid, well-written winner for my bookshelf.  I’m giving it a 5.0 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale – I’d originally considered giving it a 4.9, but the lady reading Ecclesiastes in the airplane seat next to me choked on a honey-roasted peanut when Dez took Jordan, in very graphic style, in the hallway. 

That right there, my friends, is a case for extra credit.

Heh, heh, heh . . .  



2 comments:

  1. Honey Roasted peanut, indeed.
    Tracey Richardson rocks and now I will add this to my TBR stack. Thanks for the color commentary and pith, always enjoyable.
    (say, which airline provides the Bibles?)

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  2. Ms. McB - the airline was Pinnacle, and I'm pretty sure they don't hand out free bibles. In fact, the Steward was absolutely fabulous, and shared fashion-forward tips with the whiskey-voiced belle in 3B. Guess I just lucked into the Ecclesiastes row.

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