Well-Behaved Women

Wedding Season by Katie Fforde

Reading Challenge: A book that takes place on an island

Here’s a thing you may not know about me: beneath my cynical exterior lies a core of molten cheese. I love getting flowers. I get more into Christmas with each passing year. I know most of the major fairy tales by heart. And I’m a sucker for a good love story.

There’s a catch, though. It has to be a good love story.

After reading several Good Books in a row, I needed a break. Especially after my last one I needed something with a lot less testosterone. And I figured, hey, something that takes place in the UK qualifies as something that takes place on an island. Give me something quick and easy to read, too. Oh hey, this one’s about weddings! Weddings are such good fodder for fiction. I don’t really love chick lit, but at least it’s usually a quick read and emotionally involving.

Once again, I chose poorly. Spoiler alerts because this book pissed me off too much for discretion.

Wedding Season started off like your typical chick lit. I checked off the normal items from chick lit bingo early on: Overworked, Underappreciated Heroine Great at Her Job but Hopeless at Communication in Personal Life, Bizarrely Bossy Love Interest, Makeover, Fairy Godmother, Convenient Plot Device (who COULD rent that empty cottage? Goodness!). This book offered three heroines, Sarah (the wedding planner), Elsa (the dressmaker) and Bron (the hairdresser who also makes great cakes). In addition to their poor communication skills, all three were notable for being mindbogglingly passive. People could talk them into pretty much anything because they couldn’t figure out how to say no politely. I’m kind of amazed none of them turned drug mule at any point in this book.

Speaking of substances, there was a stunning amount of alcohol consumed in this book, usually after token protests. I’m a social drinker and like a beer with my dinner, but I could feel my liver curling up and whimpering as I read about yet another bottle of champagne being consumed.

Plot contrivances abounded: Sarah, the wedding planner (distinguished from the other two by being labeled “bossy,” although she very rarely did anything bossy), stops her love interest from clearing up her (spoiler alert: mistaken!) perception that he is engaged, and her totally-looks-like-Hugh-Grant-have-I-mentioned-that? love interest actually lets her. Bron, who starts the book in a shitty relationship, the depiction of which was the most realistic piece of the book, decides to leave her awful boyfriend, and in spite of the fact that we’ve already seen how awful he is, she has to walk in on him in bed with another woman just to establish that it’s okay for her to walk out on him. Elsa (distinguished from the other two by virtue of being actually even more passive than the others) attends a costume ball and just has to win the costume contest even though she hates being the center of attention and totally didn’t want to win. If there were a passivity Olympics, these ladies would take home the gold, silver and bronze by miles.

Now, I realize there are probably people out there who are really curious about how wedding prep logistical problems could be solved. But I would think even the most avid DIY-er would find the amount of that contained in this book to be excessive. By the time we got a 3.5-page scene of bulk baking supply shopping, I was wondering if this book even had editors. It could easily have been half the length without a single important scene getting cut. The focus of many of the scenes also appeared to be off. At the ball, Elsa’s love interest gets called away for a crisis, where a drunk man gashed his arm badly and Love Interest Guy was guaranteed to be sober and so should be the one who decides whether a trip to A and E (that’s the ER for us Americans) is warranted. Instead of focusing on the guy with the bleeding arm and Love Interest Guy’s capability in a crisis, a bunch of characters stand around discussing who should drive what car and who needs to go where. I’m surprised Bleeding Man didn’t bleed out during this tedium.

You can probably tell already that I didn’t care for this book, and didn’t from the beginning. But Mr. Drinking-and-Ink wants me to mention that my reading of the last hundred pages was liberally peppered with outbursts of “No! No! No! No! No!” Although the first 300 pages were bad, the last 100 truly were worse. Bossy Sarah decides that the one place to NOT be bossy is when her pregnant sister wants to drink alcohol. Extra-passive Elsa thinks about how other people making her do things she didn’t want to do has made her so much more confident. And Bron, who up until this point had been the least insufferable of the three, decides it’s perfectly okay to start undressing a sleeping man.

That last one may seem like not a big deal, but the way it’s presented, it actually is. Having decided that her love interest is not attracted to her, she finds him sleeping and gets in bed with him. Then she unbuttons his shirt and caresses his chest for a bit. She considers undoing his pants but decides not to. I mean, luckily enough he wakes up significantly later, notices his undone shirt, and turns out to be into it. But THAT ISN’T OKAY. THAT IS FUCKING CREEPY. Imagine if she were the one asleep and he’d been the one who got in bed and decided to take her top off and touch her for a bit. PEOPLE WHO ARE ASLEEP CAN’T CONSENT THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. It doesn’t make your heroine a “modern woman” if following 404 pages of doing absolutely nothing she decides to start fondling a sleeping man on page 405. I don’t know exactly what it makes her, but a “modern woman” it does not.

Generally speaking, though, Sarah, Bron and Elsa made your average Dickens heroine look like Xena, Warrior Princess in comparison. I was amazed they managed to walk around so easily when none of them possessed a spine.

So it turns out even people with a core of molten cheese have standards. And this book did not meet them.

Recommended pairing: Ugh. Tea. Coffee. Lemonade. Anything but alcohol.

 

 

 

 

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