A Lowcountry Bride
I cannot tell you how badly I wanted to like Preslaysa Williams’ A Lowcountry Bride. I’m a fashion and design geek, I love ambitious heroines, and I like to read about diverse characters, including those with illness or disability. On paper, this book should have been everything I wanted. Unfortunately, on Kindle, it wasn’t.
Maya Jackson, a biracial Black/Filipina wedding dress designer – who also has sickle cell anemia – is on the verge of the promotion of a lifetime at a major NYC wedding dress design house when her father breaks his hip. She travels to Charleston to care for him. While there, she meets Derek Sullivan, a retired Navy captain who is trying to keep his mother’s old bridal salon, a pioneering Black business, from going under, and Maya pitches in to help him out.
Maya’s design aesthetic and her dedication to it are the most developed aspect of the book. She has legitimate sewing skills and knowledge of textiles. She wants to incorporate colors which are traditional to non-Western weddings (for example, celebratory red), and use some of the famous fabrics, weaving, and embroidery techniques native to the Philippines. It’s clear that she clashes with the WASP-y aesthetic of Laura Whitcomb, the one-note villainess whose mega-brand Maya designs for. I appreciate that the author allows Maya to have ambition, and considers that ambition a legitimate counterweight to the obvious HEA she’d achieve by staying in Charleston (which wouldn’t give her that industry acceptance that she craved.) Hooray for a heroine who is allowed to desire fame and reputation!
Unfortunately, nothing else going on here is as well-developed, to the point that many elements simply don’t add up. Maya jeopardizes her career and puts herself in financial straits by coming to help her father, but he doesn’t seem to need her at all. Ginger, who works at Derek’s boutique, has to browbeat Maya into trying to sell her gowns to Derek, when a designer with hustle should be pounding pavement. Jamila, Derek’s daughter, has no internal consistency, existing to love or hate Maya depending on what pushes the plot at any given point. Derek’s naval captaincy is intended to justify the distance between him and his daughter, but it’s wallpaper. A captain in the U.S. Navy earns six figures, but he doesn’t have enough money saved to pay off a dress shop mortgage so low he can catch up on payments by staging one good special event? Derek’s personality – overwhelmed, indecisive, and non-confrontational – is not that of a man who has captained any ship, let alone the aircraft carrier he casually references once.
Derek is a widower whose wife Grace was murdered in a mass shooting based on the real-life killings at Episcopal AME Church in Charleston. Again, unfortunately, there is no depth to this. Supposedly-military Derek has no idea how to address loss or help his daughter navigate it. The author doesn’t explore the particularity of experiencing abrupt, violent loss. If you miss a few one-offs about the massacre, you could think Grace died of illness, or even divorced Derek and moved somewhere else. When Maya talks about returning to New York, Jamila says to her dad, “They all leave, don’t they, Dad? … Mom. Grandma. And now Maya. They all leave. It’s the truth. Don’t you agree?” Derek thinks, “He didn’t want to reaffirm negative beliefs about people leaving Jamila’s life. Then again, the evidence spoke for itself.” What? Grace was MURDERED, Grandma died of natural causes, and Maya, who has been dating Derek for all of three weeks, is PURSUING HER DREAM JOB. These are NOT THE SAME.
The prose is sadly weak. We’re hit over the head with things we can easily understand. We don’t need, for instance, to be told that it’s “funny” that going out with Maya gives Derek the same feeling he had on his first date with Grace, or that Maya’s smile warming him like sunshine means that she’s special. We get it. The editing feels sloppy, as phrases recur mere paragraphs apart, and action is unnecessarily recapped.
And how about this intense, passion-ridden dialogue:
Maya: “You know that my sickle cell will require a lot, and so I won’t be able to be the happy hostess all the time. Especially when I get my transfusions.”
Derek: “I fully understand. I’m willing to help you with whatever you need. I also want us to build on the other night. That’s important to me. Is it important to you, too?”
Maya: “Yes, it’s important to me, too.”
Derek: “That makes me happy, Maya.”
This reads like a failed AI project trying to replicate an emotional human conversation.
This book gets a C- because it didn’t upset or offend me, it just failed to deliver. I’m sorry to say I recommend you leave A Lowcountry Bride at the altar.