A Wedding at Leopard Tree Lodge
I expected to like A Wedding at Leopard Tree Lodge more than I did. It has an edgy heroine (purple streaks in her hair) with a mysterious past, and a really cool setting; if you’re sick of the same old, same old, you can hardly beat Botswana for exotic. Unfortunately, I never really warmed to the hero, and the romance was too rushed to be believable. On the whole, it simply didn’t work.
Josie Fowler is an event planner brought in to run a wedding at the last minute. But not just any wedding – this is the wedding of a star soccer player, and it’s taking place at a wild life/safari paradise in Africa. All of the proceedings will be photographed for Celebrity magazine, so if Josie can pull it off the publicity will be huge. It will also justify her boss’s faith in her. Currently on maternity leave, her boss brought her on board when Josie was a nobody working as a scullery assistant.
Gideon McGrath has made a living out of adventure and wanderlust. He travels the world making deals and setting up vacation getaways for those seeking the off-beat and exotic. Leopard Tree Lodge in Botswana was his first property, and it holds some painful memories as well. But his current trip there looks like it will have to be prolonged; his stressful lifestyle has resulted in a back injury, and nothing but relaxation will get him on his feet again.
Gideon and Josie meet cute when he asks her to bring over coffee (a banned substance). Although they enjoy each other’s company, they soon realize they are in conflict: Gideon is staying in the cabin that is supposed to be the bridal suite, and the hotel does not have room to spare. Most of the action in the book takes place over the course of a single day, with Gideon and Josie sparring over what to do and privately wishing what they could really do is hook up. Meanwhile there are wedding preparations and a few unforeseen hiccups.
Josie and Gideon each have something of the wounded warrior about them. Josie’s mother died young, and the aftermath of her death was disastrous. Gideon had a relationship that ended very unhappily, and he’s been running ever since. Both of them feel the need to prove themselves, and both tend to guard their feelings. My general feeling, especially with a book this short, is that either the hero or the heroine can be troubled, but not both. There just isn’t time to delve deeply into the difficult pasts of two people – not if you want to leave time for romance.
It doesn’t help that Gideon’s reactions seem way out of proportion to what happened to him. It was sad, and it was awful. However, his reaction when he sees a wedding dress was so over the top that I almost expected him to reveal a Lord Ian Mackenzie (as in, The Madness of) like a story involving a corpse-bride, a pit, and a whole lot of time together. I also found him far too high-handed for my taste. His solution to the room problem is way out of bounds, and he can’t even seem to see why Josie might be upset about it.
I did like Josie better, but the story was too rushed to appreciate her adequately. It takes some work to convince readers that a couple can fall deeply in love over the course of a day and a half. Sure, it can be done, but it isn’t easy. And if you can’t buy into the relationship, the story won’t work. So even though I like heroines with purple hair, and even though I love exotic settings, this just didn’t work for me. I’d give it a pass.