Always the Bridesmaid
Always the Bridesmaid really tries to pack a lot into a little book. There’s a wedding (the heroine’s best friend), a hero and heroine with complicated childhoods, and current challenges to overcome. None of this is bad, but it’s way too much for a book with fewer than 180 pages.
Amy Edler is a baker. She took over the family business from her adoptive parents a few years ago, and is making a go of it – largely because she works like a fiend. Amy’s friend Lucy is getting married, and they discover that the wedding planner (who had all Amy’s plans in her office) has run off unexpectedly. Amy gets drafted to save the day and plan the wedding – with the help of Lucy’s extremely hot brother Jared. Jared goes to meet Amy and feels an instant attraction. He’s a high-powered mover and shaker who doesn’t like to put down many roots, and Amy is not his usual type. As they spend time together planning the wedding (and dealing with assorted other problems), they share their plans and dreams, and come to realize they have a lot in common.
One of their chief similarities is a difficult childhood. Amy lost both her parents in an accident and was in the foster system for awhile. Much of Jared’s childhood was privileged; he went to private schools and lived in a nice home. All that changed when his dad went to prison, and they found out that their wealth was actually stolen from others. Jared spent his teenage years doing what he could to keep the family afloat.
And wait…there’s more! Amy believes that a real relationship is not possible for her, because she has scars – not childhood emotional scars, but actual scars. The explanation of her scarring is withheld from the reader for reasons I couldn’t quite understand, but since it’s revealed fairly late in the book I won’t tell you either. Anyway, I spent most of the book mistakenly thinking she was a breast cancer survivor who had had a mastectomy. When the actual cause is revealed, the author also tells us about this other pre-baker Amy who was a corporate mover and shaker.
I had no quarrel with Amy, or any of the characters for that matter. They were all likable enough. Amy clearly enjoys her work, and has interesting ambitions for her business. Jared in nice enough too, and quickly appreciates Amy’s finer qualities. His only non-heroic moment comes near the end, when he suddenly makes an announcement that could totally derail their future together. It seems both out of character, and at that point I couldn’t believe the author was adding another obstacle to the mix.
My problems with the book are almost entirely due to the surfeit of info, problems, and obstacles. Obviously you need a conflict, but these two had a very short number of pages to fall in love. With such time constraints, kitchen sink plotting is not an option. The romance suffered significantly because the main characters had so much to process. It would have been a much better book if only one of them had a troubled past.
Series romance authors can be a popular target for non-romances readers; I’ve seen many a sneer about how they are “all the same.” There are, of course, good ones out there. But there are also plenty of people who don’t know that it can be much harder to write a short book than it is to write a long one. If Ms. Harrington scales back a bit, her next effort could be much better.