Desert Isle Keeper
If Connie Brockway can do it, why can’t Hollywood?
Bridal Favors is, to put it simply, as close to a perfect romantic comedy as you are ever likely to find. It’s funny, charming, unputdownable, and contains at its heart an utterly adorable romance between two equally adorable characters. And, as I laughed out loud and happily turned pages, I kept thinking again and again what a perfect movie it would make.
Lady Evelyn, heroine extraordinaire, overcompensates – boy, does she overcompensate – for being the least beautiful member of a breathtaking family by managing her life, the lives of her family, and just about anything else she can manage to manage. So, it’s not surprising that the inescapable fact that she seems less than adept at running her Aunt Agatha’s (Bridal Season) wedding planning business makes her crazy. So crazy in fact, that she’s willing to call in a chip she’s held for some time from the worthless, lady-killing Justin Powell.
Or at least that’s what Evie thinks, due to a midnight encounter ten years earlier. I’m not letting too big a cat out of the bag (especially since the reader is clued in by page 50) when I tell you that Justin is, in fact, one of England’s most valuable spies, and far from the lady-killer Evie presumes. Justin’s cover in society is to pose as a somewhat vague, bird-watching loose screw. Evie’s request – or rather, demand – to rent his country home for an upcoming wedding fits in neatly with Justin’s latest assignment, which is to take secret delivery of a so-called “diabolical machine” conscripted from a foreign government.
Or so Justin thinks. Far from being the dire threat Justin is led to believe it is, the entirely fictitious machine is actually the centerpiece of an intricate plot in which the oblivious Justin serves as bait in order lure an enemy spy into revealing himself. That spy, in turn, is apparently close to discovering the identity of an English spy even more valuable than Justin. Got that?
So, with misconceptions and misinformation running rampant, Evie, Justin, and a hugely entertaining cast of characters adjourn to North Cross Abbey, Justin’s moldy country retreat. There – with a variety of plots and subplots going on all around them – Evie obsesses over preparing the wedding for her snooty American client as Justin suspiciously eyes a variety of the denizens of the surrounding town. And, of course, our master spy awaits the delivery of that mysterious foreign machine.
Let me say that this book is all about having fun. While both Evie and Justin are real characters whose background thoroughly explains their characters and why they act the way they do, Connie Brockway has simply set out to entertain here. And does she ever.
From Evie and Justin on through all the delightful secondary characters, Bridal Favors is filled with sparkling dialogue (including the kind of comebacks I would kill to come up with at the appropriate moments), witty banter, terrific physical humor (not easy in print), and painfully funny situations.
And while reading this book is so easy that the pages practically turn themselves, writing this kind of humor is incredibly difficult – so difficult, I think, that we’re all familiar with that slightly uncomfortable feeling you get when a writer tries too hard. I never once felt that here. And, even more rare, I really did break into laughter on several occasions.
I will admit, however, that while this isn’t even a quibble for me, anachronistic words and phrases occasionally creep into the story. But since many of those phrases are also integral to some pretty good jokes, many readers – like me – may be more than willing to give Brockway a pass.
I should also say that while I really enjoyed Bridal Season, I liked Bridal Favors even better. Hey, hero stuff is personal and very much a matter of individual taste, but to my mind Justin is a more appealing character than Elliott of Bridal Season. I loved Justin’s unerring skill in getting under Evie’s skin and the pleasure he took in doing so. I laughed out loud at his bird-watching, bird-brained cover. I admired his courage in living his life solely by his own standards. To all that, add in a pair of killer blue-green eyes, a tendency to look appealingly rumpled, and his refusal to take himself too seriously and you’ve got yourself one major league hero.
All of us have certain pieces of music, or movies, or books that somehow make us feel better on days when we may not be our best. For me, Bridal Favors may well rank right up there with Van Morrisson, Waiting for Guffman, This Is Spinal Tap, and Barenaked Ladies as a sure cure for the blues. And, in the world we live in today, that is saying something.