Mira Lyn Kelly has written a fun and engaging romantic comedy series in The Wedding Date, with a group of bachelors starting out as best men for their friends and ending up finding their own perfect match by the end of each story. Book one, May the Best Man Win got a spot in my ‘best reads of 2016’ folder. It’s still my favorite of the series (in part because enemies-to-lovers is my favorite trope), though the ones that have come after have been entertaining and enjoyable as well, including this latest release, Decoy Date.
Brody O’Donnel is a pub owner and friend to many, the kind of guy who treats women well even after a breakup and whose big body and bigger cheerful presence don’t go unnoticed. He can see that his friend Gwen is waiting for her longtime crush Ted to really notice her, and proposes a fake relationship to grab Ted’s attention and make him see what he’s missing in keeping Gwen in the friend-zone. Ted and Gwen have a long history together: childhood friends and neighbours from the same town, parents who still hang out together on holidays, and the occasional hookup that never developed into anything more despite Gwen’s hopes. Waiting for Ted to finally ‘see’ her doesn’t seem to be working so Gwen figures Brody’s offer is her last best hope.
Things get a little complicated when Gwen finds she’s enjoying her fake boyfriend far more than expected. Though Brody’s intentions at the start are to keep his emotions in check because he knows Gwen has real feelings for Ted, when the sizzling attraction between them gets both of their attentions it becomes a challenge to remember why they started acting like more than friends in the first place. And when their plan starts to work, who will get to have a happy ever after?
This is a classic love-triangle romance trope: Girl 1 crushes on Boy 1; Girl 1 enlists Boy 2’s help to make Boy 1 jealous; Girl 1 and Boy 2 start to develop feelings for each other; Boy 1 realizes he’s been an idiot; and then the final question – does Girl 1 end up with Boy 1 or Boy 2? If this were a ménage romance everybody would get their happy ending but it isn’t, so though the reader can likely figure out the final solution to the equation, it’s the complications, emotional moments, and the sexy times (there are plenty of those) that make it worth reading.
I’m of the same mind as Brody when it comes to Ted. It’s hard to see what Gwen sees in him romantically from the get go. He’s great as a friend – always there for a phone call or a quick meal together, rides out to see the parents and for joint family time. But he dates other women, basically flaunting them in front of Gwen, and yet she still thinks he’s the one for her. It made me shake my head at Gwen for not coming to her senses sooner, especially with a single guy like Brody around. Because Brody’s a nice guy and sensitive to Gwen’s feelings he doesn’t tell her his real thoughts on the man she calls her best friend. Brody believes that once Ted realizes he’s losing his comfort blanket of Gwen’s adoration, he’ll make his move; Gwen will date Ted, realize she’s mistaken about her feelings for him, they’ll split up and then Gwen can finally move on to a new relationship with her whole heart (and Brody hopes that will be with him). Nothing goes according to plan and because of that someone is bound to get hurt, giving this story a little heartbreak amidst the joy of discovering new love.
The wedding part of this story is secondary to the romance plot. Brody is the best man at a wedding of mutual friends, and there are a few scenes with the gang pre, during and post wedding but it doesn’t have the same emphasis or importance as in the original story that started the series. Now it’s a way to catch up with secondary characters and showcase some of the friendships between the guys and gals. Some are married and some are expecting children and it’s nice to see how they’ve all moved forward with their lives.
I definitely think the right couple ends up together and though it seemed easy for Gwen and Brody to pretend to be involved, the actual way to a happy ending requires some soul searching and honest communication. This is a series where each story works just fine as a standalone and the tropes are all different, so depending on your tastes, you may find one story works better than the others. While I don’t think this one is as strong as previous entries, that’s likely because love triangles aren’t my favorite trope rather than a case of problems with the writing style or characters. On the whole, the romantic comedy Wedding Date series gets a positive score from me for the series concept, likable characters, and sexy, satisfying stories.