Just Married might be a case of good writing meeting bad plotting, or at least readability meeting a poor plot. I was sucked into the story from the very beginning by Bayley-Burke’s writing style and the premise. I love friends-to-lovers tropes, and seeing one friend corral another into a surprise marriage totally worked for me. Sadly, it was kind of downhill from there.
Attorney Miranda Rose gets a call from her dear friend and law school comrade, Callum Kerr, to say that he is getting married in Vegas. The two have been best friends constantly and bed partners occasionally for years, and unbeknownst to Cal, Miranda has been having some more-than-friendly feelings toward him. All he knows is that she loves to meddle in his life, and that is exactly what Cal is hoping for. His plan is for Miranda to rush to Vegas to stop him from marrying a stranger, and then to offer up herself as the bride.
Okay, this hook got me because I desperately wanted Cal to be in love with Miranda. He needs to marry because of some nonsense legal mumbo jumbo about inheriting his family’s estate and business in Scotland, but I was holding onto hope that he actually wanted her over anyone else because of some deeper feelings. I’m not trying to spoil this for anyone, but that doesn’t turn out to be true. I also love surprise babies, and I heard this book had that as well. The hope for it kept me up late turning pages until the story started to derail and I had to admit that Just Married wasn’t going to be all I wanted.
So, let me tell you what went wrong. This book had a case of what I will now call the “oh yeah, and -” syndrome. It was as though each chapter suddenly threw in a factoid that had nothing leading up to but which was meant to be of great importance. I pictured the author saying to herself “oh yeah, and…” before typing it out. It was the kind of stuff I would expect from a first draft when new ideas are coming to you, but then you go back in revision and work it all in seamlessly. For example, Miranda is a fantastic lawyer. Oh yeah and, she also is obsessed with yoga. Oh yeah, and she has endometriosis so she can’t get pregnant. Oh yeah, and she is on the pill. Oh yeah, and she did get pregnant already.
Let’s take a minute with that one. So Miranda (whom Cal calls Mira which I have never heard as a nickname for Miranda, but okay) and Cal hook up in Vegas pre-wedding and then get married. Shortly post-nuptials she finds out that against all the odds, she is pregnant. The thing is, conception didn’t happen during the scene we read at the wedding where they were having yoga-tastic sex, it happened weeks before, off page, when they were together at Cal’s father’s funeral and her birth control wasn’t working because she was taking antibiotics because she had been sick. Does that sound like I threw a lot of details at you? That’s how it was reading this book. So Miranda is pregnant with the miracle baby that defied the odds.
Oh yeah, and it’s twins.
Apparently twins run in Cal’s family, which we find out once it’s confirmed that Miranda has two buns in the oven. Not only that, but Cal is heartbroken that they’re twins because this is somehow tragic? Apparently his family’s twins have always hated each other because there’s been an heir and a spare, and he dreads this for his children. Plus, he is anti-babies altogether and Miranda’s pregnancy throws a wrench in his plans to keep his wife on the opposite coast and visit her for nookie when it suits him.
Oh yeah, and, even though Miranda previously was in love with Cal, as soon as she finds out she’s pregnant she wants nothing to do with him. She knows he doesn’t want children and doesn’t think he has had a good example of fatherhood so she basically isn’t willing to give him a chance. This part drove me bonkers. I didn’t get why we were given to believe she loves Cal only to have her turn on him. I can see that babies weren’t in his plans, and maybe he doesn’t really know how to be a parent, but when he wants the shot, Miranda turns cold. It was like any supposed feelings she had for him disappeared in a “poof!” of pregnancy hormones.
When Miranda has a yoga-incident and thinks she might lose the babies, Cal has a sudden change of heart and wants to start over with his wife by settling them in his family home.
Oh yeah, and he is fixing up his family castle in Scotland.
Oh yeah, and he sometimes has a Scottish brogue.
Oh yeah, and at one point he needs a Gaelic speaking lawyer so Miranda speaks Gaelic because of her dad or some nonsense.
By the time Cal had his change of heart I had become overwhelmed by all the unnecessary fodder that was jammed into this very short book. The story line races along, as it should, but that means that you can only have so much excess. If you have a billionaire who is marrying his best friend for inheritance and gets her pregnant, that’s plenty for 162 pages. Leave the Scottish finishing schools, generations of family drama, Scottish castles, legal issues, medical woes, and all the other “oh yeah, and’s” for a longer book. This one didn’t have room for them.
All of that said, I didn’t hate Just Married. The writing style is highly readable and I made it through the whole book in a short stint, compelled to keep reading, even as I was rolling my eyes. I think that Bayley-Burke probably has a natural talent for engaging writing, but needs some help on the editing side to trim some of the extraneous details. Many of the elements would have been less eye-roll inducing had they been eased into the story from the beginning. Oddly enough, this book has compelled me to see out more by this author. I want to see how her writing style translates into other novels that might not have the plotting problems Just Married has. That’s not a glowing endorsement, I know, but there you have it.