Desert Isle Keeper
One and Only
My experience reading Jenny Holiday to date has been an enjoyable one, with two of her more recent releases, Famous and Infamous, ending up on my favorites of 2017 list. This sets up pretty high expectations for anything new she puts out, and fortunately she lives up to those with the first romance in her new romantic comedy series Bridesmaids Behaving Badly. Weddings and the chaos that surrounds them provide plenty of material for a romantic comedy. In One and Only, Ms. Holiday gives us an emotional, funny, sweet and sexy romance between the ne’er-do-well brother of the groom and the bridesmaid tasked with keeping him in line.
Jane Denning loves her friend Elise, soon to be married to Jay. Jane is happy to be part of the wedding party, but let’s face it, Elise is driving them all crazy. With do-it-yourself projects ranging from hand stenciled invitations, gold spray painted tea sets for centerpieces, to inventing a tea cocktail for the reception, any excuse to escape another afternoon of crafting is welcome. Jane is the steady, responsible member of the group of friends, but she has a fun side. She loves to cosplay and is working on a Xena, Warrior Princess costume for an upcoming comic con, and she’s a writer of young adult fantasy novels, which means she works from home. In the mind of the bride (and many others) this means it’s fair game to ask her to interrupt her plans in favour of theirs. Thus, when Elise asks her to keep an eye on Jay’s somewhat estranged brother Cameron MacKinnon – who is arriving early for the wedding, and has a less than savoury reputation – Jane accepts the task without complaint.
Cam’s been having a bit of a rough patch for far more years than he’d like to count, and while some of it is his own fault, much of it isn’t. Still, no one has been interested in his side of the story for years, so he’s given up on trying to explain himself to anyone. His stint in the army was supposed to be a reset, until he was discharged under less than ideal circumstances. Arriving home to discover his girlfriend in the arms of another man (ouch), he’s out of options except to crash at his brother Jay’s using the wedding invitation as an excuse to figure out what the heck he’s going to do now. But first up – a steak, and hopefully some hot sex.
When Jane picks up Cam at the airport and makes it clear she’s going to stick to him like glue, it puts a kink in his plans, and not the good kind. Not to be deterred in his quest for a fun night on the town, he manages to elude Jane but she tracks him down and from then on it’s a battle of wills as to who can get the best of whom. Making sure Cam doesn’t cause any scandals to wreck the wedding means Jane is determined to keep him close by and succeeds by accepting a bet in return for him behaving somewhat virtuously. Yet Jane can’t help but see that Cam isn’t the man everyone thinks he is and the mutual attraction between them soon leads to a heated affair. Whoops! Now who’s behaving badly? And more importantly, when the wedding is over will they be over, too?
This story is set in Toronto and sees Jane and Cam visiting several tourist sites, such as the CN Tower, Canada’s Wonderland (the Canadian version of Disneyland), and Niagara Falls. Having visited these places myself, the author recreated some of my favorite vacation memories, a very pleasant and unexpected surprise that added to my enjoyment of the story. For those readers unfamiliar with the city and its local landmarks, they are authentically described and worth visiting. What’s fun about these settings is that Cam makes Jane explore outside of her comfort zone and try the more daring adventures on offer. In the process they get to know each other on a more intimate level, revealing their fears and hangups and becoming closer with every new experience.
Family relationships and friendships are key to the story. The women who make up the wedding party are able to come together for the bride, and joke about how she is turning into something of a bridezilla. Yet the reader is never left with the feeling that they resent all the extra work she gives them, and it’s obvious that they genuinely care about her. They might try to manage some of her more outrageous ideas, but are never mean or malicious behind her back. Still, the other bridesmaids can’t deny that Jane might have got the better deal by agreeing to ‘babysit’ Cam. Little do they suspect what’s really happening.
In contrast, Jay and Cam are not close due to a number of incidents in their childhood and Cam’s reputation for screwing things up. He also keeps his mother at a distance, not wanting to see the disappointment in her eyes with his latest failure, being discharged from the army. The truth is that many of the things Cam’s been blamed for have explanations, but they aren’t ones anyone has wanted to hear, or so he believes. He has PTSD from his time in Iraq, symptoms of which show up from time to time. No one knows about that either – until he shares it with Jane.
Each chapter of the story starts with a countdown timer to the wedding. It’s also a countdown for Cam and Jane’s burgeoning relationship. Starting out as wary adversaries, then friends, the switch to lovers happens easily, and they share some steamy scenes. Part of their ability to let loose is the knowledge that whatever they have will end when the wedding is over. As the big day comes closer, Jane starts to think maybe something more could happen between them. But Cam is so used to being the one to let everyone down that he creates his own self-fulfilling prophecy. A good guy with a giving heart, he doesn’t think he’s worthy of Jane, and just about mucks everything up. Ms. Holiday knows how to write those moments that make you gasp and wonder how everything can work out in the end. Fortunately, after rending your heart she does a good job of patching it back together, too. I love the characters and stories that Ms. Holiday creates, and this is yet another example of why she’s consistently one of my favorite authors. It’s early in the year, but One and Only is a strong contender for making my best of 2018 list.
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