The Wedding Date
Based on early buzz, I had high hopes for The Wedding Date. Unfortunately, although Ms. Guillory introduces two appealing principals, the story is predictable and flat, and her characters spend too much time in their own heads and physically separated (he lives in Los Angeles, she lives in Berkeley) – doubting and second-guessing their relationship the whole way through. I liked the premise, the pairing and the settings… but I was never invested in the story or Ms. Guillory’s writing style, and The Wedding Date, while charming, is simply average in every way.
Alexa Monroe is chief of staff for the mayor of Berkeley, California. Young, black, single, well-educated and a bit of a workaholic – Alexa is mostly content with her busy life when The Wedding Date opens. Running late to meet up with her sister (who’s in town to celebrate making partner at her NYC law firm), she quickly jumps into the closest open elevator. She’s mentally psyching herself up for the visit (she has a challenging relationship with her sister) – texting to let her know she’s on her way up – when the elevator abruptly stops. At this point, she’s startled to discover another passenger in there with her. With an amused expression, her companion introduces himself and steps forward to pick up the emergency phone. While he’s distracted, she checks him out – good looking if a bit rumpled – and tries not to panic when he informs her that the power is out in the entire hotel.
Drew Nichols is a pediatric surgeon in town from Los Angeles for a wedding, and the weekend is already shaping up to be a disaster. His date bailed at the last minute, and since he’s part of the wedding, he can’t do the same – and now he’s stuck in an elevator. Once assures Alexa the elevator will be moving again once the generators kick in, the two settle down to wait. Spotting crackers and cheese and a bottle of champagne in her bag, Drew tries to cajole Alexa into sharing. After revealing his own sad story – he’s dateless, it’s his ex-girlfriend’s wedding, she’s marrying a friend of his, and he’s a groomsman (later on we discover he’s omitted a few unflattering details) – the conversation grows increasingly flirtatious as he tries and fails to convince her to share her goodies. Alexa tells him a bit about herself, but all too soon the elevator starts up again and arrives at Alexa’s floor. Reluctant to let her go, Drew has a brilliant idea. He impulsively calls her back and asks if she’ll be his plus one for the weekend. After a bit of convincing, Alexa agrees, and The Wedding Date gets underway.
Sounds great right? It was. Fortunately, Alexa is besties with a professional stylist and arrives for the rehearsal dinner dressed to kill. They’ve exchanged a few texts in advance, including an awkward (for Drew) exchange when she asks if she’ll be the only black person there, and both are looking forward to their fake date. They have a good time – convincing guests and their hosts that they’re a couple – and, via their PoVs, we know both are optimistic about late night sexy shenanigans. They spend a steamy night in Drew’s hotel room after the wedding, and when Alexa gets up to shower the next morning, he secretly changes his Sunday morning flight time so that he can spend the day with her instead. When he finally has to leave for the airport, neither one is ready to say goodbye. They have a quickie at Alexa’s home and then Drew reluctantly leaves. But the next day he can’t stop thinking about her and invites her to come to LA. The one-night stand and fake relationship quickly transitions into regular weekend trips between Berkeley and LA.
As Alexa and Drew begin to spend time together, she discovers how dedicated he is to his pediatric patients, and he sees just how deeply Alexa believes in the work she’s doing on behalf of the mayor and Berkeley. She’s focused and passionate about causes she believes in and her intensity only makes him like her more. Ms. Guillory doesn’t overly fixate on the interracial aspect of their relationship – it’s never an obstacle to their affair, but she does a terrific job illustrating how Alexa’s sensitivity changes how Drew sees the world and leads him to be more mindful of his own privilege. The author shows a deft touch navigating this tricky terrain; I liked how Drew’s feelings for Alexa led him to be a better and more mindful partner.
Unfortunately, once the wedding date passes, the novel stalls. The only surprise was my overwhelming annoyance over their total and complete inability to be honest about how they felt. The whole thing is just so tired Ms. Guillory! Early on Drew confesses he ‘doesn’t do relationships’ and Ms. Guillory milks that sorry justification for much too long; Alexa – whom the author frequently reminds us is smart, driven, attractive, popular and single – doesn’t believe someone like Drew would want to date her anyway. Cue eye roll and teeth grinding. Ms. Guillory – you can’t have it both ways. Even though they have amazing chemistry, awesome sex (I’ll get back to this in a moment) and great fun together, neither one believes the relationship is going anywhere? Really? Drew plans to end it… soon. Alexa expects him to end it… soon. Why?!? I couldn’t (and didn’t) buy that these well-educated, attractive, single characters were so plagued with self-doubt they couldn’t see what’s SO BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS. I’m sorry reader, but when an author goes overboard showing me how perfect a couple are together, and then spends the rest of the time trying to convince us they think the exact opposite… Nope. I can’t just go with it.
Now reader, Drew and Alexa have great chemistry and they’re intensely attracted to each other. But Ms. Guillory’s approach to sex scenes is all tease and no filler – which is oddly jarring. She deliberately sets up sex scenes, lures her reader in… and then promptly skips it. Look, I don’t need every nitty gritty detail but the way she avoids the main event is weird. Of my many problems with this novel (don’t get me started on the clichéd secondary characters, or Alexa’s weird non-issue with her sister and Drew’s commitment phobia/dickishness), the sex scenes stand out because of the frequency with which they appear. Everything turns these two on and they have a lot of sex. I think. They’re kissing, they’re touching… and then… cue post-coital snuggling. Something AWESOME happens between the touching and the snuggling (according to Ms. Guillory) but damned if I could tell you what it is.
Ms. Guillory takes a charming premise, two appealing principals and then fails to deliver on all that promise. The (actual) Wedding Date was great. Unfortunately, everything after it wasn’t.