The Wedding Dress
One of my favorite historical romances is Kimberly Cates’ Gather the Stars. When I saw that her latest contemporary was set in Scotland, I jumped at it. As leery as I am lately of straight contemporary romances, I’m glad I picked this one.
Emma McDaniel is a Hollywood superstar who, while hugely successful, faces a career of being typecast as just a pretty face who can handle her own stunts amongst all the action, adventure, and special effects that plague all her movies. She needs to prove herself as an actress and the chance comes along by way of a historical biopic about the courageous Lady Aislinn and her stand against villains in medieval Scotland. This is the role Emma has been waiting for. Now she must go to Scotland and immerse herself in all things medieval with the guidance of archeologist and Lady Aislinn expert, Dr. Jared Butler.
Jared grew up in the area that surrounds the crumbling remains of Lady Aislinn’s castle. He has written books regarding her life and now works with university students to excavate the area. He isn’t happy about Lady Aislinn’s life being taken over by Hollywood, but he’s even less happy about a sexy actress with no brains and even less acting ability paying tribute to his Lady. Kind of like what Shakespeare would feel if he knew Steven Segal was taking on Hamlet.
From the get go Emma and Jared throw sparks all over the place. Emma sets out to prove to Jared that she can take on this role and do it justice. Jared is convinced she won’t last the expected six weeks in primitive conditions. Both are soon proved wrong and give in to their obvious attraction. But a lot of things stand in the way of these two. Even as they fall in love, they admit it will not last.
It is this conflict that really makes the story. Between Emma’s celebrity status and its life-changing effects to Jared’s issues with his first wife, amongst other things, it seems too much for them to overcome. Emma’s past with her ex-husband is especially heartbreaking. I really felt for her. The main plot revolves around Emma and Jared trying to find a middle ground for their relationship and never succeeding. They brace themselves for the inevitable split that will happen once Emma is to return to work, but that speeds up after Jared escorts Emma to a celebrity charity event and the paparazzi turn her world upside down.
I’ve read more than a few books featuring “celebrities” as one of the lead characters and you know what? I never really bought it. This is one instance that I really felt like I was in the head of a famous actress. Emma’s apparent wealth is not forced down our throats, but it’s clearly evident that she has a few bucks tucked away. There are brief mentions of an upscale life, but Emma is at the same time very much rooted with her family and friends in her home town. It was a fine balance that never left me feeling that Emma wasn’t everything the author said she was.
My main issue with the book is the author’s tendency for melodrama. It doesn’t happen too often but when it does, it really threw me out of the story. Some of the lines muttered by the leads were straight out of Soap Opera Land. I could see where Ms. Cates was going, she just crosses the line from romantic or tortured into corny once or twice too often.
Something I didn’t realize until the story was over was that this book is part of a series revolving around the McDaniel family. Emma, apparently, has been a prominent player, mostly as a child, in the first two installments. But this read so well as a stand alone that I didn’t notice. I wouldn’t hesitate to read this if you haven’t read the first two.
The Wedding Dress has the unique appeal of a historical romance set in modern times – without any paranormal goings on. The underlying story of Lady Aislinn and her love story gives the book an air of past. This is the contemporary for all those who snub any storyline set after the turn of the twentieth century. Despite the slight Hallmark moments, a very good read.