Desert Isle Keeper
Three Little Words
Transporting her friend Wendy’s wedding dress from New York to Florida has turned Gia Gallo into a bridesmaid-zilla, so groomsman Bennett Buchanan’s initial encounter with her yelling at airline employees to fix a weather cancellation doesn’t leave him with a positive impression. With flights down, a road trip becomes their best option. But sexual attraction and growing mutual respect weren’t in either Gia or Bennett’s plans. If you loved Jenny Holiday’s other Bridesmaids Behaving Badly books, you can relax: the fourth and final book in the series sticks the landing.
I feel very strongly about being nice to airport officials during crises, so Gia had some mileage to make up with me. The revelation that she was hungry helped, because a) I’m also a raving monster when I’m hungry and b) it introduced an interesting, slow-burn subplot about eating issues triggered by being a model hitting thirty and falling in love with a chef, especially one who is with you 24/7 and can see exactly what you’ve eaten or not. I am not someone who’s had an eating disorder so I can’t speak to how this plotline would affect someone who has. Personally, I appreciated that the author clearly characterized it as a struggle Gia would continue to face, and one that love and professional success outside her body could mitigate but not cure.
I had so much trouble remembering Bennett’s name, and I have, at various times, referred to him as Bronson Beckman, Brett Buckley, and Braxton Beauregard, and I just now almost typed ‘Bradley’ instead of ‘Bennett’. It sounds like it came out of a Southern Name Generator that creates alliterative combinations of items in an atlas and the names of prominent Confederates, with the added stipulation that the name must work both forwards and backwards. But that didn’t keep me from liking his character. Bennett broke free from his old-money Charleston family after they disowned him not for his drug or alcohol problems, but for refusing to attend university in family tradition after he realized that the prevalence of substances there would jeopardize his recovery. One of the most powerful scenes demonstrating his connection to Gia was when Gia understood him well enough to help him face a reunion with his parents, and also to be his wingman during that reunion, and deftly extricate them when Bennett needed support doing that. It felt like a scene featuring an extremely supportive married couple.
Bennett and Gia are both characters with ‘rules’ about relationships (she’s ‘one and done’ or ‘two and through’; he doesn’t have sex outside of relationships that have the potential to be long-term) which they break for each other. The author deftly balances keeping the tension going with not hiding behind ‘rules’ as a plot device. The sex scenes are excellent, as Bennett smugly enjoys Gia’s ‘Oh my God’ reaction to his cooking flavors, and starts to pursue that reaction elsewhere.
What keeps this book from an A: Gia’s random brilliant restaurant insights seem contrived in order to give her a path to an HEA and make Bennett seem oddly ignorant of aspects of his own business; Bennett’s emotional reactions to the past feel misplaced; and the actual nitty-gritty of Bennett’s charity pay-what-you-can restaurant project is under-explained. (I didn’t know anything about it, so I read one Washington Post article, and am currently in possession of more details than are in the entire finished book). Similarly, the stories Gia relates from her modeling life to explain her issues with food and men are so mild compared with some of the least appalling #metoo stories and modeling exposés that I felt as though they had been sanitized.
On the whole, Three Little Words is an enjoyable conclusion to a series that has honored female friendship. It doesn’t neuter Gina’s tough-girl character from the earlier books, and it does what, for me, is nearly impossible in featuring returning characters in relationships without depicting obnoxiously unrealistic bliss. I enjoyed it, and I look forward to wherever Holiday’s muse takes her next.