Yeah, yeah; happily ever after. Whatever.
Sure, Poppy Sullivan believes in love but love at first sight? Not likely. That’s why she’s determined to stop her good friend from marrying the wrong woman. So she sets to work immediately and walks right into the very impressive chest of Beck Lefebvre. Not a good omen, considering how things ended up the last time he was in town.
She isn’t surprised to see Beck at his cousin’s wedding, but she’s appalled at his assumption that he deserves a second chance. She’s equally appalled at her inclination to give it to him. No way is she falling for his charm again! Although her vow to resist him may be too late.
It should be no surprise that this novel is about weddings and yet the heroine is not one of the brides. She is, in actuality, a party planner who has given up on planning weddings. Too little money for all the bridezilla action or the troubles that seem to crop up at the last minute no matter how careful the wedding planner may be. But Poppy is at this wedding of her very best and most long-time friend, the guy who she has always been special to and for whom she holds the highest forever friend feelings. He’s marrying waaaaaay too soon after meeting his intended, or so Poppy thinks. Yet even as she is seeking to disengage him from the bride and get the wedding either postponed or cancelled, she is faced with the one person who truly broke her heart 10 years earlier, the man to whom she gave her virginity and whose love she really believed she possessed. Wrong, or so it seemed as now, 10 years later, she is still waiting for the follow-up call, the indications that she and Beck had something special. Now she knows that her presumptions were all wrong, just as wrong as Beck is now for her with his womanizing and his one night stands and his advertised determination to avoid marriag.e at all costs. Yet it seems that with exposure to Beck’s good looks, his charming half smile, his insistence that there is still the spark between them, Poppy’s determination to never forgive, her hard line to prevent any involvement is slowly dismantled and she once again succumbs to Beck’s invitation into his bed.
This novel really is about the long buried hurts that can sabotage deep feeling and kill any impulse for permanent relationship. Beck’s parents love each other but they have a hard time staying married to each other. All Beck knows is that each time their marriage explodes he gets caught in the middle and he hears and sees the hurts they perpetrate against one another. Now they are poised on the brink of their third re-marriage and in spite of his seeming obsession for Poppy, he is determined that their connection during his cousin’s wedding will be a short fling and nothing more. But once again, Poppy is convinced that Beck will want a future with her.
There’s lots of romantic and sexy stuff in this novel and no lack of Poppy and Beck jumping into the sack together. But underneath the sexy high jinks is the sadness and disillusionment of a very successful man whose deep hurts go back to his earliest years and his determination to avoid marriage and it’s problems at all costs a pervasive mindset for his personal future. Beck is such a good man in so many ways. He can be fun with kids and charms the socks off Poppy’s family. But his fears are his guiding muse for any future he might want with Poppy or anyone else. Like so many kids that get caught in the cross fire, Beck bears the scars of his parents’ marital failures. And it is those fears that not only determine his future or his predictable response to any possible relationship but his decisions hurt a lot of other people as well.
Poppy is a woman who wants to love, who is deeply hurt by Beck’s abandonment of her–not once but twice–and whose desire for home and family are a barely heard but relentless “hum” within her deepest soul-space. She’s the kind of woman who has managed to make a the need for a job after college into a successful party planning enterprise and whose talents are far more extensive than even her family is aware. Yet the one person who seems to connect best with her is a man who only wants her sexual favors for a specific period of time.
I found this novel to be more engaging than I thought it would be. At first it appeared to be simply a fun sexual romp and by all means, it’s certainly that. But I think it is, at its best, a character study of family dynamics, of consenting adults make decisions based on old hurts and fears. It is a study in contrasts between Beck’s rather disconnected family and Poppy’s warm, chaotic, affectionate family, all of whom are intensely invested in one another. Poppy’s 2 year old niece and her obsession with shoes is a really amusing anecdote throughout the novel. There is deep emotion here, betrayal, disappointment, kindness and the best kind of friendship, love that sees only the loved one and not the bank account, and lots more that makes this a winsome love story. All of this is within the context of weddings–their planning and pre-wedding events, their dynamics and their disappointments. There is a HEA and it pleases me to be able to report that, but Poppy and Beck and all the attendant contextual characters make getting to that HEA a lot of very good reading.
Good writing, a good story, colorful and realistic characters: what more can we ask of a romance novel? I found this to be a source of a lot of good reading enjoyment and I hope you do as well.
I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.