Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7701-7
Historical Romance, 2005
I stayed with A Perfect Wedding for the whole Titanic thing, and I wish I’d bailed once that damned thing sank. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Marjorie McTavish was a stewardess on that ship when it got violated by an iceberg and began to sink. She valiantly wanted to stay on board and make sure that every man, woman, dog, cat, rat, and pixie was safely ensconced on the lifeboats, but her boyfriend dragged her a lifeboat and pitched her onto it. The lifeboat departed, leaving Marjorie to blubber at the sight of the sinking ship and the man she was leaving behind.
And then we cut to three years later. when Marjorie accompanies the suffragette Loretta Quarles, someone she met while on that lifeboat, although she spends most of the time privately judging and castigating Loretta for her ways – ways that Marjorie does not approve of, naturally. Loretta wants to help Marjorie get over that traumatic day when Marjorie lost the European Film Audience Award for Best Actress to that show-stealing hag Rose DeWitt Bukater, so here they are, in California.
Marjorie spends the rest of the story being a horrible person while judging everything and everyone that crosses her path as unworthy of her approval. The hero is Dr Jason Abernathy, a friend of Loretta, and he decides to stalk, er, court her. That’s basically it for the story. The rest of the tale sees these two alternate when it comes to childish surly behavior, and I’m not sure who the winner of the dumbass-just-shut-up-already award is at the end of the day. I’d give the edge to Marjorie, if only because she annoys me more, thanks to the author giving her an “authentic Glasgow accent”, complete with ye and ken all over. And that results in Marjorie being the only main character in the entire book that says things like this:
“Nay! Nivver say no! Och, Leonard!”
“Ye ken her vurra weel, Doctor.”
“Ye mum stay home and take care of the wee ones!”
“Loretta is a wonderful woman, but she has na wee inkling of my needs.”
Ugh. And it’s not even consistent, this accent of hers. Apparently, she slips into all the “Na na wee-wee aye-ye SHORYU-KEN!” stuff when she is agitated or worried, but there are just as many scenes where she’s being her usual screaming and accusatory mess with perfect English in all her lines. The author’s efforts to put this “accent” thing in Marjorie’s lines, therefore, feel like some misfire at being all literary and hoity-toity. Either make all the characters speak in full glory that reflects their accents, or not – why single out only the heroine? Is this some kind of attempt to transform the Glasgow accent into something sexy and exotic? If that is the reason, maybe the author could have made the heroine less confrontational and abrasive. I know Marjorie has been through a lot, but come on, the author having the poor dear acting like everything in this story smells foul is not going to make it easy for me to be patient with her.
Instead of developing Marjorie into something more than a raging bad mood walking or Jason into something more than an inconsistent “I love you, I hate you, no, no, I like you back!” character, the author has them running off to perform The Pirates of Penzance (please don’t ask) and saving the downtrodden Chinese people in San Francisco. Interestingly enough, these Chinese utter lines – when they do have lines, that is, as for folks who feature quite prominently in the story as props for the main characters’ savior complex, they are mostly relegated to the background as victims or villains – that have perfectly spelled words, all lined up in perfect grammar. Fancy that! Maybe the publisher balked when the author, in her quest to preserve accent authenticity in her stories, wanted the lines of these Chinese people to be in Pinyin.
A Perfect Wedding could have been a campy read, as there are moments, especially in those “white people come rescue the Chinese victims!” later chapters, that capture the cornball feel of those old black and white shows like The San Francisco Story. However, the main characters are inadequately developed with erratic mood swings and, in the heroine’s case, a perpetual case of “I hate everything!” pinch face, and the whole tale ends up being more akin to playground drama than anything else. Then again, it’s hard to appreciate a story when the main characters make me roll up my eyes with nearly everything they say or do.