by Linda Francis Lee, contemporary (2003)
Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-8041-1997-X
Linda Francis Lee tries to be funny in The Wedding Diaries, and no, I am not being facetious. The author is really trying to be hip and funny in this book that stars this author's familiar Poor Little Pathetic Daddy's Doormat heroine archetype. Hasn't anyone told this author that her melodramatic way with Trauma Porn is the reason why she evokes strong love or hate in her readers? I appreciate the need for change in an author's writing, but Linda Francis Lee's attempt to be the new Rachel Gibson or Helen Fielding is just not working. Gone are the melodramatic scenes and overwrought tormented characters. What is left in The Wedding Diaries is a glaringly transparently ersatz story with very messy characterization.
Vivienne Stansfield is an heiress. In an attempt to recreate those old fashioned feminine damsel and millionaire boyfriend stories typical of old movies that are the fetish of what seems to be every "true" romance reader out there, the author ends up administering the now predictable Fly Swatter Of Doom treatment. You may know that one: rich heroines are all spoiled and useless hussies that must be Redeemed by making them experience middle-class glory. Then, after our repentant heroine has endured the indignities of working in a middle-class job, she will meekly submit to the rich hero's wisdom and live life as a humble and virtuous wife. Never again will she whip out her Amex and shop endlessly to her heart's content. Forever more she will now whip out the Amex card to pay for the children's every need instead.
In this case, Vivienne's trouble begins when she wants to buy a house only to be stood up by the real estate agent. Because this very rich woman is so spoiled and ditzy, according to the tabloids, that she is Disgusting and everyone Mocks And Sneers at her. Oh yes, in romance novels, nobody wants Paris Hilton's money. Our hero Max Landry substitutes for the errant agent and they experience an attraction, an attraction that has its seeds sowed when Max was a poor kid and he saw rich kiddie Vivienne for the first time. How... creepy. Then Vivienne catches her hubby-to-be kissing his co-worker, calls off the engagement, and then realizes that her father has gone missing with all the money. Stranded penniless, our heroine has to work as the nanny to Max's fourteen-year old sister Nicki and the eight-year old Lila. These two brats have chased off all the nannies Max hired in the past. So it makes sense that Max hires a spoiled klutz to be the next nanny in line. I guess he probably thinks he has nothing to lose and everything to gain no matter what.
This story is... bewildering. For one, Viv is in no way spoiled and pampered. She's, in fact, a doormat that seems pathetically too eager to please Daddy that she clings to denial about his cruel abandonment long after everyone with half a brain would have given up on that man. How did the tabloids make her out to be a monster like that? You can argue that everything about the tabloids is a lie, but I don't buy that so many tabloids and social papers will make Viv out to be spoiled and pampered when she's obviously just a dumb puppy with bad fashion sense. Along the way, the author doesn't let Viv develop or experience maturity as much as Ms Lee just pulls some "noble" traits out of Viv's bum. Look, Viv suddenly explains that she cooks wonderfully! And wow, she's a natural with the kids, just like that! Who would've thought, huh?
As for Max, apart from his creepy building of a shrine to Viv over the years, he has very little character. He lusts after Viv, he doesn't think she's smart, he thinks maybe she is, repeat, repeat, repeat. Max is a one-note character that functions solely as some Von Trappish replacement daddy figure for Viv.
The biggest problem of this book is that the two children talk like adults, especially that eight-year old Lila. These two are not precocious - they talk like weary and cynical adults rather than naughty stumpy monsters. Since the story revolves largely around these two, the ersatzness of these two kiddies stand out like a sore thumb that's stuck to my eye from page one to last.
The plot development is also a big disappointment. I am hoping that Viv's erratic character will experience at least a little growth and maturity towards the end, but the author instead chooses to introduce a truly stupid miscommunication issue that arises because Viv regresses to the Jessica Simpson level of stupid and runs away instead of confronting Max. And Viv's mother, popping out of the blue into the story, becomes the deus ex machina plot device to bring these two together again.
The Wedding Diaries would have worked if (a) the author has consistently developed the main characters instead of just haphazardly inserting random scenes of them interacting and making Viv advancing and regressing with no rhythm or pattern, (b) the author has written children that act their age instead of being plot contrivances that speak in eeriely weary or sage ways, and (c) develop the plot, advance the plot, develop the characters, because cardboard characters are the last things this already problematic book needs.
Linda Francis Lee's biggest strength lies in her wordsmith that allows her to weave a beautifully overblown melodrama featuring very tried and true Trauma Porn clichés (pathetic doormat heroines, jerkish self-pitying heroes, big misunderstandings, unplanned pregnancies, evil parents especially mothers, and the pathetic children that can't stop wanting to please these parents). Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, this author's books, but at least they inspire strong feelings in me. The Wedding Diaries is a defanged Linda Francis Lee story that does away with her greatest strengths (overwrought melodrama). Judging from The Wedding Diaries, comedy is not the author's forte at all. Whether Ms Lee continues to pursue this new direction of hers or revert back to her old Trauma Porn style, I only hope she manages to polish up what needs to be polished and comes out with a book that is not another boring repeat of the failed experiment that is The Wedding Diaries.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
Search for more reviews of works by this author: