by Julia London, contemporary (2005)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 0-425-20631-9
Julia London's Wedding Survivor has a pretty gruesome start where the main characters come off like they are more at home in a Looney Tunes cartoon than between the sheets doing things that no kiddie-friendly cartoon characters should be doing. Still, things soon shape up pretty nicely.
Eli McCain is a guy who lives for the adrenaline rush. A former Holly stuntman, he and his fellow adrenaline junkies form Thrillseekers Anonymous, a company specializing in organizing extreme sport events or adventures for rich and famous people, although not in that creepy movie Hostel way, of course. His latest clients are Olivia Dagwood and Vincent Vittorio, two Hollywood in an ongoing on-off love affair, who want to get married high up in the mountains at the Colorado and New Mexico border. While Thrillseekers Anonymous can handle the logistics of getting the wedding goods and the poor guests all the way to that place, they do not know how to carry out a wedding.
Here is where out-of-job former dotcommer Marnie Banks steps in. She has maxed out her credit and is now living miserably with her parents while she looks for a literal silver lining in her purse, so she is excited to handle this job. After all, who knows, this wedding could very well open doors to her. She can become friends of the stars as well! However, complications arise when the diva couple are, well, divas and Eli is too cute for Marnie to resist. She isn't that sensible in the first place.
Marnie starts out pretty silly. I have to blink a few times when I first encounter Marnie who has overextended her credit but at the same time she doesn't seem to have a substantial thought in her head other than to be a celebrity's best buddy. Eli and his buddies at Thrillseekers Anonymous come off like cartoon characters of overly musclebound lugheads who have no idea how to do anything than to break things, ogle women, or climb walls. Fortunately, once the story gets going, Eli and Marnie soon stop being so much like cartoon characters and start interacting very nicely indeed. Marnie is a ditz still at times, but she starts having a good idea or two when she needs to come up with something good. The development of the relationship between Eli and Marnie have a nice old-school romance movie feel to it, where those two get to know how much they enjoy each other's company instead of hopping into bed right away.
There aren't many personal issues between the the two main characters apart from the fact that Eli had been burned by a love affair with an actress he believed he loved a year ago. Somewhat predictably, Eli pulls some stupid stunts using his past as an excuse, but Marnie, bless her, doesn't allow Eli to even think of using his broken heart as an excuse to step all over her. I love how after Eli tells her his oh-so-sad story, she asks him whether he wants a medal because he's not the only one in this world who has his heart stomped on. Even better, Marnie doesn't spend too much time moping when Eli decides to be really stupid. What could have been a painful story ends up becoming most enjoyable indeed because the author cheerfully admits that Eli is a bit of a silly donkey.
Julia London's willingness to admit that her characters have flaws is what makes the later two-thirds of Wedding Survivor most enjoyable. There are many wacky antics in this story courtesy of our happy diva couple, Marnie's mother and her Hormonal Grandma Mazur Fan Club members, and all the things Mother Nature care to toss at our friends here once they are in the wilderness, which aren't too original but still amusing nonetheless. However, Marnie's refusal to be a doormat to Eli's self-martyrhood and the way he responds to that provide this story a much-needed emotional punch to make it more memorable as well as enjoyable. Marnie may be a ditz at times but when it comes to men, I love how she doesn't lie down and let the man use her to wipe the soles of his shoes.
The plotting could be tighter but Wedding Survivor is an amusing comedy that packs enough emotional punch. I can't overlook its awkward start though. There are better contemporary romances from this author in the past, but Wedding Survivor is still A-OK with me.
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