Book Review

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Date  is charming and delightful, and it saved me from getting overly hysterical on a flight to Costa Rica. It’s not a perfect book, and I found myself giving the hero my “WTF” face a few times, but the awesomeness of the heroine thrilled me.

To give you some context, for me, flying is essentially a panic attack from take off to landing. I can take two Xanax to soften the impending misery, but if we hit turbulence I start to cry a little. Or throw up. It’s not great. Yet I was on a five hour flight, and The Wedding Date kept me distracted for most of it; it’s got some powerful charm.

The book opens with a meet cute. Alexa Monroe is headed to her sister’s hotel room to pregame a night out with some cheese, crackers, and champagne. She gets stuck in the hotel elevator with Drew Nichols, who is there for a wedding.

They sit down, share some cheese, and charm the hell out of each other. Drew is there to be a groomsman in the wedding of his ex-girlfriend and one of his best friends. Awkward. And he’s there without a date. Even more awkward. They discuss over brie and crackers:

“Oh, please, you’ll be fine. Weddings are a great place to meet people. It’s better that you’re without a date. As my friend Colleen always says, ‘Don’t bring a sandwich to a buffet.”

He let out a bark of laughter.

“I’m definitely going to steal that saying. And while in most situations I would say that your friend Colleen is totally right, this is that five percent of situations where a sandwich would save me from all the food poisoning in the buffet. I’m going to get so many pitying looks, you have no idea. And the worst part is that I RSVP’d with a plus-one, so there’s going to be an empty seat at the head table. And a lot of ‘What happened to your girlfriend, Drew, couldn’t make it?’ And I’m going to have to smile and take it, but there’s like a thirty percent possibility I’m going to have one too many glasses of bourbon and go rogue.”

She touched his hand and tried not to linger there.

“Okay, yes, sometimes a sandwich is a necessary security blanket. I’m sorry that yours bailed on you.”

Giddy with delightful flirtation, Alexa agrees to be Drew’s sandwich. That is, she agrees to pretend to be his girlfriend for the weekend of the wedding.

For the record, if I were trapped in an elevator with Chris Evans and he tried to convince me to be his sandwich at a wedding, I’d refuse because weddings are super awful, especially when you’re in them. There’s, like, a lot of people and a lot of talking. And a lot of talking to people you don’t know. And sitting around waiting for stuff when it’s not polite to pull out your Kindle because you should be talking to people you don’t know. I might do it for Tom Hiddleston but only because I have suspicions about his niceness, and I need to stay on his good side.

Anyway, Alexa is a better woman than me, and she goes to the wedding with Drew. The delightful flirting continues. Drew delays his flight back to LA so he can spend more time with Alexa. They really, really like each other.

But Drew is a pediatric surgeon in LA. Alexa is the Chief of Staff to the Mayor of Berkley, California. They are both really busy professionals dedicated to their careers–but they can’t stop thinking about each other.

So Alexa and Drew either have the BEST frequent flyer miles program ever or they spend a good amount of money and fly out to see each other every other weekend. This book is fairly light on conflict. To be honest a good portion of it was the progress of Drew and Alexa dating and slowly falling in love, but it was sweet and funny and felt like a very real depiction of two professionals in their thirties staring a relationship.  Also a lot of that dating involves really incredible food, so do not read while hungry. I want brie and crackers right now, damnit.

Probably the thing I loved most about this book was how Alexa loves and is devoted to her job, and that she’s allowed to be that way without criticism from any other character. So often I see the trope of professional women in contemporary romance “working too hard” and failing to fall in love because of it. That’s such bullshit. It is entirely possible to be a busy and dedicated professional and still have a fulfilling relationship. The idea that it’s not possible is centered only around women and it’s based on old misogynist cassette tapes that are still playing.

Also Alex and Drew actually work. This isn’t a book where the CEO/ small business owner/ FBI agent remarkably has a fuckton of free time to do other stuff. Alexa and Drew mostly meet on the weekends, and even then work comes up. Drew has to run off to an emergency (like a surgeon would). Alexa spends one of their nights together working on a project while Drew chills out on the couch next to her.

It’s such a realistic depiction of actual work life balance, and it was so heartening for me to read. I come home from work all the time only to have some problem at my office go ka-boom and derail all my plans, and there are plenty of nights when my husband and I have watched a movie while I’ve worked from my end of the couch.  There’s no shame in enjoying your work or in having to make room for it within your personal life.

Alexa also has a “work husband,” Theo, whom she bounces ideas and insecurities off of. I loved the depiction of a man and a woman in a professional relationship that, while deep, isn’t sexual or romantic. I also loved that Alexa had those insecurities in the first place. A lot of time I see powerful women presented as being in control and unaffected by doubt all of the time which is such bullshit. Basically this book made Work Elyse all the happy.

For a decent portion of the book we get Alexa and Drew trying to balance their careers, the distance between them, and the fact that they are an interracial couple. Alexa is Black and Drew is White. Alexa spends a lot of time with Drew’s friends who are 99.8% White, and it’s not always a comfortable situation. Like this asshole that she meets at a party:

“You live in Berkley? That’s cool. But I meant, like, where are you really from?”

Now she knew where this was going. Like she couldn’t “really” be from California? Why did people always try to ask her about her ethnicity in the clumsiest of all possible ways? Getting this question, especially this way, always made her feel like an object of curiosity. Today it made her feel like even more of an Other in this party full of golden-haired beauty queens.

Now she was doubly annoyed with Mr. Stands Too Close. So she was going to fuck with him.

“Oh, not that far from here. I grew up in Oakland. Northern California girl!” She gave him her biggest, fakest grin.

He chuckled and took another swig of his beer.

“No, no like where are you from from? Where are your parents from?”

This conversation was so predictable. Yet this dance people did was irritating every time.

In this scene Drew shows up and The Asshole fucks off, but Drew isn’t aware of how different life is for a woman of color than it is for him except in a superficial way. There are scenes where Alexa has to explain to him how much his perceptions are steeped in privilege.

Alexa is trying to put together an arts program for at-risk youth, a program she’s deeply passionate about. With the dexterity of a Cirque de Soleil performer, Drew shoves his foot deeply into his mouth when he wonders why troubled kids should be rewarded with art classes. I wanted to smack him.  Alexa points out that as a White kid, and a man, Drew could do a lot of shit in his teenage years that was dismissed as boys being boys. A Black teenager would face harsher judgment, and be labeled much faster and more permanently as “delinquent.” Alexa is trying to change that narrative.

That’s not the only time Drew says something ignorant or unkind, which was part of the reason I was lukewarm on him. He has the occasional case of “speak first, think later.” My bigger issue was that Drew and Alexa’s conflict was centered around Drew not being able to commit and both of them refusing to label their relationship. The problem was that we are given no context for why Drew doesn’t commit, and not-talking combined with misunderstanding lead to the romantic crisis. All of that could have been avoided with an hour-long honest conversation.

That said, I adored Alexa so much, loved the depiction of her as a professional, loved her friends and coworkers (a heroine who doesn’t exist in a vacuum!) so much that it overcame much of my annoyance at the conflict (and at Drew). Add to that a really powerful exploration of Alexa’s troubled relationship with her sister, Olivia, and I was sold. The relationships between women in this book were strong and loving and kind, and I was so there for that.

And yeah, sometimes Drew was an idiot, but he was also charming enough that I didn’t want to throw him out the door. Throw something at his head, maybe, but I was still happy when he and Alexa made it work.

I really enjoyed The Wedding Date and I’m very much looking forward to seeing more from the author.

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The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

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  1. 1
    SB Sarah says:

    Elyse and I have been chatting about this book for days now, and I agree entirely that it is extra-strength charming. I didn’t want to post a second review because much of it would have been redundant so I’m going to add my brief comments here. The conflict, as she pointed out, is based in part on the fact that two busy people with demanding careers they love don’t have a lot of time left over for romance and relationships, but it’s also based on this weird “she’s not my girlfriend” default reflex of Drew’s, which is hurtful for Alexa on several levels, and appears without any real reason or motivation. WHY does he have commitment issues? Couldn’t tell you.

    That lack of motivation combined with a few other things Drew does or says (especially in scenes with his best friend, Carlos) really lowered his character in my estimation. I loved Alexa, I loved her confidence, I loved her friendships and the ways in which she and her friends influence and care for one another. I loved so much about Alexa. Drew was never her equal, not even at the end, and that imbalance left me feeling dissatisfied. He didn’t really deserve her. My grade is close to Elyse’s, at a B-.

    TL;DR: Outstanding, wonderful heroine, hero not as great, but for an uplifting, extra-strength charming read, this book will very likely make you smile. Do not read while hungry!

  2. 2
    Critterbee says:

    This is waiting on my kindle, thanks for the review and extra comments. The hero does being unworthy of the heroine is a surprisingly common theme in life…

  3. 3
    Critterbee says:

    Er, The hero being unworthy of the heroine is a surprisingly common theme in life…

  4. 4
    Anne says:

    I 100% would have given this an A-. I really really enjoyed it. I think him having trouble with commitment is sort of a normal man (person) thing and I thought it was explained at least a little bit. But really I was just taken by the charm of it.

  5. 5
    Louise says:

    “You live in Berk[e]ley? That’s cool. But I meant, like, where are you really from?”

    Now she knew where this was going. Like she couldn’t “really” be from California? Why did people always try to ask her about her ethnicity in the clumsiest of all possible ways?

    This prompted me to look up the author. I was staggered to learn that she is, or professes to be, a native of the Bay Area. (I didn’t delve deeper, but my money’s on Orinda.) Where does this conversation take place? I would be prepared to believe “You’re from Berkeley? But you’re black, so that must mean you’re really from Oakland.” Irritating and stupid, but still entirely plausible. But “You’re black, so you can’t be from California”? Nuh-uh. Not on this planet, not in this century.

  6. 6
    Megan M. says:

    @Louise, same, that seemed a little odd to me that someone would insist a Black person couldn’t have been born in America. Does the heroine have an accent or something?

  7. 7
    Tina says:

    The “where are you from” question absolutely gets asked to black people. I don’t remember if the author physically describes Alexa in the book, but if she is a light complexioned black female or looks “ambigously” black like Zendaya or “exotic” like Yara Shahidi then, she will mos def get that question. In fact, Meghan Markle wrote an article in Elle in 2015 about that very question.

  8. 8
    Gigi says:

    I’m a dark Latina and I’m from Tampa. I get asked where are you really from question ALL THE TIME. Seriously people have a hard time believing a person of color can’t really be from Central Florida. It’s baffling.

  9. 9
    Megan M. says:

    @Tina – Sadly that does make sense. I’ll have to look up that Meghan Markle article, I love her.

    @Gigi, now THAT I believe, since our current social/political climate is to treat all Latinx/Hispanic-presenting peoples as immigrants and “illegals.” I’m sorry you have to deal with those attitudes and behaviors, it must be exhausting.

  10. 10
    MsCellanie says:

    I look (and am) unambiguously African American and I used to get “where are you really from?” quite a bit.
    Some people have a very hard time with the idea that there have been people of color in the US for hundreds of years.

  11. 11
    Ruth says:

    Since it’s a friend of Drew’s, it sounds like that conversation takes place in Southern California, which (a) has some very white enclaves, and (b) has a lot of people who have come from somewhere other than California and assume everyone else has, too. When it comes up that I’m a third-generation Californian some of them say that they’ve never met a native Californian.

    Explanation aside, I find it mind-boggling that people think it’s okay to ask that question. Living in the Bay Area, I don’t even assume that people who are speaking a language other than English with their friends or family aren’t “from here”!

  12. 12
    KarenF says:

    I’m a German/Russian/Eastern European mix with dark hair/eyes, and I get the “where are you really from” question all the time too. My answer, “Ohio,” then gets the where did your parents come from question (“um, Wisconsin”). Apparently I look (depending on who is interrogating me) Italian or Greek or Middle-Eastern.

  13. 13
    cleo says:

    I just realized that the author was published on The Toast and that she wrote one of my very favorite versions of their If X Were Your Y series – If Barack Obama Were Your Dad. I’d link to it, but The Toast seems to have gone off line.

    And now I’m way more interested in this book, even though it doesn’t seem like my usual thing.

  14. 14
    Oops says:

    For future readers, The Toast should be back online soon–apparently the Library of Congress will be archiving it!

  15. 15
    Sue says:

    Berkeley. Please, please, BerkEley.

  16. 16
    Sue says:

    YOU GUYS I JUST GOT THIS BOOK AND HAD TO COME SCREAM ABOUT THE HERO BREAKING HIPAA on page 213. NEVERMIND that he apparently is diagnosing something based on an MRI without any actual confirmation. Guys he broke patient confidentiality LAWS. I don’t know if I can keep reading this. I rolled with it when they went to dim sum in the Valley (noooo why would you do that, unless you think the San Fernando Valley is the San Gabriel Valley ohmygodwhy), I rolled with it when he seemed to have so many weekends free, but I can’t with a HIPAA-breaking doctor. That’s no hero to me.

    Disclosure: I am a doctor. I am from Southern California. I know of which I speak.

  17. 17
    chacha1 says:

    Jeepers. It sounds like I would really enjoy this book AFTER a strong edit.

  18. 18
    Robin says:

    I just finished this book last night. I liked Alexa a lot. I fear for her eating issues (every time there was conflict or even suggestion of conflict, there was food), but I liked her a lot. You will want a doughnut after reading this book.

    I did not like Drew as much, meaning, I did not feel much depth of his character at all–but I wanted Alexa to be happy so I was rooting for them. He was pretty clueless about race with both Alexa and Carlos. He did not really seem to get smarter as the book progressed.

    I was surprised that Alexa did not talk about her hair at all, when she spoke about lipstick and other beauty comments. Like, I don’t know what it looked like or what Drew thought of it.

    Also, I don’t recall anything about his parents or her parents? And, that they don’t discuss his workout runs for 10+ miles. Wouldn’t that come up?

  19. 19
    Marcia says:

    I don’t have a problem with the conversation with Drew about privilege and the arts program and him being kind of oblivious to a lot of racial slights that Alexa might face–I feel like that’s Guillory subtly (or somewhat subtly) educating her white readers (like me) about some of the things we might think, say, or do. There might be readers out there who are thinking like Drew does, or who might not think about or expect Alexa to be uncomfortable in an all-white group without it being explained. I think maybe Drew just had to take one for the team, likeability-wise, because I’m not sure how else she could explain those issues, without it seeming like Alexa was paranoid. I think Alexa was paranoid about a lot of things (too short, too curvy), but her concerns about the party were valid–and I’m not sure how that gets explained to the average white reader without it having to be explained THROUGH Drew. Again, speaking for myself, I appreciated a kind, non-condescending enlightening, and if it had to come at the expense of Drew’s likeability quotient, I’m ok with that.

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