Planning for a wedding causes loss and regrets to bubble up to the surface in Kelly’s (The House on Willow Street, 2013, etc.) new novel.
After Michael and Katy announce their engagement, they joke about the magnitude of their upcoming big event, announcing, “This wedding will make all lives better.” While this kind of lofty sentiment could come across as ridiculous if uttered by anyone else, from the charming and lovable Michael and Katy, it serves as a blessing for those around them. Katy’s best friend, Leila, is coping with the end of her own brief marriage as well as juggling the responsibilities of her job, her mother’s care, and her rocky relationship with her sister. Michael’s parents, Grace and Stephen, are divorced but amicable. Grace’s job as a school headmistress is often challenging, especially when it comes to struggling students such as Ruby Morrison. Ruby’s mother, Jennifer, has been impossible to live with since her marriage broke up a few years earlier. Her rage is all-encompassing, though the brunt of her anger is directed toward her ex-husband, Ryan, and his new girlfriend, Vonnie. Though Jennifer would love to believe Vonnie is a vapid temptress, she’s actually a young widow who moved with her son to Ireland from the United States in an attempt to find closure. A large part of Vonnie’s new life involves her bakery, Golden Vanilla Cake Shop, where she specializes in elaborate wedding cakes. Each character in this expansive cast is well-developed, but the novel is overcrowded with their voices. While all are somehow related to the upcoming nuptials of Michael and Katy, outside the circle of family and friends the connections become tenuous, and these vivid characters are done a disservice by being crammed into a novel that is barely theirs.
Though Kelly is a skilled writer, the excess of storylines weighs heavy on the novel.