And sometimes, the unexpected is what you’re looking for
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With a title like Bad Luck Bridesmaid, I thought I knew what I signed up for. I expected some kind of Hallmark story full of curses and hijinks that ended with your standard happily-ever-after.
While the title drew me in, the synopsis made me click “request” on NetGalley. Protagonist Zoey marks has been a bridesmaid in three weddings, and of those three, exactly zero brides ended up married.
This makes her wonder if she’s the Bad Luck Bridesmaid, shedding her own marriage-averse tendencies off on the people around her until they forsake their happily-ever-afters — just like she does when she turns down a proposal from the first man she’s loved, Rylan Harper III.
Of course, after spending miserable months mourning his decision to walk away when she can’t promise forever, Zoey gets the chance to step into bridesmaid gown number four. And she vows, like any unlucky in love heroine in a romantic comedy, that she’ll score a victory for love so she can shake off her fears and say “Yes” after all.
Shortly after I started reading, I realized that Bad Luck Bridesmaid, much like its protagonist Zoey Marks, defies expectations.
In my opinion, it has a bit of a slow start, with much of the first quarter of the book coming as a summary of the past, our protagonist catching us up to speed before we get to embark in present day. While this context is helpful, it did make it hard to feel invested in the story from the start. In fact, I debated putting it down when it felt like a sense of urgency would never come into the mix.
Once we caught up to real time, however, things improved massively. Zoey is a delightfully refreshing character who isn’t afraid to stand out. Though heartbroken from not being able to say yes to the man she loves when he proposes, Zoey agrees to be a bridesmaid yet again because she can’t not help her best friend down the aisle.
And, okay, she also decides that if she can just get one bride married, maybe she will suddenly feel capable of her own “I do.”
At this point I had resigned myself to a second-chance-romance arc, which is not even remotely my favorite type. Plus, maybe it’s just me, but I find it hard to root for a hero named Rylan who is described as wearing boat shoes.
Thankfully once we arrive in Ireland for the wedding there’s a little wrench in the trope I expected — one best man by the name of Ezra. A love triangle, I am all here for.
I won’t give away what happens from here, but suffice it say it wasn’t what I expected, nor was it predictable. I truly didn’t know where we were headed or what happily ever after would look like. In fact, I began to suspect we wouldn’t get the neat happily ever after that the genre categorization suggests.
To be honest, I think this book is a bit mislabeled with Romance as its primary genre. While the book certainly grapples with questions of romantic love and marriage, this is, first and foremost, a story about a woman learning to embrace what she’s always known — that she loves herself as she is, and she won’t change for anyone, even if a part of her kind of wants to.
Are there steamy scenes in an actual castle? Yes. Are there some love interests littering the protagonist’s way to realizing her happily ever after lies in being the person she is? Also yes.
What I ended up getting from this book isn’t what I expected, and I think that’s part of why I struggled with it in the early pages. Once I realized I should stop expecting a straightforward rom com, I liked the book — and Zoey — much more.
Though I didn’t know I was signing up for it, this is the kind of story I love to step into every once and a while, where a woman gets to be unapologetically herself and see that it leaves a hundred doors wide open, rather than slamming them shut.
I won’t say I recommend this to readers looking for a straightforward and predictable romance novel or romantic comedy. But I will recommend it to those who love a complicated heroine, a story that keeps you guessing, and books that center women and their friendships, with or without wedding bells ringing in the background.
Many thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the advanced digital review copy in exchange for my honest review! Bad Luck Bridesmaid is set to release on January 11th, 2022 and is available for preorder now.