Book reviews

The Wedding of the Year by Jill Mansell

Sometimes you just need a feel-good novel, and with how my year has been going, the arrival of this book on my doorstep was perfect timing.

It’s set to be a perfect day – until the chauffeur is asked to keep driving the bride around the church. This wedding definitely isn’t going as planned.

Lottie is a guest at the wedding when she sees Max. No kiss has ever matched the last one they shared fifteen years ago. They were on the brink of a beautiful love story, until a shocking event tore them apart. Now here he is, still ridiculously good-looking, teasing Lottie in the old way – and that overwhelming electric attraction is back. But Max is way out of bounds.

Freya owes Cameron everything. But she doesn’t love him. Which is a shame, because they’re about to be married.

Ruby has been the perfect wife. When she discovers the truth about her husband, her response is reckless and delicious. But after that, nothing will ever be the same again.

It all starts at a wedding, which never happens. Freya is marrying the love of her life, Dr Cameron, who not only saved her mother’s life by donating a kidney but is also a loving and giving man who spends much of his time raising money for charity. But there’s one problem, she’s not really in love with him anymore. So when the wedding is postponed due to an unfortunate accident, she feels as though she’s been given a timely reprieve.

Poor Ruby has worked hard to make her marriage to the local vicar, Peter, work. And everything seems to be going well, albeit a little dull, when Iris, the cleaner, local busybody and Ruby’s friend, tells her that she has photos of Peter sneaking upstairs with the headteacher of the primary school, And they’re not there to talk religious education.

Understandably angry, she storms to the church to confront her cheating husband, interrupting the wedding before it can take place, and when she leaves the church to go to speak to his mistress, Peter follows. Of course, no one expects him to get hit by a car!

Lottie is a guest at the wedding and she isn’t anticipating a face from her past being another guest. Max hasn’t changed, he’s still handsome and charming, and feelings that have been buried bubble to the surface, for both of them, though their joint past is bound to get in the way.

The moment I picked up this book I felt as though I had stepped into the middle of something that was going to be a combination of charming and exciting. Exciting because Ruby is stepping out on her own and forging a new life for herself. And charming because despite small villages being a hive of gossip there is something enchanting about that way of living (at least when you’re on the outside looking in).

I have to be honest, for me, Ruby was the star of the show. She moved beyond the disaster that was her empty marriage and despite being miserable and having to acknowledge that she had to start again, she managed it. Sure, there were assumptions and a few disasters along the way, but she achieved things that she hadn’t been able to when she was with Peter.

Initially, it seems as though Richard is going to be a mere blip on her radar, but then coincidence steps in and they just keep on finding their way back to each other – which strangely seems to mirror Max and Lottie, to a certain degree.

Where would we be without Max and Lottie? They have a past, which I won’t reveal, because to do that would spoil far too much.

They grew up in the same town, went to the same schools, and for a very long time were not exactly enemies, but certainly not friends. They would play tricks, and joke with each other and then they realised that it was attraction that kept them going. With the promise of a date, she waited for him to call…and then everything changed.

What happened, we are left to guess for a long time, but there are so many things that ran through my head…he got injured, he cheated, he was playing games with her? Yes, they all made him out to be the victim or the villain…but the way that Lottie talked about him gave this indication. However, when they finally meet again at Freya and Cameron’s aborted wedding…it’s as though they were never apart.

Max is certainly persistent and Lottie does everything she can to resist his charms…I enjoyed the to and fro. His attempts to persuade her that they should at least go for a meal, not even a date necessarily, are sweet and I admired him for it. He is not willing to give up, as though he knows that they have to clear the air and give themselves a chance.

Iris was another character I loved. I am not sure why, but I read her as so much older than she ends up being, but that’s a me problem, and possibly a name association, not sure I know many people my age named Iris. But anyway, she’s someone who knows her own mind. She does like to be in the centre of the gossip. She has her own trauma, and seems to hide it behind a mask, which becomes more obvious when she meets Drew and they become involved. She does her best to dismiss any potential feelings, but her blase behaviour is merely a facade.

I wasn’t sure what to think when I got the book, apart from overjoyed to have received it. I read it in a single sitting and enjoyed every single moment. The characters have depth and are so different from each other. Mansell’s characters are never a 2D cut-out, there is always a past and motivation, and we get to know who they are as people. You’ve probably been down the pub with a Cameron who is a good guy (donates to charity, does the marathons/funruns, sponsored skydives etc) and then spends all his time talking about how much he does for charity. You’ve probably met an Iris or a Ruby at a local gathering, or a Peter who is hiding something from his loved ones…

All in all, another great book, a really enjoyable read that was well-written, inspired tears and joy (often in the same chapter) and made me wish I lived in a small Cornish village where the community is close-knit and everyone knows everyone. Sure, it does seem much more charming on paper, but something that The Wedding of the Year shows is that when you need support, it’s there.

Thank you to Headline and Jill Mansell for my beautiful ARC copy. The Wedding of the Year is released on the 18th of January 2024.

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