In the midst of final preparations for his wedding, Lord Leo Harris is summoned to St. Sebastian’s Hospital. There he finds the beginnings of a plague that defies mortal and magical cure. As the sickness begins to spread, Leo must sacrifice precious time with his fiancé in order to search for a solution before all of London is enveloped.
Gerald Smithson understands his betrothed is an incredibly powerful mage, but that doesn’t keep him from worrying as Leo works day after day to find a cure. Being without magic himself, there is little Gerald can do to help other than readying for the wedding and being there when Leo needs him most. But soon the talented leathersmith finds he is being stalked by a dangerous magical who seems intent upon claiming Gerald for his own.
Friends and family rally around Leo and Gerald as they face separate trials and common enemies. As the plague, Dark mages, and death itself threaten to tear Gerald and Leo apart, both men struggle to survive long enough to reach the altar.
A Most Unusual Wedding is an interesting start to a new series, and while it has great possibility, it has plenty of problems as well. Starting with the positive, portions of the plot are fairly strong and engaging. The development of the plague and the unspoken terror that accompany it serve as a main arc and this was the most interesting part for me. I also enjoyed the investigation into and hunt for the Dark mages behind the plague. The author has done a great job of creating an alternate universe where magic exists as a subtle and sometimes not so subtle extension of every day life. There is a well-defined magical hierarchy, replete with Dark and Light mages and enough detail to give the reader a strong link to this world and the dangers the characters face. Additionally, the book possesses an easy, comfortable writing style that I enjoyed reading.
This said, A Most Unusual Wedding is too long and, while sections of the plot are solid, there are others that drag or simply seem unnecessary. There are too many descriptions of every day actions, such as eating, having tea, and taking carriage journeys, all of which dramatically slow the overall flow of the book. I believe more than a quarter of the novel could have been cut, with no loss to the core of the plot.
The book contains a vast array of characters for a novel of this length and while they all have some measure of purpose, very few were integral to the actual storyline. Leo’s colleagues, Gerald’s grandfather and best friend, Drake the carriage driver, and a half a dozen others are wedged into the story, each of them jockeying for position, but never quite achieving it. Leo and Gerald take center stage, but I failed to connect with either of them. They routinely proclaim their love for one another, but their interactions often read as mechanical and forced. When the book begins, their courtship is well underway, but they don’t have the feel of a couple that is either comfortable with one another or particularly meant to be together. I enjoyed certain aspects about each of them, especially Leo’s determination to fight Dark magic and Gerald’s natural talent and devotion to his chosen profession. I really wanted to like Gerald and Leo a lot more than I did and it was disappointing that I never found my footing with either of them.
One of my biggest frustrations surrounded Gerald and his mystery stalker. The man’s identity is clear from the start, not because we’re told, but because his every action is downright creepy. That Gerald was utterly oblivious to this seemed absurd and, as a result, this whole plot arc felt unnecessary and distracted annoyingly from everything else. It is resolved almost haphazardly and as a rushed afterthought and is another example of something that could have been easily cut without ever being missed.
While I applaud the author’s exploration of extraordinary magic in the ordinary world, A Most Unusual Wedding suffers from too many useless details, too many unnecessary characters, and not enough chemistry between the characters that matter. I do believe the series has potential and I wouldn’t be opposed to reading the next installment, but hopefully Leo and Gerald will develop more fully as a couple and there won’t be quite so many needless detours.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.