Several years ago, Chad thought he was ready to declare his love crush—Raudel, an upperclassman who just happened to be his older sister’s best friend. Mere words, however, wouldn’t suffice; Chad had something far, far racier in mind. While his declaration undeniably gave Raudel an eyeful, Chad wasn’t able to couple his compromising position with actual words. Worse still, Raudel left for college out of state and Chad has worked hard to avoid contact with the man ever since.
All that changes when Chad’s sister announces she’s not only getting married, but she expects her wedding party to attend to her during the two-week extravaganza. And it just so happens both Chad and Raudel are slated to participate in the nuptials. The news has Chad tied up in knots trying to think of ways to preclude any actual integration with himself and Raudel, for whom he still feels deeply.
Yet their paths cross far sooner than Chad had ever anticipated and, much to his surprise, Raudel doesn’t just condescend to spend time with Chad—he actively seeks out opportunities to be with Chad. Maybe Chad’s attempt to spark a relationship with Raudel faltered badly in high school, but now with some time and distance between them, they might just manage to make a go of it…provided they can survive two weeks in the company of a commandeering bride and a stressed out wedding party.
Here is a story that quickly cuts through the angst to focus on the relationship development between its two main characters, Chad and Raudel. The premise of the book is established first thing through a telephone conversation between Chad and his sister, Lindsay, concerning details of her up-coming wedding. Through just this introductory chapter, the stage is set for a cut-and-dry melodrama. Chad is the young fop faffing about—too old to be a child, but too immature to be seen as an adult. His sister Lindsay embodies the “bridezilla” phenomenon. Raudel is the source of all Chad’s desires and angst; several years prior, Chad thought he’d declare his undying lustful devotion to Raudel in an episode that left him literally and emotionally bare-ass naked.
Rather than tease the undercurrents of attraction Chad and Raudel might feel for one another, however, Knight goes straight from 0 to 60. Zero being Chad getting irrationally upset at his sister that she have the gall to invite her best friend to her own wedding and stewing over that episode from years prior and swearing off anything so much as eye contact with Raudel. Sixty, on the other hand, is a deeply committed relationship.
And yet, I’d hesitate to call this your garden variety instalove. Knight dedicates a full 3/4 of the novel to developing this fantastical relationship between Chad and Raudel. To the point where everything else is more or less background noise. That said, my two biggest criticisms about her approach are as follows:
1) Chad and Raudel are boring. They are mere caricatures of the extremes they represent. Chad is the lost lamb of a bottom whereas Raudel is the smooth-operator top. Chad’s constant whining about how immature he feels he is compared to Raudel serves only to highlight to me how weak he is as a character (surprisingly enough, Chad apparently works as a manager for a soft-serve ice cream joint so he’s not totally ineffectual at adulting.) Raudel, on the other hand, comes off as a sort of watered down Edward Cullen or Christian Grey in that he sees his purpose as being to make Chad his own (of course, he does this by providing financially for Chad as they go about prepping for Lindsay’s wedding). This is personal preference, for sure, but it was annoying to see the gross imbalance in the power because, well, to be blunt, it just makes me think Chad will end up beholden to Raudel.
2) For some reason, Knight makes a point of including Chad’s sister and mother in the story line. They get lines and everything. Yet for all that they add a bit of extra drama to the story, they are loathsome. Lindsay (the sister) is a caricature of a selfish and mean bridezilla who doesn’t mind throwing vitriol at her brother for the slightest “transgression” against her perfect two-weeks of wedding prep. Chad’s mother’s echoes this trope every time she appears on page. Weddings are stressful, but the depictions of the females felt excessive to me.
Of course, putting all that aside, I didn’t mind having a front seat to Raudel and Chad’s whirlwind romance. If you love the idea of love and don’t want to be bogged down with a bunch of angst, you’d probably enjoy this book a lot. While the characters are pretty flat, there is plenty of on-page action between them. At times, the shifts between them are tectonic and you’ll get to read it all from Chad’s point of view. Overall, this book is a cutesy imagining of what it would be like if “the one that got away” came back and the ensuing relationship actually works out in spades for everyone.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.